In Kri u-Khtiv, the vowels provided are for those of the Kri. The Kri of YHVH is usually Adonay. The first vowel of Adonay is Hataf-Patah. Why then is the first vowel of YHVH given as Shva in those cases instead of Hataf-Patah?

  • 1
    A Hataf-Patah is just how a Sheva presents itself under a guttural.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 16:05
  • @DoubleAA, so why not point the first letter Hataf-Patah and let the reader know the proper vocalization for the guttural Alef?
    – paquda
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 16:17
  • Probably because it's a waste of time (and space under a narrow letter). But my point was more that it already is the correct vowel: the vowel just has different representations depending on the letter it's written with.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 16:22
  • 1
    @DoubleAA, but the Masoretes thought the distinction was important enough that it should be represented by differing symbols, with the proper choice explicitly dictated to the reader by the symbols. Why drop the distinction just here?
    – paquda
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 16:26
  • Related, especially the second half: onthemainline.blogspot.com/2011/06/… . I know this is linked somewhere on one of the [shemos-sacred-names] answers but I can't find it.
    – WAF
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 0:02

2 Answers 2


The niqqud we use today is that of the Tiberians. The default pronunciation of the shewa naʿ in the Tiberian tradition was identical to the pronunciation of the ḥataf pataḥ, and took on other qualities depending on its environment.

In some situations, such as under a gutteral letter, the vowel quality of a shewa would was less predictable; as such, ḥatef forms of vowels were used to remove ambiguity.

Before the stabilization of the ḥatefim in manuscripts, regular shewas were sometimes used under gutterals. For example, in MS Sassoon 1053 a "simple shewa rather than ḥaṭeph segol is used with aleph (as in אְלֹהִים)" (Yeivin, Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah, §34).

This image shows both shewas under gutterals and ḥatefim in MS Sassoon 1053:

MS Sassoon 1053

Thus, Khan proposes that the ketiv form יְהוָה "is a vestige of a primitive stage of the development of Tiberian vocalization, in which a shewa rather than a ḥaṭeph sign was written on the ʾalef" (Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Ketiv and Qere).

  • Argon, the idea of a vestigial form becoming tied to a divine name seems compelling, but I then I wonder why instances of Adonay and Elohim themselves (where they are not substitutions for YHVH but the actual written text) do not retain shwa for the first letter.
    – paquda
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 19:37
  • @paquda Presumably because they are not qere-ketiv forms and were subject to the same rules as any other word. (NB those words also are not inherently references to G-d, since we have phrases like אלהים אחרים). For some reason or another, the Masoretes felt that there was no need to change their tradition only with יהוה.
    – Argon
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 19:44
  • Shva aside, do you have any idea why they skipped a vowel? i.e. Normally with qri ktiv, they write in every vowel of the qri. Yet when it's read with a cholam, they frequently skip the cholam.. any idea why?
    – barlop
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 16:41

i agree with @DoubleAA in the comments that it is just short-hand

but there can be another reason of the 2 versions

see shulchan aruch harav 5.2

When, however, [the name] is written as י‑ה‑ו‑ה, there are those who pronounce the alef with a shva, for this is the vowel of [the corresponding initial letter which is] the yud of the name י‑ה‑ו‑ה. Others pronounce the alef with a chataf patach, using the same vowel as the alef of the name A-donai.

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