Bet (letter)

Bet, Beth, Beh, or Vet is the second letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Bēt , Hebrew Bēt ב, Aramaic Bēth , Syriac Bēṯ ܒ, and Arabic Bāʾ ب Its sound value is a voiced bilabial stop ⟨b⟩ or a voiced labiodental fricative ⟨v⟩. This letter's name means "house" in various Semitic languages (Arabic bayt, Akkadian bītu, bētu, Hebrew: bayiṯ, Phoenician bt etc.; ultimately all from Proto-Semitic *bayt-), and appears to derive from an Egyptian hieroglyph of a house by acrophony.

Bet
Phonemic representationb, v
Position in alphabet2
Numerical value2
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

The Phoenician letter gave rise to, among others, the Greek Beta, Latin B, and Cyrillic Б, В.

Origin

The name bet is derived from the West Semitic word for "house", and the shape of the letter derives from a Proto-Sinaitic glyph that may have been based on the Egyptian hieroglyph Pr

which depicts a house.

Hieroglyph Proto-Sinaitic Phoenician Paleo-Hebrew

Arabic bāʾ

The Arabic letter ب is named باء bāʾ (bāʔ). It is written in several ways depending on its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
(Help)
ب ـب ـبـ بـ

The letter normally renders /b/ sound, except in some names and loanwords where it can also render /p/, often arabized as /b/, as in برسيل (Persil). For /p/, it may be used interchangeably with the Persian letter پ - pe (with 3 dots) in this case.

Hebrew Bet / Vet

Orthographic variants
Various print fonts Cursive
Hebrew
Rashi
script
SerifSans-serifMonospaced
ב ב ב

Hebrew spelling: בֵּית

The Hebrew letter represents two different phonemes: a "b" sound (/b/) (bet) and a "v" sound (/v/) (vet). The two are distinguished by a dot (called a dagesh) in the centre of the letter for /b/ and no dot for /v/.

This letter is named bet and vet, following the modern Israeli Hebrew pronunciation, bet and vet (/bɛjt/), in Israel and by most Jews familiar with Hebrew, although some non-Israeli Ashkenazi speakers pronounce it beis (or bais)[1] and veis (/bejs/) (or vais or vaiz).[2] It is also named beth, following the Tiberian Hebrew pronunciation, in academic circles.

In modern Hebrew the frequency of the usage of bet, out of all the letters, is 4.98%.

Variations on written form/pronunciation

Name Symbol IPA Transliteration Example
Vet ב /v/ v vote
Bet בּ /b/ b boat

Bet with the dagesh

When the Bet has a "dot" in its center, known as a dagesh, then it represents /b/. There are various rules in Hebrew grammar that stipulate when and why a dagesh is used.

Bet without the dagesh (Vet)

When this letter appears as ב without the dagesh ("dot") in its center then it represents a voiced labiodental fricative: /v/.

Mystical significance of ב

Bet in gematria represents the number 2.

As a prefix, the letter bet may function as a preposition meaning "in", "at", or "with".

Bet is the first letter of the Torah. As Bet is the number 2 in gematria, this is said to symbolize that there are two parts to Torah: the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. According to Jewish legend, the letter Bet was specially chosen among the twenty two letters in Hebrew by God as the first letter of Torah as it begins with "Bereshit (In the beginning) God created heaven and earth."[3]

Rashi points out that the letter is closed on three sides and open on one; this is to teach you that you may question about what happened after creation, but not what happened before it, or what is above the heavens or below the earth.

In mathematics

In set theory, the beth numbers stand for powers of infinite sets.

Syriac Beth

Beth
Madnḫaya Beth
Serṭo Beth
Esṭrangela Beth

In the Syriac alphabet, the second letter is ܒ — Beth (ܒܝܼܬ). It is one of six letters that represents two associated sounds (the others are Gimel, Dalet, Kaph, Pe and Taw). When Beth has a hard pronunciation (qûššāyâ) it is a [b]. When Beth has a soft pronunciation (rûkkāḵâ) it is traditionally pronounced as a [v], similar to its Hebrew form. However, in eastern dialects, the soft Beth is more often pronounced as a [w], and can form diphthongs with its preceding vowel. Whether Beth should be pronounced as a hard or soft sound is generally determined by its context within a word. However, wherever it is traditionally geminate within a word, even in dialects that no longer distinguish double consonants, it is hard. In the West Syriac dialect, some speakers always pronounce Beth with its hard sound.

Beth, when attached to the beginning of a word, represents the preposition 'in, with, at'. As a numeral, the letter represents the number 2, and, using various systems of dashes above or below, can stand for 2,000 and 20,000.

Character encodings

Characterבبܒ
Unicode nameHEBREW LETTER BETARABIC LETTER BEHSYRIAC LETTER BETHSAMARITAN LETTER BITBET SYMBOL
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode1489U+05D11576U+06281810U+07122049U+08018502U+2136
UTF-8215 145D7 91216 168D8 A8220 146DC 92224 160 129E0 A0 81226 132 182E2 84 B6
Numeric character referenceבבببܒܒࠁࠁℶℶ
Character𐎁𐡁𐤁
Unicode nameUGARITIC LETTER BETAIMPERIAL ARAMAIC LETTER BETHPHOENICIAN LETTER BET
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode66433U+1038167649U+1084167841U+10901
UTF-8240 144 142 129F0 90 8E 81240 144 161 129F0 90 A1 81240 144 164 129F0 90 A4 81
UTF-1655296 57217D800 DF8155298 56385D802 DC4155298 56577D802 DD01
Numeric character reference𐎁𐎁𐡁𐡁𐤁𐤁

References

  1. The school system Bais Yaakov or BaisYakov.net in Baltimore
  2. "Learning Alef-Bais". October 22, 2012. "His Hebrew Morah is teaching the sounds of the alef bais based on English ... For Vais, since there are no Hebrew words that begin with a vais, ..." (whether or not it's true that "no Hebrew..." is not the point. It's that the teacher uses VAIZ)
  3. Ginzberg, Louis (1909). The Legends of the Jews Vol. I : Alphabet (Translated by Henrietta Szold) Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
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