Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kametz Katan in Azhkenaz

Although the average person will tell you, and some scholars too, that the Azhkenazim did not have a Kametz Katan, a review of old Selichos, Siddurim, and Machzorim will prove otherwise.

Here is a little background: The Kametz Katan and the Chataf-Kametz are pronounced the same way. The Chataf-Kametz follows the rules of a shva, and the Kametz Katan is the short vowel for the Cholem. Radak explains that the nikkud is the same for the two of them: The chataf kametz has the shva and the Kametz under a single letter, and the kametz katan has the shva under the next letter. Radak does not mean that they have the same ruleset, but that they are pronounced similarly and have the same nikkud.
A review of old Azhkenazi Selichos, Siddurim and Machzorim will show that a kametz is marked like our kametz is marked today. A kametz katan, however, is written as a chataf-kametz. This is not mistaken for a chatef kametz because the next letter has a shva under it. So you know that the kametz is katan and not chataf-kametz.
Have a look at the JNUL Digitized Repository Liturgy section and take a look at the Selichos Minhag Azhkenaz, printed 1475. You will see קדשו,אזנך etc. - words that have a kametz katan written with a chataf kametz. under the kuf and alef and a shva under the dalet and zayin. Take a look at the other Siddurim, Machzorim, and Selichos, at least till the early part of the 17th century and you will find the same.
The image to your right is from Machzor Augsburg printed in 1536. Note the words ישרם and כפרם in the section אז מאז זמות. They are words that have a kametz katan and they are written with a chataf kametz.
As you move later and later you will find fewer words noted as kametz Katan, although the word קדשו appears to be marked with a chataf. What changed? Do we know of any discussion, responsa, decision abolishing the Kametz Katan? Or is it logical that less and less people knew (and cared) to pronounce the kametz katan correctly?
I am not done with this topic.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chasidim Mispronouncing words is due to lack of proper education

If you ask many Chasidim today why they don't take care to pronounce words properly; why they don't place the emphasis on the correct syllable; distinguish between a shva na and a nach, dagesh from rafeh, you may hear something that goes as follows: "This is by design. We intentionally de-emphasize dikduk because the Maskilim overemphasized it." You may be happy with this explanation if you chose not to pronounce the words correctly, but, it's plain not true!
Besides the fact that there is no shitah for Am Ha'aratzus, history shows that the issue predates the Haskalah. See Siddur Derrech Siach Hasadeh published in Berlin in 1713 (before the Haskalah) and have a look at the Haskomos. You will find that the Gedolai Yisrael were already bemoaning the situation of how people have strayed from dikduk and are mispronouncing words. This problem wasn't created in response to the Haskalah Movement but predates it. (Locate the full Siddur at the JNUL Digitized repository.) (This is not an endoresement of that siddur, and his approach to dikduk. I am just using documented evidence as proof that this predated haskalah.)

New Simanim Siddur

I purchased a copy of the new Simanim siddur. The siddur includes ta'amim for most pesukim. This is something that most siddurim do not include but is very valuable for someone who would like to pronounce all the words correctly. In addition, it differentiates shva na from shva nach, kametz katan from gadol. It also includes the sign for the rafeh which existed in most old seforim up to about four hundred years ago. It is not included for every rafeh but for words where readers tend to mistakenly read it with a dagesh. It also differentiates between the dagesh chazak and the dagesh kal. It also includes the makaf (hyphen) for words that need to be read together.

The letter heh, when included in a shva nach, is read as a mapik heh. Like the eiyin, the heh tends to be swallowed when readers are not careful. So simanim stretches them out to remind the reader not to swallow them. The patach genuvah under a heh, eiyin, and ches are placed slightly to the right of the the letter beneath the letter.
I used my iphone to capture an image of this page. The print is much better than what is presented here. I just wanted to capture some of the siddur's features.

Friday, January 16, 2009

When is a Shva Na and when is it Nach?

There are two types of shvas in the Hebrew language, a Shva Na or a moving Shva and a Shva Nach a resting Shva. The shva Na signals the beginning of a syllable and the shva nach is used to close a syllable.
There is a simple way to remember when a shva is Na by using the letters א-ה. Most of them are related to the start of a new syllable with the exception of one, which many of the early gramarians did not count as a shva na.

א - The first letter of a word is a shva na because it is at the start of a syllable.
ב - When Two Shvas exist in a row, the first shva must be nach, it ends the previous syllable, and the next shva starts the following syllable.
ג - After a long vowel, a tenuoh gedolah, the shva is na. This is because the long vowel is closed with an אם הקריאה. So, the following shva must be associated with the next syllable. This rule only applies to long vowels in unaccented-open syllables. In accented-syllables the Shva is nach. The Shoorek Genuva is a shoorik at the beginning of a word. This shourik is pronounced with an embedded alef. The shva following this shourik is nach. There are words that are an exception to this. Examples are ושדה, ושמע many seforim have them listed with a chatef-patach. These chatafs (where the chataf does not appear on a gutteral letters) should be pronounced as a shva na.
ד - This represents the דגש. There are two types of דגש. A דגש קל and a דגש חזק. The דגש קל represents the beginning of a syllable. The דגש חזק ends a syllable with a שוא נח followed by the start of a new syllable with a shva na. So, this shva is associated with the new syllable. So the shva is na.
ה - This stands for הבטא. To help pronounce two letters that are alike the shva is pronounced na. For example the word הללו should really be pronounced hallu. But one lamed would be lost. So it's pronounced hal'lu to ensure that both lameds are expressed.
The shva at the end of a word is alway nach.

The shva following a meseg are an issue of dispute. The position of מנחת שי is that the meseg does not change the shva. Others accept that any shva after a messeg is na. Rabbi Moredechai Breuer distinguishes between various types of meseg. Some are Na and some are nach.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Hebrew vowels

Ten Vowels
There are ten vowels in the Hebrew language, five long and five short. A long vowel has an embedded אם הקריאה. The letter that is pronounced is followed by one of four letters א,ה,ו,י. The kametz is pronounced with an additional alef after the letter. A tsayreh has an additional yod, and the shoorek and cholem have an additional vav. A chirik followed by a yod is a long vowel.
The five short vowels are similar to the five long, but they do not have the אם הקריאה.
  1. The patach is similar to the kametz
  2. The segol is similar to the tsayreh
  3. The kubbutz is similar to the shoorek
  4. The chirik chaser is similar to the chirik malei
  5. The kametz katan is the short vowel for the cholem and is pronounced similarly.
The Chirik Malei is a chirik followed with a written letter yod. The chirik chaser is followed by a נח נראת.
What is a נח נסתר ?
A נח נסתר is a pause that does not appear in print. In other words, there is no explicit letter where the reader stops. Rather, the reader stops on an additional letter that is assumed or hidden.
What is a נח נראת ?
A written letter that contains a שוא נח or a דגש חזק. [A דגש חזק has an embedded שוא נח].
Basic Syllables
Syllables may be open or closed. Typically open unaccented-syllables contain long vowels, which as noted, is completed with a נח נסתר. Closed unaccented-syllables contain short vowels and are closed by a נח נראת.
In accented syllables, the reverse is true. Typically short vowels exist in open syllables and are closed by the accent (מתג or טעם). Long vowels exist in closed accented-syllables and the accent is completed with a נח נראת such as a שוא נא or a דגש חזק.
The word חֶ֖סֶד, for example, the first
חֶ is accented and exists in an open syllable. The second syllable סֶד is unaccented and short. The word וְחָכָ֑ם֖ has a long vowel, a kametz (חָ) in an open unaccented syllable and a long vowel in a closed accented syllable (כָ֑ם).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The two types of Kametz: Katan and Gadol

Separdic and Modern Hebrew

In Israel most people pronounce their Hebrew vowels (מבטה), including the recitation of prayers, similar to the old Sephardic dialect. In Modern Hebrew, like in Sephardic Hebrew there are two types of kametz, a kametz gadol and and a kametz Katan. The kametz gadol is pronounced like a patach but the kametz katan is pronounced like a Cholam. So for example the word חכמה is pronounced chochma not chachma but the word חכמו is pronounced chach'mu.

When is a Kametz gadol and when is it katan? The kametz katan must always exist in a closed syllable. In modern Hebrew it depends on the root of the word. If the word has a cholam in the root then the kametz is read katan, otherwise it is read gadol. In traditional Sephardic Hebrew you look at the word and the ta'am (primary accent) associated with it. If the kametz has a primary accent or a secondary accent note, then it is Gadol, otherwise it must be katan. To help remember this remember the following חכמת אדם. The first kametz is in an unaccented closed-syllable - therefore it must be katan. The second Kametz is in an open syllable, therefore it must be gadol. The third kametz is in a closed accented syllable, therefore it too must be gadol.

In a later post I will explain the concept of short and long vowels which exist in traditional Hebrew but ignored in Modern Hebrew and explain the kametz katan and gadol, etc. I will also discuss proof that the Kametz Katan existed in Azhkenaz as well.