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.

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