Author Topic: More than one Hebrew  (Read 8505 times)

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Offline rhayat1

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More than one Hebrew
« on: January 26, 2010, 01:33:24 PM »
The Hebrew used in Israel today (by and large) is mostly based on European Hebrew.  It is a fallacy that it is based on Oriental Hebrew (sometimes mistakenly called "Sephardic").  Here are some examples of Europeanisms that have been adopted in Israel:

Ghimel - the soft (non-dagesh) form of this letter has been lost.

Dhalet - the soft (non-dagesh) form of this letter has been lost - though it was only maintained in Yemen and certain parts of Iraq, including Baghdad.  This is necessary to conform to the requirement of "lengthening the dhalet" in the word "Ehadh" while reciting the Shema'

He - this letter is being replaced, in common speech, by the aleph.  I have a treatise by a Jerusalem Ashkenazic rabbi bemoaning this fact.  Very interesting but not actually a "Europeanism" still I thought I'd mention it here.

Waw - this letter, which should be pronounced as an English "w" has been replaced by "v" as in a German trying to say "I wish to thank you" but saying "I vish to sank you".

Het - A guttural letter, it has been replaced by the glottal soft "khaf".  This changes the meaning of many words and even disguises the Semitic origins of Hebrew, making it sound more like German.

Tet - this is supposed to be a nasal "t", more blunt than the "t" we use in English.  It has been replaced by the hard "Taw".

Ayin - this has been replaced by Alef.  See comments on Het.

Sade - there are no diphthongs in Hebrew; each letter is a pure sound.  But this letter has been transformed into the Germanic "ts".  Also, the name of the letter is "Sade", not "tsadik".

Qof - should have a somewhat metallic sound and distinct from the hard "kaf".  It has been rendered identical to "kaf".

Resh - like all Semitic languages, the resh is formed in the front part of the mouth as in Spanish, Russian and Arabic.  Modern Israelis, having learned from their German and Polish school teachers, got in the habit of replacing it with the glottal soft gh sound.  This transformation makes the language harder to understand and, at least when I was in Israel, radio speakers took pains to pronounce the resh correctly for this reason.  It is sad to see so many Russian immigrants taking pains to forget their "r" in favor of the "Israeli" r when they had it right to begin with.

Thaw - this is the only letter where they adopted Sephardic tradition;  but even so, it is incorrect.  The soft thaw is English "th" as in "thirty".

The strong dagesh - completely ignored, it is the hallmark of a Semitic language.  What a shame.

Metheg/G'ayah - the lengthening of certain vowels is also a hallmark of Semitic languages.  It has been forgotten.

There is much more to this and I've only scratched the surface.  My dear departed mentor, Ben Siyyon Cohen, wrote two books on the matter, "Sephath Emeth" and "Qosht Imre Emeth" where he proves what I've written (and more) beyond any shadow of a doubt.

                                                                                                                           
« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 03:01:57 PM by rhayat1 »

Offline Lisa

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2010, 02:40:45 PM »
Interesting. 

Offline Edward

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2010, 03:00:39 PM »
This is very interesting, I always thought that the Israeli accent does not represent the true ancient Hebrew. It sounds more like the Dutch accent.. especially their Khet and Shin.

Offline rhayat1

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2010, 08:27:00 PM »
This is very interesting, I always thought that the Israeli accent does not represent the true ancient Hebrew. It sounds more like the Dutch accent.. especially their Khet and Shin.

Actually the shin is one of the few letters that have not been altered much over time (if at all).

I think it's worth noting that Eli'ezer ben Yehuda was all for restoring Hebrew to its former glory as a true Semitic language.  He borrowed heavily from Arabic and favored the mideastern accent.  Unfortunately, his opinion was not heeded in this matter and the vast majority of those with power and influence we Ashkenazim, amongst whom very few had either the will or the knowledge to restore Hebrew as a Mideastern language.  For a long time, it was not permitted for anybody who spoke Hebrew with a Mideastern dialect to speak on television as an announcer.  In a sense, there was a campaign to destroy Mideastern Hebrew - much as there is a campaign to destroy Southern English here in the U.S.  As for radio, they did allow traces of mideastern Hebrew there - but not much.  In schools, the children were taught only European Hebrew.  Though there were (are?) societies for the preservation of the 'Ayin (for example), it is an uphill struggle partly because Israelis, by and large, hate Arabs and anything associated with them; hence, they do not want their language sounding anything like Arabic.  They would rather it sound like German.  Go figure.  As for my experiences in Israel with Hebrew, I could tell you stories...

Offline Edward

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2010, 02:56:16 AM »
They don't use the Ayin, because it makes their language to sound like Arabic?

Online Zelhar

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2010, 03:49:55 AM »
This is very interesting, I always thought that the Israeli accent does not represent the true ancient Hebrew. It sounds more like the Dutch accent.. especially their Khet and Shin.

Actually the shin is one of the few letters that have not been altered much over time (if at all).

I think it's worth noting that Eli'ezer ben Yehuda was all for restoring Hebrew to its former glory as a true Semitic language.  He borrowed heavily from Arabic and favored the mideastern accent.  Unfortunately, his opinion was not heeded in this matter and the vast majority of those with power and influence we Ashkenazim, amongst whom very few had either the will or the knowledge to restore Hebrew as a Mideastern language.  For a long time, it was not permitted for anybody who spoke Hebrew with a Mideastern dialect to speak on television as an announcer.  In a sense, there was a campaign to destroy Mideastern Hebrew - much as there is a campaign to destroy Southern English here in the U.S.  As for radio, they did allow traces of mideastern Hebrew there - but not much.  In schools, the children were taught only European Hebrew.  Though there were (are?) societies for the preservation of the 'Ayin (for example), it is an uphill struggle partly because Israelis, by and large, hate Arabs and anything associated with them; hence, they do not want their language sounding anything like Arabic.  They would rather it sound like German.  Go figure.  As for my experiences in Israel with Hebrew, I could tell you stories...
I don't know where you take your information from. For years the radio broadcasters of "Kol Israel" have been keeping with very strict and correct pronunciation, the Ayin was pronounced like Ayin as it should, the Resh was pronounced with rolled tongued. Listen to the veteran news reader Dan Kaner who is steal around:
 

Online Zelhar

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2010, 03:58:33 AM »
Here is more from Dan Kaner:


Offline rhayat1

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2010, 08:48:38 PM »
Not bad - relatively speaking.  Much better than most Israelis but still not authentic old-time Hebrew.  His qof and kaf sound the same.  His waw sounds just like a veth.  He makes no distinction between gimel and ghimel (without a dagesh - same for taw and thaw, daleth and dhaleth).  Of course I can't blame him; if he spoke real, proper, Hebrew the vast majority of Israelis would not even recognize it so compromise he must.  It would be nice is most Israelis spoke like him; it would sound so much better.  Then, little by little, maybe they could learn the other details.

Offline Edward

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2010, 09:26:36 PM »
Then according to what you say, the true authentic old-time Hebrew language sounds like Arabic..?

Offline rhayat1

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2010, 10:16:25 PM »
Then according to what you say, the true authentic old-time Hebrew language sounds like Arabic..?

It would sound like Arabic to the untrained ear.  And the reason I say so is that I have plenty of evidence - which I'd be happy to share if you'd like.

Offline Edward

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2010, 03:36:59 PM »
rhayat
I studied linguistics and I am interested in languages, I speak 5 different languages.
But unfortunatelly I know almost nothing about the old language of my dear nation.. I'd like you to share this interesting information with me, if you can.
Thanks in advance:-)

Offline rhayat1

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2010, 04:38:05 PM »
rhayat
I studied linguistics and I am interested in languages, I speak 5 different languages.
But unfortunatelly I know almost nothing about the old language of my dear nation.. I'd like you to share this interesting information with me, if you can.
Thanks in advance:-)

I'll start with the letter waw, known amongst European Jews as "vav".  This letter we share with Arabic and Aramaic and probably other Semitic languages.  It is common for the Yod and waw to be interchanged amongst Semitic languages (and sometimes even within a language).  For example, Hebrew yaroq (green) has its equivalent in Arabic waraqa (leaf).  Hebrew yeledh (lad) is walad in Arabic.  Sometimes, they are the same as in Hebrew weredh (rose) and Arabic (ward).  I use Arabic examples because I am most familiar with it.

Naturally, when Jews came to settle in Germanic and Slavic lands, they got used to the local vernacular - which had no equivalent to the waw.  So their children and children's children began reading Hebrew with their own local accent, much as American Jews will use the American versions of letters to approximate the Hebrew ones.  It is only natural and to resist would have been an uphill struggle.  So, just as a German would say "I vish to sank you" instead of "I wish to thank you", so a German Jew would say "vehaya im shamoa" instead of "wehaya im shamoa' "

Could the letter originally have been pronounced like English "v" and been transformed into "w" among Mideastern Jews?  No.  Because we find Yemeni Jews retaining the letter "v" in the form of the soft "veth" even though Arabic has no exact equivalent sound.  Arabic has no "v" sound but it does have a soft "b" sound and it is likely that this is how Hebrew was as well.  In Iraq, the Jews did not retain the soft "veth" but read both the "beth" and the "veth" as "b".  An Iraqi would say "Ya'aqob" instead of "Ya'aqov".  Had the waw been originally the same as veth, then we would find some Mideastern Jews pronouncing the waw as "bab" - but we find no such cases.

Since the times of the geonim, we find Jewish authors using the Hebrew alphabet to write Arabic.  The Rambam did so for his More haNnevukhim and so did Sa'adya Gaon for his translation of the Torah into Arabic.  They consistently use Hebrew waw for Arabic waw - with no modifying signs.  In cases where Arabic has sounds not found in Hebrew, they used special signs to show that this letter is not pronounced as it would normally be pronounced in Hebrew.

R. Adonim Dunash ben Tamim (10th century) wrote, in his commentary to sefer haYyesirah, that Hebrew has three letters that do not exist in Arabic: the soft veth, and the hard gimel and pe.  He does not mention the "vav", as he should have had it been pronounced the same as veth.

ibid.  that Arabic has three letters that do not exist in Hebrew... he does not mention the waw - because Hebrew has the exact same letter, pronounced the exact same way.

The Radaq (R. Dawidh Qimhi) writes that it is important be be careful to distinguish between the waw and the soft veth, whose pronunciations are close.  He lived in Spain and, since Spanish also does not have an equivalent letter, it is easy to understand how this would have been a problem even in his day.

R. Avraham ibn 'Ezra, in his commentary on the Torah (Shemoth 3:15) wrote that the waw has its origins in the coming together of the lips.  R. Yehudah Hayuj (a very early Hebrew grammarian) wrote that the waw is from the "kissing" of the lips.

In ancient manuscripts of the Septuagint, we find that the Greeks, who had no letter for either the "v" nor the "w" took pains to approximate the "w" sound in place names by combining several consonants together.  However, when it came to the soft "veth", they simply used their letter "beta".  Hence the name Hawwoth, we find spelled AAUAOTH (they had nothing similar to the heth either).  For Shawwe, we find EAUEY (they also had nothing like "sh").  For 'Alwan, we find the most interesting GOLAM or TOLAM (the 'ayin obviously confused them greatly as well).  But for Levonah, we find LEBONA.  For Nevayoth, we find NABAOTH.

My late mentor, Ben Siyyon Cohen, presents no less than 57 proofs of the correct pronunciation of the waw in his book Sefath Emeth.  Here are a few of those:

If the waw were the same as the veth, then it would turn into "b" with the addition of a dagesh (dot) just as the veth does.  It does not - because it is not the same to begin with.

If the waw were the same as the veth, we would find confusion in verses such as "Yokhalu 'anawim" (consume the meek) could just as easily be "Yokhalu 'anavim" (consume grapes).  No language can function like that for long - nor would there be any need to have two separate letters for the same sound.

What reason could there have been to use the letter waw as a proxy for the vowels o and u?  It is because, if you start saying "w" and stop in the middle (lengthening it), you will end up with one of those vowels.  This does not happen with "v".  The sound "v" has no relationship to any vowel, while the "w" is a semivowel so to speak.

My mentor lists much evidence based on Hebrew grammar (diqduq) that is very difficult for me to translate so I must leave those out.

Anyway, that's it for waw unless you have any questions.  I'll post about the other letters separately.




Offline Edward

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2010, 08:34:53 PM »
Wow! This was very interesting! but It's still weird that the Greek translators of the Bible didn't use the letter 'X' (kheta) the Greek equivalent to the Hebreic '?' (khet). For example: the names Eve - in Hebrew 'khava'.

Another thing, does the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet (?) should sound like 'th'?

Offline rhayat1

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2010, 09:27:15 PM »
Wow! This was very interesting! but It's still weird that the Greek translators of the Bible didn't use the letter 'X' (kheta) the Greek equivalent to the Hebreic '?' (khet). For example: the names Eve - in Hebrew 'khava'.

Another thing, does the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet (?) should sound like 'th'?

The reason the Greeks did not use their letter Khi for Heth is that the Khi does not sound the same at all.  There is no similar letter in English for the Heth, but Arabic has it.  If you listen to the audio file that zelhar linked to a couple of posts up, you'll hear the speaker pronouncing the Heth quite clearly and correctly (most of the time).  It basically is like a prolonged English "h", almost like a person wheezing.  There is no friction in the throat as there is with the Khaf.

The ancient sources list the guttural letters as alef, heth, he and 'ayin.  The Khaf/kaf comes from the glottis, as does the ghimel/gimel, the qof and the yod.

Yes, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in its soft form (without the dagesh) sounds like English "th" as in "thirty" or "anthem".  It's easy to see how this got changed to "s" in some parts of Europe and "t" in others.  The same exact thing happened to the Arabic letter "tha".  It became an "s" in some places and a "t" in others.  In a few places, it retained its original "th" pronunciation - not coincidentally, the same places where Hebrew retained its "thaw".  Those places are mainly Iraq and Yemen.

Offline Edward

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2010, 08:11:57 AM »
Yes, you're right about that..
 I have an Israeli friend ane her family originally came from Yemen, so her parents have that special accent that quite resembles Arabic.

Offline rhayat1

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2010, 09:49:32 AM »
The resh.  In my eyes, the worst abomination the Israelis have committed upon Hebrew is upon the poor, unfortunate resh.  Of course, when I say "Israelis", I don't mean ALL Israelis.  Only 95% of them or so and practically the entire younger generation.  They've taken a letter, whose origins are in the front of the mouth, and moved it so that its origins are in the back of the mouth (the glottis).  The resh, according to Sefer haYyesirah, belongs with the zayin, shin, sin, samekh and sade.  It is not very difficult to accustom oneself to speaking with the correct resh, but ignorance is the rule here.  Ignorance and probably a subconscious desire to sound like "educated" people from central Europe rather than "primitive" people from the Middle East.  It did not help matters that so many North Africans lived in France before coming to Israel.  Their accents had already become corrupted by French.

It is not reasonable that the resh should sound just like the soft ghimel (gimel without a dagesh).  The confusion this would cause is substantial.  Of course, the Israeli solution was to get rid of the soft ghimel.

Sefer haYyesirah lists seven double letters: Beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, pe, resh and taw.  Later sources eliminated the resh, probably because the nature of its double pronunciation had been lost over time.  My opinion on that is that the soft resh is said much like the American "r", while the hard resh is trilled as in Arabic, Russian, Spanish etc.  I've actually heard this distinction amongst Iraqi Jews - but only those who have preserved their accents perfectly (i.e. the elderly and maybe a handful of younger ones).  It is not reasonable to claim that one resh is in the front of the mouth while the other is in the back of the mouth; no Hebrew letter changes location with the presence or absence of a dagesh.

Some later Hebrew "grammarians" had the audacity to list the resh among the letters spoken from the back of the mouth (the glottis).  Those men had no precedent whatsoever and did so only to justify the way modern Israelis speak.  I already mentioned sefer haYyesirah.  R.  Avraham ibn 'Ezra, R. Yohan ben Janah and every other early authority lists the resh as coming from the front of the mouth.  All later authorities do so as well.

As with the waw, when Hebrew characters are used for Arabic, we never find any special marks over the resh.  If the Hebrew resh was different from the Arabic "ra", then there would need to be a special mark to indicate that this "resh" is pronounced differently than it would normally be pronounced in Hebrew.  The absence of any special mark strongly implies that the Hebrew resh and the Arabic "ra" are one in the same.  I will add that if the resh and the ghimel/gimel were actually close in pronunciation, we would find various instances of the two letters being switched around (as we do with other close letters, such as the teth and taw, the sin and samakh and the gutturals) - but we find no such instances.

The ancient sages and Greeks, in the Septuagint, consistently used Greek "ro" for Hebrew resh in proper nouns.  There was no confusion here and this implies that Greek "ro" and Hebrew resh are one in the same - not to mention the obvious derivation Greek from Phoenician in how they are written.

Had the resh originally been pronounced like the soft ghimel (which all peoples of the Middle East can say with no difficulty), then why would millions of them have switched to their current (traditional) resh, in the front of the mouth?  As for central European Jews, their vernacular had nothing equivalent to the proper resh; all they knew was the ovular "r" so it is no wonder their resh became corrupted.  This corruption can happen without people even being aware of it:

I was married to a woman whose parents had come to Israel from Cochin, India.  She is the youngest of 12 siblings and the only one born in Israel.  We had been married a few years and we had a family gathering where her siblings were present.  Somehow we got to the subject of tradition and I pointed out a fact that was obvious to me: my wife was the only one whose resh had moved to the back of her mouth.  All her siblings, who were born in the old country, retained the correct resh.  I brought this up as a matter of fact.  They all looked at me and scoffed.  "That's ridiculous.  We all speak the same!"  These people had GROWN UP TOGETHER.  They had known each other FOR DECADES.  Yet they were unaware of what had transpired within their own mouths.  I had my wife say something with a resh.  They all looked at her.  They looked at me and their jaws dropped.  If they weren't so dark, they probably would have blushed too - that an outsider knew more about them, in this regard, than they did.

Since I'm telling stories, here's another one.  This one has to do with the waw.  I used to attend a very traditional Iraqi beth kenesseth.  The hakham there, R. Musafi, was of the old school.  He dressed traditionally, spoke traditionally and snorted snuff traditionally.  He would speak to us and bless us after every service.  We would sing together.  He had no teeth.  One day, I got into a debate with one of my Moroccan friends, who sat next to me.  I told him he should correct his waw and stop saying vav.  I said, "listen to Hakham musafi.  He says it right."  He retorted, "Hakham musafi has no teeth; this is why he can't say 'vav' ".  We argued a bit and I challenged him to ask the Hakham and so we did.  My friend was standing by my side when I asked the Hakham, "how should one say, VaYyomer Moshe or WaYyomer Moshe?"  He answered very loudly, and in no uncertain terms "WaYyomer Moshe".  I'm not sure if my friend corrected his waw.

That's it for now.

Offline Edward

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2010, 12:28:22 PM »
thanks for the info.. it is highly appreciated 8)

Offline rhayat1

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2010, 10:34:42 AM »
The 'ayin and the het.  This is a case where there really is no dispute  how it is supposed to be said.  Ask an Israeli about it and he'll say something like, "The Yemenites have the correct Hebrew; they say the hhhhhet and the 'aaaaayin."  He will emphasize those two letters, showing that, with some effort, he can actually pronounce them.  And yet, in day to day life, he will NOT pronounce them properly.  I conclude that this is a combination of laziness and a fear of being laughed at.  What really irks me is that the younger Israelis whose grandparents came from Yemen or Morocco or Iraq or Syria etc. will also refuse to pronounce these two letters properly.  Are they ashamed of their own heritage?  One can here the het being pronounced clearly on Israeli radio but the 'ayin is more rare.  I learned how to say it be exposing myself to Arabic being spoken (this was before I went to Israel and there was an Arabic radio station in my area).  When I did arrive in Israel, I spoke Hebrew as properly as I knew at the time and this included the correct pronunciation of the 'ayin and the het.  People knew I was American - and I got nothing but admiration for my efforts - but this was a long time ago.  Maybe things have changed for the worse.  In any case, it has been said that it is virtually impossible for a Westerner to master the pronunciation of these two letters.  That one must be raised with it.  I am living proof that this is not so and I've met others (very few) who have also learned.  I am not going to try to describe their pronunciation in print; you just need to hear them.  They are, of course, both guttural.  Here's a good article about it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayin

Here are some tidbits about the 'ayin and het:

Talmud Meghilla (24 and Yerushlami Berakhoth 82).  "Those who read the 'ayin like aleph are not to publicly read from the Torah and are not to participate in the blessing of the Cohanim".

I shall quote from my mentor, Ben Siyyon Cohen "If, until now they had an excuse to say 'it wasn't our fault for we didn't know the pronunciation of the het and 'ayin and we had nobody from whom to learn'.  Behold, now in the Land of Israel they have the ability and opportunity to learn and yet they make no effort to do so or to teach them to their children.  Those people will be judged as though they sinned on purpose.  For how can a religious Jew entertain the concept of reading prayers and Torah while substituting the aleph for the 'ayin?.  How will he read "wa'avadhtem ("you shall serve" but, with an aleph, it would mean "you shall destroy") G-d".  "Nishba' haShem ("you will swear to G-d" but, with an aleph, it would mean "G-d will be taken captive")".  "Laahava eth hashem ul'ovdo ("to love G-d and to serve Him" but, with an aleph, it would mean "to love G-d and to lose Him")".  And similar to these?  Is this not blasphemy and cursing heavenward if he is able to learn to pronounce the 'ayin and yet he is too lazy, or for whatever reason, neglects doing so?  How much more so those who err and misinterpret "Do not forsake the teachings of your mother..." as if they were commanded to pursue traditions even after it becomes clear that they are corrupt...  How much more so if he is in the Land of Israel, that if he wishes to learn, he can learn the correct pronunciation of the letters easily and yet he makes no effort.  He will be judged as "mezid" (sinning on purpose) and as one who makes light (of the commandments)..."

Regarding the heth.  It is counted amongst the guttural letters whereas the khaf has its source in the back of the pallet.  This, alone should make it clear they cannot have the same sound.  The sound of the heth is close to that of the he and, in some places, they were pronounced the same.  We find in Meghilla (24:b) "concerning Rav Hiyya, who used to pronounce the heth like a he, Rabbenu haQqadosh told him 'when you reach to word "wehhikiti lahaShem", do you not find yourself blaspheming? (with a heth, it means, "I waited for G-d" but with a he, it means "I struck G-d")"

We find that Ashkenazi Jews used to pronounce the heth the same as the he as well.  These are the words of R. Yosef Ometz (Germany, letter 21):

"And so the reading of the heth, which we Ashkenazim pronounce like the he, it seems to me that we are correct."  And he brings three pieces of evidence against the habit of Polish Jews - who would pronounce it like the soft khaf.

Also we find R. Shemuel haLlewi (lived in Piorda, Germany about 300 years ago), in his book "Nahalath Shiv'ah" (chapter 46) on the letter heth, regarding the spelling of the name "Hanokh".  He writes, as a matter of fact, that the Ashkenazim pronounce the heth like the he and these are his words "in any case, it is known that the Ashkenazim pronounce the heth like the he".

Nevertheless, it is obvious that the heth is not the same as the he.  However, it behaves much like the he in Hebrew grammer.  Had the heth been originally pronounced like the khaf, we would have a hard time explaining how ancient sages and Jews in Germany came to pronounce it like a he; after all, they had no problems pronouncing the khaf.  Why would they have changed the heth to a he?

What I quoted above regarding the 'ayin, and how today's Jews have an obligation to learn the correct way of reading it, applies equally to the het.  There is no excuse for not learning it correctly.

Offline rhayat1

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #18 on: February 07, 2010, 07:11:09 PM »
The Teth and the Qof.  These two letters have no equivalent in English.  Of course the Teth does sound somewhat like the letter "t" and the Qof like the letter "k".  This is why the ancient Greeks transliterated them thus.  When, during the times of the geonim and onward, Jews wrote Arabic in Hebrew letters, they always used the Hebrew letter Teth for Arabic "TA" and Hebrew Qof for Arabic "QAF".  The Arabic pronunciation of these two letters is not in dispute.

In Hebrew grammar, there are seven "binyanim" (vowel forms).  One of them is "hithpa'el", where the three letter root takes an initial "he" and "taw", followed by the three letters of the root.  For example, "Sekhel" (intellect) becomes "histakel" (observe/view).  However, when the the first letter of that root is a "strong" letter, such as "sadi" (yet to be discussed), then things change somewhat.  In this case, the "he" is followed by the first of the three root letters, followed by a teth instead of the taw and then the last two root letters.  For example, "sedeq" (justic) becomes "hisTadeq".   If we pronounce the sadi correctly, it is somewhat awkward to switch from the strong sadi to a weak taw with no vowel in between.  The natural flow of consonants demands the the adjacent letter also be strong.  The sadi and the teth go together.  The sadi and the taw do not.  Of course this only makes sense if there is a difference between the taw and the teth - which, of course, there is.

It would make no sense to have two letters with exactly the same pronunciation in Hebrew.  If the soft thaw were to turn into a teth, with the addition of a dagesh, then the teth with no dagesh would logically also turn into a soft thaw - which, of course, it does not.

The qof retained its original value everywhere Arabic "QA" also did.  In Europe, it is pronounced just like the hard "Kaf".  Again, if the kaf and the qof were the same, then the same dagesh that turns the soft khaf into the hard kaf would, in its absence also turn the qof into a khof.  It, of course, does not.  We find that most of the Jews of Yemen pronounced the qof as if it were a hard gimel, hard "g" in English.  If the qof were originally pronounced just like a kaf, then why would they have changed it to "g"?  After all, they are perfectly capable of pronouncing the "k" sound; they say it with the kaf all the time.  Likewise we find many of the Jews of Syria pronouncing the qof as a glottal stop (like an aleph).  Yet they had no problems pronouncing the kaf - so why would they have converted the qof to aleph?  Of course, the fate of Arabic "QA" was exactly the same in those places.  The Jews of Cochin (Southern India) would say the qof as if it were chaf - but they had no problems pronouncing the hard kaf.  Again, the same question: why would they have switched from the "k" sound (which they could say perfectly well) to a "kh" sound?  The only logical explanation is that the qof was difficult to pronounce in all those places and the people, trying to say it correctly, ended up converting it to another letter.

In Talmud 'Eruvin (53:b) "that woman who said 'mari kiri'" and Rashi explains that she meant to say "qiri" which means "master", but she said "kiri", which means "slave" instead.  This implies that even in Rashi's days, the distinction was known.

You can hear the teth pronounced correctly by listening to Arabic - but the qof, being more difficult, is harder to find.  Most Arabs have turned it either into aleph or "kaf" and its pronunciation will vary from word to word even within the same dialect.  Maybe some day I'll upload audio files...

Offline rhayat1

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2010, 07:52:09 PM »
The letter Sadi.  Each Hebrew letter is a pure sound.  Like the other letters, mentioned above, the letter Sadi was used for many centuries by Jews as the exact equivalent of Arabic Sad.  That is to say, with no special marks that would imply it was pronounced any differently.  In contrast, the Arabic "hard Sad", when written in Hebrew, would have a special mark above the Hebrew Sadi to show that this letter has no equivalent in Hebrew.  Early grammarians considered the Hebrew and Arabic versions of this letter to be exactly the same.

To produce the Semitic Sadi, shape your tongue like a bowl whose opening is on top and blow air out from around it without letting your tongue actually touch your palette at all.  While doing this, your tongue should be positioned a bit further back in your mouth.  Make sure the sound is not like the "sh" in English "ship".  The difference between the Sadi and the Sin is clear to one who is accustomed to it.  While in yeshiva in Jerusalem, the subject came up and one of my Yemeni friends told me that there is no difference between the Sadi and the Sin, in pronunciation.  We argued for a while.  People laughed at me since the Yemeni had come from a traditional background and had been raised with Yemeni Hebrew since an early age - yet here I was, a young American who thought he knew better.  I challenged him to come with me to Mori Yihyeh alSheikh, who lived only a couple blocks away.  That Yemeni friend of mine was red-faced when he realized how wrong he was.  Mori alSheikh set him straight.

The "ts" we find among Ashkenazi Jews is simply the closest Germanic approximation they could come up with to this uniquely Semitic letter.  Sephardic Jews ended up pronouncing it just like the letter Sin; they had nothing that came close to it in their language.  In the past, it would seem that the Ashkenazim also pronounced the Sadi like the Sin - so that they ended up with four redundant letters.  They had to change one of them to avoid confusion and that was the Sadi, which took on the German ts sound.  Both the Radaq (Mikhlol pg. 73) and Rashbas (Maghen Avoth part 3 pg. 55:b) wrote that one must be careful to distinguish between the Sin and the Sadi.  Only in Arabic speaking lands did the Jews preserve the original sound of the Sadi.

To cite the Book of Yesirah again, it divides the Hebrew letters according to their origins in the mouth.  From the tip of the tongue we have daleth, teth, lamedh, nun and taw.  From the teeth we have zayin, samekh, shin, resh and sadi.  If the sadi were said "ts", then it would actually have two origins in the mouth.

When a Hebrew letter takes a dagesh hazaq, its pronunciation becomes doubled.  For example, "Millah" (word) is pronounced as if the letter lamedh appeared twice: mil-lah.  Meghilla = meghil-la.  The only Hebrew letters that do not take a dagesh hazaq are the guttural letters.  Therefore, when we find a word like "Massah" (unleavened bread), the sadi is actually doubled = mas-sah.  If the sadi were supposed to be pronounced "ts", then we would end up with the impossible "mats-tsah".  You cannot double a combination letter like that unless you introduce some kind of vowel in between; something that is unheard of and strongly against Hebrew grammar.  Some might say that it should be pronounced "mat-tsah", doubling only the first half of the letter.  But this would necessitate two silent vowels (shewa nah) in quick succession - which does not happen in Hebrew in the middle of a word. 

When Hebrew uses the letter waw as "and", it is pronounced as "oo" (waw with a shureq) whenever the next letter has the silent vowel (shewa nah).  If the sadi were indeed "ts" then it would always fall into this category - seeing as the "t" part of it would effectively have a shewa nah - and we would always find the preceeding waw with a shureq (oo).  But this is not the case for we find words like "weSaddiqim", not "ooSaddiqim".

My mentor Bensiyyon Cohen dedicates several pages of proofs regarding the sadi.  34 proofs in all.  If anybody is interested, I'd be happy to scan in those pages and post them; this would be easier than typing the whole thing.  Yeah, I'm being lazy!

Offline Hyades

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #20 on: May 20, 2010, 10:00:44 AM »
Intersting. Because actually many sounds do still exist today in Arabic. Hebrew lost much of it's Semitic character because it adopted the Yiddishe (German and French) pronounciation. However, some Mizrahim and Sefardim still speak some sounds differently. A friend of mine prounounces the Tzadi, Resh, Tet and Het with an Arabic touch - giving Hebrew the sound of a real Semitic language...

Offline דוד בן זאב אריה

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #21 on: May 27, 2010, 08:55:45 PM »
The note here on the Ayin is wrong it has a sound like a "ng" except it come from the gut. There is no sound like it in english
David Ben Ze'ev Aryeh


Offline Hyades

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #22 on: May 28, 2010, 04:51:15 AM »
The note here on the Ayin is wrong it has a sound like a "ng" except it come from the gut. There is no sound like it in english

No, it sounds like the sound of same name in Arabic. But in Modern Hebrew it has almost disappeared. At least that's my impression when I go to Israel. I think only the Mizrahim still speak it that way.

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Re: More than one Hebrew
« Reply #23 on: May 30, 2010, 01:19:02 PM »
It's the correct way. for example Ani with an alef means Me or I and oni with an aiyn means poor. Im with and alef means with if and with and ayin means with.
David Ben Ze'ev Aryeh