Change of Pronunciation

Home Forums Controversial Topics Change of Pronunciation

Viewing 50 posts - 1 through 50 (of 50 total)
  • Author
  • #593911
    Sam l Am

    Why do modern people and zionists change their traditional Ashkenazic havara (pronunciation) of Loshon Kodesh to Sephardic? One should not be changing their Jewish customs.


    It’s wrong.


    Why do Chassidim have a different pronounciation than Sefardim? Than Yekkes? Than Temanim?

    Accents change. Pronunciations change. If it didn’t, we would ALL speak exactly the same.

    I grew up with the term aufruf (pronounced OW-fruf, as is the proper german pronounciation). If I say aufruf (OW-fruf) to most people they have no clue what I am saying. So I say ufruf.

    I changed my nusach in tefila. My Rav said that was ok. Why would pronounciation be worse?


    Sam The modern Havara is not Sefardic it is Modern Hebrew.

    Ask any Sefardi old enough to remember how things were pronouned back home


    ?????? ?????? ?????? ????? ???? ?????, ?????? ???? ?-20, ????? ???? ?????? ????? ????? ???? ?? ?????? ??????? ?????? ?????? ?? ??????.

    ?? ????? ????? ??? ?????? ?? ????? ????? ???? ?????? ??? ?????? ???????? ????????: ???? ??????? – ?????? ????? ??? ??????? ?? ?????? ???????, ????? ?? ?????? ????? ????? ??? ????? ????, ???? ?????? ???????. ???? ???????? – ????? ?? ?????? ?? ???????? ???????, ??? ???? ???? ?????? ???????? ???? ????? ????? ?????? ???????. ?? ???????? ??????? (? ??, ?????? ????? ???? ?) ?? ???? ?????? (??? ????????) ??? ???? ????? (??????? ???? ????????). ?????? ?????? ???????, ?????? ??? ????????, ????? ??? ??? ?? ?????. ?????? ?????? ????????, ?????? ??? ???????, ?? ????? ????? ??? ? ??? ??????. ???? ?????? – ?????? ?????? ???????, ????????


    Do we really HAVE TO find another (unimportant) thing to raise machlokes about?!?!?


    There was a book out a few years ago in Hebrew about the Hebrew language that my old landlord read. He said something along the lines that ben-yehudah was trying to open up some maskilim schools in the old neighborhoods. But because everyone knew he was a maskil they never got off the ground and eventually he had to move on. So instead he went to the sefardim and since they didn’t know him he had better luck with them. So when he was making the language he went with their havara.

    I can’t vouch for any of this. I did see the book being sold in a few shuls in the neighborhood but I never read it myself.



    It has absolutely nothing to do with being Chasidish. It has everything to do with where they came from. That’s what prompted the OQ. These people are Ashkenazim, so why the new Havara?


    From not Satmar or Neturei Karta

    Modern Israeli HebrewStandard Hebrew, as developed by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, was based on Mishnaic spelling and Sephardi Hebrew pronunciation. However, the earliest speakers of Modern Hebrew had Yiddish as their native tongue and often brought into Hebrew idioms and literal translations from Yiddish.

    The pronunciation of modern Israeli Hebrew is based mostly on the Sephardic Hebrew pronunciation. However, the language has adapted to Ashkenazi Hebrew phonology in some respects, mainly the following …..


    When we made aliyah, I spoke to the Rav of our new shule at length about changing nusach and pronunciation. (All the shules on our yishuv are nusach Sfard, while in America I davened Askanaz.) He told me it was OK to switch nusach, but not to switch pronunciation to Sfardit. His reasoning was that most people who do so end up pronouncing the words incorrectly. Since the shule has no rules about having to daven Sfardit when davening for the amud, I stuck with my own pronunciation.


    RuffRuff, all Ashkenazim at some point came from the same place as sephardim. Pronounciations change with time, location, language etc.


    But never for fun. It took many years of being between certain nations to eventualy and slowly pick up their phonetics.


    mamashtakah – “..He told me it was OK to switch nusach, but not to switch pronunciation to Sfardit.His reasoning was that most people who do so end up pronouncing the words incorrectly.”

    The Sephardim pronounce Hebrew correctly. Ashkenazim destroy the language, mostly by putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable. By doing this, they often change the meaning of the phrase. And before anyone jumps all over my comments, even the ‘holy’ Artscroll Siddurim have indicators of where to put the emphasis.


    RuffRuff, so I should stop saying ufruf and have people understand me?

    Are you saying someone who grows up chassidish shouldn’t speak litvish in order for others to understand? I cannot understand a lot of chassidish pronounciation. Same way I have trouble with Southern english.

    It would make sense to revert back to more proper pronounciation at all times.


    Before we discuss the validity of changing, I think there is a good question on the table which is:

    We all have noticed that MO people have adopted the sefardi pronunciation.

    Why have they done so? What does it have to do with being MO?


    kgh, that is incorrect. The Ashkenazic havara is more closely aligned with the original than Sephardic.


    Actually, sefardim aren’t exactly correct either. Temanim are closer than anyone. Also, it is possible to speak ashkenazus correctly, though you may be laughed at by people who don’t know any better.



    i think it has to do with the mizrachi movement

    Pashuteh Yid

    PopaBarAbba, the MO probably changed to identify with Medinat Yisrael. In addition, in many MO schools, there are Israeli teachers who pronounce Hebrew that way. Furthermore, in many MO schools, they teach Ivrit B’Ivrit, (Hebrew subjects are studied in Hebrew). That means Gemara, Chumash and so on are taught in Hebrew by the teacher, and the students must also ask all questions and give all responses in Hebrew. Since modern spoken Hebrew is pronounced in Sephardit, the students learn that pronunciation. They do not know of any other, and may daven that way, as well.

    I had some teachers when I was very young who would say Ani lo meivein Anglit. They would force the students to speak Hebrew all morning. Now while I think that gemara and chumash should be taught in English, since that is how to best develop one’s thinking and lomdus, I do believe that at least one period a day should be devoted to Ivrit B’Ivrit. Yeshiva Bochurim who cannot read, write, or speak Hebrew are at a disadvantage in trying to learn just about any Gemara or even Chumash and Rashi.


    This whole thread has one fatal weakness : No one knows what the “real’ pronunciation was thousands of years ago. Language always changes. No one has even an inkling how Moshe rabbeinu prnounced his words. Teimani Hebrew may be the most approximate (as one poster said) because they lived the most isolated life for many years.Not only the pronunciation but also the actual language. The neviim had different words than the Torah- just read the neviim! and the mishneh had its own words too. If there were changes in the actual words, “al achas kammah vekammah’ on the pronunciation. And, lastly, every person who did not speak hebrew as a first language is influenced by the pronunciation of the first language- whether it is yiddish, french or german. Hence, there is “holy’ proninciation.

    Avram in MD

    Sam I Am:

    If I may, I would like to turn your question on its head.

    I am Ashkenazic, and my grandfather spoke with an Ashkenazic pronounciation, e.g., tav with dagesh, sav without, etc. I grew up in a Conservative home, and went to a Conservative Hebrew school where I learned the Israeli pronunciations for Hebrew (minus the unique “r” sound used by native Israelis of course).

    Once I became frum, I was very interested in preserving as much of my family’s traditions as possible, doing things as my grandfather and his parents did. One thing that I did was to begin shifting the way I pronounced things in davening from the Israeli pronounciations to the Ashkenazic pronunciations of my grandfather.

    In effect, I was changing my “custom” but adopting my family custom. Would you consider this the wrong thing to do or the right thing to do?


    I too am bothered by the change, I have asked many people about it and yet I have not been given a good answer. At the end of the day, in terms of authenticity, I find it hard to believe that one is more correct than the other. I think if any of us heard Moshe Rabeinu speak Hebrew it would sound very different. But on the other hand, I think it is important to preserve our mesorah, Ashkenazis for Ashkenazim and Sepharadit for Sepharadim. However, one benefit that havara Sepharadit has is that it doesn’t sound weird to speak with proper havarah (meaning, for most words, emphasis on the final syllable). For all those in here who are devoted to proper pronunciation (at least for Ashkenazim), I say we throw away haVArah AshkeNAzis and start speaking havaRAH AshkenaZIS. Who wants to join the club of speaking AshkenaZIS properly?


    When I was learning Jewish History, I was taught that all of the original Tzionim were European and all spoke mostly Yiddish. When thay decided to make Hebrew the national language, Ben Yehuda was trying to eradicate everything yiddish in the country. Yiddish represented old school and mesorah while Hebrew represented the new and the enlightened. They wanted to totally break away with their mesorah and anything that would connect them with the frum Jews who spoke Yiddsh. Hence the creation of modern day Hebrew/Ivrit. But they also changed from their own natural havara to the sphardic havara because they wanted no connection to their own past and mesorah. (For those who think I went to some Satmer school and this is part of the shita against Tzionism, I actually lived on the west coast and had a pretty liberal secular education. But that is what I was taught and it makes alot of sense.)


    When Ben Yehudah adapted modern Hebrew, he had to worry about the fact that all the zionists spoke with several different ashkenazi accents (litvish, polish, etc.), so instead of picking one ashkenazi accent and offending speakers of all the others, he invented his own modified sefardit.


    Although we are at a disadvantage of being so long after the fact, and we cannot know the original pronunciation, there are many clues as to which one of the choices are correct. We know that the Ayin is supposed to be sounded along with the throat, the way the Taimanim do it. We know that there are five groups of letters, each group is sounded by a different area in the mouth. The Reish is grouped together with ZSShRTz, which means that it wasn’t pronounced the Israeli way. Also, Samach is together with Z and the whole group mention above, while Tav and Sav are listed together DTLNT. I think that the Taimanim pronounce it as “th”, which would concur with the rest of the group.

    In any case, this discussion doesn’t have anything to do with who has the right way.

    SJS, Your conversations can be in any dialect you wish. The issue is about Davening.


    Rav Moshe has a psak about Nusach saying one should not change his parents tradition. The only exception he writes is if your parent or grandparents changed it, you can change it back to what their parents original tradition was.


    TMB: Specifically, he says that a person who davens nussach sfard (a cholent of several chasidish versions of nussach HaAri) can switch back to ashkenaz without hataras nedarim because that is what he should have been davening anyway.


    trying my best- itchesrulik is correct. However, R”moshe’s psak has to do with the NUSACH hatefilla, not the pronunciation. For example- German jews and Lithuanian jews both daven ‘nusach ashkenaz’ ,yet they have very different pronunciations. The two items are totally different.


    ROB: But the underlying point of not changing ones customs vis-a-vis havara also applies here.


    So what should a ger do, who learned to daven in a shul that was founded by conservative Hungarians 100+ years ago but is now composed of MO Ashkenazim who daven in nusach Sefard, and who has since moved to a Yeshivish community?


    trying my best- do you really believe that you can control the pronunciation of people ? Children learn to talk by listening…and their hearing will pick up so many different accents….have you ever heard an american speak hebrew? or a german davening with its distinctive ‘german accent”? Nussach you can control- especially in our times when everything is printed but pronunciation???? By the way- we don’t even know the exactness of the tefillos of early times when it was written by hand and was subject to mistakes and ommissions. But pronunciation??


    I tried learning to speak Yiddish and eventually gave up, because everybody I met had a different pronunciation. That includes Loshon Kodesh. BP is an absolute mishmash because everybody pronounces things the way they think they did back in their own part of Europe – which is a pretty big place.

    When I lived in Israeli I knew a genuine Teimani family and loved just listening to them talk in the Teimani accent. Why can’t we all talk like them? Well, everybody would have a fit because they’re not like back in Lvov/Brisk/Vilna/Minsk/….

    Rather than worrying about pronunciation, and whether yours is as good as mine, let’s worry about keeping the Torah. Like maybe all that bein adam ‘chaveiro stuff about not looking down on your fellow Jew, and not being gaivahdich about how frum you are 😉


    there is one thing which is (almost) absolute, aside from a few words here and there. The emphasis of syllables is agreed upon by everyone who knows what there talking about. there is no ashkenazi mesorah to pronounce all words with the emphasis on the 2nd to last syllable. however, this common mistake is widespread.

    also, (this one I’m not so sure about), there is no “r” sound in hebrew. the old ashkenazim from europe pronounced the “resh” one of two ways. (i can’t spell it out but you probably know what i’m talking about). And the sepharadim certainly don’t have an “r” sound in their hebrew. the “r” came from american english.


    but you probably know what i’m talking about)

    No, we don’t. Can you give an example of how it’s used in a word (even if in another language)?

    The Wolf


    He is probably talking about (what I think is called) the alveolar trill. For some reason though Modern Hebrew uses (what I think is called) the ulvular fricative.



    You also forgot to mention that all the BGDCP”T letters have a different pronunciation when there is a dagesh qal in them, and when their isn’t. Not just BPC and T.

    That means Gimmel and Rimmel (pronounced like the israeli reish, while the reish, which is a dental, should probably be trill or tap)

    and Daled and dhaled, so that we can properly extend the D in ehadhhhhhh.


    re: KGH

    "The Sephardim pronounce Hebrew correctly. Ashkenazim destroy the language, mostly by putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable. By doing this, they often change the meaning of the phrase. And before anyone jumps all over my comments, even the 'holy' Artscroll Siddurim have indicators of where to put the emphasis."

    Your point on emphasis is somewhat correct, but, other than that, are you joking? How on earth can a kamatz and patach sound identical and have no sound for kamatz? And how sure are you that a tav without a dagesh is supposed to be pronounced identically with a dagesh?

    The teimanim, who differentiate each letter/dagesh much more than sefardim and even ashkenazim do, are probably the closest to the original.

    But Zionist hebrew, as a made-up dialect, has no place in anything holy like Tefillah. Nor does Yiddish, for that matter, just because your corner of Europe happened to pronounce a yiddish kamatz more like a segol in spite of your mesorah that clearly did not pronounce it that way before that.

    The biggest proof, in my opinion, as to the invalidity of many of the common pronunciations out there is the complete lack of consistency.

    For example, in chassidic havaras, some “kamatz” are pronounced properly like a kamatz (as in “much”) while most are pronounced improperly like a “shuruk” (as in “boot”).

    In Ashkenazic havara, girls are taught a “cholam” is “oh” while boys are taught (often after being first taught correctly like the girls) it is pronounced “oy”. Sefardim and teimanim pronounce it “oh” and Germans slightly accent it to “ow”. Yet the “oy” is still taught as the correct way to pronounce “oh”?

    Regarding emphasis:

    Though Ashkenazim can, should, and in many cases do use the correct emphasis “Vi – A – Hav – **TA**”, not “Vi – A – **HAV** – ta” in shema is an example of an important difference that makes for a difference.

    However, since English (and Yiddish) is typically pronounced “mileil”, not “milra” as much of lishon haKodesh is, English (and Yiddish) speakers tend to inadvertently but incorrectly apply the same pronunciation to lishon HaKodesh. This is a problem, and should be corrected, but it is not an Ashkenazi havara rule unlike the chassidic/yiddish and sefardi pronunciations whose issues *are* “policy”.


    Blockhead, about BGDCP”T, are you sure that it is a dagesh qal? I thought it was a dagesh chazak..But either way, your’e right, there is a different pronunciation for them. Another rule, which I’m sure you know, is that all these letters, when at the beginning of a word, should be pronounced with a dagesh sound. Except when they follow a word that ends in a AHCHYR”A letter (Vowels), and is connected to that word through the cantilation. Then, it has no dagesh.


    The real answer to this, I heard in a Jewish History class given by a Rosh Yeshiva. He said, that Ben-Yehuda, being ashkenazi and coming from a frum background, didn’t want to assosiate the zionist movement with the “old fashioned European Jew”. Taking on the sphardic havara gave Hebrew a new sound, nothing to do with the religious past. It was to wipe away all remenants of yiddishkeit.


    Derech Hamelech – I believe the modern Israeli ? (as pronounced by many, but by no means all, Israelis) is a velar fricative, specifically the voiced velar fricative, as opposed to the unvoiced velar fricative, which would be from the same part of the mouth, namely the letter ?.

    The uvular (only 1 L) fricative includes the Sefardi and Arabic version of ? when unvoiced. You can try to attempt that voiced, and you will get a voiced uvular fricative, but that isn’t an Israeli ?.

    MiddlePath – Blockhead is right about Dagesh Kal, which can only be found in ??? ??? letters, although if by chance a Dagesh Chazak lands in one of those letters, the pronunciation of the letter would be a “strong” version of the “Dagesh” pronunciation. However, according to some ?????? the “Doubling” of the Dagesh Chazak should be pronounced with the first as an “un-???-ed” letter and only the second would be “???-ed”. For example, the word ??? (meaning speak, like in the beginning of the third ???? of ???) would, according to this opinion, be pronounced Dav-Ber. In practice I have never seen this done.


    And Blockhead – The ? is NOT a dental. The Dentals are ????? (which actually sounds like the word Dentals!) ? is part of the group called Sibilants, which also includes ????


    ravshalom, Thank you for clearing that up. About the “Daber- Dav-ber” thing, I know someone that does make this distinction, but I don’t think it’s considered normal.



    I think we all agree though, that its not pronounced as a palatal like the Israel resh is.

    There seems to be a stirah in the first paragraph of dikduk hagrah.

    He does put ? with those letters, and calls it ????? (a sibilant, because its made from air passing through the front teeth), but then goes on to say that letters from the same place or articulation can be switched, and as an example says ? and ?.


    Middlepath – My pleasure. You are of course correct that Dav-ber is not normal, but it is a fascinating (IMO) chiddush about which many are not aware.

    Blockhead – I completely agree with you that it does not belong anywhere near the palate. The problem is that most of European non-chasidish Jewry pronounced it that way long before the modern Israelis. So, although wrong, it is very difficult to change. It bothers me more when Americans who grew up using the American R for ? suddenly need to become more “Yeshivish” and start talking like a Brisker.

    Incidentally, I believe that the American R is closest to a sibilant (correctly described above as made from air passing through the front teeth) than either a velar fricative (Israeli/European) or an Alveolar ? (Sefardi/Chasidish). The former is from the wrong part of the mouth entirely. The latter is not created by blowing air through anything.

    By the way, what Derech Hamelech referred to as the Alveolar Trill is not how most Sefardim pronounce it. If I am not mistaken, most Sefardim and Chasidim (and Israelis who pronounce ? that way) pronounce it as an Alveolar Tap, which is a shorter sound, with the tongue just tapping the area right behind the top front teeth. The trill is a longer, rolling sound. In Spanish (for example) the letter “r” is pronounced as an Alveolar Tap, but the consonant “rr” is a different sound, and pronounced as an Alveolar Trill. Thus the Spanish word “pero” means “but”, while the word “perro” is pronounced differently and means “dog”.


    And who can leave out good ole’ waw (?), of which is most likely, for numerous reasons pronounced like a W and not like V.


    and the issue of the the word “echad” in shema. If the BGDKFT without the dagesh is to be aspirated, then the daled is a th or zh, which actually enables one to be “maarich” the dalet without the common error of giving the daled a shva na. There are 19 such thaleds or zhaleds in kriyat shema. Another lovely correction is the BF which are explosive labials and as aspirated without the dagesh remain so without the use of the teeth to sound v or f. Practice saying al canfei vigthehem without the teeth, and don’t forget the soft gimmel. I apologize to the speech pats for misuse of terms.


    It is very simple. The tzioini havara is a man-made street language and adopting it for tefila means that you put the values of modern Zionism above proper tefila. Listen to Shwekey sing Al Homotayich if you want an idea of how (some) Americanized Sefardim really speak – it does not sound like modern Hebrew at all.

    Do you really want to speak to Hashem in the same language that you use to order a shawarma at the tahana hamerkazit?

    In fact I use the old Russian-Litvish pronunciation at the amud davka because that is not my daily dialect even when I speak Yiddish (which was a street language as well but now is spoken mostly in the frume velt). I call my friend Moishe, but at the amud it’s Mayshe uvnei yisroel lecho onu beshira.


    My farther was Mizrachi, my grandfarther was Mizrachi, my great grandfather was Mizrachi (from Russia in 1900).

    I asked my farther 2 questions regarding my great grandfarther (who he remembers seeing when he was a young boy).

    1.) did he wear a colorful yamulke (kippa sruga)-he answerd no he looked like how a charedi rabbi looks today.

    2) did he daven like the Mizrachim daven today e.g. saying shabbaT, he answered no-he davend Ashkenazi nusach e.g. saying ShabbaS.


    I just had a discussion with someone the other day along the lines of this topic!

    Re kamatz, there is a difference between a regular kamatz and a kamatz koton which is sometimes replaced by a cholom. This may answer the seeming discrepancy mentioned above re pronounciation of a kamatz.

    I’m not a boki in dikduk at all, and I’ve forgotten some of what I learned, but it is rather fascinating.

    If I recall correctly, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman said that Rav Pam zt”l would say that it grates on the ears to hear someone say meLECH. There are some words in loshon kodesh, such as those with two segols (not a chataf segol) next to each other, that SHOULD have the emphasis on the second to last syllable, as opposed to the last. Another one I’ve heard is cheSED. Ouch! If you know how it is supposed to be said, it sounds terrible like this!

    Most words, though, do properly have the emphasis at the end, as mentioned above.


    emlf, I appreciate you bringing up the rules of words in Mishpachas Sh’nei Segolim. But there are a few exceptions. Most notably, the word ’emes’. It should be pronounced “eMES”, with the stress on the last syllable. This is because the segol under the aleph is a half-segol (chataf segol), and therefore, doesn’t get stressed. According to my Biblical Hebrew teacher, if one pronounces the word ’emes’ with the stress on the first syllable, it no longer means “truth”. It has no meaning, because it is not a real word. I don’t know where he got that from, but he knows dikduk enough that I trust him.

Viewing 50 posts - 1 through 50 (of 50 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.