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Usually when the word אתה appears in Tanach and tfilah, we pronounce it מלרע (a-TAH or a-TOH. whichever you like, that's not really my point. The emphasis is on the end of the word).

Why in Yoda-esque sentences* do we emphasize the first syllable instead and pronounce it מלעיל (A-tah, with emphasis on the beginning of the word)?

I'm looking for a specific grammatical rule that doesn't involve Star Wars references.

*Such as מְחַיֵּה מֵתִים אַתָּה (resurrecter of the dead you are) and מוחֵל וְסולֵחַ אָתָּה

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Who's 'we'? Is this something done because of tradition or because of lack of Hebrew language knowledge? –  Yaakov Kuperman Apr 18 '12 at 1:23
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If you look in artscroll siddurim (and I think a couple of other siddurim also), there's a little vertical line under some words. I don't have one on me right now to double check, but I'm pretty sure those lines are there to tell you which syllable should be emphasized. –  Ari A Apr 18 '12 at 1:29
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Who is this "@vram", anyways? People keep referencing @vram, but I see no name such as that. Is this the person who signs with two obscene looking dots? Why the need for a signature like that? What message are you trying to send by doing this? –  Shemmy Apr 18 '12 at 3:37
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To those who are advocating closure: This is a question about proper accenting and pronunciation of prayer and is therefore definitely in-scope. –  Isaac Moses Apr 19 '12 at 17:26
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1 Answer

Many words in Biblical Hebrew have a "pausal form", which differs slightly from its regular form in stress and/or vocalization. This form is usually used at the end of a phrase, although the regular form may also be used at the end of a phrase. For example, in the Song of the Sea natitha yeminekha tibla`emo ares, the word "land" appears as ares instead of eres. Similarly, in Ps 43:3 we read el har qodsheKHA [-shin-shewa-khaf-qames] we'el mishkenothekha, but in Ps 15:1, we read mi yishkon behar qodSHEkha [-shin-seghol-khaf-qames].

These forms usually appear with major disjunctive accents (silluq, athnah), but sometimes with minor disjunctives (such as zarqa, rebhia`). The word "you" (masc sing) is one of the few that have two pausal forms, a minor one aleph-pathah-taw-qames-he' and a major one aleph-qames-taw-qames-he', both with penultimate stress (i.e., stress on next-to-last syllable). The regular form (aleph-pathah-taw-qames-he' with stress on the last syllable) occurs 455 times in Tanakh (221 with disjunctive accents, 225 with conjunctive), the minor pausal 27 times, and the major pausal 52 times.

In the prayerbook, when it is not a quotation from Tanakh, the use of pausal form is usually a result of a movement in the late eighteenth - early nineteenth century c.e. to apply the rules of Biblical Hebrew grammar to the Rabbinic Hebrew of the siddur.

See Gesenius 29i-v; Weingreeen (A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew) p. 137; Jacobson (Chanting the Hebrew Bible) pp. 340ff.

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Thank you for this answer. Please consider joining the Hebrew Language stack exchange proposal, which needs more participants to launch as a beta. –  New Alexandria Oct 16 '13 at 13:25
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