Hebrew Syllables -

Understanding the Maqqef

The word Maqqef means “binder,” and functions much like a hyphen in English. That is, two words of a word pair are joined together to form a new word, and changes in the vocalization of the word unit often occurs.

Maqqef

If a word has a Maqqef (hyphen), the stress shifts away from the preceding word and attends to the following word.

Maqqef Example
 
In the example above, the two words ben and adam together mean “son of man.” With the Maqqef, the stress moves away from the word ben toward the word adam, resulting in a closed, unaccented syllable for the first part of the (hyphenated) word. Since closed, unaccented syllables must take a short vowel, the vowel in ben changes from Tsere (long) to Segol (short).


Maqqef Example

Likewise in the example above, kol am means “all of the people”. But when the Maqqef is used the accent shifts away from kol to the word am, and since the first syllable is now a closed, unaccented syllable, the cholem under the Kaf must change to Qamets Chatuph.

If you are new to the study of Hebrew, don’t be overly concerned with this information. Your aim is to gain some proficiency in reading and sounding out the words you see. Just remember that when you see a Maqqef, the vowels you were expecting in a given word might change.



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