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.

1 comment:

  1. I think it is very obvious that the kamatz Katan existed in AZhkenaz, See works of Bachur and others.