Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The anomalous alef-dageish in ממושבותיכם תביאּו

On a previous post on parashat Emor, Steg posed the following question:

Any idea about the anomalous alef-dageish in ממושבותיכם תביאּו? It's fun to pronounce...
By this, he means the following pasuk, in Vayikra 23:17:
יז  מִמּוֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם תָּבִיאּוּ לֶחֶם תְּנוּפָה, שְׁתַּיִם שְׁנֵי עֶשְׂרֹנִים--סֹלֶת תִּהְיֶינָה, חָמֵץ תֵּאָפֶינָה:  בִּכּוּרִים, לַיהוָה.17 Ye shall bring out of your dwellings two wave-loaves of two tenth parts of an ephah; they shall be of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven, for first-fruits unto the LORD.
There is actually yet another instance of dagesh-aleph, in Bereishit 43:26, in Miketz:
כו  וַיָּבֹא יוֹסֵף הַבַּיְתָה, וַיָּבִיאּוּ לוֹ אֶת-הַמִּנְחָה אֲשֶׁר-בְּיָדָם הַבָּיְתָה; וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ-לוֹ, אָרְצָה.26 And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down to him to the earth.
A third instance is in Sefer Ezra, perek 8:
יח  וַיָּבִיאּוּ לָנוּ כְּיַד-אֱלֹהֵינוּ הַטּוֹבָה עָלֵינוּ, אִישׁ שֶׂכֶל--מִבְּנֵי מַחְלִי, בֶּן-לֵוִי בֶּן-יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְשֵׁרֵבְיָה וּבָנָיו וְאֶחָיו, שְׁמֹנָה עָשָׂר.18 And according to the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;
And finally, in sefer Iyov, perek 33:
כא  יִכֶל בְּשָׂרוֹ מֵרֹאִי;    ושפי (וְשֻׁפּוּ) עַצְמֹתָיו, לֹא רֻאּוּ.21 His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones corrode to unsightliness.
Though Rambam, for some reason, does not list this last dagesh-aleph in his commentary to Sefer Yetzirah. On the pasuk in Emor, Shemen Hamor comments that there is a dagesh in the aleph for the purpose of tiferes halashon, beautification of the language. Minchas Shai notes in Emor that this is one of the alfin degushin, that he speaks about it in more details in Bereishit 2:25, on vayihyu sheneihem arumim, and that he gives the masorah for this in Miketz, on Bereishit 43:26. Read what Minchas Shai has to say in each of these three locations.

In general, when we encounter a dot in the center of a letter, it can have (at least) one of four meanings:
  1. for beged kefet (and possibly resh), it designates that it is the plosive rather than fricative.

  2. for vav, it can designate it as a shuruk vowel

  3. for non-gutturals, that is, everything except aleph, heh, ayin, chet, and the quasi-guttural resh, it indicates gemination, a doubling of the sound. This is useful when you have short vowels in unstressed syllables, for such syllables need to be closed, and so the geminated letters serves to close the previous syllable and begin the next syllable. Perhaps there are exceptions to these exceptions of gutturals.

  4. For heh (and aleph for Yemenite Jews), it indicates a mapik. This, when it occurs at the end of a word. Usually, a heh and aleph at the end of a word go unpronounced. But with a mapik, we make sure to pronounce it, and the pronunciation is the same as that of a heh or aleph in the middle of a word which has a sheva nach under it. 
So, here we have a dot in the aleph, in these four instances. What could be its cause? It is clearly not (1), since this is not beged kefet or even beged kaperet. It is an aleph, clearly a guttural letter.

Could it be (2)? That is, perhaps there was a (variant) ketiv in each of these three or four instances in which the final vav was missing. After all, in each of the four instances, the aleph is followed by a vav. A way to indicate the pronounced shuruk might be to place the shuruk in the last letter. While a remote possibility such that I thought I would be comprehensive and mention it, I don't really find this convincing or plausible.

Could it be (3)? This is the common understanding. Even though gutturals in general cannot take a dagesh chazak, to geminate them, because pronouncing the guttural itself is hard enough, and pronouncing it doubled in almost, or is, impossible... even so, there are, or might be, exceptions. (Is dagesh in resh a dagesh chazak, or as it seems from the two examples below, a dagesh kal?) Here is what Minchas Shai says in parashat Bereishit:

I will try to elaborate upon this point in my own words. In general, in unstressed syllables, a long vowel make for an open syllable (CV, meaning consonant vowel) while a short vowel makes for a closed syllable (CVC, meaning consonant vowel consonant). Shuruk, meaning the vav with a dot in it, is a long vowel. The short equivalent is a kubutz, which are two dots in a diagonal under the letter. Thus, after a kubutz, you should expect some consonant to follow to close the syllable. If that consonant also begins the next syllable, we should expect to see a dagesh chazak, doubling ('geminating') the letter so that it can serve double-duty. For example, in the word בִּכּוּרִים, the chirik is a chirik chaser, since there is no yud after the bet. Chirik chaser is a short vowel, so the syllable needs to be closed. The kaf after the bet does this job, of closing bik. But the kaf has another role, to begin the syllable koo. Therefore, the kaf gets a dagesh chazak, and so the word is bik-ku-rim.

Yet, there are some instances where, despite the presence of a long vowel, the letter afterwards still receives gemination. Two of those are shuruks, where the nun following still receives a dagesh chazak. A third is also a shuruk, in arummim, where the mem following the shuruk still receives a dagesh chazak. This could be an indication that the rule is not always applicable, or else, I would say, despite the ketiv with a vav, we should pronounce those as kubutz, the short equivalent. The other two instances in the Torah are ones in which we have a surprising dot in the aleph, namely the one in Miketz and the one in Emor.

I would note that in both of these instances (and indeed, in the one in Ezra as well), there is a chirik malei. This is a long vowel, so we should not expect a dagesh in the following letter. So we have two reasons not to expect a dagesh in the aleph. One is that the aleph is a guttural letter which should not (at least not in general) take a dagesh chazak. The other is that it is after a long vowel. Yet, the dot is there!

However, I'll also point out that in each of these three cases, the stress is on the vowel with the chirik malei. So it is a long stressed vowel. And those can, and are often, closed syllable. For example, in the word אֵלֶּה, there is always a dagesh on the lamed, since the word is mile'eil. And the word lama, when there is no dagesh, it is milera, while where there is a dagesh, lamma, it is mile'eil. Thus, it does not strike me as such a problem. Still, it IS unusual in this particular context to have the dagesh there, after the long vowel.

Just as was the case by nun, we can explain that this is an anomaly, and an exception to these two general rules.

I, personally, would take a slightly different tack, again as above: that the masorah is telling us here that these chiriks should be read as chaser, rather than as malei. If so, we need to close the syllable. And even though we cannot necessarily stress the aleph so much (or perhaps at all -- Teimanim can presumably do this with effort, especially since they usually pronounce the aleph), placing the dagesh in the aleph is a way of indicating the rules that are in play, that this is a short vowel, a chirik chaser despite the presence of yud in the consonantal text, such that typically we would geminate the following consonant.

I also suspect that the irregularity and violation of these two rules are related. That is, for some reason, there needed to be a chirik chaser there. So one way of handling it, on the mikra level, is to indicate a dagesh in the next letter. And another way, contradicting that, on the masoret level, is to elongate the chirik because we know that an aleph cannot receive the dagesh. And both live side by side.

Why should this have a chirik chaser? The masorah records many such strange instances of chirik chaser where we would typically have expected malei, and vice versa. But maybe one can analyze this from the perspective of dikduk, that in these instances there is a special piel form, which requires a dagesh in the second letter. And the elongation of the chirik chaser to chirik malei would be an instance of tashlum dagesh, compensatory lengthening.

To explain the example in Iyov: רֻאּוּ has a kubutz, with is a short vowel, in a closed syllable. Therefore, it needs to be closed. The aleph geminates so that it can perform this double-duty.

I will close with possibility (4). Perhaps these are mapiks in the alephs. In the three instances mentioned by the Rambam, which also violate the rule about what to do after long vowels, the preceding vowel is a chirik malei. There is a tendency to change it almost into a diphthong. That is, drop the aleph, and take the yud as a consonant beginning the next syllable. The chirik (which we might pronounce as malei or chaser) leads into that yud. Thus, tavi-yu or taviyyu. And this is a natural enough pronunciation, and the masorah records the pronunciation. And so this natural, organic shift in pronunciation might be acceptable, and indeed what happens (although not explicitly indicated) all over the place. Is should rightly be taviy-`u. And so, perhaps, people were insistent in these particular places to much certain to pronounce the aleph. There is no sheva nach under the aleph, obviously, since the vowel follows. And so the way to indicate that this aleph is pronounced (at all!) is to place a mapik.

This possibility (4) does seem like a possibility to me, although it is obviously not how everyone in general understands these dots.

(While I am at it, I might as well list some instances of dagesh resh:

Yechezkel 16:4 has dagesh in the resh:
ד  וּמוֹלְדוֹתַיִךְ, בְּיוֹם הוּלֶּדֶת אוֹתָךְ לֹא-כָרַּת שָׁרֵּךְ, וּבְמַיִם לֹא-רֻחַצְתְּ, לְמִשְׁעִי; וְהָמְלֵחַ לֹא הֻמְלַחַתְּ, וְהָחְתֵּל לֹא חֻתָּלְתְּ.4 And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water for cleansing; thou was not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.
and Mishlei 14:10:
י  לֵב--יוֹדֵעַ, מָרַּת נַפְשׁוֹ;    וּבְשִׂמְחָתוֹ, לֹא-יִתְעָרַב זָר.10 The heart knoweth its own bitterness; and with its joy no stranger can intermeddle

There are other examples, I think, that I cannot be bothered to look up right now.)


MG said...

1) " (and aleph for Yemenite Jews)"

What do you mean by this? We never find aleph at the end of a word with a dot; we only have an aleph with a dot in it in the four cases you list. So you mean an aleph at the end of a word _without_ any dot? Yemenites do not "pronounce" this aleph either, much as they would not "pronounce" a heh at the end of a word without a dot.

If such an aleph were truly "mapiq", according to anyone, then all words that ended in aleph would cause all BGD-KPT letters at the beginning of words that followed them to have a dagesh kal, based on one of the well-known exceptions to the BGD-KPT rule. Yet we see this is not the case, as those letters are rafah.

2) "The short equivalent is a kubutz, which are two dots in a diagonal under the letter"

Three, obviously.

3) Your theory does not account for the many other times we find "Taviu" in all of its forms without a dagesh in the aleph. If it were related to the chriik, we would expect a dagesh in those places too.

Yeivin suggests that the "first" three degesihim are related to the fact that the following word begins with a stressed lamed, and in Tiberian Hebrew this combination caused the aleph to be slurred. The Masoretes placed a dagesh in the aleph to avoid this (as they sometimes placed a gaaya before a gutteral that closes a syllable, preceding a word beginning with lamed or nun, to avoid slurring).
The fourth case, in Job, is an unusual word form and here the Masoretes wanted to emphasize the glottal stop on the aleph, as the tendency might have been to employ a "w" slide between the two "u" vowels.

joshwaxman said...

Thanks for commenting.

I must sheepishly admit that I'm a bit out of the parsha re this, since I wrote this up a year ago, for some reason forgot (or deliberately chose not) to post it. And my answers here are hurried and off the cuff...

1) What do you mean by this?
Incredibly, I actually mean a mapik aleph, either with a dot or perhaps pronounced but without a dot. This is based on something I saw in Yalkut Midreshei Teiman. See this post, from the paragraph which begins "This reminds me of another, similar midrash I saw many years ago in a book..."

Of course, my understanding of that might be entirely off. I, too, have never seen a mapik aleph in at Teimanim.org or elsewhere.

2) Three, obviously.
Yes. Typo or brain slip.

3) Your theory does not account for the many other times we find "Taviu" in all of its forms without a dagesh in the aleph. If it were related to the chriik, we would expect a dagesh in those places too.
I think it does. In all those other times, if it is spelled malei, it was understood to be pronounced as a chirik malei. And if it was spelled chaser, it was understood to be pronounced as a chirik chaser. Only in these few instances is the spelling malei what a tradition existed (I posit) that it is pronounced chaser. So we would most assuredly NOT expect a dagesh in those places as well. Because in a malei, you should not have a dagesh. And in a chaser, well, the aleph can never truly take a dagesh.

Yeivin's suggestion sounds interesting, I don't have the presence of mind to give it its due. I'll try to process it later tonight, bli neder.


MG said...

I don't have this Yalkut Medrash Teiman, so it's hard to respond. However, in the masoretic literature, especially in the extreme shorthand of the Masorah Qetanah, the terms "dagesh" and "rafeh" are used for a number of terms, not exclusively to mean "has dot" vs. "has no dot". It can also mean "has/does not have simple shva vs. chataf" or "has/does not have the definite article" among other terms. I would imagine the Medrash means that Vayare is "rafeh" because the aleph is preceeded by a shva.

Indeed, this is the very reason given why the following word, Balaq, has a dagesh kal in the Bet despite being followed by an aleph: the Sifrei Diqduq explain that this aleph is completely superflous, following a shva nach, and it's as if it's not there at all. It isn't an Em Kriah for any vowel. Thus it's not even included in the BGD-KPT rule. Contrast to the word VaYeerah where the aleph is part of the final vowel; it's an Em Kriah for the final syllable. This doesn't mean that one aleph is pronounced differently than the other, just that one is "present" and one isn't.

"Only in these few instances is the spelling malei what a tradition existed (I posit) that it is pronounced chaser."

Obviously, but then your reasoning is circular. These are exceptions, because they are exceptions. But why only in these places? To simply posit that there was a tradition that these had to be pronounced chaser despite appearing malei is no more likely a possibility than saying that these should be pronounced malei, as they appear, but there was a tradition that these alephs should be geminated anyway. Plenty of exceptions, and excpetions to exceptions, exist in the Masorah. However, Yeivin's theory, for example, DOES account for why these three specific places would be singled out for a dagesh.

joshwaxman said...

" is no more likely a possibility "

malei vs. chaser differences, going in krei and ketiv, do occur. geminating an aleph does not.


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