BH, nesiga is pausal...?

Henry Churchyard churchyh at
Fri Aug 27 01:49:36 EDT 1999

> Subject: BH, nesiga is pausal...?
> From: Vincent DeCaen <decaen at>
> Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 11:38:15 -0400 (EDT)

> some of you may be familiar with Revell's 1987 book "Nesiga
> (Retraction of Word Stress) in Tiberian Hebrew". the thing that
> arrested my attention is his correlation of nesiga with pausal
> forms. guess what correlation you get if you take our database of
> pausal environments (independent of whether a pausal form occurs,
> say about 20% of the time) against nesiga?  working on confirming
> that nesiga is systematically correlated with pause: be really a
> neato breakthrough if so. ;-)

I discuss this in an appendix to my dissertation (excerpted below);
it turns out that the rhythm rule (n at siga) is "pausal" in the sense
of being correlated with stronger accents (i.e. on the word
immediately following the word in which the rhythm rule applies), but
the accentual distribution is not quite the same as the accentual
distribution of stress-shift-blocked pausal forms.  Here's the
distribution of n at siga forms according to the accentual categories of
Cohen (1969):

          1,2 = "d0"        32.5%  (313/962)
           3  = "d1"        41.1%  (395/962)
           4  = "d2"        20.7%  (199/962)
           5  = "d3"         2.5%  (24/962)
           6 (conj.)         3.2%  (31/962)

Compare the corresponding distribution of stress-shift-blocked pausal
forms: d0 60.0%, d1 31.9%, d2 6.4%, d3 0.8%, conj. 0.9%


      Supplement A to Chapter 3: Accentual Conditioning of the
                       Rhythm Rule (_n at siighaa_)

   There is another Hebrew phonological stress-shift process which is
sensitive to phrasal prosodic prominence, the Hebrew rhythm rule
(called _n at siighaa_ or _naasoogh_ '_aah.oor_ in traditional
grammatical terminology), already discussed in chapter 2, and
mentioned in fn.3.37, fn.3.38, and Sec. in this chapter.  The
rhythm rule is different from the processes discussed in Sec. 3.2.1
above since it does not affect the position of the main stress of the
last word in a phrase: the rhythm rule is triggered by a
phrasally-prominent main-stress in the last word of a prosodic
phonological phrase (as discussed in chapter 2), when the
main-stresses of the next-to-last word and the last word are
syllabically adjacent (or are separated only by a syllable containing
a reduced vowel), but the target of the stress-shift is actually the
main stress of the next-to-last word of a prosodic phrase.  So if the
rhythm-rule changes main-stress position within a word, this gives
information about whether the _following_ word occurs at the end of a
pausal-prosodic phonological phrase.

   Here one would expect that a stronger disjunctive accent would
tend to favor the application of the rhythm-rule in an
immediately-preceding word, as was seen for pausal stress-shift
blocking in Sec. 3.3.2 above (since accentual constituency tends to
correlate with prosodic constituency, words with stronger disjunctive
accents are increasingly likely to occur at the end of a prosodic
phrase).  (Note that the target word, in which the rhythm-rule
actually applies, almost always has a conjunctive accent itself --
Revell 1987a.)

   The reason why the rhythm rule, a pausally-conditioned process
which is indisputably prosodic in nature, was not lumped together
with the pausally-blocked stress-shifts of Sec. 3.2.1 in the search
for pausal/accentual discrepancies in Sec. 3.3 is because of a
suspicion that the rhythm rule (like the segmental pausal
phonological processes of section Sec. 3.2) might have a different
pattern of accentual conditioning of pausal forms than do the
pausally-blocked stress-shifts of Sec. 3.2.1 (for example, the rhythm
rule shows a fairly strong tendency to apply within accentual phrases
of exactly two phonological words -- McCarthy 1979:79).  For this
reason, a conscious decision was made to focus only on the one pausal
phonological phenomenon of stress-shift-blocking in this
chapter. [3.114]

  [fn.3.114] Another potential problem would be how to count cases in
  which stress-shift blocking has not applied in a word, but the
  rhythm rule has applied in the immediately preceding word, or vice
  versa, even though both rules are phonologically and morphologically
  eligible to apply.  This problem arises because the rhythm-rule and
  pausal stress-shift blocking do not always cooccur; of the list of
  1,320 occurrences of _n at siighaa_ assembled for this dissertation
  (see Sec. 2.4), 41 are triggered by pausally-alternating forms (not
  counting cases of the ambiguous prepositional forms _laakh_ and
  _baakh_, which were not individually checked here): 25 occurrences
  triggered by non-pausal forms and 16 by pausal.  For example, in
  Genesis 1:11 (_`oo6$e_ _pp at rii4_) the rhythm rule occurs before the
  stress-shifted non-pausal form of the word for "fruit", so that the
  rhythm rule and pausal-stress-shift blocking are in disagreement
  about the pausal status of _pp at rii4_ here.  This same word in its
  stress-shift-blocked pausal form also triggers the rhythm rule in
  two other cases (Jeremiah 12:2 _gam-`aa6$uu_ _phe2rii_ and Ezekiel
  17:23 _w@`aa6$aa_ _phe3rii_).

   So in this supplement, I will consider the question of the
accentual conditioning of the rhythm rule separately.  In the
following tables, accentual statistics on occurrences of the rhythm
rule in the `non-poetical' books are tabulated:

Words in the `twenty-one' books which trigger the rhythm-rule
(_n at siighaa_), classified according to absolute accent classes

             1       2       3       4       5   | Tot.Disj. |   6
            ---     ---     ---     ---     ---  |   -----   |  ---
Number:     171     142     395     199      24  |    931    |   31
Percent:   18.4%   15.3%   42.4%   21.4%    2.6% |    100%   |
Ratio:      1.45    1.31    0.98    0.81    0.43


Henry Churchyard   churchyh at

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