Cantillation is the ritual chanting of readings from the Hebrew Bible in synagogue services. The chants are written and notated in accordance with the signs or marks printed in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible to complement the letters. These marks are known in English as accents, notes or trope symbols, some of these signs were also sometimes used in medieval manuscripts of the Mishnah. The musical motifs associated with the signs are known in Hebrew as niggun or neginot and in Yiddish as טראָפ trop, three systems of Hebrew punctuation have been used, the Babylonian, the Palestinian and the Tiberian, only the last of which is used today. Babylonian Biblical manuscripts from the Geonic period contain no cantillation marks in the current sense, up to eight different letters are found, depending on the importance of the break and where it occurs in the verse, these correspond roughly to the disjunctives of the Tiberian system. For example, in some manuscripts the letter tav, for tevir, in general there are no symbols for the conjunctives, though some late manuscripts use the Tiberian symbols for these. There is also no equivalent for low-grade disjunctives such as telishah gedolah, nothing is known of the musical realization of these marks, but it seems likely that they represent breaks or variations in a set melody applied to each verse. It is notable that the Yemenite Jews have only eight disjunctive motifs, the Babylonian system, as mentioned above, is mainly concerned with showing breaks in the verse. These sequences are linked by a series of dots, beginning or ending with a dash or a dot in a different place to show which sequence is meant. Unaccented words are shown by a dot following the word. There are separate symbols for more elaborate tropes like pazer and telisha gedolah, in some other manuscripts, in particular those containing Targumim rather than original text, the Tiberian symbols have been added by a later hand. In general, it may be observed that the Palestinian and Tiberian systems are far more related to each other than either is to the Babylonian. The somewhat inconsistent use of dots above and below the words as disjunctives is closely similar to found in Syriac texts. Kahle also notes some similarity with the punctuation of Samaritan Hebrew, the Tiberian Masoretes therefore decided to invent a comprehensive notation with a symbol on each word, to replace the fragmentary systems previously in use. In particular, it was necessary to invent a range of different conjunctive accents to show how to introduce, the system they devised is the one in use today, and is found in Biblical manuscripts such as the Aleppo Codex. A Masoretic treatise called Diqduqe ha-teamim by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher survives, as the accents were not shown on a Torah scroll, it was found necessary to have a person making hand signals to the reader to show the tune, as in the Byzantine system of neumes. This system of cheironomy survives in some communities to the present day and it is speculated that both the shapes and the names of some of the accents may refer to the hand signals rather than to the syntactical functions or melodies denoted by them. Today in most communities there is no system of hand signals, the Tiberian system spread quickly and was accepted in all communities by the 13th century
Image: TAMI MIKRA ASHKENAZ
Image: TAMI MIKRA MIZRAH
Genesis 1:9: God said, "Let the waters be collected." Letters in black, vowel points and d'geshim (gemination marks) in red, cantillation in blue.