Professor Kenneth Turner of Bryan College emailed me recently about another subtle feature in the grammar of Gen 1.1, given in (1).
(1) Gen 1:1
בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃
He and his students have been working through the various issues, and reading my VT article and some older posts I made here and here, and they came up with a fascinating question: does the disjunctive accent on ראשׁית (which is a טפחא) provide any support for taking the word as the free or bound form?
Now, I must admit that while I have read by the טעמים since my first year of graduate school (when I learned how they worked and how to chant them from Michael Fox), I don’t claim to understand all the subtleties of their patterns. I’m fairly sure that B. Elan Dresher’s argument that they are essentially prosodic is right, or at least, heading in the right direction. But beyond that, I’m not always sure what the טעמים are indicating.
The question by Professor Turner is the second טעם question in two weeks. The first one was by Professor Gary Rendsburg (Rutgers), who asked me about the possible relative use of זה in Exod 13.8, given in (2).
(2) Exod 13.8
וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣ לְבִנְךָ֔ בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא לֵאמֹ֑ר בַּעֲב֣וּר זֶ֗ה עָשָׂ֤ה יְהוָה֙ לִ֔י בְּצֵאתִ֖י מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃
The problem here, as in Gen 1.1, is the presence of a disjunctive accent (in this case, a רביע) on the word in question. The two issues are closely related: 1) can a bound word carry a disjunctive accent?, and 2) can the relative element carry a disjunctive accent?
Using the powerful yet easy-to-use Accordance Bible software and the Westminster tagged text, I performed two simple searches, the first for a bound noun with a טפחא, the second for אשׁר with a טפחא. The results for each were determinative: 2301 examples of a bound noun with טפחא, as in (3), occur in Westminster’s electronic Leningrad text and 251 examples of אשׁר with טפחא occur, as in (4).
(3) Gen 1.20
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יִשְׁרְצ֣וּ הַמַּ֔יִם שֶׁ֖רֶץ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה וְעוֹף֙ יְעוֹפֵ֣ף עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ עַל־פְּנֵ֖י רְקִ֥יעַ הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃
(4) Gen 1.7
וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִים֮ אֶת־הָרָקִיעַ֒ וַיַּבְדֵּ֗ל בֵּ֤ין הַמַּ֙יִם֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לָרָקִ֔יעַ וּבֵ֣ין הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר מֵעַ֣ל לָרָקִ֑יעַ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃
It seems clear to me that the pattern of the טעם depends on the prosodic features of the context before and especially after the bound noun or אשׁר. That is, if what follows is considered to be a tighter prosodic unit, as with ברא אלהים in Gen 1.1, then those two words will have the conjunctive-disjunctive pair and the preceding בראשׁית will have a disjunctive to indicate that it is a preceding prosodic unit. Or, in cases of very short phrases, as with וּבְנֵ֖י גֹּ֑מֶר in Gen 10.3, the disjunctive must reflect a principle of at least one disjunctive within an אתנחתא unit. Heady stuff, these principles of the טעמים.
Edited addition: For Gen 1.1 and Exod 13.8, though, the critical point is that the disjunctive accent on the two words in question absolutely does not prohibit my relative analyses.
Below are the screenshots of the two Accordance searches, for those interested in seeing the results themselves. Note that you made need to consult the Accordance Help to find the right key-strokes to enter the accents into the Character field (for these searches, I used the regular, narrow, and wide versions of טפחא in order to cover the bases).
** I forgot to add the reference for Dresher:
Dresher, Bezalel Elan. 1994. The Prosodic Basis of the Tiberian Hebrew System of Accents. Language 70 (1): 1-52.