The opening two words of Kaddish begin with the words:

יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ

Both the gimmel and the dalet of 'Yisgadal' carry a dagesh as does the dalet in 'veyiskadash' - normally a function of the dagesh is to tell us where to stress the emphasis of the word but in the these two words which syllable/letter do we make the stress on?

I always learnt to say it on the end of each word - namely yisgadal veyiskadash however I have heard some people say it with the stress on the first letters i.e. yisgadal veyiskadash.

What is the more grammatically correct pronunciation and what reason do those who do differently employ?

  • 2
    "is to tell us where to stress the emphasis of the word" That's not what it says there... – Double AA Jun 3 '20 at 14:42

Your premise is wrong. The place of dagesh doesn't determine the accented syllable. If you check the famous verse from Chana's story (Samuel I 2:1), it contains a similar verb from the hitpael group:

וַתִּתְפַּלֵּ֤ל חַנָּה֙ וַתֹּאמַ֔ר עָלַ֤ץ לִבִּי֙ בַּֽיהוָ֔ה רָ֥מָה קַרְנִ֖י בַּֽיהוָ֑ה רָ֤חַב פִּי֙ עַל־א֣וֹיְבַ֔י כִּ֥י שָׂמַ֖חְתִּי בִּישֽׁוּעָתֶֽךָ׃

And Hannah prayed, and said: my heart exulteth in Hashem, my horn is exalted in Hashem; my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in Thy salvation.

The cantillation sign (mahpach) indicates the accented syllable, which is in this case the last syllable (so it's milra). The same is true for the mentioned words in the kaddish.

(See also the particular word in Daniel 11:37)

Regarding why certain people put the stress on the (grammatically) wrong syllable, I assume that this is the effect of the local languages that non-Jews spoke. In contrast with Hebrew, having mostly ultimate stress, German and Hungarian typically have the stress on the first syllable, while in Romance languages and Polish usually the penultimate syllable has the stress. JoelK kindly linked other suggested reasons, but personally I don't find them convincing.

  • There are cantillation signs on Kaddish? – Dani Jun 3 '20 at 17:50
  • @Dani No, but using analogy you can find out the answer (see above). – Kazi bácsi Jun 3 '20 at 18:23

It's worth noting that Kaddish is Aramaic and not Hebrew. So while there will be some very obvious parallels one shouldn't go overboard applying Hebrew grammatical rules to it.

If someone wants to know the correct emphasis when saying Kaddish it would make sense to follow the communities who kept Aramaic alive as either a living oral language, or a living religious textual language.

Kurdish Jews continued to speak Aramaic to this day (often called Kurdish, or Neo Assyrian aramaic). You can find some recordings here.

Yemenite Jews continue to use Aramaic as a religious textual language. They maintain a living tradition of reciting Aramaic targum for their Torah and Haftarah readings. You can find some recordings here.

For what it's worth I took an aramaic class at UCLA and was taught that Aramaic like Hebrew usually has a emphasis on the end of the word, but that there were generally more exceptions to this rule than Hebrew has. Also Sepharadim (such as Kurds) and Yemenites are usually a lot more precise on "secondary emphasis." Which is where you stress another syllable almost as much as the actual stressed syllable.So if you hear a recording where it sounds like 2 syllables are being emphasized, this is usually why.

  • Would it also make sense to look to Chasidim for how to pronounce Hebrew since they use it as a living religious textual language? It's cool that Kurdish people speak a form of Aramaic but that doesn't make them necessarily the best answer to this question – Double AA Jul 14 '20 at 19:32
  • I would counter that in the case of both Kurdish and Yemenite Jews their host languages are semitic (Aramaic and Arabic). Therefore I would expect them to have preserved more since their daily language would be closer to Hebrew and Aramaic. In contrast to Chassidim where their daily language for hundreds if not thousands of years were not semitic at all. This does not mean that Yemenites or Kurds will have preserved things perfectly, but I would expect less deviations or problematic influences. – Aaron Jul 14 '20 at 19:37
  • I don't deny that but it's quite the caveat to your absolute claim in this post. – Double AA Jul 14 '20 at 19:39
  • @DoubleAA What absolute claim? I said it would make sense and gave reasons why. How is that absolute? – Aaron Jul 14 '20 at 19:40
  • The post gives no reason to look to the languages it suggests. – Double AA Jul 14 '20 at 23:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .