Parsha question - Deut 8:8

Raymond de Hoop rdehoop at
Thu Aug 17 16:27:56 EDT 2000

>Jane Harper wrote
>This gives me a chance to ask a question that my Hebrew teachers were
>unable to answer.  I first learned these "accent" marks as ta'amim,
>cantillation markers.  Does anybody know how they went from being
>melodic notation to being considered accent marks and phrase breaks?


Let's give it a short try. According to I. Yeivin, Introduction to the
Tiberian Masorah (SBL.MasS, 5). Missoula (MA): Scholars Press, 1980, p.
158, the accents function is primary musical:

	``The chant enhanced the beauty and solemnity of the reading,
	but because the purpose of the reading was to present the text
	clearly and intelligibly to the hearers, the chant is dependent
	on the text, and emphasizes the logical relationships of the
	words. Consequently the second function of the accents is to
	indicate the interrelationship of the words in the text...''

In my view it is obvious that the primary and secondary function are so
closely related, that it is impossible to speak of a first and second
function. To read or sing a text correctly, implies that you have to know
where the break is and where there isn't.
Furthermore it appears that the readings of the accents (in this case I
mean the break) are based on quite ancient traditions, which are also found
in Qumran. An example is found in Isaiah 61:10-62:9, which is written
colometrically in Qumran and in a form that is parallel to the tradition of
the Masoretes.
The Masoretic accents are *from the beginning* (of their usage, to be
clear...) intended to mark phrase breaks, next to the musical chant. Many
scholars (regretably) prefer only the musical function, which is not
correct. This is absolutely not to say, that the Masoretic accentuation is
ancient, and thus the only correct one. There are many examples of
Masoretic exegesis, which has its consequences for the phrase breaks in the
text. But that is somewhat different from that they have no function in
that way...

With regard to the stress, this seems to be a later development. Other
traditions had another system of placing the accents on a word, but the
Tiberian system finally won.

Well, I hope this will do for the moment. But if there are some questions




Dr Raymond de Hoop
Boeiersingel 11
NL-9745 CA Groningen
The Netherlands
Phone: (XX-31)-(0)50 553 01 15
E-mail: rdehoop at

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