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Dagesh

Dagesh

The dagesh is a dot that can appear in the middle of most Hebrew letters, with the exception of the gutturals ( ע, ה, ח, א, ר -- in certain instances the ה, at the end of a word, may contain a dot within it [הּ] that is called a mappiq). The two most prevalent types in the Hebrew Bible are the weak dagesh, and the strong dagesh. When learning biblical Hebrew, it is important for students to distinguish between the two.

Weak Dagesh

·         Only appears in six letter of the Hebrew Alphabet, בגדכפ, and תalso known as BeGaDKeFaT.

·         Represents a single letter, therefore the peh in מִשְׁפָּחָה only has the value of a single letter, mišpāḥāh (cf. Strong Dagesh, below.)

·         As a general principle, when a dagesh appears in a BeGaDKeFaT at the beginning of a syllable, then it is weak dagesh. In the word דֶּרֶךְ for example, because the dāleth is a BeGaDKeFaT and appears at the beginning of a syllable (the beginning of the word), it is a weak dagesh. Similarly, because the silent shewa marks the end of a syllable, we see a weak dagesh opening the second syllable in מִשְׁפָּחָה

·         In certain instances, weak dagesh lene is absent from the beginning of a word. This usually happens when the word appears after an open syllable.

Strong Dagesh

·         Appears in any letter, with the exception of the gutturals, as mentioned above; therefore, a dagesh appearing in any non- BeGaDKeFaT is a strong dagesh.

·         When Strong dagesh is present within a BeGaDKeFaT, it has the same effect of a weak dagesh regarding pronunciation: it changes the spirant into a plosive.

·         Strong Dagesh usually represents gemination, a doubling of letters. The form בִּקֵּש is transliterated as biqqēš because the strong dagesh represents a geminated qof. (The doubling may come as a result of assimilation, when a weak letter such as nun joins the letter it follows)

·         The strong dagesh appears after any full vowel whether long or short, as with the word שִׁשָּׁה.

·         In certain circumstances the strong dagesh is omitted over a shewa when it is ordinarily expected. Thus, in Exod 4:19 we meet the form הַמְבַקְשִׁים (from בִּקֵּשׁ) without an expected strong dagesh in the qof

·         Certain verb patterns automatically include dagesh forte as part of their formation. For example, the dagesh forte in the verb בִּקֵּש (piel) is part of the stem.

·         Certain noun patterns similarly include a strong dagesh as part of their formation ( e.g., כַּלָּה ).

 

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