Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Plurals and Singulars

I was recently asked about the words עַמְּךָ and עַמֶּךָ which appear interchangeably in this week's פרשה. They are even found right next to each other in two adjacent פסוקים. If you look at these פסוקים, particularly the ones dealing with מכת צפרדע, there are many words that end with either a שוא or a סגול followed by כ"ף סופית. The exact nature of these words can be somewhat confusing and some explanation is definitely in order.

As I've stated on other occasions, one of the challenges as corrector is not as much correcting the בעלי קריאה as it is explaining to common folk when a correction is not warranted. The case of עַמְּךָ / עַמֶּךָ is one that is likely to trigger a knee-jerk correction but I don't believe it would be necessary. The word is actually the same but it changes to עַמֶּךָ in the pausal form (אתנחתא, סוף פסוק, etc.)

The basic rule to keep in mind for the other similar words is as follows: a סגול followed by a י and then ךָ, such as עֲבָדֶיךָ, is plural. If the י is not present, such as מִטָּתֶךָ, then it is simply singular in the pausal form. 

This being the case, I would suggest that the only example in which a correction would be required if the word was read in the wrong way would be if it is written in plural and pronounced as singular, such as if עֲבָדֶיךָ was pronounced as עַבְדְךָ. But in any other case, it can be suggested that there isn't an actual change in meaning.

However, see The נצי"ב and the Missing יו"ד for some intriguing further discussion.


Anonymous said...

When you say "pausal form (אתנחתא, סוף פסוק, etc.)" does the "etc." include a zaqef qatan? In this example, that is the trop on the word with a segol under the mem.

Yitzchak Etshalom said...

If the determining factor is syntax - such that at a pause it should read עַמֶּךָ and anywhere else עַמְּךָ, then שמות לג:טז presents a challenge. Both forms appear - and both at a זקף, which is generally considered non-pausal.