Re; Silent or vocal shewa?

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Tue Oct 24 12:58:15 EDT 2000

Thank you, Henry, for the interesting list of antepenultimate stresses.

I note that in every one of these cases except for the five in section 1d
the penultimate syllable is a vocal shewa or compound shewa. There is one
more apparent exception, Exodus 7:10 WAY.A(A&W., but here BHS follows L in
writing pathah in the text but notes that many MSS and editions have a
compound shewa here (as in Jos.10:23, and many cases with final stress).

So if we modify Matthew's and Jouon-Muraoka's rule so that vocal shewas and
compound shewas are not counted as syllables, then there are only five
exceptions to the rule plus one textually doubtful case. That is about as
close to an absolute rule as anything I have seen in the area of Hebrew
pointing etc.

Peter Kirk

-----Original Message-----?
From: Henry Churchyard [mailto:churchh at]
Sent: 23 October 2000 20:19
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: Re; Silent or vocal shewa?

>> From: "M & E Anstey" <anstey at>

>> It is usually stated that a shewa after an accented syllable is
>> silent, but what of the case of irregularly stressed 3fs qal
>> perfects, such as found in Gen 19:38, 30:21; Joe 4:13; Mal 1:9, etc
>> which have the accent on the first syllable? Is this shewa then
>> silent or vocal, ie yaldah or yaledah, mal'ah or male'ah, haytah or
>> hayetah, etc? Does this rule about shewa after an accented syllable
>> apply in such a case? I can't anything clear about it in Gesenius,

> From: "Trevor & Julie Peterson" <spedrson at>

> One principle that may apply is stated in Jouon-Muraoka (and
> elsewhere I'm sure): "In the state of Hebrew as recorded by the
> Naqdanim, the primary stress occurs only on the ultima . . . or on
> the penultima" (15b).  They don't give any exceptions to this
> principle (although it could be an oversight), which may suggest
> that the vocal shewa readings below are impossible.  Now that I've
> said that, my mind is going to keep haunting me with the nagging
> thought that I've probably seen antepenultimate stress before, but
> there you have it.  Trevor Peterson

I don't think that "shewa after an accented syllable is silent" is a
universally valid principle (see next paragraph).  But as discussed by
William Chomsky in his 1971 article "The Pronunciation of the
_Shewa_", in _Jewish Quarterly Review_ v. 62, pp. 88-94, sh at wa after a
long vowel + consonant is not automatically vocal (sh at wa in this
environment is only vocal in certain particular circumstances), so
that _yaaldhaa_ and _haaythaa_ would have silent _sh at wa_ regardless of
whether the "stress retraction" process of _n at siga_ (also called
_nasog 'ah.or_) has applied or not.

However, there are indisputable cases of antepenultimate stress, and
rather clear cases of vocal _sh at wa_ after the main-stressed syllable,
in the Biblical text.  For a list of antepenultimate and
quasi-antepenultimate stressed cases, see

For a comprehensive list of forms affected by _n at siga_ a.k.a.
_nasog 'ah.or_ a.k.a. the Hebrew Rhythm Rule, see

For a discussion of the environments of vocal vs. silent _sh at wa_, see
my dissertation, downloadable from
(the section that discusses this is contained in the downloadable
excerpt which includes section 1.4 and chapter 4, if you don't want to
download the whole large thing).

Henry Churchyard   churchh at

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