Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

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Biblical Accents: Cantillation
(4,262 words)

In the synagogue the Hebrew Bible is not simply read, but chanted according to an ancient system of melodic motifs, notated in scriptural codices in the form of graphic symbols superimposed above and below the words. The art of chanting the Bible is called ‘cantillation’, a word derived from the Latin cantare, meaning ‘to sing’. In the traditional Jewish liturgy, cantillation is performed by a solo singer, appropriately qualified and prepared, who chants the sacred text for the congregation according to the ancient traditional melodies, unaccompanied, in a free, speech-like rhythm.


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Jacobson, Joshua R., “Biblical Accents: Cantillation”, in: Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Edited by: Geoffrey Khan. Consulted online on 27 February 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2212-4241_ehll_EHLL_COM_00000841>
First published online: 2013
First print edition: 9789004176423

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