[b-hebrew] Re: variant pronunciation

Dora Smith villandra at austin.rr.com
Sat Apr 17 13:48:11 EDT 2004

Honest to God, even with my dyslexia, it didn't take me long to notice that
in Spanish half the time r  morphs into d or th - or no systematic reason
anyone has successfully explained to me.   It drives me crazy - and I refuse
to pronounce it that way until I understand it.  It would take me five
minutes to make a complete fool of myself pronouncing it that way on the
wrong word!

I took 3/4 of first year Biblical Hebrew with a Near Eastern archeologist
who was a Conservative Jew - and I attended synagogue for several years and
learned prayers, hymns - and never ONCE heard or said the th sound.   And
many of those people pronounce in Azhkenazic Hebrew - which sounds terrible
and also drives me crazy.   "AdonOI"?    Yipe!    Hebrew teacher traced the
history of the word "Ishah" for us on the board, beginning with Akkadian
cuneiform - so I strongly doubt that d or t are often pronoucned th and
noone told me!

Whatever the explanation for dalet and tau morphing into th is, can you guys
please provide an explanation that makes sense in light of competent people
and entire temples full of them not ever pronouncing it that way?

Dora Smith
Austin, Texas
villandra at austin.rr.com
----- Original Message -----
From: "Joel Nothman" <jnothman at student.usyd.edu.au>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Saturday, April 17, 2004 5:42 AM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Re: variant pronunciation

> > Dora Smith wrote:
> >> Did y'all know that (according to exactly half of my resources)
> >> dalet is pronounced "th" like the Welsh dd?  I didn't know this sound
> >> existed in Hebrew!
> This is actually quite common knowledge among users of Hebrew, and is also
> often noted in academic Hebrew.
> On Fri, 16 Apr 2004 21:47:45 -0400, Trevor Peterson <06peterson at cua.edu>
> wrote:
> > It doesn't in Modern Israeli Hebrew, which follows the Sephardic
> > tradition.
> This is a bit of a generalisation. "Sephardic" is a very bad umbrella term
> for the Jewish communities hailing from North Africa, the Middle East,
> etc...
> But in a number of these places, particularly where Arabic is spoken, a
> number of the characteristics mentioned by Dora are present. A number of
> communities pronounce th for thav (last letter of aleph-beth without
> dagesh); fewer pronounce dh (as in "the") for daleth withut dagesh,
> although I have heard it noted that some Iraqi communities do this
> regularly only on some common words, such as Adhonai, but not in general.
> Many sephardic/oriental communities do pronounce waw rather than vav- this
> letter is also in Arabic. Yemenite Hebrew also retains a ghimmel and in
> fact a jimmel for the gimmel without and with dagesh, respecitvely.
> The tav-thaw variation is also related to the fact that Ashkenazi
> (European) Hebrew pronounces this letter as sav.
> Providing such plosive/fricative distinctions completes the set of letters
> that take dagesh in the same way orthographically, known as the "beged
> kefet" (beth, gimmel, daleth, kaph, peh, taw).
> Also of note here is that a number of these communities also pronounce vet
> (bet without dagesh) as b. It was once likely a bilabial fricative, which
> is not so easy to pronounce and so seems to fall out of languages - it
> sounds somewhere between v and b. This sound also accounts (in Latin
> Spanish) for the spellings of Habana/Havana. It may also account for
> "Jacob" and "Job" and not "Jakov" and "Jov".
> Additional dialectal phonetic variations in modern pronunciation exist,
> again mostly present between some oriental communities and the rest of the
> population who have seemingly normalised their sounds to reflect
> surrounding changes, or a Europeanisation.
> These include gutturals:
> - Aleph is varies in its distinction as a glottal stop between various
> accents (also depends on where it appears in the word, eg few pronounce it
> as a glottal stop at the end of a word; many do at the start of a
> syllable, though less often if this is the start of a word or after an
> open syllable).
> - 'Ayin as a guttural is often pronounced among oriental/Sephardic
> communities. Sometimes it is pronounced a bit further forward than the
> Arabic 'ayin.
> - Het (or "Chet") is pronounced as an unvoiced 'ayin in similar amounts of
> communities to 'ayin
> - He is also somewhat varied, particularly in modern pronunciations
> It is interesting to note that khaf-het and sometimes aleph-'ayin
> distinctions are made in older members of the Jerusalem community of
> Ashkenazi background, though it seems there are a few dialectal
> differences in Modern Hebrew between Jerusalemites and the rest of Israel.
> Also pronounced differently by some Sephardi communities are:
> - Ssade (tsade) is prounounced as an emphatic s-sound (like Sad in Arabic)
> - Quf is pronounced further back (uvular) than kaf, like the q in Iraq
> should be. Still, this distinction has been lost in a number of Arabic
> dialects, and so is not present in corresponding Jewish dialects.
> I have not heard any distinctive tet, although this should be an emphatic
> - like sade - and is also present in Arabic.
> Hmm. That was long. I hope also of interest!
> - Joel
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