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Studies in Semitic Vocalisation and Reading Traditions

Aaron D. Hornkohl
Geoffrey Khan

Pausal Forms and Prosodic Structure in Tiberian Hebrew

Vincent DeCaen et B. Elan Dresher

Texte intégral

An earlier version of this paper was presented jointly at SBL 2018 in Denver. We thank the participants in the section ‘Masoretic Studies: Vocalization and Accentuation’ for their comments and questions.

Unless this question of the use of conjunctives with pausal forms can be resolved in agreement with Dresher’s basic premises, there seems no reason to doubt that accents and vowels reflect distinct (though related) reading traditions.
Revell (2015, 15)

1.0. Introduction

1Tiberian Hebrew (TH), the canonical dialect employed in the reading of the received biblical text, is characterized by the occurrence of pausal forms, words that are marked by variations in vowel quality and/or word stress. These pausal forms occur at the ends of constructions that are typically associated cross-linguistically with prosodic units called intonational phrases (Dresher 1994; DeCaen 2005).

2To the biblical textus receptus the Tiberian scholars also added musical phrasing by means of complex systems of conjunctive and ranked disjunctive accents, which, among other things, reflect the prosodic structure of each verse, indicating prosodic words (including clitic groups) and nested phonological phrases. We would therefore expect pausal forms to align with the phrasing indicated by the accents; in particular, we might expect pausal forms to occur systematically on particular disjunctive accents that mark the ends of intonational phrases.

3As Revell has convincingly shown in many important publications on this topic (among others, Revell 1980; 1981; 2015), this is not what we find. In the words of Revell (2015, 11): “lack of consistency between the vowels and the accents is endemic, at a low level, throughout the text.” Not only do we occasionally find pausal forms even on the most minor disjunctive accents, in roughly ten glaring cases we unexpectedly find the “bizarre combination” of pausal forms apparently in the middle of a phonological phrase (Revell 2015, 6). How are we to explain these contradictions, which point to a mismatch between the distribution of pausal forms and the phrasing indicated by the accentuation?

4First, we agree with the thesis stated by Revell (1980, 170):

It is clear, then, that the pausal forms were already fixed in the reading tradition when its received form was established by the masoretes. Consequently, their position in the text, and so the system of text division which they represent, must date from some earlier period.

5This must be the case, because the occurrence of pausal forms cannot be predicted from the accents. As Revell (2015, 1) puts it, “The Masoretic Text, then, evidently includes features, sometimes mutually contradictory, deriving from different stages of the reading tradition.”

  • 1 Implicit is the assumption of the superiority [or primacy?] of the vowel and stress patterns versus (...)

6This much appears to be irrefutable. Revell’s explanation for how this state of affairs came to be, however, is not as convincing to us. According to Revell (2015, 6), the apparent contradictions between prosodic phrasing and accentual phrasing in certain examples, and more generally, the unsystematic appearance of pausal forms with all sorts of accents, must reflect different “understandings” of the text, even though the “difference in meaning between the two interpretations is slight.” Since there are instances where the accents seem to run roughshod over the pausal forms, it must be the case that the pausal forms were no longer recognized or appreciated for what they (originally) were: at the time that the accents were finalized, the pausal forms “must have been regarded simply as indeterminate variants of contextual forms” (Revell 2015, 6); they were “superseded and their function forgotten” (Revell 2015, 9).1

7Dresher (1994, 14) expresses a somewhat different view:

Put in traditional terms, pausal forms follow neither the syntax nor the accents; but it is not necessary to suppose on this account that they derive from a distinct reading tradition. The reason for the inconsistent matching of pausal forms with accents is that the Tiberian representation has no means of consistently marking this level [i.e., the intonational phrase] of the prosodic hierarchy.

8In the comment quoted at the top of this article, Revell (2015, 15) takes issue with the denial of a “distinct reading tradition.” Of course, there are different ways of understanding ‘distinct’. In this article, we elaborate on Dresher’s (1994) account and advance a theory of how pausal forms came to co-exist with a musico-prosodic structure that does not entirely suit them. We agree with Revell (2015) that pausal forms do not depend on the accents and must have originated at a stage of the reading tradition prior to the fixing of the accents. In this sense, pausal forms and the accents can be said to arise from ‘distinct’ stages.

9We do not think, however, that it follows that the pausal forms derive from a tradition that is different from the one that produced the accents, in the sense that there were two schools with different understandings of the text. This is because, as we will show, mismatches between pausal forms and accentual phrasing are inevitable, and, crucially, are due to the way the TH system of accents is designed. In other words, the mismatches are not necessarily due to different reading traditions with different understandings of the text or to ignorance concerning the nature of pausal forms, but rather to a basic flaw in the TH concept of prosodic structure. That is, while we cannot exclude the scenario put forward by Revell, we will argue that the vast majority of the mismatches between pausal forms and accents would have arisen even if the accentuators had been fully aware of the function of pausal forms, because the TH system of accents gave them no alternative way to handle them.

10In §2 we present a brief introduction to the theory of the prosodic hierarchy and show how it compares with the Tiberian accentual representation. In §3 we argue that pausal forms occur at the ends of intonational phrases, and in §4 we show why pausal forms cannot systematically align with the Tiberian system of accents. In §4.1 we discuss why pausal forms occur with lower disjunctives, with a focus on variation in Lev. 8–9. In §4.2 we take up the thorny issue of pausal forms with conjunctive accents; our argumentation concentrates on the example of Deut. 5.14,12 in contrast to the parallel of Exod. 20.10,14, a major crux treated by Revell (2015, 4ff, 13). §5 is a brief conclusion.

2.0. Prosodic Representation: Prosodic levels in the Tiberian Transcription

11Theories of prosodic structure in the tradition of Selkirk (1981; 1984; 1986; 2011), Hayes (1989), Truckenbrodt (1999), and Nespor and Vogel (2007) posit that prosodic representation mediates the relationship between phonology and syntax. On this view, a prosodic hierarchy organizes the domains in which phonological rules operate. From the word level up, the units of the prosodic hierarchy are commonly supposed to have at least the levels shown in (1a):

12(1) Prosodic hierarchies

a. Modern prosodic hierarch y b. Tiberian prosodic hierarchy
Utterance U Verse V
Intonational phrase I Hierarchy of disjunctive Di, i =
Phonological phrase P phrases {0–3}
Prosodic word + clitics W Prosodic word + clitics W
  • 2 That is, we assume that the verse divisions were fixed before the internal parsing of verses indica (...)

13The Tiberian transcription also encodes a prosodic hierarchy, shown in (1b). It marks the bottom and top of the hierarchy very systematically (Dresher 1994; 2013). At the top, the biblical verse plays the role of the utterance. Like an utterance, a verse may consist of a single complete sentence, but may also be less than a sentence (a sentence fragment or a list, for example) or more than a sentence. For purposes of this study, we will take the verse divisions as given.2

  • 3 Our phonetic transcriptions of TH forms follows Khan (1987; 2013).

Prosodic words are set off by blank spaces. A maqqef ‘hyphen’ is used to join one or more grammatical words into a single prosodic word (called by some a ‘clitic group’). The principles governing cliticization are complex and intricately tied in with accentual division (Breuer 1982; Dresher 2009; Holmstedt and Dresher 2013). Whether a form is an independent prosodic word or a prosodically dependent clitic has implications for its phonology. For example, the accusative particle has the form א ֵ֫ ת ʔéːθ and receives an accent when it is an independent prosodic word, and appears as Imageʔɛθ- when it is cliticized to a following word.3

2.1. The TH Hierarchy of Disjunctive Accents

14Between the utterance (U) and the word (W), the TH transcription departs from the prosodic hierarchy in (1a). Rather than two distinct types of phrase—an intonational phrase and a phonological phrase—the Tiberian transcription parses each verse into a hierarchy of phrases. The Tiberian notation distinguishes two types of accents: a ranked series of disjunctives and the conjunctives that serve them. A conjunctive accent (C) on a word indicates that the word is part of the same phonological phrase as the word that follows it. A disjunctive accent (Di) indicates that a word is final in its phrase.

A phrase that ends in a disjunctive accent and which contains no other disjunctive accents is a minimal phrase (MP; Strauss 2009). We identify the Tiberian MP with the phonological phrase P in the prosodic hierarchy. In the example in (2), the word Imagevaɟɟillɔːħamúː ‘and they fought’ has a conjunctive accent and forms a minimal phrase with the hyphenated֙ Imagevanèː-juhuːðɔ́ː ‘men of Judah’. The third word, Imagebiːʀùːʃɔːláːjim ‘against Jerusalem’, makes up a second minimal phrase by itself.

15(2) Conjunctive and disjunctive accents


  • 4 English translations are from Tanakh (Jewish Publication Society 1988), except where a more literal (...)

16‘The Judahites attacked Jerusalem’ (Judg. 1.8)4

C D2 D1
(vaɟɟillɔːħamúː vanèː-juhuːðɔ́ː) (biːʀùːʃɔːláːjim)
and.they.fought men.of-Judah against. Jerusalem

17The MP forms the domain for three phonological rules: spirantization, external gemination (deḥiq), and nesiga (rhythmic stress retraction). We will illustrate one of these rules, spirantization, which applies as indicated in (3).

18(3) Spirantization

A non-emphatic non-geminate plosive consonant—one of /b, g, d, k, p, t/—is spirantized to [v, ɣ, ð, x, f, θ], respectively, following a vowel, within words, as well as across words that are in the same minimal phrase (Kautzsch 1910, 75–76; Joüon and Muraoka 2006, 76–77).

19In the first phrase in (2), the initial consonant of the second prosodic word vanèː-juhuːðɔ́ː is spirantized to [v] from underlying /b/ because it follows a vowel that ends the preceding word in the same MP. By contrast, the initial /b/ of biːʀùːʃɔːláːjim is not spirantized, though it also follows a word-final vowel, because the preceding word is not in the same MP.

  • 5 As there is no level below D3, if a phrase terminating in a D3 accent must be divided, it is divide (...)

20The disjunctive accents form a hierarchy with four levels, from the strongest, D0, all the way down to the weakest, D3. TH phonological phrases are nested, so that a phrase with an accent of level Di is divided by a phrase ending in accent D (i+1).5 In the example in (2) the second disjunctive, D1, terminates a non-MP comprising all three words. This non-MP is divided by accent D2.

21The TH prosodic structure can be represented as a tree, where a phrase ending in a disjunctive Di is itself labelled Di. Here, the inner phrase is labelled D2 and the entire phrase is labelled D1, as shown in (4).

22(4) Disjunctive accents in the form of a tree


23Why does this phrase end in D1? Recall that the top of the hierarchy is labelled D0. The three prosodic words in (2) and (4) form just the beginning of a verse (5a); the phrasing of the complete verse is shown in (5b).

24(5) Judg. 1.8

25a. The verse ‘The Judahites attacked Jerusalem and captured it; they put it to the sword and set the city on fire.’


vaɟɟillɔːħamúː vanèː-juhuːðɔ́ː biːʀùːʃɔːláːjim
and.fought Judah against. Jerusalem
vaɟɟilkaðúː ʔoːθɔ́ ː vaɟɟakkúːhɔː lafiː-ħɔ́ːʀɛv
and.captured it o-the.sword
vɛʔɛθ-hɔːʕíːʀ ʃillaħúː vɔːʔéːʃ
and. they.set

26b. Phrasing of Judg. 1.8


27The verse has ten prosodic words, labelled W1–W10. There are seven MPs, indicated by parentheses. Again, these MPs can be equated with the phonological phrase P, and serve as the domain of the three phonological rules mentioned above.

  • 6 Verses lacking an internal D0 are apt to occur in poetry; for example, every verse in Lam. 5 has on (...)

28This verse is divided into two parts by D0 accents. The most significant break comes after W7, which ends the first half-verse. There is a maximum of two D0 accents in a verse. Every verse ends in a D0 accent; short verses may lack a second D0.6

29The first half-verse, from W1 to W7, consists of five MPs. These phrases have an internal organization whereby the first two MPs— (W1 W2) and (W3)—are grouped together, and the next three MPs— (W4 W5), (W6), and (W7)—are grouped together. Thus, the main division in this half-verse comes after the second MP (W3). Since the whole half-verse ends in D0, it must be divided by a D1 accent, which falls here on W3. This D1 phrase is, in turn, divided by the D2 accent on W2. This is the three-word phrase in (4).

2.2. Prosodic Transformations in TH

  • 7 For a generative syntax of the two TH accent systems (the poetic system of the three poetic books J (...)

30Unlike the MP, the higher-level phrases are not associated with phonological rules; rather, they indicate how the MPs are organized. This hierarchical organization is important in determining the accentual phrasing. In the realization of the logogenic liturgical chant, various transformations were applied for prosodic and musical reasons (Wickes 1887; Cohen 1969; Breuer 1982; Price 1990).7 These transformations are sensitive to prosodic conditions that depend on the hierarchical organization of a verse.

31There are two kinds of transformation: division and simplification. In division, words that would ordinarily form a single MP are divided into two MPs (Breuer 1982, 108–27; Dresher 1994, 34–36). Division occurs at the higher levels of the prosodic hierarchy, and most commonly in the domain of D0. It corresponds to a slowing down of the reading in prominent prosodic positions (Janis 1987).

  • 8 Price (1990, 36, 170) refers to such conjunctive accents as ‘virtual disjunctives’; though realized (...)

32The converse of division is simplification (Cohen 1969; Breuer 1982, 50–82; Price 1990; Dresher 1994, 36–37, 44–47): words that would ordinarily form two or more separate MPs are combined into a single MP. When simplification occurs, a disjunctive accent is transformed into a conjunctive.8 Simplification amounts to a speeding up of the reading in prosodically subordinate parts of a verse.

33In the accent system of the twenty-one prose books, simplification occurs more freely as one moves down the hierarchy: D0 and D1 accents are only rarely transformed; D2 accents are transformed in particular limited contexts; and D3 accents are frequently transformed. For example, the D3 accents gereš and legarmeh often become conjunctives when they are close to a following D2 (Breuer 1982, 50). Simplification also frequently affects subordinate D3 accents, that is, D3 accents that divide other D3 accents.

34For example, the D3 accent teliša gedolah is divided by the D3 pazer. This pazer is always transformed to the conjunctive munaḥ when it is immediately adjacent to the D3 it divides, and it is frequently transformed even when several words intervene between them (Breuer 1982, 74). Breuer gives the example shown in (6). The tree in (6a) shows what the phrasing would be in the domain of higher disjunctive accents; compare the phrasing of ‘what I did to the Egyptians’ in the domain of D0, shown in (7a). The label D3=D4 indicates that the D3 pazer is dividing a D3 domain, acting structurally (but not prosodically) like an accent that is one level lower than D3.

35(6) Transformation of D3 pazer that divides D3 teliša gedolah. a. 1 Kgs 2.5 before transformation of pazer (Breuer 1982, 74) b. After transformation (actual phrasing)



36‘what he did to the two commanders of the forces of Israel’ (1 Kgs 2.5)


37The second D3 phrase in (6a), the one ending in teliša gedolah, has already undergone a round of simplification (as well as cliticization of ‘to the two’); compare the more expansive phrasing in the domain of D2 shown in (7b).

38(7) Phrasing in the domain of higher disjunctives

39a. Object of the verb ʕɔːsíːθiː ‘I did’ in a separate phrase


40‘What I did to the Egyptians’ (Exod. 19.4)

41b. The number two in a separate phrase before sɔːʀéː


42‘and consumed the first two captains of fifty’ (2 Kgs 1.14)


43In the system of accents used in the three poetic books simplification occurs at all levels of the prosodic hierarchy when a disjunctive accent is adjacent to the disjunctive to which it is subordinate (Breuer 1982, 222; Price 1990, 170). For example, the disjunctive reviaʿ mugraš, which would stand adjacent to silluq in Ps. 22.27 (8a), is transformed to the conjunctive munaḥ (8b).

44(8) Transformation of D1 reviaʿ mugraš before D0 silluq

45a. Ps. 22.27 before transformation of reviaʿ mugraš (Breuer 1982, 224)


46b. After transformation (actual phrasing)


47‘Always be of good cheer!’ lit. ‘May your heart live forever.’


  • 9 See Strauss (2009) for evidence that the accentuators employed strategies to minimize sequences of (...)

48The various transformations reflect a prosodic reality: that phrases tend to get smaller in prosodically prominent positions, corresponding to a slowing of the tempo of speech; conversely, in prosodically subordinate positions phrases can accommodate more words by cancelling phrase boundaries that would otherwise be expected, corresponding to a speeding up of the tempo. Simplification in (8) has the effect of making the reading more fluid, by avoiding disjunctive accents on successive words.9 Thus, the Tiberian system of accents is capable of reflecting subtle nuances of phrasing that may have their origins in the actual speech patterns that lie behind the formalized recitation of the biblical text.

3.0. pausal Forms and the Intonational Phrase

49Unlike the Tiberian system, the modern prosodic hierarchy (1) includes an intonational phrase, I, which is different from the phonological phrase, P. The I is commonly defined as the domain of an intonation contour (Gussenhoven 2004; Ladd 2008). In TH, the intonation contours of natural speech have been replaced by the accentual cantillation; therefore, this diagnostic is not available to us. It has been observed, however, that the ends of Is coincide with positions in which pauses may occur (Bierwisch 1966; Bing 1979; Nespor and Vogel 2007, Ch. 7). Therefore, we might expect pausal forms to be associated with the ends of Is.

50The most obvious position where a pause can occur is, of course, at the end of an utterance. Within utterances it has been noted that certain syntactic constructions usually form their own I-phrase. These include parenthetical expressions, non-restrictive relative clauses, certain adjunct clauses, vocatives, lists, and other such expressions (see Selkirk 1981; 1984; Nespor and Vogel 2007, 187–220). This set of constructions aligns nicely with the constructions in which pausal forms have been observed to occur. Thus, Revell (1980, 166) observes that about 75 percent of the pausal forms in Deuteronomy occur at the ends of clauses. Within clauses, pausal forms are used in lists; TH characteristically groups items in lists by twos or threes, with a pausal form at the end of each such grouping. Elsewhere, pausal forms “seem generally to occur at the end of the most significant part or ‘core’ of the clause, and to divide it from less important phrases, often explanatory modifiers, which follow.” Clauses in Deuteronomy that end in a contextual form “are usually closely related to the following clause, and they are usually short” (Revell 1980, 167). Revell (1980, 171–75) also observes that pausal forms within a clause occur in the same places as the interjection nuʔúːm yhwh ‘declares the LORD’.

51We have observed that a verb that precedes an object clause headed by the complementizer kiː ‘that’ tends to be in contextual form, as in (9a), whereas a verb preceding an adjunct clause headed by kiː ‘because, for, but’, etc., tends to be in pausal form, underlined in (9b).

52(9) Two kinds of kiː phrase

53a. Direct object clause headed by kiː ‘that’


54‘for they heard that they should eat bread there’ (Gen. 43.25)

((kíː ʃ ɔ̀ːmʕúː) D1 ((kiː-ʃ ɔ́ːm) D1 (jóːxluː lɔ́ːħɛm))) D0
for they.heard that-there bread

55b. Adjunct clause headed by kiː ‘but’


56‘And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them’ (Judg. 2.17)

((vaɣáːm ʔɛl-ʃ òːftˤeːhɛ́m) D2 (lóː ʃɔːméːʕuː)) D1 ((kíː zɔːnúː) D2
and.yet to-their.judges not they.heard but they.whored

57In (9a) the second instance of kiː, glossed as ‘that’, heads a clause that is the direct object of the verb ‘they heard’. An I-phrase boundary does not typically intervene between a verb and its direct object, and therefore the verb ʃ ɔ̀ːmʕúː is in its contextual form. In (9b) the clause headed by kíː is much less closely linked to the verb semantically, and presumably syntactically as well. We expect this kind of kiː to begin a new I-phrase, causing the verb ʃɔːméːʕuː to end the preceding I-phrase, and indeed it is in pausal form. Note that despite this crucial difference in the phrasing, both verbs ‘hear’ are assigned the same D1 accent (zaqef).

58I-phrases, hence pausal forms, are not entirely determined by syntax. The length of a phrase, as well as factors such as speech tempo, rhetorical pause, and emphasis play a role (Nespor and Vogel 2007, 193–205). The position of a phrase within the utterance (or biblical verse), as well as semantic factors, might lead to variation in whether or not a particular construction ends in an I or in a P.

  • 10 For various classifications of pausal forms, see Goerwitz (1993), Ben-David (1990; 1995), and Revel (...)

59The phonology of pausal forms is also consistent with what we expect to find at the ends of I-phrases. We commonly find that words at the end of an I tend to be pronounced with some combination of higher stress and longer articulation. It appears that these factors were important in the creation of the special phonology of pausal forms. In (10) we list some typical differences between contextual and pausal forms.10

60(10) Some contextual forms and their pausal counterparts


61In (10a, b, c) a stressed vowel áː or ɛ́ː in the contextual form corresponds to pausal ɔ́ː. In (10d), the contextual form has a shewa (here transcribed a) followed by a stressed final syllable; in the pausal form the stress is on the penultimate syllable, in which the vowel ɛ corresponds to the contextual shewa. The alternation in (10e) is similar, except that pausal stressed ɛ́ː in the penult corresponds to the lack of a vowel (quiescent shewa) in the contextual form. In (10f), the contextual form has stress on the final syllable with no change in the vocalism. The stress alternation is reversed in (10g): here, the contextual form has penultimate stress and the pausal form has final stress, with a different vowel in the final syllable.

62Though the motivation for these contextual/pausal alternations is obscured in the medieval Tiberian pronunciation, the general consensus is that the differences originated in the longer vowel length and heightened stress of forms in pause compared with contextual forms (see, for example, Blau 1981; 2010). Thus, the alternations in (10a, b, c) historically derive from stressed short /a/ or /i/ being lengthened in pause to /aː/, which subsequently became /ɔː/.

63The form in (10d) originates from /ja+ʃmór+u/ with word stress on the penultimate vowel. In context (non-pausal positions), the word stress was not strong enough to preserve the penultimate vowel from reduction, with concomitant shift of the stress to the final syllable. In pause, the word stress was reinforced by the main phrase stress, and the penultimate vowel was lengthened, preserving it from reduction (Blau 2010, 154). A similar derivation accounts for (10e). In (10f), the stress shifted from the penultimate to the final syllable with reduction of the penultimate vowel. In these forms, according to Blau, the pausal forms maintain the older stress pattern and preserve a syllable that is reduced or deleted in context. The pausal form does not always preserve the original stress; in (10g) it is the contextual form that maintains the older stress on the penult, and in pause the stress shifts from the penult to a closed final syllable (Blau 2010, 155).

64Though pausal forms show a variety of manifestations, it can be said in sum that the characteristic phonological processes that gave rise to pausal forms are heightened stress and vowel lengthening or resistance to reduction, that is, processes that might be expected to occur at the edges of I-phrases.

65It is clear, then, from both the positions in which pausal forms occur and the nature of the phonological processes that created them, that pausal forms occur at the ends of I-phrases. But where is the I-phrase in the TH transcription?

4.0. Why Pausal Forms Cannot Align with the Tiberian System of Accents

  • 11 We refer here to the twenty-one prose books; atnaḥ in the accent system of the three poetic books h (...)

66The answer is that there is no I in the TH accent system, and this is the crux of the matter. Rather than the two types of phrase distinguished in the modern prosodic hierarchy, I and P, the TH accent system employs what Wickes (1887) calls the continuous dichotomy, that is, the hierarchy of disjunctive accents. We might try to equate the D0 disjunctives with I; in fact, most pausal forms (- 80 percent) do fall on a D0 accent. We would expect a D0 accent to mark the end of an I-phrase: the end of a verse, marked by the D0 silluq, almost by definition ends an I-phrase; and the main verse division, marked by the D0 atnaḥ, is very often associated with a major pause, for either grammatical or prosodic reasons.11 The problem is that there is a maximum of two D0 accents for each verse. I-phrases, however, are not limited in this way: in a complex verse, for example, or a verse with a list, there can be multiple Is. We can try to include lower-level disjunctive accents as also representing I; but this would fail to account for the fact that these accents are more commonly associated with non-pausal forms.

67We have argued above that the various prosodic transformations—the division and simplification of phrases, and the associated change of conjunctives to disjunctives and disjunctives to conjunctives—must have originated in actual prosodic patterns in the living language that gave rise to the TH phrasing. It is these transformations that make the TH accents a flexible system capable of reflecting subtle aspects of phrasing. Our hypothesis, however, is that the prosody of the living language, like other languages, distinguished I-phrases from P-phrases. The biggest difference that we expect to find between the two is in the domain of simplification: a simple P-phrase boundary is weaker than an I-phrase boundary. There would be contexts in which a P boundary, but not an I boundary, would be cancelled as part of simplification.

68Since the TH system does not distinguish I from P, we might expect it to treat Is as if they were Ps. The system is not capable of representing Is in whatever part of the prosodic tree they may occur due to the vagaries of the syntactic, semantic, and prosodic factors that are associated with Is. In §4.1 we will show why pausal forms cannot be consistently associated with particular disjunctive accents (except the D0 accents), and in §4.2 we will consider the more extreme cases of a pausal form on a conjunctive accent.

Before proceeding, we would like to briefly mention two possible sources of pause-accent mismatches that we will not consider here. First, we set aside possible scribal lapses. For example, we find the pausal hypercorrection Imagemimmɔ́ːʕal ‘above’ at Job 3.4,8 in the Leningrad Codex. In this case, the superior Aleppo Codex has the correct non-pausal form Imagemimmáːʕal.

69Second, we do not deny that that there may be genuine examples of clashing readings in the text. Breuer (1992) has collected a number of such cases (see Strauss Sherebrin 2013 for discussion), and Revell (2015, 21–22) mentions a number of verses in which the distribution of pausal forms might suggest a different verse division than the one suggested by the accents. A key element of this type of mismatch is the existence of an alternative phrasing that would resolve the mismatch; that is, the accents give one way of phrasing the verse, and the pausal forms suggest a different, but equally possible, phrasing that the accentuators could have chosen.

70As we will see, the cases we will consider, which account for the majority of cases of pausal forms on lower disjunctives and conjunctives, are not resolvable in this way, and are indeed ‘endemic’ to the TH system itself.

4.1. Pausal Forms on Lower Disjunctive Accents

Consider again the two examples above in (9): in (9a), there is a small break after the verb ‘heard’ (a P-boundary) and the verb has the contextual form Imageʃɔ̀ːmʕúː; in (9b), a more significant break follows this verb (an I-boundary in natural speech), which has the pausal form Imageʃɔːméːʕuː. In (11) we give the phrasing of these verse portions indicated by the accents (only disjunctive accents shown) in tree form, indicating the hypothesized P and I phrases. Despite this crucial difference in phrasing, both verbs ‘heard’ are assigned the same D1 accent (zaqef). This is because both verbs stand at the main division of a D0 phrase, and a D0 phrase must be divided by a D1 accent. These structures clearly show the relative value of the accents emphasized by commentators going back to Wickes (1887). In this system, the difference between a P-phrase and an I-phrase cannot be indicated.

71(11) I-phrase and P-phrase both marked with D1 zaqef

72a. Gen. 43.25


73b. Judg. 2.17


Consider next the Levitical expression Imagevaɟɟiʃħɔ́ːtˤ ‘and he slaughtered [it]’ in pause with stressed [ɔ́ː]. This occurs three times, all in Lev. 8, in verses 15,1, 19,1, and 23,1; compare the non-pausal form Imagevaɟɟiʃħáːtˤ with stressed [áː], which occurs elsewhere (three times in Lev. 9, in 8,5, 12,1, and 18,1; also twice in Jeremiah, in 39.6,1 and 52.10,1). The three pausal forms are sentences in their own right, word-sentences, as it were, and so we expect the pausal form terminating its own I-phrase. In contrast, the non-pausal forms are not sentences. Rather, the verb takes an overt object, and does not coincide with the right edge of an I-phrase.

74If the word-sentence vaɟɟiʃħɔ́ːtˤ terminated a verse, it would be assigned the D0 silluq, as befits a word that is final in an I. It does not, however, appear verse-finally in our text. In the three occurrences in Lev. 8, it appears verse-initially. We are thus confronted by the unusual phenomenon of a major break right at the beginning of a verse.

75In Lev. 8.19, the word-sentence terminates the first half-verse, as shown in (12). As such, it receives the D0 atnaḥ. In this verse, then, the end of the I-phrase coincides felicitously with a D0 accent.

76(12) Phrasing of Lev. 8.19


77Now consider Lev. 8.23 (13). This verse starts similarly to 8.19, but it has another six prosodic words to the right, which create a new half-verse. Therefore, what was previously the entire verse now becomes the first half of the verse governed by D0 atnaḥ. But now the accent on vaɟɟiʃħɔːtˤ is no longer at the end of a half-verse; it cannot remain a D0. Rather, due to the law of continuous dichotomy, it must be demoted to D1 (in this case šalšelet, the lawful substitution for expected segolta). The result is that the I-phrase is now assigned a D1.

78(13) Phrasing of Lev. 8.23


79Lev. 8.15 is even longer. The addition of a seven-word clause creates a new half-verse. As before, the new D0 forces the demotion of the previous D0 to D1; thus, the D1 marking the word-sentence in Lev. 8.23 is now demoted further to D2 reviaʿ. (14) Phrasing of Lev. 8.15


80In summary, the three verses are shown together in (15). The intuition embodied by contemporary prosodic theory is that the initial word is equally an I-phrase in all these verses, irrespective of how much material follows. The continuous dichotomy, which is otherwise correct in its assumption that phrasing is based on dependencies that involve the entire verse, cannot assign I-phrases to a consistent set of accents.

81(15) Three verses with an initial pausal form

a. Lev. 8.19
(And it was slaughtered.)id0 (Moses dashed the blood against all sides of the altar.) d0
b. Lev. 8.23
((And it was slaughtered.)id1 (Moses took some of its blood and put it on the ridge of Aaron’s right ear, )) d0 (and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot.) d0
c. Lev. 8.15
(((And it was slaughtered.)id2 (Moses took the blood and with his finger put some on each of the horns of the altar, )) d1 (cleansing the altar;)) d0 (then he poured out the blood at the base of the altar. Thus he consecrated it in order to make expiation upon it.) d0

4.2. Pausal Forms with Conjunctive Accents

  • 12 This interpretation is reflected in the Masoretic list Mm 2028: ‘five times written defectively’.

In a small number of extreme cases, a pausal form, which indicates that a word is at the end of its I-phrase, is assigned a conjunctive accent, which indicates that a word is medial in its phrase. Revell (2015, 4 n.5) lists twenty-seven such tokens. Of these, he marks nine as questionable. For example, Imagelamiʃpɔːtˤɛ́ːxɔː (Ps. 119.43,9) and Imagekamiʃpɔːtˤɛ́ːxɔː (Ps. 119.149,5) look like pausal forms in the singular; however, in both cases, the forms are understood as ‘judgements’ in the plural, and are thus not subject to pausal variation.12

  • 13 Fixity of pausal idiom appears to be the explanation for the conspicuous exception (...)

We find an additional five tokens to be questionable on the grounds that it is unlikely that the pausal form marks the end of an I-phrase. For example, 1 Sam. 7.17 has pausal Imageʃɔːfɔ́́ːtˤ ‘judged’ immediately preceding a short direct object, a very unlikely environment for an I-phrase boundary (16a); indeed, the preceding verse has the non-pausal form of the same word in a very similar context (16b).13

82(16) Verb in pausal form before direct object

83a. Unexpected pausal form


84‘and there too he would judge Israel’ (1 Sam. 7.17)

((vaʃɔ́ːm) D1 (ʃɔːfɔ́ːtˤ ʔɛθ-jisrɔːʔéːl)) D0
and.there he.judged acc. Israel

85b. Expected non-pausal form


86‘and acted as judge over Israel’ (1 Sam. 7.16)

(vaʃɔːfáːtˤ) D2 (ʔɛθ-jisrˤɔːʔéːl) D1
and.he.judged acc-Israel
  • 14 In addition to the verses mentioned above these include Isa. 32.11,5; 49.18,10; Mic. 3.11,12; Ps. 3 (...)

87Leaving aside questionable cases, we are left with eleven tokens of pausal forms in plausible pausal contexts (that is, where we would expect an I-phrase boundary), of which Revell (2015) treats five directly: Deut. 5.14,12; Isa. 65.1,8; Mal. 1.6,8, 6,13; Ezek. 17.15,11.14 Though they are very few, they nevertheless cannot be dismissed as errors, and require some explanation. It is cases such as these that we will be concerned with here.

88Though a pausal form with a conjunctive accent amounts to a contradiction, it does not necessarily stem from different reading traditions, or from a lack of understanding on the part of the accentuators of the function of pausal forms, as Revell (2015) concludes. Rather, we propose that such contradictions are byproducts of the continuous dichotomy and the rules of simplification discussed in §4.2 that transform disjunctive accents into conjunctive ones.

  • 15 There is no relevant distinction between the ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ cantillation in our example. The o (...)

89Consider the portion of Deut. 5.14 in (17), a long verse which contains a long list.15 The pausal forms are underlined.

90(17) Portion of Deut. 5.14: A pausal form with a conjunctive accent


List Accent
you shall not do any work— D3 pazer
you, your son or your daughter, (A) C munaḥ
your male or female slave, (B) D3 teliša gedolah
your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle (C) D2 reviaʿʿ
or the stranger in your settlements, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. (D) D1 zaqef
D0 silluq

91The main division of the verse portion in (17) is after ‘your settlements’; as this accent divides a D0 phrase, it is assigned the D1 zaqef. Accordingly, all the rest of the verse is now in the domain of this D1. Moreover, everything after ‘work’ is part of a list. In TH, lists are typically grouped into twos and threes, and the final item in each group receives a pausal form (‘your settlements’ has no special pausal form). The list in (17) has four main members: the first item, labelled A, itself contains three items (‘you’, ‘your son’, ‘your daughter’); the second member, B, has two (‘your male slave’, ‘your female slave’); the third, C, has three (‘your ox’, ‘your ass’, ‘any of your cattle’); and D has one item that comprises three words (lit. ‘and your stranger that is in your settlements’).

92Lists are typically parsed as left-branching structures, as shown in (18). In a left-branching structure, disjunctives get progressively weaker proceeding from right to left; that is, an item earlier in the list occurs on a lower disjunctive (with a higher index) than a later item.

93(18) Phrasing of lists in Tiberian Hebrew


The last item in the list in Deut. 5.14, item D in (17), ends on D1; therefore, plugging in the other items predicts, correctly, a D2 accent on item C, and a D3 accent on item B. According to the formula, the accent on item A should be D (3+1) = D4. Recall, however, that the disjunctive hierarchy runs only to D3. When required, a D3 phrase is divided by another D3, resulting in a ‘flattening’ of the prosody. Recall also that phrase simplification, that is, the merger of two minimal phrases into one, applies most readily in the D3 domain, with the result that a D3 accent is transformed into a conjunctive. Evidently, this occurs in Deut. 5.14: the first D3, with its pausal form Imageuvittɛ́xɔː is replaced by transformation by a conjunctive accent, C, and we obtain the tree in (19).

94(19) Phrasing of the list in Deut. 5.14


95The accentuation and parsing of the verse portion in (17), minus the last item in the list, is shown in detail in (20). We observe the same sequence of two conjunctive accents before a teliša gedolah that we saw in (6), where the second munaḥ is a conversion of a subordinate pazer that divides another D3.

96(20) Phrasing of a portion of Deut. 5.14


97It is instructive to consider the contrasting parallel in Exod 20: 10 (upper cantillation), shown in (21).

98(21) Portion of Exod. 20.10 (upper cantillation)


List Accent
you shall not do any work— D3 pazer
you, your son or your daughter, (A) D3 teliša gedolah
your male or female slave, or your cattle (B) D2 reviaʿʿ
or the stranger in your settlements, (C) D1 zaqef

99This parallel passage differs in two ways. Obviously, ‘your daughter’ is no longer assigned a conjunctive accent: here in the upper reading it is the D3 teliša gedolah. The bizarre combination of pause and conjunctive has vanished! Second, ‘female slave’ is no longer aligned with the end of an I, and so is no longer in pausal form. Breuer (1982, 72) parses this verse (which he numbers Exod. 20.9) in the upper cantillation; a detailed tree based on his parse is given in (22).

100(22) Phrasing of a portion of Exod. 20.10 (upper cantillation)


101The hierarchical structure of this list is revealed even more transparently in the accentuation of the lower cantillation (23), in which the verse is shorter, and the pausal ‘your daughter’ is assigned the D2 accent reviaʿ.

102(23) Phrasing of a portion of Exod. 20.10 (lower cantillation)


103Because the last list item ‘and your stranger who is within your settlements’ ends in D0 (not shown in (23)), all the disjunctive accents move up one grade, and so we have no D3 accents dividing D3 accents, which obscures the hierarchical structure. Notice also that ‘your son’ is no longer cliticized in the lower cantillation, because the prosody is less compressed at higher levels in the prosodic tree.

104Now that we have seen ‘your daughter’ assigned disjunctive accents in both readings of Exod. 20.10, let us return to the problematic conjunctive on this word in Deut. 5.14, and pursue our hypothesis that it is a transformed disjunctive. In (24), we give our hypothesized untransformed structure of the tree in (20).

105(24) Phrasing of (20) before transformation of D3 to C


106In the transformed structure in (20), ‘and your male slave’ is cliticized to ‘and your female slave’, forming one prosodic word. If this cliticization takes place independently of the transformation of pazer, then the transformation is obligatory, because the pazer is adjacent to the following teliša gedolah. In (24) we have made the more conservative assumption that ‘and your male slave’ is not joined to ‘and your female slave’ with maqqef, causing the pazer to be separated from the following disjunctive by one word. Thus, we cannot say that the same list structure that yields the upper and lower cantillation in Exod. 20.10 will inevitably result in a conjunctive munaḥ on the pausal form ‘and.your.daughter’; but it is very likely.

It remains to explain why ‘your female slave’ is pausal Imagevaːʔamɔːθɛ́ːχɔː at Deut. 5.14,14, but non-pausal ֙Imagevaːʔamɔ̀ːθχɔ́ː at Exod. 20.10,14. The difference is correlated with a change in the way the list elements are grouped: in Deut. 5.14, the servants are grouped with the family (presumably after being grouped by themselves in the untransformed structure), whereas in Exod. 20.10 they are grouped with the cattle. Revell (2015, 5) comments that the difference possibly reflects “a change in the position of servants in the society, which took place between the fixing of the vowels in the reading-tradition and the fixing of the accents.” That is, the grouping in Exod. 20.10, where the servants are with the cattle and pausal ‘your daughter’ is final in its group, reflects the older grouping; in Deut. 5.14, the servants were promoted to join the family members, stranding ‘your daughter’ with a pausal form in a non-pausal position in the middle of grouping. “The two traditions were separate, each meaningful on its own” (Revell 2015, 13).

107This proposal seems to us to be unnecessary. The key difference between the two lists is that in Exod. 20.10 the animals are represented by one item (‘your cattle’), whereas in Deut. 5.14 there are three (‘your ox’, ‘your ass’, and ‘all your cattle’). Certainly, the choice of detailing the types of livestock (Deut.) or not (Exod.) is extralinguistic, and this choice may or may not be meaningful. But once that decision is made, the formal TH constraint of grouping items by twos and threes suffices to account for the changed position of the servants. In Exod. 20.10, as shown in (21), group A and B each have three items. By contrast, in Deut. 5.14 (17), the family group (A) has three items, and the animal group (C) has three items. Thus, the servants must form a group of two by themselves (B); then the continuous dichotomy and the rules of simplification require groups A and B to be combined in this verse.

108As a final example we will consider Ps. 3.9,5, which is an example of a pausal form on a conjunctive accent in the poetic books.

109(25) Phrasing of a portion of Ps. 3.9


110‘Your blessing be upon your people! Selah.


In (25) we find pausal Imageviʀχɔːθɛ́ːχɔː on the conjunctive munaḥ. We have seen the accent sequence ṭarḥa munaḥ silluq in (8b), where munaḥ is the transformation of reviaʿ mugraš when it stands next to silluq. That is, this munaḥ is a ‘virtual disjunctive’ standing in place of the D1 reviaʿ mugraš (26), whose transformation is obligatory in this context.

111(26) Phrasing of a portion of Ps. 3.9 before the transformation of reviaʿ mugraš


  • 16 Pausal forms do not always precede selah; for example, Ps. 32.4,10 has contextual (...)

112We observed above that this transformation has the effect of avoiding a sequence of adjacent disjunctives, resulting in a more fluid reading. This works well in Ps. 22.27 (8), where an internal P boundary before the last word ‘forever’ is not necessary. It does not work so well in Ps. 3.9, where there is a strong I-boundary, marked by a pausal form, before the last word, selah, which is not a part of the preceding sentence at all.16 The transformation of reviaʿ mugraš, however, is not sensitive to the difference between P and I, and therefore proceeds in this example, also, with the result that the pausal form ends up with a conjunctive accent.

113It follows that the appearance of a pausal form with a conjunctive accent, though seemingly contradictory, is nevertheless the logical result of applying the iron rule of the continuous dichotomy and the attendant rules of simplification that transform disjunctive accents into conjunctive ones. We leave the reader to consider whether this mode of explanation also extends to the other verses with pausal forms on conjunctive accents, listed above and in note 14, as we would argue.

5.0. Conclusion

114We agree with Revell’s (2015, 6) conclusion that “the vocalization (including the stress patterns of the words) was fixed in the reading tradition first, and the melody marked by the accents came into use later.” This is necessarily the case, because the distribution of pausal forms cannot be derived from the placement of the accents. It does not follow, however, that the vocalization, including the pausal forms, derives from a different reading tradition from the one that created the accents. Nor does it necessarily follow that the lack of coordination between the pausal forms and the accents indicates that the function of the latter was no longer apparent to the Tiberian scholars.

115Of course, we have not excluded these scenarios. It is an empirical question to what extent the accentuators appreciated the significance of the contextual/pausal alternants. Our claim here is that the mismatches we have discussed between the pausal forms and the accents are not in themselves sufficient grounds to draw conclusions about this issue, because they have another explanation.

116As Aronoff (1985, 28) writes in connection with the Tiberian accentual transcription, “any orthography must… involve a linguistic theory.” In other words, the Tiberian transcription is not a pure record of recitation per se, but is filtered through a theory, in this case, the continuous dichotomy, the hierarchy of disjunctive accents, and the transformation rules involved in the division and simplification of phrases. The Tiberian theory of prosody is capable of reflecting subtle prosodic distinctions and in general provides one of the most detailed prosodic representations of an extended text ever devised. Crucially, however, this theory of prosody does not have a way of systematically marking I-phrases.

117We have argued that the Tiberian system of accents, because it does not distinguish between P-phrases and I-phrases, simply does not have the means of ensuring that pausal forms will be systematically assigned to certain accents in a predictable way. To preserve the pausal forms from prosodic subordination (that is, from appearing on lower disjunctives and conjunctives), the Tiberian scribes would have had to develop a dedicated set of accents that could be assigned to phrases ending in pausal forms, thus mimicking our contemporary division of phrases into P-phrases and I-phrases. It may not have been a trivial task to incorporate such accents into the Tiberian system; be that as it may, they did not do it.

118The fact that the Tiberian scribes nevertheless recorded pausal forms even when they did not fit well with the accents is evidence that their over-riding goal was to faithfully and precisely represent the recitation tradition as they received it, and that “the distribution of pausal forms is, in fact, due to the generally accurate preservation of an ancient tradition” (Revell 1980, 179).


6.0. References

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Ben-David, Israel. 1984.֙ ‘צורות ֙הפסק ֙בפסוקים ֙מחוסרי ֙אתנחתא שבכ"א ֙ספרים] Pausal Forms in Verses Lacking the ʾetnaḥtaʾ in the Twenty-one Books]’. Textus 11: 51–63.

——. כוחן של תבניות דקדוקיות לצור צורות הקשר וצורות‘ .1990 הפסק ֙במקרא [The Capacity of Grammatical Patterns to Generate Contextual and Pausal Forms in Biblical Hebrew]’. Lĕšonénu 54: 279–99.

——. 1995. צורות הקשר וצורות הפסק בעברית שבמקרא [Contextual and Pausal Forms in Biblical Hebrew [. Jerusalem: Magnes Press.

Bierwisch, Manfred. 1966. ‘Regeln für die Intonation deutscher Sätze’. Studia Grammatica 7: Untersuchungen über Akzent und Intonation im Deutschen, edited by Manfred Bierwisch, 99– 201. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Bing, Janet. 1979. ‘Aspects of English Prosody’. PhD dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Blau, Joshua. 1981. ‘On Pausal Lengthening, Pausal Stress Shift, Philippi’s Law and Rule Ordering in Biblical Hebrew’. Hebrew Annual Review 5: 1–13. Reprinted in Joshua Blau, Topics in Hebrew and Semitic Linguistics, 36–49. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1998.

——. 2010. Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

Breuer, Mordechai. 1982. טעמי ֙המקרא ֙בכ"א ֙ספרים ו֙ספרי ֙אמ"ת [The Biblical Accents in the Twenty-one Books and in the Three Books]. Jerusalem: Mikhlala.

Breuer, Yochanan. 1992. ‘מחלוקת ֙ניקוד ֙וטעמים ֙בחלוקת ֙פסוקים [Dissonance between Masoretic Accentuation and Vocalization in Verse Division of the Biblical Text]’. In֙ ספר ֙היובל [Rabbi’לרב מרדכי ברויאר: אסופת מאמרים במדעי היהדות, כרך א [Rabbi Mordechai Breuer Festschrift: Collected Papers in Jewish Studies, vol. 1], edited by Moshe Bar-Asher, 191–242. Jerusalem: Academon.

Cohen, Miles B. 1969. The System of Accentuation in the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Milco Press.

DeCaen, Vincent. 2004. ‘The Pausal Phrase in Tiberian Aramaic and the Reflexes of *i’. Journal of Semitic Studies 49 (2): 215– 24.

——. 2005. ‘On the Distribution of Major and Minor Pause in Tiberian Hebrew in the Light of the Variants of the Second Person Independent Pronouns’. Journal of Semitic Studies 50 (2): 321–27.

Dotan, Aron. 2007. ‘Masorah’. In Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd edition, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, vol. 13, 603–56. Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA.

Dresher, B. Elan. 1994. ‘The Prosodic Basis of the Tiberian Hebrew System of Accents’. Language 70 (1): 1–52.

——. 2009. ‘The Word in Tiberian Hebrew’. In The Nature of the Word: Essays in Honor of Paul Kiparsky, edited by Kristen Hanson and Sharon Inkelas, 95–111. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

——. 2013. ‘Biblical Accents: Prosody’. Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, edited by Geoffrey Khan. Leiden: BrillOnline.

Goerwitz, Richard L. 1993. ‘Tiberian Hebrew Pausal Forms’. PhD dissertation, University of Chicago.

Gussenhoven, Carlos. 2004. The Phonology of Tone and Intonation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hayes, Bruce. 1989. ‘The Prosodic Hierarchy in Meter’. In Rhythm and Meter, edited by Paul Kiparsky and Gilbert Youmans, 201–60. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

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Janis, Norman. 1987. ‘A Grammar of the Biblical Accents’. PhD dissertation, Harvard University.

Jewish Publication Society. 1988. Tanakh: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Philadelphia: JPS.

Joüon, Paul, and Takamitsu Muraoka. 2006. A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Revised edition. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute Press.

Kautzsch, Emil, ed. 1910. Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar. Translated by Arthur E. Cowley. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Khan, Geoffrey. 1987. ‘Vowel Length and Syllable Structure in the Tiberian Tradition of Biblical Hebrew’. Journal of Semitic Studies 32 (1): 23–82.

——. 2013. ‘Tiberian Reading Tradition’. In Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, edited by Geoffrey Khan. Leiden: BrillOnline.

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——. 2015. The Pausal System: Divisions in the Hebrew Biblical Text as Marked by Voweling and Stress Position. Edited by Raymond de Hoop and Paul Sanders. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press.

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——. 1984. Phonology and Syntax: The Relation between Sound and Structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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——. 2011. ‘The Syntax–Phonology Interface’. In The Handbook of Phonological Theory, 2nd edition, edited by John A. Goldsmith, Jason Riggle, and Alan C. L. Yu, 435–84. Oxford: Blackwell.

Strauss, Tobie. 2009. ‘השפעת גורמים פרוזודיים וגורמים אחרים על חלוקת טעמי ֙כ"א ֙ספרים [The Effects of Prosodic and Other Factors on the Parsing of the Biblical Text by the Accents of the Twenty-one Books]’. PhD dissertation, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Strauss Sherebrin, Tobie. 2013. ‘Biblical Accents: Relation to Exegetical Traditions’. In Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, edited by Geoffrey Khan. Leiden: BrillOnline.

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1 Implicit is the assumption of the superiority [or primacy?] of the vowel and stress patterns versus the accentuation. It is puzzling that the modern scholarly tradition discounts the accentuation as inferior, even though seminal Jewish commentators follow the accentuation (see Strauss Sherebrin 2013). After all, the practice of chanting poetry must be at least as old as Iron Age prophecy and Temple liturgy.

2 That is, we assume that the verse divisions were fixed before the internal parsing of verses indicated by the accents. However, the evidence is not conclusive; see Dotan (2007) for discussion.

3 Our phonetic transcriptions of TH forms follows Khan (1987; 2013).

4 English translations are from Tanakh (Jewish Publication Society 1988), except where a more literal translation is more informative.

5 As there is no level below D3, if a phrase terminating in a D3 accent must be divided, it is divided by another D3 accent.

6 Verses lacking an internal D0 are apt to occur in poetry; for example, every verse in Lam. 5 has only a final D0. Short verses also occur in prose; see Ben-David (1984) for a study of pausal forms in verses with only one D0 in the twenty-one prose books.

7 For a generative syntax of the two TH accent systems (the poetic system of the three poetic books Job, Proverbs, and Psalms, and the prose system of the other twenty-one books) see Price (1990).

8 Price (1990, 36, 170) refers to such conjunctive accents as ‘virtual disjunctives’; though realized by a conjunctive accent, they retain structurally disjunctive status. Thus, the phrase in the domain of such a transformed disjunctive continues to be divided as if the accent were still a disjunctive.

9 See Strauss (2009) for evidence that the accentuators employed strategies to minimize sequences of adjacent disjunctives in the twenty-one books and thereby avoid ‘choppy’ readings.

10 For various classifications of pausal forms, see Goerwitz (1993), Ben-David (1990; 1995), and Revell (2015). Some forms, such as the second person masculine singular pronoun, display a three-way alternation: contextual Image ʔattɔ́ː, ‘minor’ pause Image ʔáːttɔː, and major pause Imageʔɔ́ːttɔː. We do not consider minor pause here (see DeCaen 2005; Revell 2015, 28–30).

11 We refer here to the twenty-one prose books; atnaḥ in the accent system of the three poetic books has a different status. The regular association of the D0 accents with pausal forms may have contributed to the view that pausal positions are systematically marked by the accents, contrary to what has been demonstrated by Revell (1980; 1981; 2015). Indeed, Ben-David (1984) demonstrates that when atnaḥ is lacking and the major division in a verse is marked by the D1 zaqef, then pausal forms occur with this zaqef as if it were a D0 accent.

12 This interpretation is reflected in the Masoretic list Mm 2028: ‘five times written defectively’.

13 Fixity of pausal idiom appears to be the explanation for the conspicuous exception Image vɔːʔɔ́ːrɛsˤ ‘and earth’, a pausal form that appears in Isa. 65.17,6 and Prov. 25.3,3, both times in close connection to a following word that would appear to rule out an I-phrase boundary. It is the subject of Masoretic note Mm 3640: ‘three times exceptionally [vɔ], else all in the [fixed] idiom ‘heavens and earth’ [in pause] (the third exceptional token with [vɔ] is found in Isa. 26.19,13 on disjunctive D1 ṭifḥa).

14 In addition to the verses mentioned above these include Isa. 32.11,5; 49.18,10; Mic. 3.11,12; Ps. 3.9,5; 47.5,9; 119.125,2.

15 There is no relevant distinction between the ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ cantillation in our example. The only difference is in the D0: in the lower cantillation, it is silluq (the verse ends here); in the upper cantillation, it is atnaḥ (the verse goes on).

16 Pausal forms do not always precede selah; for example, Ps. 32.4,10 has contextual Image qáːjisˤ ‘summer’ before selah. This may indicate that an I boundary did not always have to occur before selah. Another possibility is that the crucial difference between Ps. 3.9,5 and Ps. 32.4,10 is the type of word before selah. Ben-David (1984; 1995) observes that words of type (10e), like viʀxɔːθɛ́ːxɔː, in which the stressed vowel of the pausal form corresponds to a reduced or deleted vowel in the contextual form, appear in pausal form more readily than words of type (10a–c), like qáːjisˤ (pausal Image qɔ́ːjisˤ).


(PhD, University of Toronto, 1995) has a doctorate in Near Eastern Studies. His dissertation, ‘On the Placement and Interpretation of the Verb in Standard Biblical Hebrew Prose’, was supervised by E.J. Revell. His research interests are the syntax and semantics of early Biblical Hebrew, with a focus on the finite verb, and the syntax-phonology interface, comprising the Tiberian Masoretic apparatus, the poetic accent system, and the related problem of poetic meter. His publications include book chapters as well as articles in the Journal of Semitic Studies, the Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages, and Vetus Testamentum.

(PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1978) is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Toronto. He has published on phonological theory, learnability, historical linguistics, West Germanic and Biblical Hebrew phonology and prosody, and the history of phonology. His books include Old English and the Theory of Phonology (Garland, 1985) and The Contrastive Hierarchy in Phonology (Cambridge University Press, 2009). His research on Biblical Hebrew has focused on the prosodic and syntactic bases of the Tiberian system of accents, the stress system of Biblical Hebrew, and issues in the dating of Biblical Hebrew.


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