[b-hebrew] metheg, stress

Jason Hare jaihare at gmail.com
Tue Aug 7 06:37:04 EDT 2007

Dr. DeCaen:


> i would say that it is definitely not stress, and definitely not about
> open syllables. it is primarily musical, varying by the nature of the
> syllable, the accent it is associated with, how many syllables before the
> stress, etc. in the lingo, it is IMHO a text-to-tune interface phenomenon.
> this seems esp. clear in the poetic books, with the poetic accent system.

What about how it is used generally in the prose literature of the
Torah and other primarily non-poetic works? The meteg (מתג) or ga'yah
(געיה) appears throughout the corpus, and its function must be
determined by the majority of its appearances, not by a limited group
of verses in a poetic text. Don't you think? When we talk about the
normative use of meteg, it is surely in regard to the marking of a
syllable as open, marking the rest of the apparent syllable as
belonging to the following group of sounds.

> i have been meditating on job 3. i draw your attention to a few examples.
> (1) YFNW.^XA^ LIY^ 3:13, marking a furtive pathah: there are two major
> classes of post-tonic syllables marked by so-called metheg-ultima, one of
> which is the sequence pathah+guttural (i'd love to know what exactly is
> going on here with the pharyngeals).

It doesn't seem to you that this meteg is doing the opposite of what a
dagesh would do? There are many odd appearances of the dagesh in a
situation like this, where we might find YFNW.AX - L.IY --
לָנוּחַ־לִּי -- thus creating a strong link between the words. Perhaps
the meteg in this type of situation does the opposite, creating a
natural pause of sorts between the intoned words. I cannot say for
sure, but I do not think that this falls into the category of the
"normal use" of meteg.

> (2) Y:^HIY^ XO^$EK: 3:4, two unstressed syllables marked for the sake of
> the trope: ordinarily, maqqef would appear in such "stress clashes"; but
> the accent/trope has its own demands here. (just how would you stress the
> shwa...?).

As stated before, the meteg does not stress a syllable. It simply
forms a disconnection to what follows it. It is not normal that Y:HIY
would have a meteg under the yod in this form. However, it is normal
that it would have it under YI-H:YW., which is two syllable, the meteg
serving to open the YI and keep the H: attached to the second syllabic
unit. Again, we need to look at the ordinary uses of the meteg and
then, having understood them (as to the question originally posited),
we may continue on to investigate the unusual nature of these things
that you are pointing out.

> (3) )OR:R"Y-YOW^M 3:8, the long syllable )O does bear a secondary stress,
> in my opinion, but for reasons of the athnach-trope rules, a maqqef is
> here: the reverse situation.

Here, the meteg functions in the ordinary way, to remind us that )O is
an open syllable and that R:R"Y belong together as a syllabic unit. It
is not an issue of secondary stress. If there is a secondary stress,
it is incidental and not connected to the use of meteg.

> (4) HA^M:MAL:)IY^M 3:15, i would argue that HAM is a closed syllable; here
> the demands of accent tarcha are at work. see further HA^M:XAK.IY^M 3:21.
> these are generally associated with loss of gemination, contrast
> HA&.:M"XIY^M 3:22 without metheg.

It was originally a closed syllable HAM-M:MAL:)IYM, with the dagesh
representing the doubling, but the dagesh was lost according to the
"sknmlvy" rule. The meteg serves to mark the fact that it is now an
open syllable, since the dagesh was lost, and the shewa is to be
"medial" (vocal, for all real purposes). This is the same as the form
WAY:HI, where there is a meteg under the vav. It is a regular use of
the meteg.

> (5) W:^LO)-NFX:T.IY^ 3:26, shwa on we- is function of revia (notice here,
> crucially without geresh, when virtual athnach).

I don't yet know what I think when I see a meteg together with a
shewa. It doesn't at all seem to go along with the normal rules. I
will be thinking about it. In the meantime, perhaps someone else can
contribute something stronger or better than I. I just know what I see
on a normal basis, and it is not determined by either stress or
musical intonation (unless it indicates a break).


Jason Hare

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