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In the seventh aliyah of Parshat Noach, the passage about the tower of Bavel contains the phrase עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ three times. Twice it is written כָל and once כָּל and I would like to understand the difference.

I know that the presence or absence of a dageish depends (among things) on the syllable that comes before, which in this case is the end of the previous word. It's the same previous word all three times. And I understand that sometimes rules change at the end of a sentence (e.g. gafen versus gefen), but two of these are at the end of a pasuk and the third is at an etnachta (basically a semicolon; a clause if not a sentence). Is there some other grammatical rule in play, or is this just a quirk of the torah text as we have it, like we have with some hus that are read hi and bigger ktiv/kri'a differences?

The three occurrences are Bereishit 11:4, Bereishit 11:8 (this is the etnachta), and Bereishit 11:9 (this is the one with the dageish).

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The trick here is the cantillation on the previous word. If the cantillation is conjunctive (and the ultimate syllable is open), then the dagesh will drop. If the cantillation is disjunctive (ie pausal) then the dagesh will stay. In your cases, we have two Munachs (a conjunctive note) and one Tipcha (a disjunctive note).

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