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Section: Questions   Category: Halacha
Halacha - Pronounciation of Hebrew
Submitted by David  Answered by Rav Peretz Moncharsh
Question: Dear Rabbi, I have a question concerning pronounciation. Rav Saadia Gaon writes in his commentry on Sefer Yetzira that 'there are 29 consonental sounds to our language' and that the sounds are the same as in arabic except for 3 sounds - the j, platial d and palatial dh sounds( like a d but pronounced with the back of the throat)-these sounds are in arabic but not in hebrew. He also says that we have 4 sounds in hebrew that is not in arabic: Vet, Gimmel, Pe and a second pronounciation of resh with a dagesh (which has now been lost). He also writes that every letter has a distinct sound except for samech and sin. Today the temanim, adanim and some sefardim like the iraqi's still distinguish between these letters as rav saadia writes, my question is: why dont clal yisrael change to this clearly more correct pronounciation? e.g. to distinguish between aleph and ayin and chaf and chet (which the gemara says) and to lengthen the daled in kriat shema in the word echad by pronouncing it as its pronounced without a dagesh i.e. thhhhhhhhhhh as in 'the', and many other letters like vav being pronounced waw and to use the double sounds of the BeGeD KeFeT letters. Vowels too should be distinguished - patach and kamatz segol and tsere: temanim pronounce segol as an 'a' in cat or bat etc. not as a patach as people commonly think. Rashi also calls a segol a patach katan (in shemot). It is common knowledge that sounds are lost due to the galut and the jewish people being separated in countries where certain sounds are non existent. Other mesorot that dont distinguish and dont have seperate sounds for every letter except samech and sin are clearly a minhag taut -a mistaken minhag and surely a mistaken minhag should not be continued. I am aware about the tribe of binyamin or is it efrayim who pronounced shibboleth as sibbolth, but this is because they couldnt distinguish between shin and sin. thank you for your time kol tov David

The Steipler Gaon addresses exactly this issue in his sefer Kraina d'Iggrsa. He writes that despite the issues you raise, one should not change the pronunciation from the way it has been for hundreds of years.

posted:2009-01-22 17:39:55

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