I get annoyed when I hear people pronouncing קַדְּשֵׁינוּ as [kadšeinu] or קִדְשָׁנוּ as
[kidšanu]. Unless you're using the Israeli pronunciation, it's [kadəšeinu]
and [kidəšanu]. Now, I know most of you use a different pronunciation schema,
with different rules about when a שְׁוָא is vocalised or not, but some siddurim,
including the fourth edition Singer's Prayerbook, indicate this, and they bear
But why is this שְׁוָא a שְׁוָא נָע ("mobile", or voiced, שְׁוָא)? My journey to
understanding this starts with ewt's copy ofWeingreen's
Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew, which asserts that in Hebrew the Semitic
genitive ending -i has been lost, and there is no difference between
the nominative and genitive in Hebrew. Some time later, whilst davening, I
noticed what seems to
be a counterexample. (I'm still not sure if it actually is, because my
understanding of Hebrew grammar isn't good enough.)
To recapitulate what I said in my previous post, the phrase בֵּית הַמִּקְדָשׁ is pronounced 'béth hammiqdhāsh' (to use Biblical pronunciation); however, מִקְּדָשׁ by itself, for example, in the Song at the Sea, has a geminated*
ק, which makes the שְׁוָא a שְׁוָא נָע; hence the word is 'miqqədhāsh'. By contrast the former example, which is in the genitive, has no gemination on the ק and a silent שְׁוָא נַח.
* Gemination is doubling of a consonant, and its length: think of the length of the N sound in 'unnamed' in English compared with in 'un-aimed'.
I still don't know why the ק is is geminated in the one example and not the
other, but I now feel confident the change in the realisation of the שְׁוָא is because of this.
Once I'd noticed this, I started noticing other examples, which leads me to
the answer to my original question. Hebrew verbs are composed of three root
letters, and in the פִּעֵל the middle letter of the root receives a דָגֵשׁ (centre
dot) if it is grammatically capable of doing so (i.e. is not a guttural (א, ה,
ח, ע) or ר). Nowadays this largely makes
no difference to the pronunciation, but in Biblical times and later, it
geminated the consonant. In the case of a few consonants (פ, כ, ב, also ת if
you're Ashkenazi or Iraqi, and ג and ד if you're Yemenite—and all of
these historically) it also modifies the sound of the letter, but this does not
remove the gemination of the letter.
Now, in some languages you can have a geminated consonant immediately next
to another consonant, but not in Hebrew. Hence when a geminated consonant
takes a שְׁוָא, that שְׁוָא must be vocalised.
Hence קַדְּשֵׁינוּ and קִדְשָׁנוּ, which would originally have been pronounced
[qaddəšeinu] and [qiddəš̄ānu], with doubled Ds. The verb being in the פִּעֵל doubles the length
of the ד, the ד having a שְׁוָא then makes that שְׁוָא voices.
Now that I understand what's going on here, I have become alert to the same
phenomenon in other places, and have begun to modify my pronunciation where I
can see it's wrong. The same rule applies in שַׂבְּעֵנוּ מִטּוּבֶךָ וְשַׂמְחֵנוּ בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ: they
are also verbs in פִּעֵל, so should be pronounced with [sab`əeinu] and
[saməḥeinu], not [sab`einu] and [samḥeinu].
The presence of a דָגֵשׁ, forcing
a שְׁוָא to be a שְׁוָא נָֹע, is not limited to this context.
In the Shabbos shacharis Amida occurs the word מַתְּנַת. I'd always pronounced
this [matnas]; however, there's a דָגֵשׁ in the ת as the legacy of the dropped נ
(the word derives from the verb נתן, and where a letter elides out in Hebrew it
normally leaves a trace in the form of a דָגֵשׁ in the following letter). Hence
the word should be pronounced [matənas], and again the Singer's bears me out
Another example: Most people think the definite article in Hebrew is הַ־. In
fact, it's actually that plus gemination of the following letter, where that
letter permits it. In the Shabbos prayers, we make frequent reference to "the
seventh day". "The seventh" is הַשְּׁבִיעִי; the דָגֵשׁ means it's [hašəvī`ī], not
[hašvī`ī] (in Biblical Hebrew [haššəvī`ī]), and similarly וּבַשְּׁבִיעִי is
[uvaš(š)əvī`ī], not [uvaš(š)vī`ī]: the דָגֵשׁ there represents the dropped ה,
because בַ־ is short for בְהַ־. (Similarly מִ־ is short for מִן and the dropped נ causes
gemination of the following letter.)
Now onto a different case. The Singer's Prayerbook indicates a שְׁוָא נָֹע in words
like אָמְרוּ. This doesn't fit into the above categories; what's going on here?
Weingreen informs me that a מֶתֶג (the short vertical line you sometimes see
under a letter) occurs here; the מֶתֶג forces a pause and the end of the current
syllable. (This is its use in the Bible; in siddurim it is, confusingly, often
used for a different purpose, of indicating where the stress falls in a word.)
This word is pointed
אָ ֽמְרוּ (you may need to increase font size in your browser, using CTRL-+,
to see the diacritics clearly); hence in Biblical times this would have been pronounced
[ā|mərū], not [om|rū]:
makes the reader pause and hence leaves the first syllable open, turning the vowel
from [o] to [ā] (i.e. it does not have a קָמַץ קָטָן).
Unlike in the previous example, I do not understand why this מֶתֶג is
there. So how do we know that it represents a genuine indication of
how the word was pronounced in ancient times, particularly given that the
נִיקוּּד (system of diacritics indicating vowels, including the מֶתֶג) is less
than fifteen hundred years old (though is said to encapsulate older oral
out to me by boroparkpyro, lies with
transcriptions of names into other languages. The name אָ ֽסְנַת, which
is pronounced by most people nowadays "Osnat", has a מֶתֶג under the א, and,
indeed, the ancient transliterations of this name, Ασεννεθ and Asenath, bear
this out. (You can see the same in other similar Biblical names:
(A/O)holiav, (A/O)holibamah, perhaps also Basemath.)
So, in summary, I recommend davening with a siddur that indicates where a
שְׁוָא is שְׁוָא נָע, and paying close attention to where the way you pronounce
something doesn't agree with what it says in the siddur. It's probable that
God isn't so petty as to get narked when you pronounce something wrong, but God
probably also appreciates you putting in the extra effort to ensure you do
pronounce things right.