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“Double Segmentation” in Biblical Hebrew Poetry and the Poetic Cantillation System

Pages 333 - 352


The principle of double segmentation is at work in Biblical Hebrew poetry in spite of the structural parallelism: both syntactic and poetic segmentations are evident, giving place to dynamic discrepancies between these two levels. In order to illustrate this claim I turned to the poetic system of cantillation of Three books examined for the selected Psalms corpus. I claimed that the poetic system of cantillation manifests poetic prosody, sensitive to the poetic segmentation: (1) there are two patterns of versification for couplets and for triplets; (2) there are explicit prosodic rules that set a poetic line as a long conjunctive sequence marked by a monotonous pitch contour and an a-semantic boundary pause, namely as a prosodic unit on its own. However, the cantillation system of Three books is also responsive to the syntactic segmentation: (1) the patterns of doubles and triplets can be sporadically used for pragmatically marked constituents, glossing, pivot phrase, and in order to avoid heavy enjambments; (2) the system is not uniform processing too long poetic units, apparently due to their complex syntactic structure; (3) if the syntax strongly contradicts the versification, the cantillation system would rather follow the syntactic segmentation.


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