Mater lectionis

Matres lectionis (from Latin "mothers of reading", singular form: mater lectionis, from Hebrew: אֵם קְרִיאָה 'em kri'a) are consonants that are used to indicate a vowel, primarily in the writing of Semitic languages such as Arabic, Hebrew and Syriac. The letters that do this in Hebrew are aleph א‎, he ה‎, vav ו‎ and yod י‎, and in Arabic, the matres lectionis (though they are much less often referred to thus) are ʾalif ا‎, wāw و‎ and yāʾ ي‎. The 'yod and waw in particular are more often vowels than they are consonants.

The original value of the matres lectionis corresponds closely to what is called in modern linguistics glides or semivowels.[1]

  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, Brill, 2006, 2.238, 308-9.

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