[b-hebrew] Masoretic invention, was: masorete pointing v's LLX transliterations

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Tue Jul 26 16:08:30 EDT 2005

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman wrote:
> >A "conjuctive trope" is one that exhibits the smallest amount of
> >stop between words.  There are four different degrees of
> This is a common misunderstanding.  The trope that falls on a 
> word, as you seem to know, depends not only on the "stop 
> between words" but also on how many words are in a single unit. 
> If we have two structures, [[A B] C] and [Y Z], even if the 
> relationship between [A B] and C is the same as the relationship 
> between Y and Z, even if there is exactly the same amount of 
> "stop between words," as you put it, B will get a disjunctive 
> trope while Y will get a conjunctive trope.  

Your entire theory is based on the assumption: The stop between 
words is the same if they exhibit the same grammatical 
relationship.  And this might be true on average, all else being
equal.  That is, a speaker saying "children of Israel" would tend
to put some stop between "children" and "of", that averages
a certain length with some standard deviation, and the same
between "of" and "Israel."  However, the fact of the matter is that
tropes are first and foremost auditory devices intended to convey
sound.  They are secondarily grammatical devices that may be
used to convey relationships between words, and they do this
by the relative degree of disjunctiveness they exhibit, there
being five degrees of disjunctiveness from none (conjunctive) to
verse (etnaxta, silluq).  Now, because they are primarily
auditory devices the way they convey the relationship between
different degrees is through auditory means, ie, the amount of
time empty of sound each trope forces upon the cantor to place 
after the word.  Some force slightly more, some force slightly 
less.  Conjunctive tropes force the least.  As a result, the
Massoretes, living as they were in an environment where
spoken Hebrew had sound laws that depended on whether
a word immediately followed another or not, felt those sound
laws when they applied different tropes of various degrees of
disjunction.  As I said, because they were reading a text, not
passing one from memory, some elements (like whether two
words were written as one unit) meant that they read these
as one word, giving them one trope, and hence freeing them
from using the conjunctive degree to unify these two words.  
The conjunctive could therefore be used to unify a larger unit.
But this may be only one reason why the same "grammatical" 
structure exhibits different degrees of disjunction.  The main
point is that there *is* a different amount of time space
between words based on the degree of disjunction.

Your argument goes like this:
1) The Massoretes did not write down a spoken language.
2) Therefore, the amount of space between words is unrelated to
what they wrote (ie, the tropes) and is related only to grammar.
3) We see the same grammar exhibiting different rules for
dagesh (and other factors).
4) Since no spoken language acts like that, they did not write
down a spoken language.

And this argument is obviously circular.  To prove your 
argument, you must prove that a trope does not carry with it
a certain amount of rest space afterwards, but rather that when
the Massoretes wrote down the tropes, singing aside and 
grammar aside, even if the singing of certain phrases was 
different, the amount of rest space between the words was the
same and depended only on grammatical relationships.  And
you must do that without assuming that they did not write the 
additional phonetical information they heard as they sung the 
verse that they read.

Yitzhak Sapir

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