What are the Gutturals?
Gutturals are so called because of where they are articulated, in the back of the throat.

English speakers don't use "gutturals," so the concept of these letters is unusual, particularly to Hebrew students who are learning and working with a language that relies heavily upon the gutturals.

The gutturals are the aleph, he, het, ayin and res (א, ה, ח,ע,ר).

Why are the Gutturals Important to Know?
At first it may seem that learning the gutturals is a piece of trivia for linguists. But in Hebrew, you must know the gutturals.

So, why exactly do you need to learn the gutturals in Hebrew?
  • To understand the distinction between "Strong" and "Weak" verbs. Weak verbs contain gutturals.
  • To understand the "morphology" (how words change) of Hebrew verbs that contain gutturals.
  • To have the ability to predict changes in Hebrew morphology for verbs containing gutturals in order to find their lexical (dictionary) location.

Characteristics of Gutturals
Gutturals take on distinct characteristics that will help you "parse" weak verbs (remember that weak verbs are those verbs which contain a guttural).

Here are the main features of the Hebrew guttural:
  • Gutturals tend to take "a" class vowels
  • Gutturals cannot be doubled
  • Gutturals prefer compound shevas rather than simple shevas 

It's not important to explain what all that means right now, you will learn its importance as you progress in your Hebrew grammar. For now, just realize that you need to memorize the gutturals to help you down the road in your studies.

How to Easily Remember the Gutturals
As we stated in the beginning, the gutturals are the aleph, he, het, ayin and res (א, ה, ח,ע,ר)

A simple method of learning the gutturals is to "link" them. Use a "header" as a sort of "file folder" in your memory to keep this information stored and easily retrievable.

While there are only five letters to memorize, which can be done with rote, using the "link" forces your attention and will help you retain the information for longer.

Here's how to link them (the explanation takes much longer than actually doing it):
  1. Create a "header" or subject file for this piece of memory information. You will use this "header" as the first "link" to the first guttural.
  2. Find a "sound-alike" word for each of these Hebrew letters. For example, alef sounds to me like "a leaf" in English.
  3. In your imagination, "link" the "header" to the first guttural, alef. For myself, I link a "gutter" (guttural) to "a leaf." In my imagination I picture a narrow gutter overflowing with millions of leafs.
  4. Next "link," in  your imagination, the alef to the next guttural, the he. He sounds like "hay" in English to me. So, I link "a leaf" to "hay."  In my imagination I see a huge stack of "hay" made out of "leafs."
  5. Continue your "link" with the next guttural. Work in pairs - do not form a running story for all the letters. One letter will lead to the next. Het sound like "hate" in English to me, so I link "hay" to "hate." I see a stack of "hay" raging against me with "hate."
  6. Continue to work in pairs. Associate (link) the ayin (sound like "eye" to me) to het. I picture "hating" my eye and poking it out!
  7. Associate your final guttural, res, to your previous guttural, ayin. I link "eye" (ayin) to "rake" (res). I see a huge eyeball using a rake to rake up a yard.
  8. Your done! If you've taken the time to do this exercise you will now know the gutturals forwards and backwards -- literally! Try it! 

More Biblical Hebrew Memory Helps!
I hope this brief article on the gutturals has helped you! For more powerful memory helps in learning Hebrew grammar and paradigms be sure to visit Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! Or visit my author homepage, Boost Your Memory!

Joe McGraw
1/15/2016 10:34:40 am

I am a student of Ivrit currently studying the structure and classification of verbs. Thanks for your help here with the gutturals..


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