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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 12

§12. Dageš in general,[1] and Dageš forte in particular.

Cf. Graetz, ‘Die mannigfache Anwendung u. Bedeut. des Dagesch,’ in Monatsschr. für Gesch. u. Wiss. d. Judent., 1887, pp. 425 ff. and 473 ff.

1. Dageš, a point standing in the middle of a consonant,[2] denotes, according to §11, (a) the strengthening[3] of a consonant (Dageš forte), e.g. קִטֵּל‎ qiṭṭēl (§20); or (b) the harder pronunciation of the letters בְּגַדְכְּפַת‎ (Dageš lene). For a variety of the latter, now rarely used in our printed texts, see §13c.

The root דגשׁ‎ in Syriac means to pierce through, to bore through (with sharp iron); hence the name Dageš is commonly explained, solely with reference to its form, by puncture, point. But the names of all similar signs are derived rather from their grammatical significance. Accordingly דגשׁ‎ may in the Masora have the sense: acuere (literam), i.e. to sharpen a letter, as well as to harden it, i.e. to pronounce it as hard and without aspiration. דָּגֵשׁ‎ acuens (literam) would then be a sign of sharpening and hardening (like Mappîq מַפִּיק‎ proferens, as signum prolationis), for which purposes a prick of the pen, or puncture, was selected. The opposite of Dageš is רָפֶה‎ soft, §14e, and §22n.

2. In grammar Dageš forte, the sign of strengthening, is the more important. It may be compared to the sicilicus of the Latins (Lucul̂us for Lucullus) or to the stroke over and . In the unpointed text it is omitted, like the vowels and other reading signs.

For the different kinds of Dageš forte, see §20.

  1. Oort, Theol. Tijdschr. 1902, p. 376, maintains that ‘the Masoretes recognized no distinction between Dageš lene and forte. They used a Dageš where they considered that a letter had the sharp, not the soft or aspirated sound.’ This may be true; but the old-established distinction between the two kinds of Dageš is essential for the right understanding of the grammatical forms.
  2. Wāw with Dageš (וּ‎) cannot in our printed texts be distinguished from a wāw pointed as Šûrĕq (וּ‎); in the latter case the point should stand higher up. The וּ‎ û is, however, easily to be recognized since it cannot take a vowel before or under it.
  3. Stade, Lehrb. der hebr. Gr., Lpz. 1879, pp. 44, 103, rightly insists on the expression strengthened pronunciation instead of the older term doubling, since the consonant in question is only written once. The common expression arises from the fact that in transcription a strengthened consonant can only be indicated by writing it as double.
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