The Hebrew Tiberian term designates the extinct canonical pronunciation of the Hebrew used in Tanaque (the Hebrew Bible ) and related documents. This traditional form of pronunciation codified in the Middle Ages was applied in writing by the Masoretic scholars of the Jewish community of Tiberias , in the period between the years 750 and 950; this written form employs diacritical signs that are added to the Hebrew letters : vowel and consonant diacritical signs ( nequdot) and so-called ‘accentuation signs’ or te’amim (two related systems of canteen ), along with marginal comments.
Although the Tiberian systems of vocalization and accentuation of the Hebrew scriptures represent a regional pronunciation, located in Tiberias, Tiberian Hebrew was universally recognized as superior to other reading traditions for several of its characteristics, such as the subtle distinctions he made between the varieties of / r /, and in particular for keeping the full range of low vowels in the language.
Two other contemporary regional traditions that gave rise to similar graphic representations have been designated, based on geography, as Palestine and Babylon . The so-called “Palestinian tradition” evolved into contemporary Israeli Hebrew , through an intermediate phase in Sephardic Hebrew (although its graphic implementation has been abandoned); the “Babylonian tradition” was dominant in certain regions for many centuries, and its pronunciation (although not its graphic system) survives today in the form of Yemenite Hebrew. These competing systems were “supralinear”, that is, diacritics were placed above the letters, unlike the Tiberian, which places them, in the great majority, under the characters.
At first, Tiberian points were defined to encode a specific tradition of reading Tanaque . Then, they were applied to other texts (one of the first was Mishnah ) and used in many other places, by Jews of different oral traditions with regard to reading Hebrew. Thus, the Tiberian system of vocalization and intonation has become in common use.