New Hebrew students have started asking recently - What is going on with the"ָKaָmatz"?
We all know how to recognize the Kamatz in Hebrew- We read it as an A vowel like in -
מִכְתָּב, מַדְבֵּקָה, סִפְרִיָּה, שָׁלוֹם, תִּקְוָה, חָבֵר
But once in a while we encounter a strange happening -
Mysteriously, the exact same vowel (or so we think...) Appears as an O vowel!
They look like they are the same, but ladies and gentlemen - they are actually identical twins!
We have two types of Kamatz - small and big.
The small Kamatz has an O sound and is considered a short vowel.
אָפְנָה , עָרְמָה, בְּחָזְקָה, אֳנִיָּה, תָּכְנִית, קָדְקוֹד. צָהֳרַיִם, נָעֳמִי
The big Kamatz has an A sound and it is considered a long vowel.
אֲרוּחָה דְּאָגָה מַחְשָׁבָה הִתְקַדְּמָה.
So how can we recognize it when we read?
The long answer is - You will remember with time the meanings of the words and also how to read them even without the Nikud. Some memorisation is an inseparable part of practicing a new language.....
The short answer is that we can recognize the small Kamatz inside some structures which look a like-
אָפְנָה , עָרְמָה, חָכְמָה
Is a part of a structure containing many many nouns which are structured into ( O - A vowels).
צָהֳרַיִם, מָאֳשָׁם, נָעֳמִי
When you see them in pairs together - The Kamatz and the Hataf-Kamatz right after it - then it is a small Kamatz and the word will have two O sounds in a row (For example : TZO-HO-RAIM).
To sum it up - the two siblings can definely confuse some new Hebrew readers, but with some practice - they are definitely distinguishable!