Tanach Cantillation Concordance: A unique way to look at the Hebrew Bible

  1. 1. László Hunyadi

    Andrew W. Mellon Fellow Albright Institute of Archeological Research, Department of General and Applied Linguistics - KLTE

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Tanach Cantillation Concordance: A unique way to look
at the Hebrew Bible

Andrew W. Mellon Fellow Albright Institute of
Archeological Research,, Jerusalem Dept. of General and
Applied Linguistics KLTE, Debrecen, Hungary


University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA





I. Purpose of work
There is a long history of the study of the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible (the
Five Books of Moses, the Prophets and the Holy Scriptures). Several
disciplines have studied its important properties from various viewpoints.
The theological, historical, literary as well as linguistic interest of
philologists of all times has largely been based on the contextual and
textual analysis of the Tanach. Such an analysis is facilitated by
concordances, special dictionary-like elaborations of the text, which
consist of lists of identical word-forms in their textual environment thus
enabling the researcher to study words (and concepts reflected by these
words) as well as longer expressions (and more complex concepts) in all
their occurences. Research has been based on such concordances actually for
centuries now.
With time passing and Hebrew less and less remaining a spoken language, it
became a necessity to preserve the original sense of the individual texts.
More than a millenium ago, schools were established in Palestine to find
ways of indicating the original sense of the texts by designing a special
set of signs to accompany the original consonantal version. Two such sets
were set up: one for the denotation of vowels (the nikuds, for grammatical
information) and one for the denotation of cantillation (the trops, for
melodies of public reading). Since the function of the latter was to
preserve the primary semantic and communicative properties of the text, and
since these properties have well-established formal (syntactic) relevance,
the indication of the melodic structure by the cantillation signs also
yields significant syntactic and semantic information about the text
However informative these signs can be, research has practically been
oriented to just the primary aspect of the text, i.e., to its consonantal
form, the form scriptures were traditionally written in: concordances, the
basic tools of textual research have only considered these consonantal
forms. It is with the Tanach Cantillation Concordance that research can now
enter a fundamentally new phase. The Tanach Cantillation Concordance offers
a very special organization of text based on standard concordance format.
Texts are not only organized by consonants (as usual conocordances are), but
by vowels (nikuds) and cantillation signs (tropes) as well. It results in
concordances in which it is not only consonantal forms of words and
expression that can be found and grouped together with their appropriate
textual environment, but vowel patterns aand cantillation patterns as well.
The result is something similar to a hypothetical dictionary of, say, the
music of Beethoven, where, in addition to a list of all the musical sounds
(and their environments) used by the composer, all the rhythmic patterns of
his music, regardless of the tunes they are realized in, are listed.
Similarly, this Tanach Cantillation Concordance offers the researcher the
chance to view not only the words and their environment of the biblical
text, but also all the possible combinations of the cantillation marks,
i.e., all the possible structural cantillation units of public reading. And
all this in a combination of alphabetization and vocalization as well as in
the natural Hebrew textual environment, essential features, which the only
cantillation condordance known to the author to have been published so far
does not offer.
At last, since these signs have a direct relation to the syntactic structure
of the text as well, this concordance gives the unique chance to researchers
to unfold the syntactic properties of all the texts of the Tanach. In this
way, one can derive a linguistic representation of the texts similar to what
is nowadays called 'parsing'; with a very important difference, however:
parsing is made today by the help of computers, whereas those parsings were
made by hand during many decades more than a thousand years ago. What is
still common in them is that one needs computers to bring to light these
hidden features of the ancient texts.

II. Description of work

A. What the Tanach Cantillation Concordance does and what it does not
What it does
1. It is a concordance of the complete Tanach, based
on the Soncino Classic Collection CD-ROM, published by
Davka, 1996.
2. It displays actual Biblical text.
3. Search has been done according to the alphabet, the
vowel signs and the cantillation signs both separately
and in combination (about a hundred various
4. As a result of these combinations, the various
lists generated show
a. identical roots with different vocalization
and accentuation;
b. dentical vocalization patterns with
different roots and accentuation;
c. identical accentuation patterns with
different roots and vocalization.

5. Searches are of two kinds:
a. they basically follow the patterns of the
disjunctive accents in their possible combination
with conjunctives, as described in earlier
descriptive work showing the various actual
patterns of the primary accent clauses, including
atnah andsilluq;
b. there are certain lists which show the
secondary accent clauses, such as tipcha-mercha
and tipcha-munah.

6. Lists are of two kinds:
a. alphabetical/vocalization/accentuation
b. ordered by frequency.

7.References are given by book and chapter.
8.It is an a tergo concordance which makes it possible
to group together different roots with identical
morphological endings.

What it does not do
1. It does not make a morphological/lexical analysis
of the word-forms.
2. It is not a descriptive approach to cantillation:
it does not describe the sequence of occurences of
cantillation signs in a verse, instead, it lists all the
occurences of prescribed cantillation patterns.

However, all the actual sequences of the cantillation signs
are retreavable from the core list.

B. Some advantages of the Torah Cantillation Concordance
1. It is based on the complete Tanach.
2. It reflects the accuracy of the Soncino Tanach.
3. With no numerical codes but actual Biblical text displayed,
it is easily readable.
4. With its searches based on the alphabet, the vowel signs as
well as the cantillation signs, it combines the advantages of
both the traditional (alphabetical) concordances and the
existing cantillation concordance.
5. Its a tergo feature of listing offers all the benefits of
reverse alphabetizing without making a compromise to traditional
values of concordances.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

June 9, 1999 - June 13, 1999

102 works by 157 authors indexed

Series: ACH/ICCH (19), ALLC/EADH (26), ACH/ALLC (11)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None