Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nach and Na

Last time we touched on words, letters, and vowels, focusing on the sheva. We characterized the sheva as neutral in comparison with the other vowels, which represent distinct enunciations. We noted that there were two senses in which the sheva might represent neutrality. In one, it represents the absence of vowel enunciation; and in the other it stands for an enunciation that is tame in comparison with the enunciations represented by the other vowels. We now want to point out that the former is called a sheva nach and the latter a sheva na. The nach in sheva nach connotes resting; the na in sheva na connotes moving. Another way of looking at it is to say that a sheva na is used to designate receptivity, while a sheva nach is used to suggest conveyance.  When a sheva nach occurs, the affected letter does not initiate an enunciation at all. It merely receives the enunciation conveyed by the letter that precedes it, according to its vowel-indicated enunciation. That is, some letters – most – are enunciated from, as it were, the bottom; but others, as is the case with a letter inflected by a sheva na, are enunciated from the top. It is rather as if the enunciation of the vowel precedes the articulation of the affected letter – and not the other way around. A sheva na, by contrast, operates comparably to the various other vowels. The sound it represents is enunciated after the letter itself has already been articulated – or, if you will, it modifies the articulation of this letter. As a consequence of this difference, the sheva nach will be understood to necessarily occur at the close of a syllable; while a sheva na will be seen as commencing a new syllable.


Letters are like Yidden. Take the members of a shul. Each is a soul unto himself. But taken by himself, he can’t do anything. He can’t express himself. He has got a sound to make, but he can’t vent it. So he takes a job and finds his place. Now he has a voice. Now he can make himself heard. He speaks as an occupant of the job role he performs. The role enables him to make his inner self be heard. The role per se has nothing to say. But it equips its holder with a medium through which to express himself. It not only gives him a voice; it also assigns him a position in a social structure. As a result, he is brought into relations with occupants of various positions – his own and others – in this structure. The position he occupies determines the relations he enjoys with co-members. Relations with co-occupants of the role are particularly strong. But relations with occupants of adjacent roles need not be too weak either. And sometimes these latter relations mushroom into indirect relations with occupants of non-adjacent roles. And on and on it goes. Not only that, the position itself is affected and modified as a result of its composition in occupants. They help define its very essence. In turn, the occupants are brought into relations with new sets of people. For as a result of their impact on the role they occupy, they have caused this role form relations with roles hitherto unavailable. And when roles interrelate and grow interdependent, so do the occupants of those roles. It is an ever spiraling process.           
All of this impacts dramatically on the capacity of the member to express himslf and make himself heard.

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