In Hebrew orthography, niqqud or nikkud (Hebrew: נִקּוּד, nikud, niqqûḏ; "dotting, pointing" or Hebrew: נְקֻדּוֹת, nekudot, nəquddôṯ; "dots") is a system of diacritical signs used to represent vowels or distinguish between alternative pronunciations of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Several such diacritical systems were developed in the Early Middle Ages. The most widespread system, and the only one still used to a significant degree today, was created by the Masoretes of Tiberias in the second half of the first millennium AD in the Land of Israel (see Masoretic Text, Tiberian Hebrew). Text written with niqqud is called ktiv menuqad.
Niqqud marks are small compared to consonants, so they can be added without retranscribing texts whose writers did not anticipate them.
In modern Israeli orthography niqqud is seldom used, except in specialised texts such as dictionaries, poetry, or texts for children or for new immigrants. For purposes of disambiguation, a system of spelling without niqqud, known in Hebrew as ktiv maleh (כתיב מלא, literally "full spelling") has developed. This was formally standardised in the Rules for Spelling without Niqqud (כללי הכתיב חסר הניקוד) enacted by the Academy of the Hebrew Language in 1996.
One reason for the lesser use of niqqud is that it no longer reflects the current pronunciation. In modern Hebrew, tzere is pronounced the same as segol, although they were distinct in Tiberian Hebrew, and also pataḥ makes the same sound as a qamatz. To the younger generation of native Hebrew speakers, these distinctions seem arbitrary and meaningless; on the other hand, Hebrew language purists have rejected out of hand the idea of changing the basics of niqqud and fitting them to the current pronunciation - with the result that in practice niqqud is increasingly going out of use.
Among those who do not speak Hebrew, niqqud are the sometimes unnamed focus of controversy regarding the interpretation of the name written with the Tetragrammaton—written as יְהֹוָה in Hebrew. The interpretation affects discussion of the authentic ancient pronunciation of the name whose other conventional English forms are "Jehovah" and "Yahweh".
This table uses the consonants ב, ח or ש, where appropriate, to demonstrate where the niqqud is placed in relation to the consonant it is pronounced after. Any other consonants shown are actually part of the vowel. Note that there is some variation among different traditions in exactly how some vowel points are pronounced. The table below shows how most Israelis would pronounce them, but the classic Ashkenazi pronunciation, for example, differs in several respects.This demonstration is known to work in Internet Explorer and Mozilla browsers in at least some circumstances, but in most other Windows browsers the niqqud do not properly combine with the consonants. It works very well when "dir=rtl" is added in the HTML source. This is because, currently, the Windows text display engine does not combine the niqqud automatically. Except as noted, the vowel pointings should appear directly beneath the consonants and the accompanying "vowel letter" consonants for the mālê (long) forms appear after. Note concerning IPA: the transcription symbols are linked to the articles about the sounds they represent. The diacritic ˘ (breve) indicates a short vowel; the triangular colon symbol ː indicates that the vowel is long.
Both consonants and niqqud can be typed from virtual graphical keyboards available on the World Wide Web, or by methods integrated into particular operating systems.
In GTK+ Linux systems, niqqud can be entered by holding down AltGR and pressing the same keys as for Windows below. Or by pressing ctrl+shift+u followed by the appropriate 4 digit Unicode.
Using the Hebrew keyboard layout in Mac OS X, the typist can enter niqqud by pressing the Option key together with a number on the top row of the keyboard. Other combinations such as sofit and hataf can also be entered by pressing either the Shift key and a number, or by pressing the Shift key, Option key, and a number at the same time.
SIL International have developed another standard, which is based on Tiro, but adds the Niqqud along the home keys. Linux comes with "Israel — Biblical Hebrew (Tiro)" as a standard layout. With this layout, niqqud can be typed without pressing the Caps Lock key.