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Deletion of article -ה in spoken Modern Hebrew?

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by thestandard, Jul 12, 2013.

  1. thestandard Junior Member

    English - Australia
    I've been listening to some Israeli music and have heard the vocalists occasionally ignore the article "-ה" , especially in fixed expressions such as "ה)כי טוב)".

    Is this common in all contexts or only in such fixed expressions? Is it almost standard in spoken Hebrew to ommit the article?
    If I wish to speak Hebrew more naturally should I ommit it or will it make me seem uneducated?

    Are there any other pronunciation shortcuts that seem to be very common in casual conversation?

    Thank you so much for your help guys.

    !תודה
     
  2. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    I don't think anyone omits the definite article ה, except of maybe specific individuals when talking fast, and then they are likely to omit other things too.

    As a language student you shouldn't try to imitate such phenomenon, you would sound like a clumsy language student or a new immigrant from Russia.
     
  3. thestandard Junior Member

    English - Australia
    Thanks a lot! I was just checking. I am just curious about linguistic norms in general. I'll make sure I pronounce every sound ;)
     
  4. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    Would you have examples of such passages ?
     
  5. thestandard Junior Member

    English - Australia

    Well in the song עברי לידר . לרגע קטן he seems to skip over them. I looked up the lyrics and they are all written but then I listen to the song and I can't hear them. In the first line he says "חבר הכי טוב שלי מהתיכון
    ", at least that's what it said when I looked up the lyrics. But when I hear him sing it, it sounds more like "חבר-כי טוב שלי מהתיכון". There also a few other moments when it happens. Is this normal?
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2013
  6. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    It's not usually completely ignored. It is often a lot lighter than the English h but is still there. In the word הכי it wouldn't be ignored, but perhaps it would sound more like אחי, hence the phrase קרבי זה הכי אחי, kravi ze (h)akhi akhi.
     
  7. k8an Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia.
    English - Australian
    It really is usually omitted - it's pronounced as a vowel only, and very quickly.

    For example: אתה הגבר הכי יפה בעיר הזאת.
    Ata a-gEver a-KHI yafE ba-Ir a-ZOT.
    You are the most handsome man in this city.

    In this case, the vowel is heard very quickly and unstressed.

    In professional and formal contexts, ה is more likely to be pronounced as "ha":
    Ata hagEver haKHI yafE baIR haZOT.
    It's much heavier and more a part of the word/syllable.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2013
  8. thestandard Junior Member

    English - Australia
    Fantastic replies guys, that's exactly what I wanted to know. I don't want to be lazy when speaking Hebrew but anything that can help with acheiving a more natural fluency is welcome in my books. IT is very hard to find information like this on semitic languages.

    Thanks heaps guys :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2013
  9. k8an Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia.
    English - Australian
    My pleasure.

    P.S. I love that Ivri song! :)
     
  10. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I am not convinced yet. I would like to discuss Airelibre's suggestion that you are applying your English idea of how an /h/ is supposed to sound to a language with a totally different phonology. As English has neither /x/ nor /?/, the English /h/ contrasts with no consonant, e.g. hat contrasts woth at. In Hebrew, /at/ is phonologically impossible and /hat/ contrasts with /xat/ and /?at/ but not with /at/. /h/ could be realized as [ɦ] (voiced variant of /h/, aka "heavy breathing") without loosing its phonemicity as /h/ whereas in English [ɦ] would not be a possible realization of /h/.

    In addition, sung consonants often differ from their spoken counterparts. In particular unvoiced consonants are routinely replaced by voiced ones.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2013
  11. arielipi Senior Member

    Israel
    Hebrew
    No he is right, there hath come a shift of ה into a semi-alef.
     
  12. k8an Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia.
    English - Australian

    I'm not really doing that because I speak Hebrew natively and although I don't live full time in Israel I do spend a lot of time there and speak daily to friends there.

    In school, we were always taught to pronounce ה as "h", exactly like the English one, even though we pronounced it almost always silently. If you watch news broadcasts in Israel or similar formal conversations, you will notice the "h" sound is very evident (and even then not always). As you said, even in some songs it can be heard on rare occasions, for example here:
    <<snip>>
    Even here, however, she often reverts to her natural way of omitting the "h".


    <<snip>>
    Here you can see how, in natural speech, the "h" is never heard (except she does say קהל as "kahal" with the h, unusually). Keep in mind that this is a TV interview, so semi-formal. In regular conversation it is even more silent.

    I'm further convinced that ה used to be "h" as in English by my knowledge of Arabic. The sound ه is identical to English "h". When talking about Hebrew's roots, usually it is talked about with reference to similarities to their corresponding Arabic letters (eg ח/ح, ע/ع, ה/ه).

    Heavily pronouncing the ה as "h" is a clear way to identify a foreigner :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2013
  13. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    I guess you're talking about the "sterile" or "white" variant of modern Hebrew, with consonants influenced mostly by 2nd or 3rd generation of Ashkenazi descendants. It's true that there's some kind of "natural selection" in the Israeli media that promotes this accent. And yet - this is not the only one, other variant of Hebrew exists since always in modern Hebrew, even if titled as שירי התחנה המרכזית and similarly. With the Yemenite and Maghrebi music revolution of the last few decades, which granted considerable measure of self confidence to speakers of the oriental variants of Hebrew, some of the assumptions about reduction of Hebrew consonants are doubtful.

    Hmmm... isn't this discussion off-topic? The thread opener asked about omission of the definite article, not changes in the pronunciation of ה.
     
  14. thestandard Junior Member

    English - Australia
    I'm interested in learning the Ashkenazi inspired accent because it is the most widespread and therefore the most neutral (among native hebrew speakers)

    I don't think they went off topic since they are just elaborating on why I haven't heard the definite article pronounced clearly in songs; which is because in common spoken hebrew, the heth isn't normally pronounced and the vowel is generally reduced.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
  15. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Thank you for the clarifications. Can we assume then that in the accents concerned the weakened consonants /h/ and /?/ are about to merge or maybe they already are?
    Not necessarily. The perceived lack of the morpheme ha- may be due to the weakening of the consonant rather than an omission on the part of the speaker.
     
  16. k8an Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia.
    English - Australian
    I was on that topic, but then it went down that path. Which wasn't really off topic.

    "Sterile"? There's a rather connotation-heavy adjective to apply to a language. Anyway, I never suggested that one was better or worse than another. I completely agree that there are other pronunciations of Hebrew. However, in my age group (under 30), in Israel, it is basically unheard of to always articulate the ה, regardless of background. Basically all Israelis of this age group speak the same way with regards to ה. It is the parents (rarely) and grandparents (more commonly) who have differing pronunciations corresponding to their origin. All of these are nice, valid, and correct. It is just extremely rare to find a 19 year old speaking Hebrew in Israel with Yemeni/Polish/Moroccan/whatever Hebrew pronunciation. Exceptions are new Russian/American/French immigrants (by the way, French are famous for having the most similar accent to Hebrew of new immigrants - obviously due to their omission of h and similar French "r" and ר pronunciations).
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
  17. k8an Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia.
    English - Australian
    A personal anecdote using the word אהלן a(h)lan (hello) from Arabic أهلا ahan (welcome) to illustrate my point that almost all younger Israelis almost always eliminate the h:
    Almost all of my friends are of Mizrahi origin (Yemeni/Libyan/Moroccan/Tunisian/many more). Although I speak Hebrew natively, learning Arabic has made me pronounce Arabic loan words properly, leading me to say "ahlen" in a thick Lebanese accent with a heavy "h" like in the English word "heavy". My friends collapse in fits of laughter every time I do this, as the word is always pronounced in Israel with a silent h and sort of double short vowel - "aalan". They find it absolutely bizarre to their ear. Surely, if the sound is not even imitated in foreign words, this shows that it has been adapted to local pronunciations (ie omitting h is the standard)?
     
  18. k8an Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia.
    English - Australian
    Thank you. This is exactly right. The ה as a definite article has weakened because the ה has weakened in all places, not just as a definite article.
     
  19. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    But this is a different case altogether. Pronunciations like ahlen have been phonologically impossible at least since Tiberian Hebrew. He and Aleph in the syllable coda were already mute back then. Compare Hebrew rosh (head) which has only two audible consonants to its Arabic cognate ra's which clearly has three audible consonants.
     
  20. k8an Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia.
    English - Australian
    How does ras have three audible consonants?

    Anyway, now we are really getting off topic.
     
  21. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    رأس - Rā' - alif - hamzah - sīn. All of these four sounds are individually audible in that sequence (sample).
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
  22. thestandard Junior Member

    English - Australia
    This has also occurred in plenty of other Semitic languages for example "ras" in Maltese and Amharic.
     
  23. greywolfe New Member

    Israel
    English - US
    When I first came to live in Israel, I notices that many Sabras dropped the "ה' ידיעה" almost like Cockneys drop their "aitches" (the letter "h"). It was partly a function of the speed in which Sabras normally speak (very fast) and partly a function of showing off the fact of their being Sabras verbally. A lot of time has passed since then, with many more Sabras present, and my own kids, both Sabras, don't have this habit.
     
  24. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    What you wrote in Arabic says ahla, not ahan??

    Ras is r, ʔ (glottal stop), s
    Three consonants.

    Originally, א was always pronounced as a glottal stop, later it came to be used as a mater lectionis as well, and then it lost its consonantal value and became a pure vowel.
     
  25. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean

    The nunated accusative singular ending -an as in
    أَهْلاً is always written with an alif.


    I think (it's only an uneducated guess) it more probable that in Hebrew pre-existing aleph became a "mater lectionis" after the glottal stop was silenced immediately before another consonant. For ראש it apparently happened
    (along with compensatory lengthening) very early on, before the Canaanite shift; *raʔš- > *rāš- (Canaanite shift)> *rōš. (By the way there are silenced alif's in Arabic as well; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_Arabic (phonology))
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
  26. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    Ah ok, I thought that might be the case.
     
  27. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Yes, there are about 1500 years between the oldest books of the Torah and the completion of the niqqud system. When the spelling of the word Rosh was fixed the aleph was most likely still pronounced as it still is in Arabic.

    (I would just present the sequence differently. The Canaanite shift probably occurred earlier.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2013
  28. greywolfe New Member

    Israel
    English - US
    No, it's the ayin (ע) that's pronounced as a glottal stop, not the aleph (א). The aleph comes out more like a short, silent hesitation if it has no vowel attached to it.

    You can hear this clearly when speaking to an older Yemenite or Iraqi Jew who was educated in a Jewish school where they were born. You can hear the difference between most of the "duplicate" letters, also-- the differences between khaf (כ) and khet (ח), tav (ת) and tet (ט) and samech (ס) and sin (ש). Unfortunately, this has been dying out for years, with the younger people making the pairs sound the same.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2013
  29. k8an Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia.
    English - Australian
    Exactly. It is almost unheard of for younger people to speak this way.
     
  30. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Which dialect do you mean? In Yemenite dialect ע is not a glottal stop but a voiced fricative as it is in Arabic and for all we know also in Mishnaic and Biblical Hebrew ע wasn't a glottal stop either.
    This distinction was lost at least 2000 years ago as evidenced by spelling variations in Qumran scrolls.
     
  31. k8an Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia.
    English - Australian
    We have gone way off topic. Partly my fault.
     
  32. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    No, ע in Arabic, Mizrachi-pronunciation Hebrew and almost certainly older forms of Hebrew, is a voiced pharyngeal fricative (/ʕ/) while א originally represented the glottal stop ([ʔ]).
     
  33. thestandard Junior Member

    English - Australia
    So is "א" as a glottal stop more often than not elided as well? For example the common expression "להתראות", is it pronounced quite often as /le.itra.ot/ instead of /lehitraʔot/? Does it occasionally diphthongise as /lejtraut/ or /lejtra.ot/?

    Cheers :)
     
  34. Albert Schlef Senior Member

    Hebrew
    I'd pick /lejtra.ot/ form your list (assuming I understand your notation).

    (But let me point out that people here more often say "bye" ;-)

    I want to stress that this is Sloppy Hebrew. There's no reason to adopt the kind of pronunciation described in this thread. Just like there's no reason to adopt English's "like" and "erhm..." and 10 smileys in every sentence and "!!" and "LOL!".

    I'd suggest to you to consider replacing your friends.
     
  35. k8an Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia.
    English - Australian
    Thanks for your kind suggestion, but I'm more than satisfied with the quality of my friends. :)
     

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