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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Accents in Hebrew

Symbols denoting vocal stresses on particular syllables in pronouncing words or sentences. 1. In every word we utter, one syllable is spoken with greater emphasis and clearer enunciation than the rest. About it, as the strongly stressed or accented element, the other unaccented, or rather less strongly accented, syllables are grouped. Thus, in the word "contradict" the last syllable is the bearer of the main accent; a weaker, secondary accent rests on the first, while the italicized intermediate syllable is unaccented. Similarly, in a sentence, some words are pronounced with marked distinctness, while others are spoken hastily, almost without a stop, and made to lean forward or backward, as the italicized words in "he is a man of the world"; "I knew it." Both the accent which belongs to every word in itself ("word-accent") and the one which indicates its rank in a sentence ("sentence-accent") are to be regarded as the vital force which welds disjointed speech-elements into harmonious sense-units. The stops become particularly noticeable when, in a larger complex of clauses, they serve to mark the limits of each clause and its relation to the others. Some pauses are bound to be made, on physical grounds, to take breath; it is nearly always so arranged that the logical pauses shall coincide with those intervals. In an ordinary page of English the word-accent is never indicated (as it is in Greek), nor do the signs of punctuation (. :; ,) show all the stops which careful reading in accordance with sense (especially oratorical delivery or the forceful recitàl of a literary masterpiece) requires. In the Hebrew text of the Bible, on the contrary, is found an elaborate system of signs (notations of stresses, or Accents) by which the stronger as well as the weaker stresses belonging to syllables and words are marked, so that a reader who is acquainted with the use of the symbols may recite the sacred texts correctly and, in appearance at least, intelligently, without considering grammar or sense.


2. The Hebrew (Aramaic) word ), plural ), which is used in the See see MASORAH in the sense of "accent," "accents," denotes, in the first place, "taste" (in the literal sense, as in Exodus 16:31); then, "judgment," "good sense" (see 1 Samuel 25:33); in Talmudic Hebrew, "sense" ( "words of sense"; "admitting of more than one sense"). This is the oldest term which thus conclusively proves that the Biblical system of accentuation was primarily designed to mark the various degrees of logical, or sense, pausation. This method of punctilious distribution of great and small pauses led, however, to a peculiar intonation in a half-singing style which is called CANTILLATION; this may still be heard in (orthodox) Jewish synagogues. The Accents have the secondary function of marking this intonation, each symbol being equal to several musical notes. Hence their appellation in Arabic, laḥn, plural alḥan, as early as Ibn Koreish, and the Hebrew term "melody," plural .

On the term "trop" (the same as the English "trope," in the sense of a musical cadence) used by the Jews in their vernaculars, see Berliner, "Beiträgezur hebräischen Grammatik in Talmud und Midrasch," p. 29, note 4, Berlin, 1879.


3. All of the Hebrew Accents are properly "sentence-accents." Hence they vary in form ( etc.) in accordance with their varying pausal functions. The sign once chosen, the "word-accent" is indicated by its place in the accented syllable, above or below the initial consonant in the center; when there is a vowel sign below, the latter occupies the center, while the accent sign is placed farther to the left: . Some of the accents are placed, without regard to the accented syllable, invariably at the beginning or at the end of the word (hence termed prepositives and postpositives: ; in the editions of Baer, the notation is repeated on the accented syllable: ). A secondary accent ( "bridle," that is, check) is indicated by . A word may lose its accent; then it is joined by means of a hyphen ( "coupler") to the next following word: , ; the words thus united are regarded, for purposes of accentuation, as one word: .

Place of Word-Accent.

Hebrew words have their main accent either on the last syllable ( "below") or on the penult (next to the last syllable) ( "above"). The accent is never found farther back (for a seeming exception see below). In the majority of words (word-types) the accent falls upon the last syllable: , etc. Penultimate accentuation is found in the pronouns (and the shorter form (similarly in the dissyllabic suffixes ); in verbal forms of all stems (conjugations) ending in ), ; in the causative stem (hif'il), additionally in the forms ending in and ; the latter rule applies also to verbs and in all stems (except those which follow the analogy of triliteral verbs), hence , etc.; in the noun in forms with a helping vowel like (compare ), as in verbal forms like ; similarly in the dual ending ; with the so-called locative ending (with a few exceptions); in verb and noun before the suffixes ) (when preceded by [ and in forms of the type and , , hence ; similarly (in , ) and , in , before (in ), and ; in the adverbs (also ) and and those with the locative ending like and (although not uniformly); in forms (not uniformly, although with more regularity in verbs and ) when the last syllable is closed and the next to the last is open, hence , etc.; in forms of the type the accent remains on the penultimate before and (less uniformly) in all forms with an open penultimate.

Penultimate accentuation may also be due to recession ( "stepping back"), as in , that is, when a non-pausal accent (see § 4) due on the ultimate precedes a pausal accent (ibid.) due on the penultimate; the non-pausal then recedes to the penultimate (and even farther back in ) on the same conditions as the secondary accent if the two words were hyphenated (see below); in point of fact, the non-pausal is intended as a substitute for the secondary accent (see § 4); the rule, however, is not followed consistently (see Jos. Wijnkoop, "Darke ha-Nesiga, sive Leges de Accentus Hebraicæ Linguæ Ascensione," Leyden, 1881; also in Hebrew, , Amsterdam). Finally, penultimate accentuation is due to recession in pause, that is, when the accent is a pausal one, , less often , etc.; in ; in verbal forms ending in and , hence , etc.; also in ; in forms like (for the non-pausal forms ); before the suffix , hence , etc.; in adverbs and participles, for example, . Conversely, the pausal accent may bring about ultimate accentuation as in .

Secondary Accent ().

Properly, the secondary accent is due upon the second syllable from the main accent, provided the intervening syllable is long, that is, open with a long vowel, closed with a short vowel, or opened, that is, originally closed, with a short vowel: . The syllable receiving the secondary accent must also be long (open with a long vowel, opened with a short vowel: ; with a closed syllable the sign is implied, but never expressed: ). When the syllable preceding the main accent is overlong, that is, closed with a long vowel, the secondary accent will be placed there: (imperative) and similar instances, owing to a retarded pronunciation of ō which is thus raised to å Similarly, the secondary accent will fall upon the syllable preceding the main accent when it is long (open with a long vowel, opened with a short vowel) and the syllable bearing the main accent is a compound one, that is, consists of an ordinary (simple) syllable preceded by a consonant and an incompletely reduced vowel (a ), or by a consonant and a completely reduced vowel (a vocal ) at the beginning of a word; neither combination is capable of forming a syllable by itself, nor may it be joined in speech to the preceding syllable: . When a word is long enough, another subsidiary accent may become necessary; it is placed at the same distance from the secondary accent as the latter from the main accent, and upon the same conditions (the one to the right being the stronger): , . When the second syllable from the main accent is closed (with a short vowel) and the syllable next preceding is open, the secondary accent is placed upon the latter, the interval between the two accents thus exceeding the limit of one syllable: (observe that pre-fixed never takes a secondary accent).

Distinct from the in the cases just mentioned (also in all forms of the verbs and in which the guttural closes a syllable with a short vowel, for instance, ), which the Hebrew grammarians term "light ," is the so-called "heavy " which is found, on certain conditions, with closed syllables containing a short vowel (, , etc.), or (in Psalms, Proverbs, Job) with reduced vowels (vocal , , and so on). A third kind which does not concern us here at all is the so-called "euphonic." See Gesenius-Kautzsch, "Hebrew Grammar" (Clarendon Press edition), § 16, 2; Stade, "Hebräische Grammatik," §§ 53-56; both rest upon S. Baer, "Die Methegsetzung," in Merx's "Archiv für Wissenschaftliche Erforschung des A. T.," 1867, pp. 56 et seq.; 1868, pp. 194 et seq., also in Latin in his edition of Proverbs. The accent is often an aid to sense, especially in words similar in sound, but different in meaning, as "he drank," "she put"; "Rachel is coming," "Rachel came." Similarly, the ; compare , "they will fear" and "they will see," etc.

Use of Hyphen.

Small words of frequent occurrence, as the mono-syllabic prepositions and conjunctions (, ), the words , , also , are, as a rule, joined to the following (long) word. Not only two, but three, and even four, words may be hyphenated thus: , . On the other hand, a long word will occasionally be joined to a following small word: . There is always a close syntactical relation between the hyphenated words. Indeed, in every union of words, sense and rhythm are equal determining factors.

Place of Sentence-Accent.

4. The verse () is adopted as sense-unit. It is certainly the natural unit in the poetical portions of the Bible in accordance with the Rhythm of Parallelism. It is there equally natural to divide the verse into two halves. Accordingly, in a part of the recently discovered fragments of the Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus, each verse occupies two short lines (stichs) running across the page; for example:

The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32) is still arranged in this fashion in the Scrolls and in the ordinary editions of the Hebrew Bible.

Determination of Accent.

Elsewhere the VERSE-DIVISION is an arbitrary, though convenient, innovation which was not permitted to penetrate into the Scrolls (the sign, marking the end of a verse, must be kept out of them; see Soferim, 3:7). The whole of the Bible was to be read according to a rhythmical swing which even in the poetical compositions is largely determined by sense. The traditional verse, as a glance at the English Bible will show, does not always coincide with our period; nor is it always of the same length. For purposes of accentuation each verse must be dealt with separately. The problem is invariably: given a verse, determine the accentuation. The leading principle of the system is halving (extended from the poetical portions to the rest of the Bible). Each verse is divided into two parts not necessarily equal; these parts are each divided into two other parts; this process is continued until an indivisible complex of words is reached. The greater pauses are regulated by sense. Frequently, however, the logical pause is sacrificed to rhetorical effect. A characteristic deviation from the accepted method of punctuation consists in passing over introductory clauses or phrases which are treated as a subordinate part of what follows; for example, "And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters" (Genesis 1:6). The lesser pauses obey the laws of syntactical construction, which are obviously various in different languages. The English sentence "And the earth was waste and void" properly reads in Hebrew: "And the earth—it was waste and void"; hence there will be a pause in Hebrew after "and the earth." The order of words differs also. Compare the very opening of the Bible in Hebrew and in English. Rhetorical effect makes itself felt in connection with the smaller no less than in the case of the greater pauses. Thus, for the sake of emphasis, the pause may be shifted from one place to another; or it may be introduced within a group of words which is properly indivisible. In general, greater latitude is permissible in dealing with the slighter pauses. Individual taste will there play an important part. Rhythm is another factor. A group must consist of more than two words to admit of a marked pause within it. When thus the stops have been properly distributed in a verse, our next task is to indicate both the presence and the absence of a pause by the corresponding signs (accents). The accents are either pausal ( "stops") or non-pausal ( "servants," servi). The notation differs in Job, Proverbs, Psalms (; hence, ) from that employed in the other (twenty-one) books (). The two systems must be treated separately, that of the three books first.


List of Accents.

Pausal: "cessation"), "ascending and descending"), "rest"), "rhomb"), gereshatum [see below]"), "water-channel"), postpositive, "thrust back"), prepositive, "shake" or "trill"), (great "chain"), and and "by itself"), that is, pausal (for the meaning of and see below).

Non-pausal: "lengthening"), ( "laboring, heavy, slow"), "going on," that is, not pausing), "settled," that is, unvarying in its tone), "placed above"), "turned round"; the older form was "wheel"; the older form was (little , ), pretonic. The names, it will be observed, are derived from the musical value or from the form of the accents. Other names are met with; but those given are the most common. The diagram printed above will be employed to illustrate the use of the various signs.

Explanatory Notes.
  1. The proper measure of a poetical verse is two short lines (a distich or couplet). Such is the form of an ordinary verse in Proverbs. The main cesura is then marked by . But frequently, as in Psalms, a verse will contain three short lines (a tristich or triplet; that is, rhythm is sacrificed to sense); or a verse may contain four short lines (a tetrastich or quatrain; that is, two rhythmical verses making one sense-verse); or a verse, not necessarily long, may be trisected purely for reasons of sense or for the sake of oratorical emphasis. The main cesura will then be marked by (a stronger ), while will be reserved for the secondary cesura (that is, the one between and ). In the diagram the three by no means coordinate sections of the verse are designated by the letters A, B, and C. In a short verse, therefore, drop A, and retain B and C. In a still shorter verse (one consisting of but one short line), drop A and B, and retain C. This principle applies equally to the smaller sections on the diagram (that is, those limited by a pausal accent), the beginning of which may be lopped off to suit varying lengths.There will be found in the sixth word from and farther; it will be replaced by occasionally in the fifth, and almost always in the fourth word; is never used farther to the left is replaced by always in the first, occasionally also in the second, word (see note 19).
  2. (for , .
  3. The main cesura in section A is marked by ; when a second cesura becomes necessary, is repeated. Observe, in general, that whenever an accent is repeated, the one farther to the left is the weaker. Between and there must be no word (in which case is called little ) or at least two words (then we have great ). Two s must equally be separated by at least two words. When becomes impossible, takes its place. The shortest measure of section A is two words; a cesura is always required.
  4. The servus of is (or , when properly the hyphen should be employed; or , that is, with a ). This may occur in the same word with (in place of the light ).Here , "cutting off," "separating," is a line similar to the one used with and . It occurs (a) before or after the divine name "to prevent its being joined, in the reading, to a word which—in the opinion of the accentuators—it was not seemly to bring into contact with it"; (b) between two words of which the first ends in the same letter with which the second begins; (c) elsewhere, to mark an emphatic intonation. In all these cases, introduces a slight pause after a non-pausal accent.
  5. In the section limited by great (great 's section), the main cesura is marked by (rarely by ) and the secondary cesura by . When only one cesura is required, it is marked by (that is, the section is cut off); but is found in exceptional cases, and necessarily, when two servi are introduced (see note 12). Sections of two words may and may not have a cesura. If required, it will, of course, be marked by . The shortest measure is one word.
  6. Great never has more than one servus, which is (exceptionally ; particularly when another precedes). When a pausal accent ( or ) precedes, it is , but when an open syllable directly (that is, no intervening) precedes the tone-syllable; these accents may appear in the same word with great taking the place of light ).
  7. Sections of two words will occasionally have a cesura; it is omitted in the case of small words standing at the beginning of the section and accented on the first syllable, unless emphasis is desired. The cesura in little 's section is marked by . The shortest measure of little 's section is one word.
  8. Little may have two servi, (or ); or one servus, . The two servi () appear occasionally in the same word (when the syllable immediately preceding the tone is open); but this rule is not always obeyed.
  9. The cesura in 's section is marked by the same accent, and is dependent upon the same conditions as the cesura in little 's section (see note 7). A secondary cesura is seldom required; the accent marking the main cesura will then be repeated. The shortest measure of 's section is one word.
  10. may have two servi, (e., when the tone falls on the second letter and farther; when on the first); or one servus, (it may appear instead of light in the same word with ) (or ). In a few instances three servi are found: .
  11. , when a servus precedes; or when the tone falls on the third syllable or farther; in all other cases, (the latter always between and ).
  12. There is no cesura in 's section. Its shortest measure is one word. Except in two instances, has never more than one servus, , when the tone is on the first syllable (but in two instances in the place of the hyphen); or on the second when it is simple and the first syllable is a simple closed one without heavy when the condition mentioned in note 6 is fulfilled; in all other cases (but in a few instances where the or preceding the tone-syllable is abnormal). Two servi: in the place of a hyphen.
  13. The rules for the division of 's section are the same as those laid down for great (see note 5).
  14. has properly only one servus, , when the tone is on the first syllable; when on any other syllable (but ; also exceptionally in two places; in one of them two consecutive 's are found); always when under a dageshed letter, except in three places, where is found again. Exceptionally two servi are found: ; the first is properly in the place of a hyphen; once we find , where again the first is in the place of a hyphen.
  15. The main cesura in section B is marked by ; for a second cesura, will be repeated; and so on. The s may follow each other closely. Properly, between and at least two words should intervene. This must always be the case when marks a subordinate cesura; otherwise an interval of one word is frequently sufficient. When becomes impossible or undesirable, takes its place. The interval between and must never exceed one word. is frequently found in the second word from . It is found in the first only when 's word is long; that is, when the tone-syllable therein is preceded by at least two syllables, or by one syllable, provided it is the bearer of a secondary accent (see § 3); otherwise gives way to a servus. The shortest measure of B is two words (except after ,when one word is sufficient). Sections of two words may and may not have a cesura.
  16. should properly never have more than one servus. In all cases where two or more servi are found the servus immediately preceding is a substitute for (see note 15). Three servi: (but , e., when the tone is on the third syllable; or on the second syllable when the first syllable is overlong; when the condition mentioned in note 6 is fulfilled; in all other cases). In three instances takes the place of the middle servus; it is preceded by and followed by (when the tone is due on the first syllable) or by (when the usual condition is fulfilled). Two servi: (but ). One servus: after (but ); in all other cases. More than three servi are found in three instances: in one occupies the second place before ; in the others the multiplication of servi is due to the resolution of hyphenated words.
  17. Theoretically, marks the main, and the secondary cesura in 's section; but 's section is usually too short to require two cesuras. One expects to be the accent where only one cesura is required. Such is frequently the case. But is employed when the section in front of the cesura must itself be bisected, or when the pausal accent requires two servi before it (in either case is out of the question; see note 12); sometimes (in three instances) for no apparent reason ( and are so nearly alike in pausal force that occasionally one is placed for the other). Between and there must be at least one word. Otherwise gives way to a servus. The shortest measure of 's section is one word. Sections of two words, of course, have no cesura. The cesura fails likewise in the case of small words standing at the beginning of the section and accented on the first syllable, unless emphasis is desired. The foregoing rules remain in force, even when gives way to a servus (see note 15).
  18. should properly never have more than one servus: (it may be found, instead of light , in the same word with only when the syllable preceding the tone-syllable is overlong and has α or ō for its vowel). When two servi appear, the one adjoining ) is a substitute for (see note 17), while the one farther to the left is 's servus (see note 12): . Once three servi are found: ; takes the place of a hyphen.
  19. The main cesura in section C is marked by ; the secondary cesura by . When only one cesura is required, should properly mark it. However, is employed (the two accents are presumably regarded as of equal force; see, for a similar substitution, note 17). Between and there must be at least one word. When is due in the word immediately preceding , it is replaced by a servus, . Another servus, , may be placed in the next preceding word. This necessitates a further change: (marking the main cesura), which does not permit immediately after it, and is transformed into . may be found in the word adjoining only when 's word is long; otherwise gives way to a servus. This may necessitate a further change: when the word adjoining is itself short (that is, with only one syllable, which is not the bearer of a secondary accent, before the accented syllable); , when due on the next preceding word, is replaced by . The shortest measure of C is one word. But does not permit immediately before it; the latter accent will then be replaced by , the other accents remaining the same as before . Sections of two words have a cesura, provided the last word is of sufficient length to permit before it (see above).
  20. should properly never have more than one servus. In all cases where two or more servi are found, the servus immediately preceding is a substitute for (see note 19). Three servi: , that is, and upon the same conditions as before (see note 16); where is used before will be employed here. Two servi: ; but may take the place of light in the same word with (provided that does not precede; see note 19); in a few places the servi are altogether irregular. One servus: (when the tone is on the first syllable; but ), (when on any other syllable), or (after ). In a few instances four servi are found.

First Four Verses of Pslam
  1. There is no cesura in 's section. Its shortest measure is one word. Except in a few instances, has never more than two servi. Three servi: or according to the usual rule); in three passages: and . Two servi: . One servus: . The servi of are the same as those of .As an illustration of the application of the above diagram and rules to concrete cases, the first four verses of Psalm are given above. The cesuras are indicated as in the diagram; the figures refer to the notes.

The verse from Ecclesiasticus quoted above would be accented as follows:


List of Accents.

Pausal: "cluster of grapes"), post-positive, and (great and little "upright"), "handbreadth," or (, "scatterer"), postpositive, "stretching out"), postpositive, ( "resting"), prepositive, "broken"), "expulsion"), "double (great (great "drawing out"), —that is ).—Non-pausal: , (double "trill"), (little

Explanatory Notes.
  1. The verse may be of varying length. In a long verse marks the main cesura. The two sections are designated in the diagram by the letters A and B. In a short verse drop A and retain B. The shortest measure of a verse is two words. The cesura never fails.'s proper place is in the fifth word from and farther; when due in the fourth and farther to the left, it may be replaced by or (in accordance with the rules laid down for the position of those accents in note 2); the substitution is common in short verses; it necessarily takes place in verses of three or two words; in the first word before (even in a long verse), is rarely used (except in cases of a marked logical pause).
  2. The main cesura in A is marked by ; the second by ; for every following cesura is repeated until the last is reached, which is marked by Between and at least three words must intervene; but the proper place is at a considerable distance from . Between and there must be at least one word. When 's word and the one adjoining it are both short the distance between and must amount to two words. When becomes impossible takes its place. In a few instances where the two words immediately preceding are very short, that is, mono-syllables, and properly subject to hyphenation, is found in the third word; this is its utmost limit to the right. The shortest measure of A is one word. Sections of two words always have a cesura.
  3. 's servus is (which is repeated in the few instances which call for a second servus; see note 2). In a few instances is found in the same word with ; grammarians incorrectly call it a servus ( "inclined").
  4. The main cesura in 's section is marked by , which is repeated for every following cesura until the last is reached, which is marked by . Between and there must be at least one word. When 's word or the one adjoining is long, is admissible in the second word, but is not necessary. When becomes impossible or undesirable, takes its place. is comparatively rare in the third word; this is its utmost limit to the right. The shortest measure of 's section is two words. The cesura never fails. When only one word is available takes the place of .
  5. Between two 's there must be at least three words. When the interval is shorter the one to the left is transformed into ; the change does not affect the next to the left, which always maintains its position, there being a sufficiently long interval between it and the preceding it. Between and or there must be at least two words; otherwise is transformed into or . But may precede another ; this is the only case in which two 's may come together.
  6. may have one or two servi, both 's.
  7. The main cesura in 's section is marked by , which is repeated for every following cesura until a point is reached when is inadmissible or undesirable (see below); then it gives way to ; the next cesura is marked by ; then comes which may be repeated. Between and there must be at least four words. It is rarely found in the fourth word. It necessarily replaces there when the next cesura is due immediately before then becomes unavailable (see below), and takes its place (that is, 's section is obliterated); the interval between and must never exceed one word; otherwise and (the servus due in the second word before ; see note 13) would come together, and, on musical grounds, the two accents can not come together without a pausal accent between them. In a few instances takes the place of in the fourth or third word for no apparent reason. Between and there must be at least two words; it is found in the second only when the two next following words are both long; its utmost limit appears to be the fifth or sixth word (where it replaces for the main cesura). When becomes unavailable it gives way to . Between the latter and there need be no interval; its utmost limit is the fourth word. Between and there must be at least one word; it is found in the first only in the place of ( (that is, ) when the latter sign is due before (strangely enough, the notation remains the same); its utmost limit appears to be the third word. In a section consisting of only three words may take the place of in the second word. The shortest measure of 's section is one word. Sections of two words may or may not have a cesura; the cesura is likely to occur when the last word is long, but it is not necessary even then. The cesura may be left out also in sections of three words provided it is due immediately before .

    In the twenty-one books is especially employed to mark a stop in long sections limited by , or , for the subdivision of which by means of pausal accents there exists no provision in the accentual system; or to mark a stop immediately before , or neither nor being available (see note 15)
  8. 8.

( may have one or two servi. Two servi: . One servus: . The latter is occasionally found in the same word with , especially in order to indicate a compound word (, Ecclesiastes 4:10, for example).
  • There is no cesura in 's section. Its shortest measure is one word. may have from one to six servi, all 's. is found in sixteen instances; in every instance might have been used. never stands alone; it may have as many as six servi: etc.
  • There is no cesura in 's section. Its shortest measure is one word. may have from one to five servi, all 's. and are constantly interchanged, particularly where the former is subordinated to (see note 11) or to the servus that takes the place of (see note 15).
  • 's section should properly be indivisible. But very often a division is introduced. The main cesura is then marked by , and the second by . Between and at least two words should properly intervene; the former is rarely found in the second word. Sometimes, when there are only two words in 's section, a cesura is introduced. Similarly, in a few very rare instances, 's section is bisected; then marks the cesura. The reason for the phenomena just mentioned is apparently the slight and almost imperceptible difference in pausal force between the three accents: , and . The shortest measure of 's section is one word.
  • when the accent is on the penultimate, or when precedes; when the accent is on the ultimate, and does not precede.
  • may have from one to five servi, but can have only one. Three or more servi: , etc. Two servi: . One servus: (when the accent is on the first letter of the word, this is the only servus can take), or (when on any other letter). may take the place of light in the same word with when no other servus precedes (except when the divides or , or when follows, unless at the same time precedes).
  • There is no cesura in 's section. Its shortest measure is one word. may have one or two servi: .
  • The rules for the division of 's, 's, and 's sections are nearly the same as those governing the division of 's section (see note 7). The following differences should be noted: 's section is seldom available (only three instances are recorded). may be found in the second word before , etc., though not frequently, even when the two words next following are both short; its utmost limit appears to be the fifth word (where it replaces for the main cesura). In five passages and are found in the same word (second from , etc.); there was evidently a difference of opinion among the accentuators; both accents are now chanted, first. Between and there must be at least one word (but see below); its regular utmost limit is the third word; it is found in the fourth only when the next following cesura is marked by (see above), or when it and change places, as in Genesis 1:12; only in the latter case may be found in the fifth word (see Deuteronomy 17:5); and may also change places when the latter accent is due in the third word. When becomes unavailable it gives way to a servus, its own servi remaining; may remain when the last word is long. The section limited by , etc., may contain no more than one word. Sections of two words may and may not have a cesura; a cesura is admissible when the latter of the two words is long and the interval between the tone-syllables considerable; but even then it is rarely introduced; the accent marking the cesura is . The cesura may be left out occasionally also in sections of three words even when it is due at a sufficiently long distance (that is, after the first word of the section) to make available.
  • When is due on the first letter of the word and no servus precedes, it is replaced by .
  • , etc., may have as many as six servi. Four or more servi: . Three servi: . Two servi: —that is, when on the first letter, and when elsewhere; the two servi may occasionally appear in the same word, the first replacing the light or indicating the end of the first part in a compound word; may take the place of between and when occurs in the latter's word, or when precedes. One servus: before , that is, , when two or more syllables intervene between the servus and at the beginning of a word and furtive counting as syllables; when only one syllable (even an overlong syllable) or none at all intervenes; always remains before , provided no other servus precedes, may replace (in the same word with ) when the latter is due in an overlong syllable (immediately before ); but not in an open syllable separated from by another open syllable or by an incompletely reduced vowel (); before that is, , when one or more syllables intervene between the servus and the tone-syllable of 's word, at the beginning of a word and furtive counting as above; in a few compound words appears in the same word with when no syllable intervenes; always remains before ; before .
  • when a servus precedes; otherwise is used.
  • The rules for the division of 's section are the same as those governing the division of 's section except that for there is used here . The shortest measure of 's section is two words. Sections of two words may or may not have a cesura. The cesura always fails when the second word is short; when it is long a cesura must be introduced, unless the first word is very short, or is a word of frequent occurrence.
  • may have one or two servi, both s. may appear in the same word with , provided that no second precedes, in place of light (it must not divide or ; see note 13), but not on the first letter; when is inadmissible and the pausal accent preceding is not (called here , or a kind of ) is introduced in the place of the heavy ; when neither nor is admissible is necessarily employed.
  • The rules for the division of 's section are the same as those governing the division of 's section except that for there is used here . The shortest measure of 's section is one word. Sections of two words may or may not have a cesura (a cesura may be introduced only when 's word is long).
  • has usually only one servus: . It occasionally appears in the place of light , or in compound words, in the same place with . In fourteen instances is preceded by two servi: ( is properly a weakened is 's servus).
  • The rules for the division of section B are the same as those governing A except that is not available here. The shortest measure of B is one word. Sections of two words always have a cesura.
  • 's servus is . In a few instances is found in the same word with ; see note 3).
  • For the sake of illustration the Second Commandment(Ex. xx 3-6) is here subjoined (according to the ; see below):

    The use of a separate system for the three books requires an explanation. Luzzatto (in his "Prolegomeni ad Una Grammatica Ragionata della Lingua Ebraica," pp. 177 et seq.; letter to Baer appended to the latter's treatise, , p. 55) writes that the different method of chanting in vogue for those books called for a different notation. Baer ( , p. 3), and before him Elias Levita, believed that the shorter measure of the poetical verses is responsible for the change of the accentual system. Wickes ("Poetical Accentuation," pp. 7 et seq.) seems to combine both views when he says that the system of accentuation found in involves "a refinement of a purely musical character," and that "the idea seems to have been to compensate for the shortness of the verses by a finer and fuller, more artificial and impressive melody." It would seem that Baer's opinion needs but a slight modification to be accepted as an adequate explanation. The accentuation of the three books may be said to be designedly adjusted to the stichic form of the poetical texts (see beginning of this section; also , note 1). In the majority of cases the distich was found to cover the sense-verse. was the natural sign; it is the sign of bisection in a verse in the other books of the Bible. But occasionally the sense required a sense-verse of three stichs. Had been used to mark the main cesura, the rhythmical trisection would have been entirely obliterated. With the introduction of was kept in its place and the rhythmical division left recognizable. Monostichs were not infrequently found in the texts. It was thought desirable to mark them as such accentually by avoiding . The poetical accentuation (the name will now be found appropriate), while primarily serving the requirements of sense, aims at the same time to do justice, as far as it can, to rhythm. It could safely be employed in books like Job, Proverbs, and Psalms, which were not read in public service, and for which therefore no established method of chanting existed (as is the case with Canticles and Lamentations); there was, of course, no room for it in the case of Psalms 18 and 105:1-15, which are repeated in 2 Samuel 22 and 1 Chronicles 16:8-22 in non-poetical surroundings. We subjoin here Psalms 18:16 = 2 Samuel 22:17, Heb. 16, which will illustrate the transposition of one system into the other:

    A double accentuation is found in Genesis 35:22 (one is intended for the verse ending at the Masoretic section; the other extends farther so as to slur over the uncomplimentary story concerning the misconduct of Reuben, ; or in order to imply the fanciful idea that, in spite of his misconduct, Reuben was still counted with the other sons of Jacob; see Rashi, ad locum, and sources) and in the Decalogue, Exodus 20:3 et seq. and Deuteronomy 5:7 et seq. (one divides the Decalogue into ordinary verses, neither too long nor too short; the other divides it into ten verses, one for each Commandment). According to the predominance of the lower () or upper () signs, one accentuation is spoken of as the "lower" , and the other as the "upper" .

    With the superlinear vocalization goes a system of superlinear accentuation. The signs for the pausal Accents differ; some of them represent the actual or modified initial letters of their names; they are placed invariably above the line. The signs for the non-pausal Accents are the same as in the ordinary system, and are infralinear. The system also aims at simplicity. Ambiguous signs are avoided; is used in the place of and which are wanting, also in the place of repeated, and in other cases. There is no separate notation for the three books. Wickes ("Prose Accents," pp. 142 et seq.) proves conclusively that the superlinear system is derived from the ordinary one. Facsimiles may be found in Ginsburg's "XV. Facsimiles of Manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible," plate , London, 1897, and in Stade's "Hebräische Grammatik"; see also the reproduction in Baer's edition of Job. Compare also the literature quoted in article VOCALIZATION.

    Accentuation Supposed to be of Divine Origin.

    5. The general belief of the Jews in the Middle Ages was that both the vocalization and accentuation originated with Ezra and the mythical GREAT SYNAGOGUE. Thus BEN ASHER ( , § 16 and elsewhere) speaks of the Accents as introduced by the prophets and princes of the diaspora (the exiled Jews in Babylon), to whom the interpretation of every word (Scriptural passage) was revealed; the accentuation which bears the seal of the prophets is therefore inspired. Some even maintained that the Torah Pentateuch which Moses received on Sinai and delivered to Israel was furnished with vowel-points and accent-signs, both of which were indeed as old as the alphabet and the language (communicated to Adam in paradise). The Sinaitic origin of the punctuation was emphatically denied by Mar Naṭronai II. (859-869), who accordingly prohibited its introduction into the Scrolls (see "Maḥzor Vitry," p. 91, Berlin, 1893, and Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," 2d ed., 5:503).

    Ben Asher's opinion of the sacredness of the Accents was shared by the contemporaries of Saadia (892-942). This gaon was accused by his detractors of ascribing to himself the gift of prophecy because he had written a treatise in Biblical style with vowel-points and Accents. In his defense Saadia pointed to extracanonical writings (such as Sirach, Scroll of the Hasmoneans, and others) which were pointed and accented. While Saadia evidently does not assign to the accentuation special sacredness, he is nevertheless far from suspecting its recent origin; for, speaking of Sirach's book, he says that he (Sirach) furnished it with points and Accents (wj'alahu musammanan mut'aman). See Saadia's , ed. Harkavy, St. Petersburg, 1891, ; also , note 2; , note*. The recently found fragments of Sirach have traces of points and Accents (see "Rev. Ét. Juives," et seq.); on a text of the Scroll of the Hasmoneans with points and Accents (among the Cambridge manuscripts brought from Cairo), seeAbrahams, "Jewish Quarterly Review," 1899, 11:291 et seq.

    Post-Talmudic Origin.

    6. The accentuation, like the vocalization, is certainly a post-Talmudic innovation. The treatise Soferim, in which for the first time reference is made to points marking the beginning (or, as it may be called, the end) of a verse (3:7), and possibly also to signs (points) by which the subdivisions of a verse are indicated, is post-Talmudic. (Soferim, 3:7) apparently means "to cut up a verse"; compare Meg. 22a: , "I was not permitted to break up a verse"; in 13:1, reference is made to the stichic form of the texts of Psalms, Job, and Proverbs in which a verse (that is, a long verse) is said to be broken up into three parts by a blank left after the opening portion (; corresponding to 's section), at the (this is apparently the correct reading; see the edition of Müller, Leipsic, 1878) and at the end (). Observe that the terminology is far from fixed. In the Talmud itself reference is made to the practise of reciting the text in a manner according with the logical pauses (Meg. 3a = Ned. 37b; Ḥag. 6b; in Ber. 62 mention is made of a system of hand movements used by teachers in training their pupils to pause in the proper places), and apparently also to the habit of chanting (Meg. 32a), but not to written signs by which pauses are marked. The beginnings of our system of accentuation may therefore safely be placed in the sixth century. The first to prove the post-Talmudic date of the points and Accents was ELIAS LEVITA ( 1538). VOCALIZATION.

    7. One is led to the same conclusion by an examination of the Syriac system of accentuation introduced at the end of the fifth century by the grammarian Joseph Huzaya (Wright, "A Short History of Syriac Literature," pp. 115 et seq., London, 1894), to which the Hebrew system bears a striking resemblance and from which it is apparently derived. The Syrians, apt disciples of the Greeks, adopted from the latter their method of reading, and accordingly also their system of punctuation. The Greeks distinguished three kinds of reading (ἀνάγνωσις): oratorical or dramatic delivery implying declamation and gesticulation (καθ ὑπόκρισιν); reading in accordance with the tone, that is, word-accent (κατἁ προσῳδίαν), and reading in accordance with pauses required by the sense (κατἁ διαστολήν). A single point (στιγμή), placed above or below or in the middle of the line, indicated the pauses; the upper point (τελεία στιγμή) at the end of a period complete in itself (αὐτοτελής), the lower point (ὑποστιγμή) between protasis and apodosis, and the middle point (μέση στιγμή) in a long sentence in order to permit the reader to take breath. Upon this modest system, which is found in our oldest Syriac manuscripts, Huzaya founded a more elaborate one to mark the subordinate divisions in a more regular and careful manner. The following diagram will illustrate the system (A means protasis, and B apodosis):

    Compare with this the Hebrew (prose) system in its essential parts:

    The point employed at the end the Syrians call påsoḳå, that is, "sector"; (corrupted into ) was apparently the name which in the Hebrew system belongs to the double point(:) marking the end of a verse. The Greeks also had a sign called ὑφέν (from which our "hyphen" is derived) to mark the coalescing of two syllables into one (synalepha). The Syrians employed the same sign to join together two Syriac words used in translation of one Greek word; hence the Hebrew hyphen (see § 3). In the Hebrew system the rhetorical Accents (they were the signs of interrogation, exclamation, etc.) are wanting. However, in distributing the pauses the Jewish accentuators frequently pay attention to the requirements of rhetorical declamation (see the quotation from the "Manuel du Lecteur," in Merx, p. 69, note 2; also Ḳalonymus ben David at the end of the Hebrew grammar of Abraham de Balmes, Venice, 1523). See Merx, "Historia Artis Grammaticæ apud Syros," pp. 62 et seq., Leipsic, 1889. On the origin (and function) of the minor pausal Accents see Büchler, "Untersuchungen zur Entstchung und Entwickelung der Hebräischen Accente," Vienna, 1891 (see also Grätz, "Monatsschrift," 1882, pp. 385-409).

    8. It is doubtful whether the vocalization and accentuation were introduced simultaneously. Perhaps the latter followed the former. Both became an object of care to the Masoretes, who, in addition to the task of preserving the traditional consonantal text intact, undertook to watch over the traditional vowel-points and accent-signs. Compare, for example, the Masoretic note to Jeremiah 1:7: , that is, the words occur four times (1:7, 3:11, 11:6, 15:1; contrast 3:6 and 11:9) in Jeremiah thus accented. On the accentual variations of the Orientals () and Occidentals () MASORAH. Even more minute are the differences between BEN ASHER and BEN NAPHTALI. Our editions usually follow the former, who is the authority of the West.

    Value in Bible Interpretation.

    9. The accentuation offers an invaluable aid to the understanding of the Biblical text. One must, however, constantly bear in mind its limitations, which are of a twofold character. On the one hand, in attempting to accomplish too much, the system fails in important points. In short verses its pauses are unnecessary; in long verses there are not enough of them. Sense is not infrequently sacrificed to rhetorical effect. The imperfection of the system is particularly noticeable in the awkwardness with which a parenthesis is indicated (compare, for example, Jeremiah 20:1). Nor is it always easy to tell just what the accentuators had in mind in choosing a certain mode of accentuation. While, for the finer points of Biblical exegesis, a knowledge of the Accents is indispensable, the beginner in the study of the Bible should not be burdened with learning more than a few of the important pausals, which are quite sufficient for ordinary purposes. On the other hand, the accentuation represents the interpretation current in the Jewish schools at a comparatively late period. While, on the whole, the accentuation endeavors to be true to the natural meaning (peshaṭ; which see) of the Biblical documents, it does not altogether keep itself free from dogmatic prejudices (see 1 Samuel 3:3), which it indeed shares with the ancient versions. At best the accentuation is representative of traditional Jewish exegesis, which the student of the Bible is frequently forced to overrule. The rule laid down by ABRAHAM IBN EZRA: "no interpretation of a Biblical passage which does not follow the accentuation should be accepted," was sinned against by every Jewish commentator of importance, including Ibn Ezrahimself. It should, of course, be remembered that the deviations from the accentual interpretation which are met in rabbinical commentaries were not always conscious transgressions. The minutiæ of the accentuation were not always present to the mind of the commentators. But there are cases where the Accents are avowedly disregarded (see Ḳimḥi on Hosea, 12:12: "in interpreting Scripture we are not always bound by the accents"; see also Luzzatto, "Prolegomeni," pp. 187 et seq.).

    In Isa. 3 there is a famous case where the accentuation () is unquestionably right. Accordingly the Revised Version (text) translates: "The voice of one that crieth, 'In the wilderness,'" etc. The quotation of the verse in Mark, 1:3 connects "in the wilderness" with "the voice of one crying" (implying the accentuation ). The New Testament accentuation (hardly invented for the occasion; the punctuation in the Septuagint is due to New Testament influence) is probably nothing more than a haggadic interpretation of the kind so often met with in midrashic works. A puzzling accentuation which goes with the rendering of the Septuagint and Vulgate may be found in Isaiah 7:3: (et qui derelictus est, Iasub filius tuus; see Baer's edition, "Additamenta," p. 67).

    The Accents in the ordinary editions of the Bible are frequently unreliable. Baer's and Ginsburg's Bible editions (where also important variants are noted) are indispensable to one interested in Biblical accentuation.

    • The oldest rules on the subject of the Biblical Accents may be found in Ben Asher's treatise, , edited by Baer and Strack, §§ 16-28, 30-35, 41, 42, 47, Leipsic, l879.
    • A treatise falsely ascribed to Judah ben Bil'am (, ed. Mercerus, Paris, 1565) deals with the subject at greater length (the same treatise in Arabic may be found in Wickes, Poetical Accentuation, pp. 102 et seq.).
    • In Ḥayyuj's (ed. Nutt, pp. 126-129, London, 1870) there is found a chapter on the Accents, which, however, was not written by the famous grammarian himself.
    • Manuel du Lecteur is the name given by J. Derenbourg to a treatise on points of grammar and Masorah, edited by him (Paris, 1871) from a Yemen manuscript; it contains rules on the Accents.
    • A useful compilation from the works of early Jewish writers on the prose Accents is Wolf Heidenheim's work, , Rödelheim, 1808. A few other treatises are mentioned in Wickes. To Christian writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Bohlius, Wasmuth, Spitzner, and others) belongs the merit of formulating the principle of halving (see § 4).
    • The paragraphs devoted to the subject in the current Hebrew grammars are more or less superficial (beginners will find the chapter on Accents in Driver's Hebrew Tenses, Oxford, 1892, very serviceable).
    • An elaborate discussion is found only in the grammars of Luzzatto (§§ 69-164; compare also his Prolegomeni, 177-191), Ewald (§§ 95-100; Ewald rejects the principle of halving, in the place of which he puts his own principle of tripartition; the discussion is quite abstruse) and Olshausen (§§ 41-53; compare the diagram for the prose Accents on pp. 98 and 99, which resembles the diagram given above, § 4).
    • Baer's treatise, , Rödelheim, 1853, deserves notice (compare also Baer in Delitzsch, Commentary on the Psalms, 1860).
    • The most thorough works on Biblical accentuation (from which much of the material available for § 4 has been taken, with the necessary simplification) are the ones by William Wickes, Poetical Accentuation, Oxford, 1881;
    • idem, Prose Accentuation, Oxford, 1887.
    • Compare also Japhet, , Die Accente der Heiligen Schrift, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1896;
    • König, Gedanke, Laut, und Accent als die Drei Factoren der Sprachbildung, Weimar, 1874;
    • Grimme, Abriss der Biblisch-Hebräischen Metrik, in Z. D. M. G. 51:529 et seq., 683 et seq.; idem, Grundzüge der Hebräischen Accent-und Vokallehre, Freiburg (Switzerland), 1896;
    • idem, Collectanea Friburgensia, fase.;
    • Prætorius, Ueber den Rückweichenden Accent im Hebräischen, Halle-on-the-Saale, 1897;
    • Ackermann, Das Hermeneutische Element der Biblischen Accentuation, Berlin, 1893;
    • Nathan, Die Tonzeichen in der Bibel, in Programm der Talmud-Tora-Realschule, Hamburg, 1893;
    • Friedlander, Die Beiden Systeme der Hebräischen Vokalund Accentzeichen, in Monatsschrift, 38:311 et seq.
    M. L. M.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.

    Bibliography Information
    Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Accents in Hebrew'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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