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Variation in Hebrew dialects

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by cunninlynguist, Jun 8, 2013.

  1. cunninlynguist New Member

    After discovering that native Yiddish speakers say 'Shabbos' instead of 'Shabbat', I became intrigued by one question: how diverse is Hebrew in terms of accent and dialect? I know that Yiddish is mainly spoken by Haredi Jews, but is the difference in speech between Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Mizrahim significant enough for two speakers to be able to distinguish each other's cultural group? Is a fluent Hebrew speaker capable of noticing that another Hebrew speaker's mother tongue is Yiddish?

    Also, to what extent were previous regional Ashkenazi dialects standardised by Modern Hebrew? I'm aware of the differences between Western and Eastern Yiddish dialects, but would it be possible to differentiate between native Yiddish speakers from the Netherlands and native Yiddish speakers from Ukraine? (I'm referring to the Hebrew-speaking ones in Israel, of course.) Or am I overstating the diversity of Hebrew pronunciation?

    And lastly, if I'm not mistaken, Mizrahi Jews from Arab countries weren't united by a common language like Ladino or Yiddish, but rather, they had different Judeo-Arabic dialects. So again, is it possible to distinguish between Israeli Mizrahim from, say, Egypt and Yemen?
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2013
  2. origumi Senior Member

    The question better be about accents. All Israelis and most of non-Israeli Hebrew speaker have practically one dialect. The difference is mainly in accent and other vocal gestures. My answer below refer to

    Modern Hebrew among Ashkenazi jews: It is usually easy to tell if one is a native Israeli Hebrew speaker vs. Yiddish / Akhkenazi Hebrew speaker. As Ashkenazi accent is maintained only in the orthodox communities, it's not easy to tell whether an Ashkenazi Orthodox speaks Yiddish vs. Ashkenazi Hebrew at home (and the other of the two as a second language).

    Sepharadim / Mizrahiim (we use both terms for the same communities) have distinct accents. Yemenites make special het and `ayin. Maghrebis tend to pronounce shin ("sh") as something between shin and sin ("s") and have a special resh ("r"). Some of them have certain French accent. Hebrew Iranian accent is unique, similar to the Iranian language. Some other like Iraqi and Egyptian also have special traits but no so obvious. The young generation is anywhere between keeping the original accent and using Israeli one.

    Different Yiddish dialects - I don't know, my guess is that due to communities shuffling after the holocaust, the dialects were mixed too. One who doesn't speak Yiddish is unlikely to be able to tell the difference.
  3. cunninlynguist New Member

    Thanks for that, your post was very helpful. What about the Russian community? Do they have a distinct accent of their own? I ask because I'm curious about my own pronunciation. Is it very obvious that Russian is my mother tongue? http://vocaroo.com/i/s1e8OmTQtq6E

    P.S. I am aware that Hebrew is quite homogenous when it comes to dialects, I was simply referring to my second point about regional Yiddish dialects.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2013
  4. arielipi Senior Member

    To all your questions, the answer is: yes, but. yes, each group can distinguish in-group differences, but no among other groups. yemen are easy to know as they usually talk like arabic, with a khet and ayin.
  5. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    Yes, Russians have a russian accent, (surprise!), as do you.
  6. cunninlynguist New Member

    That's obvious enough, what I meant was whether they had a distinct accent of their own (i.e. do they sound just like most foreigners who attempt to speak Hebrew, or are there certain aspects of Russian Hebrew pronunciation that make them stand out?)
  7. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    Well you can always tell someone's accent by the way they pronounce their consonants (easiest to become native-sounding), followed by the way they pronounce their vowels (a little harder) and then their intonation. This last one can take many years to change to sound native, depending on your age. If you start learning Hebrew at 5 years old, you will sound like it is your first language by 7-10 years old. If you start at 20, it could take another 20 years, if you start at 50, you just have to accept you will never be able to sound like you were born in that country. This is the same in any language but in Hebrew it is not such a big deal because so much of the population is immigrant compared to in other nations.

    Specifically to Russians speaking Hebrew, the r is the biggest giveaway. In your sound clip you say most of your r's as guttural r's (throat) but when you say medaber ivrit the r in medaber is with the tongue tip. A lot of Russians, mizrachim, Arabs etc. say their r's with the tongue, they don't bother to say it the native way which is based on Ashkenazi pronunciation. The way you say ani also sounds russian to me, it seems to have a very slight y sound creeping into the i, like anyi/aniy. Generally it is the intonation though. Italian is probably the most famous language in terms of intonation, it is very up and down and flowing. Hard to describe russian but it is distinctive.
  8. origumi Senior Member

    Russians sound like Russians. Some signs are the "r", palatalization (sometimes), "zh" sometimes (not too much, neither of these two should be used in Hebrew), mixing "h" with "g" and vice versa.


    Added: I see that airelibre already listed some of these signs.
  9. GeriReshef

    GeriReshef Senior Member

    Since the end of the 80's many jews came to israel from Rusia and other ex Soviet republics. Those who were born there will always have Rusian accent, and their sons and daughters who were born in Israel will speak basic Rusian with Hebrew accent and not viceversa.

    Most of the other Jewish imigrants came during the 50's. The second and the third generation were born here, it is very unprobable to find a young Jewish man who all his grandfathers came from the same country, and thus- I can sometime identify if someone is Mizrahi or Ashkenazy according to his face or family name but not according to his accent.

    Most of the Haredim in Israel don't speak Yidish and their native language is Hebrew.
    Yidish or Ladino or other Jewish languages were spoken by Jewish communities before the Holocoast and the mass immigrations to Israel, and today only very old people would be "native Polac Yidish speakers" or "native Turkish Ladino speakers" etc.
  10. David S Senior Member

    Richmond, VA, USA
    English - US
    There are Hasidic villages where kids are surrounded by only other Hasids and they are educated in private schools with only other Hasids, and the language spoken everywhere is Yiddish. Might there be Yiddish-speaking villages in Israel?
  11. arielipi Senior Member

    Well, yes; but they know hebrew as well.
  12. shaliach Junior Member

    English - U.S.A.

    Here is a relevant article:

    ?למה החרדים במאה שערים מדברים אידיש

  13. anipo Senior Member

    Spanish (Arg)- German
  14. shaliach Junior Member

    English - U.S.A.
  15. amikama

    amikama sordomodo

    This "article" (actually appears to be homework) was written by
    A 4th grade student named Keren, from a school in Gedera (an Israeli city with no significant ultra-orthodox population).
    You do not cite elementary school homework as an academic article, do you? :)

  16. shaliach Junior Member

    English - U.S.A.
    Are you disputing what is written in the article?
  17. anipo Senior Member

    Spanish (Arg)- German
    1. As amikama said, it is not an article, but homework done by a 10 years-old.
    2. As I said in post #13, she might even be right.
    3. Even if she were right, you don't quote such homework as a reliable source, neither in an academic article nor in WR.
    4. I guess you did not realize you were quoting a kid. It can happen to anyone. Just say so. That is the end of it and no hard feelings.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2013
  18. shaliach Junior Member

    English - U.S.A.
    Edit: I'm sorry, I'd rather not pursue this.

    You're correct, I should state scholarly sources here on WR. I do believe that the content within the homework is correct though.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2013
  19. cunninlynguist New Member

    @airelibre, origumi

    Thanks for the short analysis and explanation. Regarding the guttural 'r', it sometimes sneaks into my Russian as well. Quite likely a consequence of studying French for such a long time. It's not uncommon that some Russians will identify a guttural 'r' as a "Jewish 'r'" however, so that's why I assumed it was the standard pronunciation.

    I think studying a language shouldn't be limited to reading, writing and speaking, but also pronunciation. So I want to make an effort to work on my accent while learning the language. I probably won't sound like a native speaker, but I'll do my best to sound less Russian. I already promised myself that I won't make aliyah until I learn Hebrew!

    P.S. Is there a distinction between a person of the Jewish faith and Jewish ethnicity in Hebrew? The respective terms in Russian would be iudei and evrei. Does yehudi cover both?
  20. GeriReshef

    GeriReshef Senior Member

    The exact meanings of the terms have been changed during the history.
    Today, the term "יהודי" reffers to both the religion and the ethnicity, though the religion is more emphasized.
    The term עברי is less used today, but in the begining of the Zionist movement it refered to the Jewish ethnicity in Palestine (in contradiction to the Jews in the diaspora). Today it generally refers to the Hebrew language.
    Most of the us (Israeli-Jews) would define ourselves as Jews and Israelis (in this order);
    and the Israeli-Arabs as Palestinians/Arabs/Moslems etc.
    As you can see, this is a political issue..

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