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Re: About Hebrew pronunciation

From:Dan Sulani <dansulani@...>
Date:Monday, May 31, 2004, 15:37
On 30 May, Steg Belsky wrote:

> Dan will probably come in with some better descriptions based on his > more experience, but here's what i've found:
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Steg. But, IMHO, your explanation was quite complete! I couldn't have explained it any better! <snip explanation>
> Of course, today many Israelis *do* pronounce |hhet| and |`ayin|.
IME, many (if not most) native-born Hebrew speakers from an Ashkenazic background have a _potential_ |'ayin|. That is: given the right mood or if "pushed hard enough", they can and will use |'ayin|! I know that my own two kids (both native- born Hebrew speakers from an Ashkenazic background) have been known to use |'ayin| on occasion, and I've heard others also do it. Normally, they speak without pharyngeals. I'm not so sure, though, about native-born Hebrew speakers from the ultra-orthodox Jewish community. IME, when they speak Hebrew to someone outside their community, they generally use the standard Israeli ("Sephardic") pronunciation. But many also spend a lot of time either learning holy works in Ashkenazic-accented Hebrew and Ashkenazic-accented Aramaic, or else speaking in Yiddish, which AFAIK has no |'ayin|. (The orthography is a different matter; and the |'ayin| there does not represent a pharyngeal sound.) So I doubt that the ultra-orthodox would be much exposed to, let alone feel motivated to produce, |'ayin|. This reminds me of one of my clients (I am a speech-language-pathologist). He is from the ultra-orthodox community, and the material we use for his speech practice is the portion of the talmud which he is studying. (He has problems with control over his tongue muscles, hence the therapy.) Anyhow, I get treated to a heavily Ashkenazic (and slurred!) reading of the original Aramaic text, followed by a heavily Ashkenazic (also slurred) Hebrew explanation! He will often then translate the translation into Israeli standard Hebrew for me (slurs included!). Not an |'ayin| in sight! (or whatever the auditory equivalent of that idiom is. :-) ) In reply to Emily Zilch's posting from 30 May,
> AFAIK while the Sephardic is the "standard", most Jews are NOT > Sephardic and hence use Ashkenazic standards. In North American > synagogues ("tabernacles"? ha!), you will hear "Good Shabbos" & al.
And to Outo Otus, also 30 May, who originally asked:
> I was wondering what pronunciation do most speakers use? The Sephardic or > Ashkenazic?
I think that it is important to differentiate between various degrees of use of a lang and being a speaker (let alone a native speaker) of it. For example, a lawyer might use all manner of Latin legal phrases in his speech, but that doesn't make him a speaker of the Latin lang! Similarly, using words like "shabbos" doesn't make one a Hebrew speaker. It simply means that the Hebrew words one _does_ use, are pronounced in the Ashkenazic, Sephardic, or whatever way. To give a personal example about the difference between "using a lang" and "being a speaker of the lang": back in my university days, I took a few (required) courses in German. What I knew of the lang mostly came from the lectures I heard and the textbooks I read. I had one professor, however, who consistantly gave me failing grades because, in the papers I had to write (in German) for his class, while my command of the formal grammar and the vocabulary we had learned was good, I had absolutely no knowledge of colloquial usage, slang, or obscure cultural references (for some strange reason :-P ). And because I was the only non-native speaker in the class (well, we won't count the diplomat's kid who spent most of his life there and came up through the German school system!), and since this professor graded "on the curve", I used to continually fail! (and yes, I _did_ take the matter up with higher authorities! Didn't do a whole lot of good! :-P ) Though I thought then, and think now, that it was a bit unfair for me to have been put into that class, still IMHO, the professor's point of view _does_ have a grain of truth in it: I might be able to play around with German grammar and vocab; might be able to make myself understood in many common situations; but by _no_ stretch of the immagination was I a _speaker_ of the German language. There is a difference! Similarly, IMHO, speakers of the Hebrew lang are those who use it in all life situations, 24 / 7 (and this includes using it during all those things that polite textbooks never seem to refer to, but which people do all the time! ;-) ). Speakers (and I don't necessarily refer here only to native-speakers, but they would, obviously have better intuitions about a lang) are knowledgable about the lang's various registers, colloquialisms, slang, etc. These days, for Hebrew, that more or less refers to Israelis and thus, it is Israeli usage that sets the standard for modern spoken Hebrew. One final note: Emily wrote, referring to her "conlang" style of Hebrew pronunciation:
> It lets me make phonological sense out of the classical Hebrew in an > admittedly idiosyncratic manner. I just offer it in case it is useful > for someone else.
Let me just say that I understand! I once tried to get through a certain book of Hebrew grammar (written in Hebrew). At a certain point in the book, the author considered to himself how confused he was making his readers, and so he helpfully advised that the best way to really get a feel for the grammar rules, especially the phonological ones, is to "rely upon the way you normally pronounce Hebrew!" After I picked myself up off the ground from laughing so hard, I threw the book away! I mean, like Steg said, standard Israeli Hebrew doesn't pronounce many of the things that are still evident in the orthography. Maybe there is something to be said, after all, for learning to speak with a "classical" accent! Dan Sulani ---------------------------------------------------------- likehsna rtem zuv tikuhnuh auag inuvuz vaka'a. A word is an awesome thing.