Qames or Qames-Hatuph

Henry Churchyard churchh at
Tue Jan 8 13:50:52 EST 2002

> Subject: Qames or Qames-Hatuph
> From: "yosef limbers" <hebrew2day at>

> This might be a simple question for some, But I am just starting to
> learn.  How does One recognize if the vowel right before a sheva is
> a Qames or Qames-Hatuph
> When the vowel sign for (Qames or Qames-Hatuph) is right before a
> sheva , how does one know if the vowel is a Qames or Qames-Hatuph?
> Also please list some extra rules if they apply.
> This might be a simple question for some, however I am just starting
> my studies. So any response would be apprreciated.  Whenever there
> is a sheva right after a the vowel sign(for either Qames or
> Qames-Hatuph) How do I know which it is?

There's no mechanical algorithm whereby you can always distinguish
_qames. from _qames._ based on the written Tiberian
orthographic symbols alone.  You have to parse words (i.e. determine
their morphological properties) before you can resolve the ambiguity
in all cases.

Of course, if you see orthographic _qames._ before a word-final _he_,
then you know it is long _qames._; and if you see orthographic
_qames._ before a consonant _he_, _'aleph_, _h.et_, or _`ayin_ which
is in turn before then the pre-guttural orthographic
_qames._ is almost certainly _qames. (in all cases other
than a very small number of pseudo-exceptions, such as [w at haa`o~niyyaa]
`and the boat' Jonah 1:4).

But there are other cases when things are not so obvious.  In a form
spelled _'aleph-qames.-kaph-sh at wa-lamedh-qames.-he_, if the word is a imperative, then the first orthographic _qames._
represents a short vowel ['okhlaa] -- but if the word is a
perfect, then the first orthographic _qames._ represents a long vowel
['aakhlaa].  There is no difference between the spelling of these two
forms in the Tiberian orthography, except that ['aakhlaa] type forms
sometimes receive an orthographic _metheg_ symbol on their first
syllable -- but the use of the _metheg_ symbol is variable and not
fully standardized, so that the _metheg_ won't always be there, and
can't be relied on 100% to distinguish ['aakhlaa] type forms from
['okhlaa] type forms.

> Subject: Re: Qames or Qames-Hatuph
> From: Polycarp66 at
> Date: Sun, 6 Jan 2002 17:12:50 EST
> hebrew2day at writes:

>> When the vowel sign for (Qames or Qames-Hatuph) is right before a
>> sheva , how does one know if the vowel is a Qames or Qames-Hatuph?
>> Also please list some extra rules if they apply.

> Weingreen (p. 12) states, 

> "Since the vowel-sign [omitted] is used to represent both Qames 'a'
> and Qames-Hatuph 'o', we have to determine when it is (long) 'a' and
> when (short) 'o'.  The rule enunciated on p. 7 is her applied
> thus:--If the vowel-sign [omitted] occurs in a closed unaccented
> syllable it must be short and is therefore (short) 'o' =
> Qames-Hatuph.  If, on the other hand, it occurs in an open syllable,
> or in a syllable which, though closed, is accented, then it is long
> and therefore (long) 'a' = Qames.

That's not entirely accurate or adequate.  Weingreen's generalization
is based on one particular interpretation of the realization of the
_sh at wa_ symbol.  Chomsky in his well-known 1971 article shows that
this interpretation of orthographic _sh at wa_ isn't in accord with early
evidence, and there is an extensive discussion of the problem from a
phonological point of view in section 1.4 of my dissertation which
arrives at the same conclusion (see
or ).

Also, even if one were to accept the interpretation of the
orthographic _sh at wa_ which Weingreen assumes, his stated principle of
the distribution of long and short _qames._ would not be of any use in
distinguishing the two on the basis of the Tiberian orthographic
symbols alone.  This is because if you follow Weingreen's
interpretation, short _qames._ goes together with silent _sh at wa_ under
the next consonant, and long _qames._ goes together with vocal _sh at wa_
under the next consonant, but the Tiberian orthography wouldn't
consistently distinguish long from short _qames._ OR silent from vocal
_sh at wa_ in such cases -- so that the distributional principle doesn't
really give you concrete practical guidance on how to start from
Tiberian orthographic symbols alone and proceed to resolve the
orthographic ambiguity (without parsing individual words).


> Subject: RE: Qames or Qames-Hatuph
> From: "Lisbeth S. Fried" <lizfried at>
> Date: Sun, 6 Jan 2002 23:18:42 -0500

> Going back to the Weingreen definition, a closed syllable is one
> that ends in a consonant, no?  The Massoretes kindly tell you what
> syllable is accented.  So then, it's not so hard, just determine if
> the syllable ends in a consonant, and if so, is it accented. If
> closed and unaccented, it must be an o.  Very interesting, so just
> looking at Isaiah 43 at random here, you have in 43:7 kol written as
> a separate word with a holom (defective), and then in 43:9, just a
> few lines below, you have kol with a qameC Hatup.  This one has a
> maqqep to the next word. So in the first case it stands alone and is
> accented, so a holom is used. In the second case it is joined to the
> following word, and is unaccented, and closed, so a qameC Hatup.  So
> there you are.  So, how did the Maaoretes decide when to use a
> maqqep, and when not?  The word is always going to be pronounced
> kol.  Anyway, perusing the text for more examples ... .  I don't
> suppose a final heh would count as a consonant at the end of the
> syllable. That's just a matres lexiones.  OK.

Actually, if the final syllable of a word normally would receive an
accent, but doesn't because the word is attached by _maqqeph_ to
following word in a particular case, then this word-final syllable
before _maqqeph_ is phonologically often (not always) like the final
syllable of a noun in the construct state, where a short vowel is
highly favored in a closed syllable.  But in the general case (with
syllables which _precede_ the accented or would-be-accented syllable
of a word), Weingreen's distributional statement is highly dependent
on one particular interpretation of _sh at wa_ which is probably not the
correct one, as discussed above.

Henry Churchyard   churchh at

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