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I noticed that the Artscroll siddur puts a line in אל-בני | ישראל at the beginning of the third parsha of Shema, which tells you not to merge the words together. Are they correct?

The yud at the end of בני is not pronounced, it's a nach nistar. It does sound like a yud, but if the following letter was one of בגדכפ"ת, it wouldn't have a dagesh (first example that comes to my head: בני גד and בני דן at the end of Naso). That indicates that to the contrary, the words are supposed to be merged together.

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(I have to correct one point: the י here isn't a Nach Nistar but an Eim Mikra, like the ה at the end of תורה, the א at the end of ברא or the ו at the end of בו. A real Nach Nistar י would definitely need to be separated, like in ‏[אדני] ימלך לעולם ועד.)

You're certainly right that Artscroll is wrong from a classical grammar perspective. The Talmud (Berakhot 15b) already listed the cases of הפרדה בין הדבקים separating between the [sounds that] stick [together] in Shema, which are על לבבך, על לבבכם, בכל לבבך, בכל לבבכם, עשב בשדך, ואבדתם מהרה, הכנף פתיל, אתכם מארץ‏ and yours isn't on the list. R. Avraham ben HaRambam was asked about this particular exclusion in a responsum (79:2) and answers that the י in בני isn't really pronounced like a י so there's no issue. (He does seem to indicate that if it was a Chirik instead of a Tzere it would be an issue (eg. בכורי ישראל) but that could just be his funny language used to describe the grammar.)

That said, arguably they pronounced the Tzere vowel as less of a diphthong than is common in modern Ashkenazi Hebrew dialects which are popular among Artscoll's target audience. There is another version (in the Rif, R Amram Gaon, Sefer HaManhig, etc.) of the above cited Talmud which includes the example תזכרו ועשיתם which indicates that diphthongs do indeed count as a sound that needs to be separated. Rabbenu Yonah to the Rif there (8b) prefers our version of the Talmud though, because the final ו in תזכרו is "נח" quiescent. He might mean the end of the diphthong doesn't count as a sound in this regard, but he could just simply be pointing out that it's a mater lectionis and hence a clear error, without commenting on the issue of [non-native] diphthongs.

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    What about יסרני יה where there's a dageish in the yud? – Heshy Dec 13 '17 at 14:03
  • @Heshy Excellent point. Early too מן המצר קראתי יה. I don't have anything particularly special to say since they are already exceptions so it's hard to prove rules from them, other than perhaps they are Mappiks like judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/35510/aleph-with-a-dagesh/… and they are here to remind you to be careful to ensure God's name doesn't get messed with. – Double AA Dec 14 '17 at 21:04
  • I guess, but there are also two on Wednesday that don't come after a yud, would you say their purpose is different? I'm pretty sure I've seen a mesorah or minchat shai that considers all four to be the same thing. (And also that those are the only four in tanach, which means yesterday we said all of the ones that exist :) – Heshy Dec 14 '17 at 22:18
  • @Heshy תְּיַסְּרֶנּוּ יָּהּ and יִרְאֶה-יָּהּ Both come after open syllables and Yud is not such a full consonant (it's only a glide) so I say sure they could both be Mappiks. Again I don't have solid proof for this theory, but the new data is sufficiently consistent. Now it's worth checking if there are cases where my theory would put a Dagesh and it's not there. – Double AA Dec 14 '17 at 22:26
  • @Heshy I take that back. יִרְאֶה-יָּהּ doesn't seem like an exception at all. There is no other case of יה following a chirik. There are a fair number of examples of it following a tzere and segol, and a few following cholam or shuruk (not double counting הללו יה) and no other has a dagesh. Interestingly, there is no Dagesh in תְּיַסְּרֶנּוּ יָּהּ in Aleppo Codex (but there is in other tiberian ms), so maybe it really is just after a chirik. You've piqued my curiosity. I will look into this more b"n and thank you for the chanukka present! – Double AA Dec 14 '17 at 22:34

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