Re: Hebrew pronounciation

SAK2120 (
Sun, 21 Dec 1997 23:13:43 EST

Daniel Korobkin writes:
<<From a lingusitic point of view, there are more flaws in sefardic Hebrew
than Ashkenazic Hebrew for the following simple reason: working under the
assumption that no two letters sound alike and no two vowels sound alike,
we find more distinctions in Ashkenazic Hebrew than in Sefardic.

Sefardic Hebrew (at least the way it's spoken in Israel today) does not
distinguish between the kawmetz and the pathach, whearas Ashkenazic pron.
does. Sef. Hebrew does not distinguish between the letter tav with a dagesh
and without a dagesh, and Ashkenazic Hebrew does. Granted, Ashk. Hebrew is
also not correct in this distinction as it pronounces the "soft" tav like a
samech, but at least the distinction is there.>>

There is probably no community that still speaks & has spoken Hebrew from
antiquity until now and we have no tapes of ancient Hebrew. We can't prove
exactly whether ancient Hebrew was spoken like Ashkenzi, Sephardi, Israeli
or Yemenite pronounciation from there. There are, however, communities that
still speak Hebrew's sister language, Aramaic, specifically Jews from
Kurdistan (part of Iraq and Turkey), non-Jews from Kurdistan and some
villages in Syria. As I understand it their pronounciation is nothing at
all like Ashkenazic Hebrew as does not have the Sav - it has the Tav. I am
assuming that ancient Hebrew was probably pronounced similarly to ancient
Aramaic. Maybe I'm wrong. So although Rabbi Korobkin's idea makes sense
it's not necessarily true.

We all agree that Israeli (Sabra type) Hebrew is not real Sephardic Hebrew.
What is it? A hybrid, with elements of Ashkenazic and Sephardic
pronounciations mixed. Millions of Israeli speak this hybrid. While we're
at it, American Ashkenazic Hebrew does not sound like our Grandparents'
Ashkenazic Hebrew. Our Raysh sounds like an American "R" sound and our
other letters sound like English also. That makes it a hybrid also. Is it
legitimate? Many of us can not pronounce differently. English is our
native tongue.

Where does that leave us halachically? The Mishne Berurah says that those
Jews from Russia who can't say Shibolet & say Sibolet (like shevet
Binyamin) instead can still daven and layn for us. I assume that our
Israeli and American hybrid Hebrews are also valid. A Jew should daven
with whatever accent he's most comfortable with rather than lose his
kavannah by faking another accent. What then should we watch out for in
pronounciation? Milel and milera distinctions - (stressing the1st or 2nd
syllable of a word according to correct Hebrew grammar), the meteg (meseg),
sheva na and sheva nach (accented or unaccented sheva), and the ayin should
be pronounced guturally and nasally if at all possible, (here the Shulchan
Aruch & Mishne Berura agree and I haven't seen anyone disagree). There are
certainly others but that what comes to mind right now.

Sam Kosofsky