I have a book called ספר הקריאה השלם: חלק ג, פיתוחי חותם. I bought it from my shul and don't have any other chalakim or further information on it. It's not a kids' book, but it looks like one (pages about the size of Little Midrash but only about 100 of them, big font, colorful picture on the cover).

On page 79, they talk about metagim, which are short vertical lines that act as secondary accents for the word. (NOT the sof pasuk lines, although those look the same. Also NOT the lines that siddurim put to indicate the primary accent on words where that is the last syllable.) See the blue letters here, except for the last blue letter of each pasuk which is a sof pasuk.

וראוי להזהר לקרות המתגים במקומן הראוי להן כי לפעמים משתנה הענין...וכיון שהמתג מורה על כוונת הענין לפעמים, על כן מחוייב להזהר בקראיתו ולהדגישו

And it's appropriate to be careful to read the metagim in their proper place because sometimes it changes the meaning of the word...and since the meteg sometimes tells you what the word means, therefore it is required to be careful when reading it and to emphasize it.

In the middle of the paragraph, where I put the ..., they give examples: זכרה and ויראו. I am not convinced that those are good examples. I understand that before some publishers started marking kamatz katan and sheva na the only written difference was the meteg, but the main audible differences are the sheva na vs. nach and kamatz rachav vs. katan/chirik malei vs. chaser.

  1. Is there any place where a meteg alone changes the meaning of a word?
  2. Assuming (1), is their argument correct? Because metagim sometimes change the meaning, you have to be careful even when they don't? And conversely, is it less important to be careful about a grammatical rule that never changes the meaning?
  • Along the lines of @allced, it might not be the only indication of the difference in pronunciation, much less the cause thereof, but it could still be an indication of a pronunciation with a different meaning. Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/76090 – WAF Jan 9 '17 at 14:20
  • Not every reading tradition has a difference between Kamatz Katan and Kamatz Gadol (eg. Ashkenazim). – Double AA Jan 9 '17 at 15:51
  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/71090/759 – Double AA Jan 9 '17 at 15:55
  • Isn't it obvious that one needs to be extra careful about something where a mistake would invalidate it? Just from a pragmatic point of view. Why isn't that obvious? – Double AA Jan 9 '17 at 18:04
  • @DoubleAA Right, in places where it does make a difference you obviously have to be extra careful. It doesn't automatically follow even for the cases (99%) where it doesn't make a difference in meaning. That may be true, but it's not obvious. Especially because 'zochra' sounds different than 'zachera' regardless of the meteg. – Heshy Jan 9 '17 at 18:08

There are a few examples of how the meteg (or gaʿya) changes the meaning of words are recorded in grammatico-masoretic manuscripts.

Diqduqe hat-Teʿamim (Baer-Strack §32) notes that י(י)ראו referring to "fear" (e.g. וַיִּֽירְאוּ in Gen. 20:8 or וְיִֽרְאוּ in Mic. 7:17) has a gaʿya, while יראו referring to "sight" lacks a gaʿya (e.g. וַיִּרְאוּ in Num. 17:24).

Horayat haq-Qore (Derenbourg, p. 398) also records that words formed from ירא take gaʿya but words from ראה do not. As another example, the book compares the gaʿya-free word תִּשְׁנוּ (Neh. 13:21) with the root שנה, against the word יִֽשְׁנוּ (Prov. 4:16) which has a gaʿya and derives from the root ישן (contra יִשְׁנוּ in Job 29:22 and וַיִּשְׁנוּ in Kings 18:34).

The primary phonological purpose of the gaʿya is to extend the length of the vowel. For precise reading according to the masoretic signs, the gaʿya should be audible in every situation.

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