Pronounciation of Resh in Hebrew

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by sethmachine, Sep 20, 2008.

  1. sethmachine Banned

    Hello everyone,
    I was wondering what the acceptable pronounciation of Resh is in Modern Hebrew. I've been learning Hebrew all my life and I've always used a trill for Resh.
  2. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Hi Seth.

    No, it's not a trill; it's much farther back than that. Some people say it's like a French R, but in my experience the French R (or at least the Parisian one) is more like a khaf. The resh is almost like gargling.
  3. scriptum

    scriptum Senior Member

    Israel / Hebrew, Russian
    I am afraid the word "trill" doesn't say much in itself. "Resh" may be articulated as an uvular trill (like in French) or as an alveolar trill (like in Spanish, Italian, etc.). Both pronunciations are correct.
  4. Tararam Senior Member

    Yes, Resh is close to the French R. it's just that sometimes the French R takes a little bit of the "ח" sound, but it's very slight and not as deep. All in all they are almost the same. I agree with scriptum both pronunciations are correct although you won't bump into many "rolled" r's like in spanish today. You can hear the rolled r from old radio broadcasters and old newscasters, but you won't hear it a lot in eveyday speech.

    Nevertheless, sometimes the it does come out in speech but it's nothing intentional.
    So, they are both correct only the uvular is much more common... much more.
  5. sethmachine Banned

    Is it ok if I use the trilled R like the one in Spanish? In my education, that's the way we were taught to read Hebrew with a rolled r, not a guttural one.
  6. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Resh can be pronounced in different ways, but I reckon the de facto standard is very close to standard German R, which is, as Nun-Translator suggested, rather different than the standard French R which sounds more like khaf (German "ach-Laut").
  7. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I don't think there is a big difference between German and French /r/. They can both be either [ʁ] or [ʀ], except that German also has a vocalized variant [ɐ] which is like a hatapf-patah. And either [ʁ] or [ʀ] is what I hear in Hebrew as well (I don't know about Sphardic speakers, they might pronounce Resh differently). There is a German dialect where /r/ is pronounced [x], i.e. like Kaph. But I can't hear this in Standard French at all.
  8. Talib Senior Member

    Both Sephardim and Mizrahim traditionally pronounce it [r], like in Spanish or Arabic. Pronouncing it [ʁ] or [ʀ], like in Israeli Hebrew, was originally an Ashkenazic thing.
  9. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    That's what I thought for a long time as well. I was very surprised to learn, e.g. here, that [ʀ] existed already in Tiberian Hebrew.
  10. Talib Senior Member

    I find that claim extremely dubious. Why would there be a uvular R in a Semitic language spoken in the Middle East? This feature is distinctly European. It is believed to have begun in French in the last few hundred years and spread from there.

    Given that Mizrahi and traditional Sephardic dialects have only an alveolar /r/ I strongly suspect this pronounciation originated in Yiddish under German influence, and the Ashkenazim who founded Israel transferred it (along with other features like merging ח and ע with כ and א) into their Hebrew.
  11. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    There are contemporary sources suggesting the existence of a front and a back Resh in Tiberian (not Babylonian!) Hebrew, depending on whether the Resh is pronouncing close to a back of a front sound. If you have access to JSTOR or to the printed journal, have a look here.

    There is some speculation about an alleged relationship between Ashkenazi and Tiberian Hebrew on the one side and Sephardic and Babylonian Hebrew on the other side. But I think it is just that: speculation.

    But the pronunciation of Resh in Modern Hebrew is certainly due to Ashkenazi influence and has nothing to do with how Resh was pronounced 1200 years ago in Tiberias.
  12. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    I'm not sure if it's a French thing.
    I found out that in many languages, there's always a significant share of native speakers that use uvular R.
    For example in Indonesian the ocurrence of uvular R is not that infrequent. I'd say around 15% of the native speakers use it, and some of them trill it so well you don't notice that they're using a uvular R.
  13. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    Exactly, especially if you think that Hebrew is still a "young" language, very muched influenced by the native language of its speakers.
    I'd say that "sabra" Hebrew will pronounce resh very close to the French / Parisian r.
    Huh ... For me (born 2 kms from Paris), khaf is almost the same as the Spanish jota (coming from Arabic) and very close to the German ch as in "ach", "nacht", much more guttural than French r, which, being uvular, starts just at the top of the throat whereas khaf, jota or kh in Arabic (khamsin) is a little below in the throat.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2008
  14. Talib Senior Member

    The sound in Arabic and Hebrew is uvular. If it were below uvular, it'd be pharyngeal, which is the sound of ح.
    I mean that it began in French and spread to other European languages (German, Danish, Yiddish etc).

    Does the uvular trill really occur in Indonesia? That's interesting. I imagine it has something to do with Dutch influence.
  15. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    That is true.
    Starting with resh, we will deal now with khaf or even khet... I don't hear any difference in modern Hebrew between khaf and khet ...
  16. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I think this is a distorted view. You seem to be implying that the uvular (or other forms or guttural) "r" has only been invented ONCE in France and spread from there. While French influence may explain the uvular "r" in STANDARD German and Danish, it would be wrong to say it not native in Germanic languages. You always had dialects with "front" and others with "back" "r"s. I am not sure the predominance of the uvular "r" in Yiddish (you find different articulations of "r" in Yiddish) can be explained by 19th century development in Standard German because the languages were already well separated at that time. And even in English you find dialects with uvular "r" (Northumbrian) where you would certainly not expect French influence.

    I can confirm MarX's observation from my own experience and those of friends that even in languages where the alveolar "r" is the only correct one you often find a certain percentage of speakers who use the uvular "r" (my experience is with Greek speakers).
  17. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Exactly. In languages where the standard has "tongue-R", there's always a significant percentage of those who use uvular R, and the least of them are trying to copy the French. In addition to Indonesian/Malay, I've met/heard speakers of Romanian, Italian, Valencian, Spanish, etc. using uvular R.
  18. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I meant "correct in the standard". Some languages allow variations within the standard (e.g. German), some don't (e.g. Greek).
  19. Talib Senior Member

    Most speakers don't make a distinction but I do and many Sephardim and Mizrahim do. Khaf sounds exactly like the Arabic خ and chet sounds like ح. I also pronounce the ayin which is the same as Arabic ع.
  20. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    This is true and shows that pronounciation/accent will vary according to origin.
    Israelis (or Jews) coming from Arabic speaking countries (or knowing Arabic) will be influenced (or more rightly go back to the semitic origin of Hebrew) by Arabic and pronounce Hebrew the "Arabic way" or "the Middle-eastern" way.
    This is why there is clearly a difference between Ashkenazic and Sephardic pronounciation.
    You find this very clearly in France (where French people have always had a problem with guttural sounds -h-), where there is a striking difference of pronounciation of the above letters in Hebrew (and Arabic), depending on the community (Ashkenazi aor Sephardi).
  21. majdak Member

    I am really no expert in that, but I always thought that there must be a reason why resh sometimes acts (in the grammar of Masoretic text of Bible) as guttural (chet, ajin, alef, he), e.g. it cannot accept daggesh. Cannot the rason be that resh was pronounced as an alveolar? Or is that completely silly suggestion?
  22. Talib Senior Member

    I thought that's simply because the letter couldn't be long/doubled. Like it can in Arabic (or Czech).:)
  23. origumi Senior Member

    Wikipedia agrees with Talib's opinions. The following is explained there:

    1. Originally the Hebrew R was similar to other Semitic languages such as modern Arabic.
    2. Only 60 or 70 years ago its pronounciation changed to be more central European.
    3. There is an evidence that this "European" R existed also during the middle ages in Eretz Israel but this is not conclusive.
    4. R does get dagesh in 15 places in the bible and also in the Yemenite pronounciation of old texts.ר
  24. reletomp New Member

    well resh in classical hebrew is Resh ie R full throttle.Ancient Hebrews were semitic bedoins not goths!
  25. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    The discussion was about Tiberian Hebrew, not about the times of nomadic tribes. And, btw, what makes you think the Goths used a uvular "r"?
  26. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    I always found it interesting as well that resh was listed along with the gutturals.

    I believe there are dialects of Arabic in which the raa is pronounced uvular or velar (as ghayn), so this can occur as the cognate sound in a purely Semitic system. My point in saying this is it does not have to be of European origin.

    It's nice to assume that Arabic is representative of the phonology that Hebrew had in the past, but it may very well be that the uvular sound is the Tiberian resh and that the alveolar trill has occurred because of Arabic influence rather than the uvular sound occurring because of European influence. Remember that Mizrahi Jews spoke/speak Arabic as a mother tongue.
  27. Talib Senior Member

    I don't think any Arabic dialect does that, unless under French influence. All Arabic I've heard has an alveolar trill.
    Perhaps, but I don't see why there would be a uvular resh in Tiberian Hebrew. It's a very European feature. All of the other Semitic languages have an alveolar sound.

    Either way the Arabic sound of ر (and Spanish r, which is similar) explain why this uvular sound is not found in Mizrahi or Sephardi speech.

    Now Arabic and (classical) Hebrew phonology are not a perfect match, but they share most of the common sounds, so it makes sense to assume they sounded quite similar at the time.
  28. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I don't know, if this old stuff still interests anybody but I have to correct by statement. [x]~[χ] exists as an allophonic, devoiced variant of [ʁ]~[ʀ] in front of unvoiced consonants and at the end of the word in French (e.g. in porte noir).
  29. origumi Senior Member

    There's a commercial in the History Channel with participants of some American TV programs like Pawn Stars. They're trying to say יקר yaqar (expensive), but as a Hebrew speaker what I hear them saying is ya-qa-u (or ya-cow). I cannot imaging how the pronunciation (or imitation or Hebrew pronunciation) diverted so far.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2014
  30. Drink Senior Member

    New England
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    According to Wikipedia, there are at least a few Arabic dialects that use a guttural R:

    While the last two could be due to French influence (which I still doubt), the first two could not possibly have had much French influence.
  31. beezneez Senior Member

    English - USA
    I was surprised to find this thread right there, front and center, when I clicked on the Hebrew forum because it was just what I wanted to look up. I'm listening to a set of audio lessons on Hebrew and one of the speakers, both of whom are purported to be native Israeli speakers, pronounces his reshes like a "w" sound. Frankly, it sounds like a speech impediment and I am reluctant to imitate it. He sounds like an Israeli Elmer Fudd. The female speaker pronounces her reshes like a French "r." Much more pleasant to the ear. Is the Elmer Fudd resh ("wesh?") common in Israel? Is it a fad, like the Valley Girl accent? From this thread, I take it I can go with either the French or the Italian approach as they are both common amongst Hebrew speakers. Toda.
  32. Drink Senior Member

    New England
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    That would be a uvular approximant [ʁ̞], which might sound a bit like a "w", but it is not exactly the same. I've heard many Israelis use it for the "r" sound in Hebrew, but if you prefer the uvualar fricative [ʁ̝] or the uvular trill [ʀ], then by all means use it. I think all three sounds are used interchangeably.
  33. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Origumi wrote about a mispronunciation by an American actor, not about an actual pronunciation variant used by native speakers.

    PS: But even I as a native speaker of a language that realizes /r/ as an uvular sound like Hebrew, hear this as [gaw] and not as [gaʁ]. How do Hebrew native speakers hear this?
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014
  34. arielipi Senior Member

    berndf - i see what you mean, though i can hear it as hebrew r too.

    I think hebrew, influenced by all the places jews came form, developed three major r's, a person will often have one ruling, but sometimes in certain words a different one will appear.
    french r.
    russian r.
    r gronit.
  35. arbelyoni Senior Member

    I hear [gaʁ], and that's how I pronounce it too. Perhaps it's less noticeable when there's no vowel following it.
    The Elmer Fudd Reish could be either a speech impediment or just a bad sound quality. It is not a common pronunciation in Israel.
    The Italian R (ריש מתגלגלת) and the French R (ריש גרונית) are allophones of Reish. The former used to be considered more prestigious and formal while the latter used to be more colloquial. Today I don't know any native Hebrew speaker who was born and raised in Israel and uses the Italian R (unless it's for humorous purposes); in fact, I know many people who can't even produce it.
  36. arielipi Senior Member

    I met a druze not long ago and he actually said the opposite; i then tried to do both but couldnt make the french r, though i can when it comes natural.
  37. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    So you say there is a tendency to vocalize /ʁ/ in a syllable coda. That makes sense and is indeed wide-spread. The difference between my and your language than seems to be that you tend to vocalize towards a high vowel or semi-vowel and we vocalize towards a low vowel, i.e. when I vocalize the /ʁ/ in /gaʁ/ (there is a German word gar) the result is [ga:].

    I wonder how wide-spread this kind of vocalizations is? I had never realized it existed and it took me some time to find the sample I quoted (In German, vocalization of final /r/ is rather the norm than the exception). It it specific to certain groups or is it common Israeli? Does it co-exists with vocalization towards a low vowel as in German? If French speakers vocalize a final /ʁ/ which they don't do often, it is also rather towards a low than towards a high vowel.
  38. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    I have to disagree because I've never heard a vocalised final /r/ in Hebrew. Perhaps it would be correct to say that in coda position it more often occurs that the voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] is less tense and is realised as an approximant [ʁ̞]. As for the uvular trill [ʀ] I believe it is more common initially and emphatically.
  39. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Well, I hear that particular sample (see #33) as darn close to vocalization. If you can't relate to this perception, I suppose we won't get together.
  40. Drink Senior Member

    New England
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Well approximants are basically vowels.
  41. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I think we essentially mean the same, yes, though approximants can actually contrast with vocalized consonants.
  42. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Sounds like [ɡaʋ] to me.
  43. arbelyoni Senior Member

    What did he say? Bear in mind that Druze are not native Hebrew speakers.
    And just to be clear:
    "French R" - voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] or voiced uvular trill [ʀ].
    "Italian R" - alveolar flap [ɾ] or alveolar trill [r].
    I agree with airelibre; Reish is never vocalized in any accent or pronunciation I know. In the audio sample I hear it almost as a voiced velar fricative [ɣ].
  44. لنـا

    لنـا Senior Member

    Palestinian Arabic, Hebrew
    Since I was a kid, I thought that native Hebrew speakers in Israel can't pronounce Italian or Arabic r, because they just can't produce it, but in fact, I've heard some can, when they want to make fun and try to speak some words in Arabic!.
    Since they can, why they use the French r? or it's just because it becomes widespread and people become accustomed to?
  45. origumi Senior Member

    It's like the story of 7et vs. 5et. Modern Hebrew consonants usually follow the Ashkenazi accent, which is sort of "Central European" mix. This is not "French r" (althoug may be similar, @berndf is strong with these issues, he may elaborate).

    Israelis can mimic several other kinds of "r" (Arabic, Russian, English, etc.) with certain success depending on the effort.
  46. Drink Senior Member

    New England
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    The problem is not physical ability, but the natural tendency to mimic the way other people talk. For example, when a British person moves to America, he will slowly start picking up bits of an American accent and losing bits of his British accent (and likewise for an American who moves to Britain). I'm sure that even you, if you spent almost all of your time with native Hebrew speakers, might also start using the "French r".
  47. لنـا

    لنـا Senior Member

    Palestinian Arabic, Hebrew
    I see, so it depends! I can make the guttural one (gh غ in Arabic) but it makes me feel like I'm lisping:eek:!
    Thank you both!
  48. bazq Senior Member

    Really? I don't think it should. I doubt Hebrew speakers can tell the difference between gh and the guttural R.
  49. Drink Senior Member

    New England
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I'm assuming it's because she is used to the alveolar R, not because it is different from the Hebrew guttural R.
  50. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    The uvular /r/ in modern Israeli Hebrew is undoubtedly due to Yiddish influence (i.e. brought to the country by immigrants with Yiddish as native language). Where Yiddish got it from (French? German?) I don't know. At the time Yiddish split from German (in late the Middle Ages), the uvular /r/ didn't yet exist in German.

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