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Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/16. Of Maqqēph and Mèthĕg

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§16. Of Maqqēph and Mèthĕg.

16a These are both closely connected with the accents.

1. Maqqēph (מַקֵּף i.e. binder) is a small horizontal stroke between the upper part of two words which so connects them that in respect of tone and pointing they are regarded as one, and therefore have only one accent. Two, three, or even four words may be connected in this way, e.g. כָּל־אָדָ֫ם every man, אֶת־כָּל־עֵ֫שֶׂב every herb, Gn 129, אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ all that he had, Gn 255.

16b Certain monosyllabic prepositions and conjunctions, such as אֶל־ to, עַד־ until, עַל־ upon, עִם־ with, אַל־ ne, אִם־ if, whether, מִן־ from, פֶּן־ lest, are almost always found with a following Maqqēph, provided they have not become independent forms by being combined with prefixes, e.g. מֵעַל, מֵעִם, in which case Maqqēph as a rule does not follow. Occasionally Maqqēph is replaced by a conjunctive accent (see above, §9u, 1 c), as, according to the Masora, in Dt 279, 2 S 2023, Jer 2530, 2925, Ec 94 in the case of אֶ֥ל כָּל־; ψ 475, 602, Pr 312 in the case of אֶת־ the objective particle. Longer words are, however, connected by Maqqēph with a following monosyllable, e.g. הִתְהַלֶּךְ־נֹֽחַ Gn 69, וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן Gn 17; or two words of more than one syllable, e.g. שִׁבְעָֽה־עָשָׂר seventeen, Gn 711. Cf. the Greek proclitics ἐν, ἐκ, εἰς, εἰ, ὡς, οὐ, which are atonic, and lean on the following word.

16c 2. Mèthĕg[critic 1] (מֶ֫תֶג i.e. a bridle), a small perpendicular stroke under the consonant to the left of the vowel, indicates most frequently the secondary stress or counter-tone, as opposed to the principal tone marked by the accents. It serves, however, in other cases to point out that the vowel should not be hastily passed over in pronunciation, but should be allowed its full sound. Hence other names of Mèthĕg are Maʾarîkh, i.e. lengthener, and Gaʿyā, i.e. raising of the voice, which is Great Gaʿyā with long vowels, otherwise Little Gaʿyā.[1]

16d It is divided into: 1. The light Mèthĕg. This is subdivided again into (α) the ordinary Mèthĕg of the counter-tone, as a rule in the second (open) syllable before the tone, e.g. הָֽאָדָ֫ם (cf. also such cases as מֶֽלֶךְ־צֹר); but also in the third when the second is closed, e.g. הָֽאַרְבָּעִ֫ים (also in such cases as עֶֽבֶד־הַמֶּלֶךְ), and when the third is not suitable for it, even in the fourth (open) syllable before the tone. This Mèthĕg may be repeated in the fourth syllable before the tone, when it already stands in the second, e.g. שָֽׁבֻעֹ֥תֵיכֶ֫ם. Finally it is always added to the vowel of an open ultima, which is joined by Maqqēph to a word beginning with a toneless syllable and so without Mèthĕg (e.g. בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל, on the other hand רִשְׁפֵי־קָ֑שֶׁת, לֹא־אֶֽהְיֶה), or to a word beginning with Šewâ before the tone-syllable, e.g. מִֽי־לְךָ֫, שְׁלֹמֹֽה־בְנִ֫י &c.; the object being to prevent the Šewâ from becoming quiescent.

16e The ordinary light Mèthĕg is omitted with a movable וּ copulative, consequently we do not find וּֽבָנִים, &c. (nor even וּֽבְנֵי, &c., contrary to b, α; but וּֽזֲהַב[critic 2], &c., according to b, δ, cf. §10g b).

16f (b) The firm or indispensable Mèthĕg. (α) With all long vowels (except in certain cases, וּ copulative, see above), which are followed by a Šewâ mobile preceding the tone-syllable; e.g. יִֽרְאוּ, יִֽשְׁנוּ &c. (β) To emphasize a long vowel in a closed syllable immediately before Maqqēph, e.g. שָֽׁת־לִי Gn 425 (not šŏth-li); hence also with כֹּֽל־ ψ 1382 and אֵֽת־ Jb 4126 (for כָּל־ and אֶת־; cf. also מֵאֵֽת־ Jo 1518, &c.). (γ) With Ṣere, which has become toneless through retraction of the tone, in order to prevent its being pronounced as Segôl[critic 3], e.g. אֹ֫הֵֽב דָּ֑עַת Jb 121 (not ʾohĕbh). (δ) With all vowels before composite Šewâ, e.g. יַֽעֲמֹד, צֹֽעֲקִים, &c. (except when the following consonant is strengthened, e.g. יִקְּֽבֶ֫נּוּ Jo 622, because the strengthening by Dageš excludes the retarding of the vowel by Mèthĕg); so in the cases discussed in §28c, where a short vowel has taken the place of a Ḥaṭeph, as יַֽעַמְדוּ, &c. (ε) In the preformative syllable of all forms of הָיָה to be, and חָיָה to live, when Šewâ quiescens stands under the ה or ח, e.g. יִֽהְיֶה, תִּֽחְיֶה (yih-yè, tiḥ-yè), &c., cf. §63q. (ζ) With the Qameṣ of the plural forms of בַּ֫יִת house (thus בָּֽתִּ֫ים bâttím, cf. §96 under בַּיִת), and with אָֽנָּ֫ה[2] prithee! to guard against the pronunciation bŏttím, ŏnnā.—Every kind of light Mèthĕg may in certain circumstances be changed into a conjunctive accent, e.g. בָּ֣תִּים 2 Ch 3411, &c.

16g 2. The grave Mèthĕg (Gaʿyā in the more limited sense) is especially employed in the following cases in order more distinctly to emphasize a short vowel or an initial Šewâ: (a) with the Pathaḥ of the article or of the prefixes ב, כ, ל, when followed by (Še under a consonant without (Dageš, e.g. הַֽמְסִלָּה, לַֽמְסִלָּה &c., but not before יְ (before which וַ also remains without Mèthĕg, with the exception of וַֽיְהִי and וַֽיְחִי when they are followed by Maqqēph, or accented with Pašṭā), nor before the tone-syllable of a word, and neither before nor after the common Mèthĕg; likewise not in words which are connected by a conjunctive accent with the following word; (b) with the interrogative הַ with Pathaḥ (except when it precedes יְ, Dageš forte or the tone-syllable of the word), e.g. הַֽאֵלֵךְ. When a Šewâ follows the הַ and after the Šewâ there is an untoned syllable, Baer places the Mèthĕg to the right of the Pathaḥ , e.g. הַֽבְרָכָה[critic 4] Gn 2738 (but ed. Mant. and Ginsb. הַֽב׳); (c) with the Pathaḥ or Segôl[critic 5] of the article before a guttural (which cannot take Dageš), e.g. הַֽחַיִּים, הֶֽהָרִים.—The Šewâ-Gaʿyā (ְֽ) is especially important in the accentuation of the תא״ם, for purposes of musical recitation; it stands chiefly in words whose principal tone is marked by a disjunctive without a preceding conjunctive, e.g. וְֽהָיָ֗ה ψ 13.

16h 3. The euphonic Gaʿyā, to ensure the distinct pronunciation of those consonants which in consequence of the loss of the tone, or because they close a syllable, might easily be neglected, e.g. וַיִּשָּ֫בַֽע לוֹ Gn 249; פַּדֶּ֫נָֽה אֲרָם (here to avoid a hiatus) 282, or in such cases as רֽוּחַֽ־אֵל Jb 334, &c.; תַּֽדְשֵׁא Gn 111.

16i Mèthĕg (especially in the cases mentioned in 1, b, a) is a guide to correct pronunciation, since it distinguishes ā from ŏ (except in the case noted in §9v, b) and î from ĭ; e.g. אָֽכְלָ֫ה ʾā-khe (she has eaten), but אָכְלָ֫ה ʾŏkhlā (food), since the ־ָ stands here in a toneless closed syllable, and must therefore be a short vowel; thus also יִֽרְא֫וּ yî-reʾû (they fear), but יִרְא֫וּ yirʾû (they see), יִֽשְׁנ֫וּ (they sleep), but יִשְׁנ֫וּ (they repeat). The Jewish grammarians, however, do not consider the syllables lengthened by Mèthĕg as open. They regard the Šewâ as quiescent in cases like אָֽכְלָה and belonging to the preceding vowel; cf. Baer, Thorat ʾEmeth, p. 9, and in Merx's Archiv, i. p. 60, Rem. I, and especially Dikduke ha-ṭeamim, p. 13.

  1. Cf. as the source of this account of Mèthĕg, the exhaustive treatment by S. Baer, 'Mèthĕg-Setzung nach ihren über lieferten Gesetzen,' in A. Merx's Archiv für die wissenschaftl. Erforschung des A. Test., Heft i, Halle, 1867, p. 56 ff., and Heft ii. 1868, p. 194 ff.; Baer and Strack, Dikduke ha-ṭeamim, p. 30 ff.
  2. The common form is אָֽנָּ֫א with an accent on both syllables, in which case, according to Qimḥi, the tone is always to be placed on the former. For the above mode of writing and position of the tone cf. Is 383, Jon 114, 42, ψ 1164. [Editions often vary in individual passages, as regards the accentuation of the first syllable: but in the 7 occurrences of אנא, and the 6 of אנה, Baer, Ginsburg, and Kittel agree in having an accent on both syllables (as אָ֣נָּ֗א) in Gn 5017, Ex 3231, ψ 11616, and Metheg on the first syllable and an accent on the second syllable (as אָֽנָּ֣ה) in 2 K 203=Is 383, Jon 114, 42, ψ 1164, 11825.25, Dn 94, Ne 15.11, except that in ψ 1164 Ginsburg has אָנָּ֥ה.—S. R. D.]


  1. Critical annotation: No breve on the last e is probably a printing error.—A. E. A.
  2. Critical annotation: וּֽזֲהַ֛ב Lua error in Module:GHG at line 81: attempt to compare number with nil. in Qoren Tanakh.—A. E. A.
  3. Critical annotation: Spelled Seghôl, possibly a typo.—A. E. A.
  4. Critical annotation: Technical note: The Mèthĕg is supposed to appear to the right of Pathaḥ, but it is possible that it its correct display is not supported on your system.—A. E. A.
  5. Critical annotation: The original printing Segol is probably a printing error.—A. E. A.