[b-hebrew] Yemenite/Sephardic/Ashkenazi [was: Ex 6:6 hiphil imperative 'bring']

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Tue Jul 16 19:30:46 EDT 2013

Hi Chris,

On Tue, 16 Jul 2013 10:57:26 +0100, Chris Watts <dekruidnootjes at eircom.net> wrote:
> just a quick interjection here, and not taking sides since it is hard
> to follow.  But it was said that Karl pronounces vav as a 'w'.  Well
> I read a long time ago that the yemenite jews were considered to have
> a purer pronounciation than the western jews, this was written by an
> israeli, unfortunately I really can not remember where I read this.
> Anyway they pronounced all their vavs as 'w' and also they made
> distinctions between a soft 'gimmel and a hard gimmel (like the
> english gerrard for example) and also a they made distinctions
> between a hard tav and a soft tav (almost like the 'th' in there).
> Now this probably has no bearing on the present discussion, but I
> thought perhaps it note worthy of interest.  Especially since I do
> remember very clearly that odd statement by the Jewish linguist who
> wrote the article saying that he considered this to be a 'purer'
> pronounciation. I thought that maybe he knew something that would
> have been interesting to learn, but he never talked about why he
> thought that, pity.

In many respects, I think this is true, but the reasons lie in the
linguistic context.  Consider the Y. pronunciation of waw as [w]
vs. the S. & A. pronunciation as [v].  The Y. pronunciation does
preserve an older pronunciation, but the reason isn't simply because
Y. is naturally conservative, but because of the linguistic milieu.

The host language, Arabic, has [w], so there would be no difficulty in
using it in Hebrew also.  But in lot of Europe, including Iberia and
Central/Eastern Europe, an earlier [w] had developed into [v].  Under
these circumstances, it would be natural to adopt the host-language
phonemic inventory when pronouncing Hebrew, hence replacing [w] with

What about differences in pronunciation for the BGDKPT letters?  Let's
see, in most of Europe [ð] doesn't occur, so no distinction between
daleth with and without the daghesh, both [d].  In Classical Arabic
and some (though not all) modern dialects [ð] does occur, so Y. Hebrew
can make the distinction.

Likewise for [θ].  In most of continental Europe, [θ] doesn't occur,
so [θ] in Hebrew was replaced, by [t] is S., by [s] in A.  But in
Arabic, [θ] does occur (under the same circumstances as [ð]), so the
opposition in Hebrew of [t] vs. [θ] could be maintained.

Let's look at gimel.  In most of Europe, [ɣ] doesn't occur, so no
distinction between Hebrew gimel with or without daghesh, both [g].
But Arabic *has* a [ɣ], so a distinction between gimel with and
without the daghesh can be made.  Hold on, though.  It appears that
Y. gimel with daghesh is pronounced [dʒ] rather than [g].  Could this
by any chance have something to do with an earlier Arabic [g]
developing into [dʒ] in most (although not all) dialects?

No problem with beth, kaph, and pe - [v], [x], and [f] are all common
in continental European languages.

One last thing - the distinction between emphatic and non-emphatics
has been eliminated in the European S. & A. pronunciations, but are
maintained in Y.  Arabic, of course has such distinctions, but
European languages do not.  (In the case of sadhe, a reasonable
substitution with the affricate [ts] could be made.)

I think you can see a pattern here - the S., A. & Y. pronunciations
are all limited to adapting Hebrew phonology to that of the host

ὣς ἔφατο
Will Parsons

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