Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/15. The Accents

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This page was corrected according to Additions and Corrections that appear in the 1910 edition.

Wilhelm Gesenius586544Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar — The Accents1909Arthur Ernest Cowley

§15. The Accents.

aOn the ordinary accents (see below, e), cf. W. Heidenheim, מִשְׁפְּטֵי הַטְּעָמִים [The Laws of the Accents], Rödelheim, 1808 (a compilation from older Jewish writers on the accents, with a commentary); W. Wickes (see also below), טעמי כ״א ספרים [The Accents of the Twenty-one Books], Oxford, 1887, an exhaustive investigation in English; J. M. Japhet, Die Accente der hl. Schrift (exclusive of the books אׄמׄתׄ), ed. by Heinemann, Frankf. a. M. 1896; Prätorius, Die Herkunft der hebr. Accente, Berlin, 1901, and (in answer to Gregory’s criticism in the TLZ. 1901, no. 22) Die Uebernahme der früh-mittelgriech. Neumen durch dis Juden, Berlin, 1902; P. Kahle, ‘Zur Gesch. der hebr. Accente,’ ZDMG. 55 (1901), 167 ff. (1, on the earliest Jewish lists of accents; 2, on the mutual relation of the various systems of accentuation; on p. 179 ff. he deals with the accents of the 3rd system, see above, § 8 g, note); Margolis, art. ‘Accents,’ in the Jewish Encycl., i (1901), 149 ff.; J. Adams, Sermons in Accents, London, 1906.—On the accents of the Books תא״ם (see below, h), S. Baer, תורת אמת [Accentual Laws of the Books אמ״ת], Rödelheim, 1852, and his appendix to Delitzsch’s Psalmencommentar, vol. ii, Lpz. 1860, and in the 5th ed., 1894 (an epitome is given in Baer-Delitzsch’s Liber Psalmorum hebr., Lpz. 1861, 1874, 1880); cf. also Delitzsch’s most instructive ‘Accentuologischer Commentar’ on Psalms 1–3, in his Psalmencommentar of 1874, as well as the numerous contributions to the accentual criticism of the text, &c., in the editions of Beer and Delitzsch, and in the commentaries of the latter; W. Wickes, טעמי אמ״ת [Accents of the Poet. Books], Oxford, 1881; Mitchell, in the Journal of Bibl. Lit., 1891, p. 144 ff.; Beer and Strack, Dikduke ha-ṭeamim, p. 17 ff.

b 1. As Prätorius (see above) has convincingly shown, the majority of the Hebrew accents, especially, according to Kahle (see above), the ‘Conjunctivi’, were adopted by the Jews from the neums and punctuation-marks found in Greek gospel-books, and, like these, their primary purpose was to regulate minutely the public reading of the sacred text. The complete transformation and amplification of the system (in three different forms, see § 8 g, note), which soon caused the Jews to forget its real origin, is clearly connected with the gradual change from the speaking voice in public reading to chanting or singing. The accents then served as a kind of musical notes.[1] Their value as such has, however, with the exception of a few traces, become lost in transmission. On the other hand, according to their original design they have also a twofold use which is still of the greatest importance for grammar (and syntax), viz. their value (a) as marking the tone, (b) as marks of punctuation to indicate the logical (syntactical) relation of single words to their immediate surroundings, and thus to the whole sentence.[2]

c 2. As a mark of the tone the accent stands almost invariably (but see below, e) with the syllable which has the principal tone in the word. This is usually the ultima, less frequently the penultima. Amongst the Jewish grammarians a word which has the tone on the ultima is called Milraʿ (Aram. מִלְרַע i.e. accented below[3]), e.g. קָטַ֫ל qāṭál; a word which has the tone on the penultima is Milʿêl (Aram. מִלְעֵיל, accented above), e.g. מֶ֫לֶךְ mèlĕkh. Besides this, in many cases a secondary tone is indicated in the word by Mèthĕg (cf. § 16). Examples such as נַ֣עַמְדָה יָ֑חַד Is 50 (cf. 40:18, Ex 15, Jb 12, La 2) are regarded by the Jewish grammarians as even proparoxytone.[4]

d3. As marks of interpunctuation the accents are subdivided into those which separate (Distinctivi or Domini) and those which connect (Conjunctivi or Servi). Further a twofold system of accentuation is to be noted: (a) the common system found in twenty-one of the Books (the כ״א i.e. twenty-one), and (b) that used in the first three Books of the Hagiographa, viz. Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, for which the vox memor, is אֱמֶת, from the initial consonants of the names, תְּהִלִּים Psalms, מִשְׁלֵי Proverbs, אִיּוֹב Job, or more correctly, according to their original sequence, תא״ם (תְּאֹם twin), so that טַֽעֲמֵי תא״ם means the accents (sing. טַעַם) of these three Books. The latter system is not only richer and more complicated in itself, but also musically more significant than the ordinary accentuation. e

I. The Common Accents.

Preliminary remark. The accents which are marked as prepositive stand to the right over or under the initial consonant of the word; those marked as postpositive, to the left over or under the last consonant. Consequently in both cases the tone-syllable must be ascertained independently of the accent (but cf. below, l).

fA. Disjunctive Accents (Distinctivi or Domini).


1. ( ־ֽ ) סִלּוּק Sillûq (end) always with the tone-syllable of the last word before Sôph pāsûq (׃), the verse-divider, e.g. הָאָֽרֶץ׃.

2. ( ־֑ ) אַתְנָח ʾAthnâḥ or אַתְנָֽחְתָּא ʾAthnaḥtā (rest), the principal divider within the verse.

3 a. ( ־֒ ) סְגֽוֹלְתָּא Segôltā, postpositive, marks the fourth or fifth subordinate division, counting backwards from ʾAthnâḥ (e.g. Gn 1).

3 b. ( ־֓ ) שַׁלְשֶׁלֶת Šalšèleth (i.e. chain), as disjunctive, or Great Šalšèleth, distinguished by the following stroke[6] from the conjunctive in the poetic accentuation, is used for Segôltā (seven times altogether) when this would stand at the head of the sentence; cf. Gn 19, &c.

4 a. ( ־֕ ) זָקֵף גָּדוֹל Zâqēph gādôl, and

4 b. ( ־֔ ) זָקֵף קָטוֹן Zâqēph qāṭôn. The names refer to their musical character. As a disjunctive, Little Zâqēph is by nature stronger than Great Zâqēph; but if they stand together, the one which comes first is always the stronger.

5. ( ־֖ ) טִפְחָא Ṭiphḥā or טַרְחָא Ṭarḥā, a subordinate disjunctive before Sillûq and ʾAthnâḥ, but very often the principal disjunctive of the whole verse instead of ʾAthnâḥ; always so when the verse consists of only two or three words (e.g. Is 2), but also in longer verses (Gn 3).

6. ( ־ׄ ) רְבִיעַ Rebhîaʿ.

7. ( ־֮ ) זַרְקָא Zarqā, postpositive.

8 a. ( ־֙ ) פַּשְׁטָא Pašṭā, postpositive,[7] and

8 b. ( ־֚ ) יְתִיב Yethîbh, prepositive, and thus different from Mehuppākh. Yethîbh is used in place of Pašṭā when the latter would stand on a monosyllable or on a foretoned word, not preceded by a conjunctive accent.

9. ( ־֛ ) תְּבִיר Tebhîr.

10 a. ( ־֜ ) גֶּרֶשׁ Gèreš or טֶרֶס Ṭères, and

10 b. ( ־֞ ) גְּרָשַׁ֫יִם Gerāšáyim[8] or Double Gèreš, used for Gèreš, when the tone rests on the ultima, and ʾAzlā does not precede.

11 a. ( ־֡ ) פָּזֵר Pâzēr, and

11 b. ( ־֟ ) פָּזֵר גָּדוֹל Pâzēr gādôl (Great Pâzēr) or קַרְנֵי פָרָה Qarnê phārā (cow-horns), only used 16 times, for special emphasis.

12. ( ־֠ ) תְּלִישָׁא גְדוֹלָה Teliša gedôlā or Great Teliša, prepositive.

13. ( ־֣ ) לְגַרְמֶהּ Legarmēh, i.e. Mûnaḥ (see below) with a following stroke.

gB. Conjunctive Accents (Conjunctivi or Servi).

14. ( ־֣ ) מוּנַח Mûnaḥ.

15. ( ־֤ ) מְהֻפָּךְ Mehuppākh or מַהְפָּךְ Mahpākh.

16 a. ( ־֥ ) מֵירְכָא or מֵֽארְכָא Mêrekhā, and

16 b. ( ־֦ ) מ׳ כְפוּלָה Mêrekhā khephûl̄â or Double Mêrekhā.

17. ( ־֧ ) דַּרְגָּא Dargā.

18. ( ̀־ָ ) אַזְלָא ʾAzlā, when associated with Gèreš (see above) also called Qadmā.

19. ( ־֩ ) תְּלִישָׁא קְטַנָּה Teliša qeṭannā or Little Teliša, postpositive.

20. ( ־֪ ) גַּלְגַּל Galgal or יֶרַח Yèraḥ.

[21. ( ־֖ ) מְאַיְּלָא Meʾayyelā or מָֽאיְלָא Mâyelā, a variety of Ṭiphḥa, serves to mark the secondary tone in words which have Sillûq or ʾAthnâḥ, or which are united by Maqqēph with a word so accentuated, e.g. וַיֵּצֵ֖א־נֹ֑חַ Gn 8.]

II. The Accents of the Books תא״ם.

h A. Distinctivi.

1. ( ־ֽ ) Sillûq (see above, I, 1).

2. ( ־֫־֥ ) עוֹלֶה וְיוֹרֵד ʿÔlè weyôrēd,[9] a stronger divider than

3. ( ־֑ ) ʾAthnâḥ (see above, I, 2). In shorter verses ʾAthnâh suffices as principal distinctive; in longer verses ʿÔlè weyôrēd serves as such, and is then mostly followed by ʾAthnâḥ as the principal disjunctive of the second half of the verse.

4. ( ־ֹ ) Rebhiaʿ gādôl (Great Rebhiaʿ).

5. ( ־֜֗ ) Rebhiaʿ mugrāš, i.e. Rebhiaʿ with Gèreš on the same word.

6. ( ־֓ ) Great Šalšèleth (see above, I. 3 b).

7. ( ־֮ ) צִנּוֹר Ṣinnôr (Zarqā), as postpositive, is easily distinguished from צִנּוֹרִית Ṣinnôrîth similarly placed, which is not an independent accent, but stands only over an open syllable before a consonant which has Mêrekhā or Mahpākh.

8. ( ־ׄ ) Rebhiaʿ qāṭôn (Little Rebhiaʿ) immediately before ʿÔlè weyôrēd.

9. ( ־֭ ) דְּחִי Deḥî or Ṭiphḥā, prepositive, to the right underneath the initial consonant, e.g. הַ֭גּוֹי (consequently it does not mark the tone-syllable).

10. ( ־֡ ) Pâzēr (see above, I, 11 a).

11 a. ( ־֤ ) Mehuppākh legarmēh, i.e. Mahpākh with a following stroke.

11 b. ( ־֨ ) ʿAzlā legarmēh, i.e. ʿAzlā with a following stroke.


B. Conjunctivi.

12. ( ־֥ ) Mêrekhā (see above, I. 16 a).

13. ( ־֧ ) Mûnaḥ (see above, I. 14).

14. ( ־֬ ) עִלּוּי ʿIllûy or Mûnaḥ superior.

15. ( ־֖ ) טַרְחָא Ṭarḥā (under the tone-syllable, and thus easily distinguished from No. 9).

16. ( ־֪ ) Galgal or Yèraḥ (see above, I. 20).

17. ( ־֤ ) Mehuppākh or Mahpākh (see above, I. 15).

18. ( ̀־ ) ʾAzlā (see above, I. 18).

19. ( ־֓ ) Šalšèleth qeṭannā (Little Šalšèleth). The last three are distinguished from the disjunctives of the same name by the absence of the stroke.

[20. ( ־֮ ) Ṣinnôrîth, see above under No. 7.]

Remarks on the Accents

I. As Signs of the Tone.

k 1. As in Greek and English (cf. εἰμί and εἶμι, cómpact and compáct) so also in Hebrew, words which are written with the same consonants are occasionally distinguished by the position of the tone, e.g. בָּנ֫וּ banú (they built), בָּ֫נוּ bánu (in us); קָ֫מָה qáma (she stood up), קָמָ֫ה qamá (standing up, fem.).

l 2. As a rule the accent stands on the tone-syllable, and properly on its initial consonant. In the case of prepositives and postpositives alone (see above, e) the tone-syllable must be ascertained independently of the accent. In many MSS. as well as in Baer’s editions of the text, the postpositive sign in foretoned words stands also over the tone-syllable after the analogy of Pašṭā (see above, I. 8 a, note); e.g. טֶ֮רֶם֮ יִשְׁכָּ֒בוּ֒ Gn 19; so the prepositive sign in cases like וַ֠יְהִ֠י Gn 8.

II. As Signs of Punctuation.

m 3. In respect to this use of the accents, every verse is regarded as a period which closes with Sillûq, or in the figurative language of the grammarians, as a province (ditio) which is governed by the great distinctive at the end. According as the verse is long or short, i.e. the province great or small, there are several subordinate Domini of different grades, as governors of greater and smaller divisions. When possible, the subdivisions themselves are also split up into parts according to the law of dichotomy (see Wickes, The Accents of the Twenty-one Books, p. 29 ff).—When two or more equivalent accents (Zâqēph, Rebhiaʿ) occur consecutively, the accent which precedes marks a greater division than the one which follows; cf. e.g. the Zâqēph, Gn 1a.

n 4. In general a conjunctive (Servus) unites only such words as are closely connected in sense, e.g. a noun with a following genitive or a noun with an adjective. For the closest connexion between two or more words Maqqēph is added (§ 16 a).

o 5. The consecution of the several accents (especially the correspondence of disjunctives with their proper conjunctives) conforms in the most minute details to strict rules, for a further investigation of which we must refer to the above-mentioned works. Here, to avoid misunderstanding, we shall only notice further the rule that in the accentuation of the books תא״ם, the Rebhiaʿ mugrāš before Sillûq, and the Deḥi before ʾAthnâḥ, must be changed into conjunctives, unless at least two toneless syllables precede the principal disjunctive. For this purpose Šemobile after Qameṣ, Ṣere, or Ḥolem (with Metheg[10]) is to be regarded as forming a syllable. After ʿOlè weyôrēd the ʾAthnâḥ does not necessarily act as pausal (cf. Delitzsch on ψ 45). The condition of our ordinary texts is corrupt, and the system of accents can only be studied in correct editions [see Wickes' two treatises].

p 6. A double accentuation occurs in Gn 35, from וישכב onward (where the later accentuation, intended for public reading, aims at uniting vv. 22 and 23 into one, so as to pass rapidly over the unpleasant statement in v. 22); and in the Decalogue, Ex 20; Dt 5. Here also the later (mainly superlinear) accentuation which closes the first verse with עבדים (instead of פני) is adopted simply for the purposes of public reading, in order to reduce the original twelve verses (with sublinear accentuation) to ten, the number of the Commandments. Thus עֲבָדִים at the end of v. 2 has Silluq[11] (to close the verse) in the lower accentuation, but in the upper, which unites vv. 2-6 (the actual words of God) into a single period, only Rebhiaʿ. Again פני, regarded as closing v. 3, is pointed פָּנָֽי (pausal Qameṣ with Silluq[12]), but in the upper accentuation it is פָּנַ֗י with Pathaḥ because not in pause. (Originally there may have been a third accentuation requiring עֲבָדִ֑ים and פָּנָֽי, and thus representing vv. 2 and 3 as the first commandment.) Further the upper accentuation unites vv. 8-11 into one period, while in vv. 12-15 the lower accentuation combines commandments 5-8 into one verse. Cf. Geiger, Urschrift u. Übersetsungen der Bibel, p. 373 ; Japhet, op. cit., p. 158, and esp. K. J. Grimm, Johns Hopkins Univ. Circ. xix (May, 1900), no. 145. [See also Wickes, Prose Accentuation, 130 f., 87 n. (who, however, regards the superlinear, Babylonian system as the earlier); and Ginsburg, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, 76, 78. In Ginsburg’s Hebrew Bible, ed. 2 (1908), pp. 108 f., 267 f., the two systems of division are printed in extenso, in parallel columns—the 10 verses of the superlinear (Babylonian) system consisting (in Exodus) of v. (as numbered in ordinary texts), and the 12 verses of the sublinear (Palestinian) system, consisting of v..—S. R. D.]

  1. On the attempts of Christian scholars of the sixteenth century to express the Hebrew accents by musical notes, cf. Ortenberg, ZDMG.. 1889, p. 534.
  2. At the same time it must not be forgotten that the value of the accent as a mark of punctuation is always relative; thus, e.g. ʾAthnâḥ as regards the logical structure of the sentence may at one time indicate a very important break (as in Gn 1); at another, one which is almost imperceptible (as in Gn 1).
  3. ‘Above’ in this sense means what comes before, ‘below’ is what comes after; cf. Bacher, ZAW.. 1907, p. 285 f.
  4. Cf. Delitzsch on Is 40.
  5. All the disjunctives occur in Is 39.—The earlier Jewish accentuologists already distinguish between מְלָכִים Reges and מְשָֽׁרְתִים servi. The division of the disjunctive accents into Imperatores, Reges, Duces, Comites, which became common amongst Christian grammarians, originated in the Scrutinium S. S. ex accentibus of Sam. Bohlius, Rostock, 1636, and, as the source of manifold confusion, had better be given up. The order of the accents in respect to their disjunctive power is shown in general by the above classification, following Wickes. In respect to the height of tone (in chanting) 1, 2, 5, 4, 8, which were low and long sustained notes, are to be distinguished from the high notes (7, 3a, 6, 13, 9), and the highest (3b, 11, 12, 10); cf. Wickes, ט׳ כ״א p. 12 ff.—The name טְעָמִים (later=accents in general) was originally restricted to the disjunctives, see Kahle, 1. c., p. 169.
  6. This stroke is commonly confused with Paseq, which has the same form. But Pâsēq (= restraining, dividing, also incorrectly called Pesîq) is neither an independent accent, nor a constituent part of other accents, but is used as a mark for various purposes; see the Masoretic lists at the end of Baer’s editions, and Wickes, Accents of the Twenty-one Books, p. 120 ff., where Pâsēq is divided into distinctivum, emphaticum, homonymicum, and euphonicum. The conjecture of Olshausen (Lehrb., p. 86 f.), that Pâsēq served also to point out marginal glosses subsequently interpolated into the text, has been further developed by E. von Ortenberg, ‘Die Bedeutung des Paseq für Quellenscheidung in den BB. d. A.T.,’ in Progr. des Domgymn. zu Verden, 1887, and in the article, ‘Paseq u. Legarmeh,’ in ZAW. 1887, p. 301 ff. (but see Wickes, ibid. 1888, p. 149 ff.; also E. König, in the Ztschr. f. kirchl. Wiss. u. kirchl. Leben, 1889, parts 5 and 6; Maas, in Hebraica, v. 121 ff., viii. 89 ff.). Prätorius, ZDMG. 1899, p 683 ff., pointed out that Paseq (which is pre-masoretic and quite distinct from Legarmēh) besides being a divider (used especially for the sake of greater clearness) also served as a sign of abbreviation. For further treatment of Paseq see H. Grimme, ‘Pasekstudien,’ in the Bibl. Ztschr., i. 337 ff., ii. 28 ff., and Psalmenprobleme, &c., Freiburg (Switzerland), 1902, p. 173, where it is argued that Paseq indicates variants in a difficult sentence; J. Kennedy, The Note-line in the Heb. Scriptures, Edinb. 1903, with an index of all the occurrences of Paseq, p. 117 ff. According to Kennedy the ‘note-line’, of which he distinguishes sixteen different kinds, is intended to draw attention to some peculiarity in the text; it existed long before the Masoretes, and was no longer understood by them. See, however, the reviews of E. König, Theol. stud. u. Krit., 1904, p. 448 ff., G. Beer, TLZ. 1905, no. 3, and esp. A. Klostermann, Theol. Lit.-blatt, 1904, no. 13, with whom Ginsburg agrees (Verhandlungen des Hamb. Or.-kongresses von 1902, Leiden, 1904, p. 210 ff.) in showing that the tradition with regard to the 479 or 480 uses of Paseq is by no means uniform. The purpose of Paseq is clearly recognizable in the five old rules:
    1. as a divider between identical letters at the end and beginning of two words;
    2. between identical or very similar words;
    3. between words which are absolutely contradictory (as God and evil-doer);
    4. between words which are liable to be wrongly connected;
    5. and lastly, between heterogeneous terms, as ‘Eleazar the High Priest, and Joshua’.
    But the assumption of a far-reaching critical importance in Paseq is at least doubtful.—Cf. also the important article by H. Fuchs, ‘Pesiq ein Glossenzeichen,’ in the Vierteljahrsschrift f. Bibelkunde, Aug. 1908, p. 1 ff. and p. 97 ff.
  7. If the word in question has the tone on the penultima, Pašṭā is placed over it also, e.g תֹ֨הוּ֨ Gn 1; cf. below, l
  8. Wickes requires Geršáyim (גֵּרְשַׁיִם).
  9. Wrongly called also Mêrekhā mehuppākh (Mêrekha mahpakhatum), although the accent underneath is in no way connected with Mêrekhā; cf. Wickes, l. c., p. 14.
  10. Critical annotation: Should be spelled Mèthĕg.—A. E. A.
  11. Critical annotation: Should be spelled Sillûq.—A. E. A.
  12. Critical annotation: Should be spelled Sillûq.—A. E. A.