Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On the te`amim

This quote from John Wheeler's article as presented to SBL/AAR and IOMS (International Organization of Masoretic Studies) in 2005 identifies the tension in the interpretation of the te`amim
The syntactic paradigm defines the graphemes as a hierarchy of disjunctives and conjunctives. Their forms are distributed haphazardly below and above the words, and also when taken in order of relative strength. 
By contrast, the melodic paradigm defines the graphemes as a series of sublinear degrees of a tonal scale and of superlinear ornaments of one to three tones each. The forms of the graphemes (especially the sublinear ones) appear to be systematic when they are taken in order of musical importance. This is because in the melodic paradigm, the forms of the graphemes are directly related to their melodic meanings.
I find SHV's paradigm - the musical - to be much more compelling than the recent traditional interpretation. Both use the syntax of the Hebrew as a  “virtual bilingual” necessary to define each ta`am and its function.