Pausal prosody of Yemenite Bible recitation and Tiberian accents

Boris Kleiner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Contrary to the assumption that Masoretic accentuation indicates the chant motifs, the Jews of Yemen interpret the Tiberian accents as the indications of syllabic durations. As a result, the scriptural reading of Yemenite Jews possesses a peculiar prosodic structure, operating mostly through the exact recitation rhythm. Its analysis identifies, beyond the disjunctive unit, the prosodic domain of a phrasal group, delineated by the locally most prominent caesurae of Tiberian accentuation. Contrary to yet another assumption, the pausal structure within this domain, generated by the rhythmic interpretation of the accents, is not designed to express the sense of phrasal relations. Instead, the pausal rhythm is governed by a positional algorithm, with only partial reflection of sense. The analysis of the prosodic structure of Yemenite recitation discloses the parallel features in Tiberian accentuation. It also illuminates the previously misunderstood or unaccounted for prosodic phenomena in the cantillation of other Jewish diasporas and brings along new insights into the Masoretic accentuation and the reading tradition of Tiberian Hebrew.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-154
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Semitic Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2019


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