Wednesday, May 18, 2005

How to Pronounce "Keli Keli Lama Azavtani"

Fivetownsradio was playing in the background at work today, and I couldn't help but notice the gross mispronunciation of this partial pasuk in a kumzitzy-style song. This is often the case when people appropriate psukim for songs - they mangle the pronunciation, or the proper parsing, in the interests of it sounding good.

In this case, they sang אֵלִי אֵלִי לָמָה עֲזַבְתָּנִי, with the bolded red indicating the stressed syllable. Now, I would have naturally have pronounced עֲזַבְתָּנִי with the stress on the second to last syllable (mile'el) and it feels like a conscious decision to pronounce it otherwise, either to sound more Israeli/Sefardi, because milera (stress on the last syllable) is reckoned to be always correct, or perhaps because it worked out better with the tune.

In fact, עֲזַבְתָּ֑נִי has the trup on the second to last syllable, so it should be pronounced mile'el.

The full trup on this pasuk is אֵלִ֣י אֵ֭לִי לָמָ֣ה עֲזַבְתָּ֑נִי רָח֥וֹק מִֽ֝ישׁוּעָתִ֗י דִּבְרֵ֥י שַֽׁאֲגָתִֽי.

I would normally not nitpick, but once they got me started, I would point out they got the stress on lama wrong as well.

There are two ways to pronounce lama. One is lama, and the other is lamma. The duplication of m in the second word is deliberate. lama/lamma means le + ma, or "for what," and thus "why?" Similarly, porqué in Spanish.

Long unstressed vowels in Hebrew must be in unclosed syllables, while long stressed vowels are in closed syllables. The kametz is a long syllable (as opposed to the short patach). There are two versions of the word. One is mile'el. Since there are only two syllables in lama, the stress would have to be on the first syllable. Since the syllable has a long vowel and is stressed, we can exprect the syllable to be closed. We close the syllable by placing a strong dagesh in the mem, effectively doubling it. Thus, the mem ends the first syllable and begins the second syllable. This is lamma. The other lama is stressed milera', on the last syllable. As such, the first syllable has a long unstressed vowel, so the syllable should be open. Thus, it is lama.

For the song, they choose lamma, even though, looking at the pasuk, there is no dagesh in the mem, and the trup, and thus stress, is clearly on the second syllable. Normally I would not object since this is the natural way of pronouncing it, but once they are being medakdek incorrectly, it is further bothersome that they mess up the previous word's stress as well.

The song ended before I was able to note how they pronounced the first two words. However, I may as well treat how they should be pronounced. אֵלִ֣י אֵ֭לִי. The first אֵלִ֣י has a munach on the second syllable, showing how it should be pronounced. The second אֵ֭לִי is misleading. The trup seems to be on the first syllable, but then should we not expect a dagesh? In fact, the trup in this case is the dechi, also known as yetiv or yemanit, and it always appears to the right of the word, in the postpositive position. This position does not indicate stress, and the stress, I would venture, would also be milera'.

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