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In my slow but constant pursuit of Hebrew knowledge, I have not yet resolved the rules for the Qamets Chatuph (the Qamets that produces an "o" sound as opposed to an "a" sound). Fortunately, some resources (like the Koren Siddur) make this obvious by enlargening the Qamets. To that end, I have noted that there are a good many occurrences of this sound when Khaf (כ) follows Chet (ח), such as in the word chokh'mah (חכמה), when pronounced with the "o" sound instead of the "a" sound.

Naturally, I want to be able to delineate these different forms so that I can read the Tanakh with certainty regarding my pronunciation.

What is a good rule of thumb for this combination?

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Zechariah 9:2 implies you are mistaken – Double AA Apr 30 '14 at 1:15
@DoubleAA. I looked it up in a transliteration and you are correct. Why is this? And how can I know if it will be one way or the other without a hint? Note, as well, that I said there are "a good many" and did not say this was always the case. I did, however, edit the question for clarity and precision. – Yochanan Michael Apr 30 '14 at 12:20
I imagine this would belong on area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/36772/hebrew-language – Danny Schoemann Apr 30 '14 at 13:21
@DannySchoemann. How can I transfer it there? I've seen transfers. – Yochanan Michael Apr 30 '14 at 14:34
@YochananMichael- I have no idea; maybe the Mods can do it. – Danny Schoemann May 1 '14 at 7:52
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The rule is that in a closed syllable (that ends with a consonant) that is unaccented, the qamets will be qamets chatuph. For example, in the noun חָכְמָה, the two syllables are חָכְ and מָה. The second is accented, and so the first qamets is chatuph.

The example in Zechariah 9:2 that @DoubleAA brings up above is not the noun, but a conjugation of the verb. In this case, the syllable structure is first חָ, second כְ (with a sheva na), and third מָה. Thus, the above rule does not apply. In addition, to obviate confusion, there is a meteg (a small line) next to the qamets on the ח. This is a secondary stress mark, and says that the qamets is pronounced fully, and is not chatuf. There are exceptions to the effect of the meteg, and they're usually on words with a makef (eg. Deut 15:10 בכָל־מעשך).

Every rule has a few exceptions, but the most common exception is the word בָּתִּים, where the accent is on the second syllable, and the dagesh in the ת indicates that the syllable structure is בָּת and תִים. To avoid this seeming contradiction, some tikkuns will print the dagesh as qal (weak) instead of the chazak that it should be. The other exceptions to the rule are with makefs, like Num 34:3 (יָם־המלח).

Support: second paragraph of Gesenius' grammar says that a sheva after an unaccented long vowel is na, hence in a closed syllable, the vowel can't be long.

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Thank you very very much indeed. Informative and enlightening. I will practice these rules. – Yochanan Michael Apr 30 '14 at 16:12

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