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I'm not so clear on the use of the dagesh as a point of definition -- I understand some fo the pronunciation issues but not all of them either so I would appreciate any help here.

I recall learning years ago that a dagesh in a final hei means two things -- 1) that the letter is pronounced in an aspirated way, and 2) that it refers to possessive.

I am wrestling with the second notion. There seem to be many different situations where the dagesh is found -- in some, the hei has no vowel but follows a letter with a kamatz (as in the second line of eishet chayil "batach baH lev ba'laH" and this seems to show the possessive in 2 ways:

baH = "in her" ba'laH = "her husband" (other words in the poem, like kapaH and neiraH seem to work like this as well).

However, in the rosh hashana davening, we say the word "vayigbaH" which has a hei following a patach and having a dagesh -- with no possessive indicated.

Even more confusing, there is also the case where the dagesh is in a hei which HAS a nikkud. The one that really jumps out at me is the word "elo-Ha" (or is it "elo-aH). In the rosh hashana davening, we say "v'ein elo-Ha mibal'adecha" which is not possessive, while on Yom Kippur, we say "v'al kulam, elo-Ha slichot" which means "the god OF" or "the god to whom belongs forgiveness."

So I don't see any consistency in the use of dagesh there in terms of possession and also meaning. This leads to having the word "elo-Ha" mean both god and god's. Is that accurate? does the dagesh have some other use or rule that I can use to understand why it would or would not appear?

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I'm curious about your title. Why didn't you ask, "What does the dagesh ... mean?" – Seth J Sep 19 '12 at 14:42
I had just come from 2 days of being in shul. You want I shouldn't be influenced? – Danno Sep 19 '12 at 19:32

The grammatical function of the mapiq (which can occur with an alef as well as a he) is to indicate that the letter is a consonant. (The alternative is that the letter is mater lectionis indicating a particular vowel.) Whether a he-mapiq indicates possessive is a matter of context. The Divine name yod-he, for instance, is always spelled with a mapiq, possessive or not. (By the way, if the he has a patach, it is -aH—never -Ha—with or without a mapiq.)

When not used in the Divine name, it's usually used to indicate feminine possessive. That's what I would assume unless the context required otherwise.

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Just to emphasize, that generally such a marker is not necessary because when the letter has a vowel mark (even a shwa), it is clearly consonantal. Only in the rare case when it does not have a vowel and is still consonantal is the extra mark required. The case of a furtive patach (see also here) is unique because while the letter appears to have a vowel, the vowel is really under an imaginary previous letter, so the mappiq is still necessary. – Double AA Sep 19 '12 at 2:15
Commenting to note that the patach that makes the pronunciation -aH is called a "patach genuvah" ("stolen" by the previous letter), and serves the same function as a patach under a final ח (e.g. miz-bei-ach). Monica is correct regarding pronunciation of the mapik hei. – Fred Sep 19 '12 at 3:27
@Fred patach ganuv == furtive patach – Double AA Sep 19 '12 at 3:54
@DoubleAA Source for the notion that the name is an allusion to the patach being stolen by the previous letter. – Fred Sep 19 '12 at 7:33
@Fred - Nice article link. The Sephardic pronunciation sort of suggests that what was stolen is not the patach from the previous letter, but the letter that the patach belongs to. It also has a nice example of a he-mapiq that is not feminine possessive. – Ted Hopp Sep 19 '12 at 16:14

That's not a dageish, though it's a logical mistake to make because it looks exactly like one. That's called a mapik and occurs in a hei at the end of a word. It almost always means feminine possessive, though it also appears in the short divine name beginning with yud. It also appears that you have found some examples of non-feminine possessive; "elo-aH s'lichot" is, most accurately, "God of forgiveness", which isn't possessive per se but uses the noun-chain construct (the implicit "of"). (And it's not feminine either, of course.)

The mapik is not a vowel, so I guess there's nothing to preclude that hei from also having a vowel. (Until you pointed it out I'd never thought about that.)

I was taught that the mapik should be pronounced slightly aspirated (a release of air after the preceding syllable).

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ok, I'm good with mapik -- but can the word elo-Ha be both fem possessive and something else depending on the mapik? – Danno Sep 19 '12 at 0:58
Oh right; I got so distracted by the mapik that I didn't answer the rest of your question. I can only offer a partial answer there; will edit. – Monica Cellio Sep 19 '12 at 1:02
@Dan - The grammatical function of the mapik (which can occur with an alef as well as a he) is to indicate that the letter is a consonant. (The alternative is that the letter is matres lectionis indicating a particular vowel.) Whether a he-mapik indicates possessive is a matter of context. The Divine name yod-he, for instance, is always spelled with a mapik, possessive or not. (By the way, if the he has a patach, it is aH, with or without a mapik.) – Ted Hopp Sep 19 '12 at 1:06
@TedHopp, that sounds like an answer (and better than mine). – Monica Cellio Sep 19 '12 at 1:07
@Dan, Also, it's not Elo-Ha. It's Elo-aH. Just had to point that out bc it was driving me nuts. Shanah Tovah, though! – Seth J Sep 19 '12 at 1:17

Some words just end with a dotted heh, despite not meaning "her" -- "eloha" is one; "nogaH" (shine) is another.

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