Pronunciation of ע

Zeevdovtarnegolet

Senior Member
English - usa
This is a question to native Hebrew speakers, or to people who have lived in Israel or have really extensive exposure to the language. Obviously, most people only pronounce ayin as a glottal stop if at all, but when ayin is pronounced in some Hebrew accents (I.E. Mizrachi, Sephardic) is the consonant pronounced equally no matter where it occurs in the word? For example, is the ayin at the end of רגע identical to the ayin at the beginning of ערב or identical to the ayin in the middle of מסעדה

I ask this partially because I know that in some other languages with the ayin consonant, the position of the consonant in the word creates a few somewhat different realizations of the consonant. For example, in Arabic, an ayin at the very end of a word is pronounced a little "lighter" than if it had been on its own in the middle of the word. Likewise, initial ayin has its own sort of quality that is slightly different from the ayins in other positions. Obviously, it is still the same consonant no matter where it occurs, but there is a slight difference in the realizations depending on where they occur.

Is Hebrew like this too?
 
  • GodFatherQsubs

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    The pronunciation is just like א or ה. The word רגע is pronounced exactly as it would have been pronounced if it was written רגה. Same case with ערב or מסעדה - would be the same if it were ארב and מסאדה.
    Maybe some old people of Mizrachi descent would occasionally have a more "pronounced ע" than they should, probably because their native language isn't Hebrew but Arabic, and the ע in Arabic is indeed pronounced a bit differently. Basically it's just like a Frenchman is most likely to have a different R even when he speaks in English.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ... Maybe some old people of Mizrachi descent would occasionally have a more "pronounced ע" than they should ...
    I think this is a bit strong. Israelis from Arabic-speaking countries such as Yemen, and their not-so-old children (including at least one personal friend of mine), tend to vocalize ע and to pronounce ח as a softer sound than undotted כ.

    I don't think it's "should" or "shouldn't," though. The European immigrants who revived Hebrew used sounds they knew from German or Russian, so they didn't vocalize ע. Other people do. Let's not make culture-based judgments about who's right or wrong.
     

    GodFatherQsubs

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    The "harder" pronunciation of ע is something that has simply transferred from Arabic speakers. Actually I've just looked it up and it seems that in the old Hebrew the ע was indeed pronounced more "heavily", but I guess modern Hebrew has slowly rejected this pronunciation, as it's fading away with each generation. I agree about the ח pronunciation - it's still around even among younger people (almost exclusively among people of Yemen descent), but the ע pronunciation is not as common, especially not among young people. My guess is that within a generation or two (should we still be here :D), these pronunciations will vanish completely.
    I didn't mean to indicate any culture-based judgments of what's right or wrong (I'm actually of Mizrachi descent myself), just stated that new Hebrew speakers don't need to pronounce the ע in a different way than א.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    GodFathQSubs said:
    The "harder" pronunciation of ע is something that has simply transferred from Arabic speakers. Actually I've just looked it up and it seems that in the old Hebrew the ע was indeed pronounced more "heavily", but I guess modern Hebrew has slowly rejected this pronunciation, as it's fading away with each generation.
    Of course it was originally more like the other Semitic languages, you actually doubted that? What would've been the point in having two letters with the exact same sound? In fact all cases of Hebrew phonemes ending up as allophones, we'll find this wasn't the case in ancient Hebrew.

    Regarding the pronunciation of ח in ancient Hebrew this letter represented to two distinct phonemes one like the "kh" sound that Hebrew kaph has often become and the other a strong breathy "h". These two phonemes were still distinct in Hebrew even up to about the Christian period, sometime after that they seem to have merged together, some communities retaining one pronunciation, others the alternative.
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    Interestingly, the traditional Dutch Jewish pronunciation of ayin is the [ng] sound or [ŋ] in IPA. This was also the case among Italian Jews and some communities of Spanish and Portuguese Jews.

    Unfortunately a lot of these traditions of Hebrew pronunciation are disappearing or have already disappeared because most Jews now learn and use modern Israeli pronunciation in religious contexts (as I did as well).

    By the way, I think that in fact it is the predominance of Arabic as the spoken language that influenced and helped preserve the sound of ayin among Mizrahi Jews. However, we don't need to resort to saying that it is European influence that resulted in its loss. "Ayin" was already lost in some dialects of Aramaic and pronunciation of Hebrew among Jews in ancient times, such as the Gallilean dialect. It may have already been on its way out in ancient times among Jews however was kept alive or brought back to life when their native language became Arabic.
     
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    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    clevermizo,

    Being someone of a European-speaking background, who has learnt Semitic languages, I think it's only natural that we cannot distinguish between ayin and alef. That sound is the one that took me the longest to master (even now I still slip up occasionally). So I think it's undeniable that the Ashkenazim have brought a very European approach to reviving Hebrew, and that has helped to dilute ayin.

    Could the [ng] sound be a remnant of the fact Hebrew ayin is actually a merger of ayin and ghayin? This also seems to be the case of tsade which appears to have a bit of the ظ sound in it, and it is in fact a merger between ص ض & ظ

    Does [ng] sound something like ghayin?
     

    tapuz

    New Member
    Finnish
    Could the [ng] sound be a remnant of the fact Hebrew ayin is actually a merger of ayin and ghayin? This also seems to be the case of tsade which appears to have a bit of the ظ sound in it, and it is in fact a merger between ص ض & ظ

    Does [ng] sound something like ghayin?
    I would also like to hear how the ng sounds in the place of ayin.

    If we have ערב -erev, is it like eNGrev? NGerev?
    מסעדה misadah, misaNGdah? misNGada?
     

    Zeevdovtarnegolet

    Senior Member
    English - usa
    I really find all this discussion quite interesting but it doesn't really address my question. Did I not make myself clear what I was asking? I wasn't asking why most people don't pronounce ayin anymore, or how it was lost, or whether people should pronounce it, or if Arabic is superior for having a throatier modern articulation, or whatever. I was asking that among those who do pronounce ayin, does the ayin's articulation change depending on where it occurs in a word. I think my post was pretty clear, but if not please don't hesitate to ask I will explain it again.


    Listen to the speaker here with his ayins. He does pronounce them. Are they distinct when they occur at the beginning, middle, or end of the word? Is their articulation any different:

    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/ptmp3prq.htm
     

    Zeevdovtarnegolet

    Senior Member
    English - usa
    The "harder" pronunciation of ע is something that has simply transferred from Arabic speakers. Actually I've just looked it up and it seems that in the old Hebrew the ע was indeed pronounced more "heavily", but I guess modern Hebrew has slowly rejected this pronunciation, as it's fading away with each generation. I agree about the ח pronunciation - it's still around even among younger people (almost exclusively among people of Yemen descent), but the ע pronunciation is not as common, especially not among young people. My guess is that within a generation or two (should we still be here :D), these pronunciations will vanish completely.
    I didn't mean to indicate any culture-based judgments of what's right or wrong (I'm actually of Mizrachi descent myself), just stated that new Hebrew speakers don't need to pronounce the ע in a different way than א.

    Do the hyper orthodox make an effort to pronounce ayin as ayin, especially in recitations? You would think they would.
     

    ks20495

    Senior Member
    Hebrew and English
    Do the hyper orthodox make an effort to pronounce ayin as ayin, especially in recitations? You would think they would.
    Ultra-Orthodox Sepharadim generally pronounce the ayin.

    Ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazim do not pronounce the ayin on a day-to-day basis. However, some do pronounce during liturgical readings.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Zeev said:
    or if Arabic is superior for having a throatier modern articulation
    I don't think it's about superiority, merely about the Arabic pronunciation of Semitic phonemes being the most conservative, and therefore providing us some kind of a snapshot of what Hebrew originally was like.

    Zeev said:
    Listen to the speaker here with his ayins. He does pronounce them. Are they distinct when they occur at the beginning, middle, or end of the word? Is their articulation any different:
    I only listened to the first few verses of Beresheit, but I couldn't really notice ayin being pronounced. It was certainly a lot less pronounced at the end of words, but all cases of it just sounded like alef to me.
     

    Zeevdovtarnegolet

    Senior Member
    English - usa
    I don't think it's about superiority, merely about the Arabic pronunciation of Semitic phonemes being the most conservative, and therefore providing us some kind of a snapshot of what Hebrew originally was like.



    I only listened to the first few verses of Beresheit, but I couldn't really notice ayin being pronounced. It was certainly a lot less pronounced at the end of words, but all cases of it just sounded like alef to me.

    Listen when he says erev - it's definitely pronounced as an ayin there.
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    clevermizo,

    Being someone of a European-speaking background, who has learnt Semitic languages, I think it's only natural that we cannot distinguish between ayin and alef. That sound is the one that took me the longest to master (even now I still slip up occasionally). So I think it's undeniable that the Ashkenazim have brought a very European approach to reviving Hebrew, and that has helped to dilute ayin.
    Yes, I understand this point of view. My only point was that we shouldn't be too hasty necessarily, given that the Ayin may have already been identical to Alef in some pronunciations in ancient times that predate the diaspora into Europe. The traditional Ashkenazi pronunciation may be descended from ancient traditions that did not distinguish. In fact there are basically two schools of thought: some folks think that Ashkenazi Hebrew is Europeanized; some think that it represent maintenance of more ancient traditions already present in the Middle East. I don't think there's enough evidence either way, but looking phoneme by phoneme this Ayin-Alef merger is much older -

    In the Talmud (3rd-5th centuries AD), Masekhet Eiruvin 53a-b a lot of criticism of Galilean pronunciation of Hebrew is brought forth, including this sarcastic remark (in favor of Judean speech):

    R. Abba requested: ‘Is there anyone who would enquire of the Judeans who are exact in their
    language whether we learned me'aberin מעברין or me'aberin מאברין and whether we learned akuzo אכוזו or ‘akuzo עכוזו for
    they would know [the correct spelling]’.
    The rest of Masekhet Eiruvin 53a-b goes on to discuss further confusions of pronunciation among the Galileans where the Judeans clearly distinguished consonants.

    Could the [ng] sound be a remnant of the fact Hebrew ayin is actually a merger of ayin and ghayin?
    I don't think so because I think this merger was complete before the diaspora into Europe. If you nasalize the Ayin [ʕ] one could imagine it brought forward in the mouth and becoming [ng]. The two sounds are remotely reminiscent.

    Does [ng] sound something like ghayin?
    It does not. It sounds like the ng at the end of the English word [thing] (without clearly pronouncing a 'g' sound) or [sing].

    I would also like to hear how the ng s
    ounds in the place of ayin.

    If we have ערב -erev, is it like eNGrev? NGerev?
    מסעדה misadah, misaNGdah? misNGada?
    I presume it would be NGerev and misNGada. European languages typically do not have this sound syllable-initially, but it is common in some languages in Africa and East Asia.

    Do the hyper orthodox make an effort to pronounce ayin as ayin, especially in recitations? You would think they would.
    No, ultra-orthodox Jews in general obey tradition. What I mean by that is that the correct pronunciation is whatever the traditional pronunciation is from your community (your nusakh). If your community is an Ashkenazic one, the only recitation you should use is the traditional Ashkenazic pronunciation. Similarly, if your community is Mizrahi you should use Mizrahi pronunciation. Furthermore, Sephardim and Ashkenazim have different orders of recitation of certain prayers, different cantillation for reciting the Torah, etc. So in general, the rule is to follow one's own tradition. Usually ultra-orthodox Jews would be opposed to making changes to the traditional pronunciation even if such changes (like adding an Ayin) would bring about something more historically idealized.

    In more "modern" orthodox synagogues (non ultra-orthodox), the modern Israeli pronunciation is taking over consistently (at least in the USA). It's typically the pronunciation taught for recitation in Hebrew schools and Jewish day schools, often from Israeli teachers.

    I only listened to the first few verses of Beresheit, but I couldn't really notice ayin being pronounced. It was certainly a lot less pronounced at the end of words, but all cases of it just sounded like alef to me.
    Listen when he says erev - it's definitely pronounced as an ayin there.
    I can hear it a bit, but it's not very clear. I agree with Abu Rashid.

    To answer your initial question, Mizrahi, Yemeni, etc. traditions that do possess the Ayin sound, I believe, would pronounce it the same regardless of its position. Especially because these people speak Arabic as a first language and are used to pronouncing it in every day life.
     
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    Zeevdovtarnegolet

    Senior Member
    English - usa
    Thank you clever mizo that was very enlightening! :)


    So there is a good chance that aleph and ayin merged back in the day. That is something I never knew. After all, there really is no need for them to be distinct in speech. Sure it would make certain words minimal pairs instead of identical in pronunciation, but it's not like Hebrew has the phonological inventory of Hawaiian or something where there are very very few sounds in total.
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    Thank you clever mizo that was very enlightening! :)


    So there is a good chance that aleph and ayin merged back in the day. That is something I never knew. After all, there really is no need for them to be distinct in speech. Sure it would make certain words minimal pairs instead of identical in pronunciation, but it's not like Hebrew has the phonological inventory of Hawaiian or something where there are very very few sounds in total.
    Yes, indeed it may have occurred long ago, but it's hard to say what is "necessary". All that is necessary is that meaning be distinguished for interlocutors to understand one another. If this is lost phonologically because the two phonemes now are identical, then it must arise another way - by context or by additional added words, etc. so that it remain distinguished. For example, in English "red" and "read (past tense)" are now pronounced identically. However, if I say: "Do you see the red chair?" there is no chance you'd think I mean "Do you see the read chair (the chair that has been read (about?))?" and context makes it clear.

    The actual occurrence of the "loss" itself though as a historical event, is not precipitated by a decision on what is extraneous phonologically. After all, it is more "sensible" that words with distinct meanings be pronounced distinctly. The loss itself is more or less unpredictable but still logical based on phonological and other (sociocultural, etc.) factors.

    Actually, according to the same passage in the Gemara, the Galileans did not properly distinguish between א ע ה ח and pronounced them all "silently" (as alef) so I'm sure there would be some confusion when speaking to their southern neighbors! :D:eek:

    All we can say is that some populations of Jews kept Ayin and some lost it in ancient times. It is likely, in my opinion, that those that lost it, if they migrated to Europe where this sound does not occur, would have good support for its staying "lost" if you will, or similarly even Jews that kept the sound might lose it once their native languages no longer contained. Conversely, Jews who lost Ayin might have good reason to resurrect it once their native language became Arabic where it is commonplace or similarly, Jews who retained its pronunciation since ancient times would find speaking Arabic good support for its retention. I don't know if it's possible to say what happened first and where, but a European-speaking environment is definitely less supportive of retaining Ayin whereas an Arabic-speaking one would better support it.
     
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    Ihsiin

    Senior Member
    English
    Yes, I understand this point of view. My only point was that we shouldn't be too hasty necessarily, given that the Ayin may have already been identical to Alef in some pronunciations in ancient times that predate the diaspora into Europe. The traditional Ashkenazi pronunciation may be descended from ancient traditions that did not distinguish. In fact there are basically two schools of thought: some folks think that Ashkenazi Hebrew is Europeanized; some think that it represent maintenance of more ancient traditions already present in the Middle East. I don't think there's enough evidence either way, but looking phoneme by phoneme this Ayin-Alef merger is much older -

    In the Talmud (1st century AD), Masekhet Eiruvin 53a-b a lot of criticism of Galilean pronunciation of Hebrew is brought forth, including this sarcastic remark (in favor of Judean speech):

    The rest of Masekhet Eiruvin 53a-b goes on to discuss further confusions of pronunciation among the Galileans where the Judeans clearly distinguished consonants.
    I was led to believe that Hebrew was very much in decline, if not already dead, by the 1st century AD, being superceded by Aramiac. Is this not true?
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    I was led to believe that Hebrew was very much in decline, if not already dead, by the 1st century AD, being superceded by Aramiac. Is this not true?
    Yes that is the case, however Hebrew pronunciation was preserved for liturgical purposes and for study. The above however, apparently held true for the Galilean dialect of Aramaic as well, which is probably why they pronounced Ayin and Alef identically in Hebrew (i.e., they used their native dialect pronunciation in Aramaic as their way of pronouncing Hebrew).

    The fact that the Judeans from the same time period pronounced Ayin properly is probably due to the fact that they also distinguished between Ayin and Alef in their Aramaic dialect.

    Also, the Jewish dialects of Aramaic always had many, many Hebrew loan-words, and in some ways the Hebrew language was "alive" via the Aramaic. (And similarly, Hebrew had an important effect on the development of Jewish dialects and languages everywhere such as Yiddish and Judeo-Arabic and Ladino, etc.)
     

    Ihsiin

    Senior Member
    English
    Yes, this makes sense. I remember reading somewhere that the liturgical pronunciation conventions of Hebrew in Yemen changed the qoph into a /g/, and in Syria it was changed into a glottal stop, reflecting the dialects of Arabic spoken in those regions.

    But then, mightn't it be more accurate to say that Hebrew never merged ayin and alef, but that certain dialects of Aramaic had this merger, which was reflected in the liturgy of the speakers of those dialects?
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    clevermizo said:
    My only point was that we shouldn't be too hasty necessarily, given that the Ayin may have already been identical to Alef in some pronunciations in ancient times that predate the diaspora into Europe.
    Wasn't this at a time though when the Middle East was under heavy European influence, the Greeks, Romans etc? Btw, there's some dialects of Arabic in which this merger has occurred (I'm sure you know of at least Maltese), and all of them are on the periphery of the Arabic world, where the speakers are heavily influenced by non-Semitic languages which don't have ayin in them.

    Zeev said:
    So there is a good chance that aleph and ayin merged back in the day.
    Although some communities may have merged it back then, it was certainly not a widespread feature of the language, not even by the 9th. century C.E. Ghayin on the other hand had merged into ayin sometime before the 9th. century, but after the 3rd. century B.C.E, so if both ghayin & ayin were distinct back then, it's impossible that ayin would've already merged to alef.

    Zeev said:
    That is something I never knew. After all, there really is no need for them to be distinct in speech. Sure it would make certain words minimal pairs instead of identical in pronunciation
    Well I'm sure most languages could still get understood even if you merged several or their phonemes, but somewhere along the line you begin losing information. Doesn't mean they can't compensate though. I'm sure human language could be very functional with a very small range of distinct phonemes.

    But Hebrew has certainly confused and merged quite a few words due to its loss of a large number of phonemes throughout its history.

    Zeev said:
    but it's not like Hebrew has the phonological inventory of Hawaiian or something where there are very very few sounds in total.
    Not quite as simplified as Hawaiian, but compared to its ancestor language, it has lost a lot of phonemes.
     

    utopia

    Senior Member
    Israel, Hebrew
    If I'm not mistaken the reader of the Tanakh is Amikam Gurevich, who is a professional reader, who adopted a certain pronounciation.

    His ain and het are gutteral, but are a little bit artificial. If you talk to yemenite jews or to other Israelis who still hold the pronounciation of those phones, you'd sometimes have difficulties in understanding. The Het is sometimes too deep - almost like Heh.

    I know that many Ashkenazi Jews follow a tradition according to which there are some verses in which they have to pronounce the ain.
     

    origumi

    Senior Member
    N/A
    Wasn't this at a time though when the Middle East was under heavy European influence, the Greeks, Romans etc? Btw, there's some dialects of Arabic in which this merger has occurred (I'm sure you know of at least Maltese), and all of them are on the periphery of the Arabic world, where the speakers are heavily influenced by non-Semitic languages which don't have ayin in them.
    The Greek / Latin influence wasn't deep enough to change the pronounciation. The Akkadians who lost ע and ח in an early phase influenced the Aramaic as spoken in their homeland and all of Mesopotamia, and consequently in other locations. The Hebrews started absorbing Aramaic very much in Babylon during 6th-5th centuries BC before returning home in Achaemenid times. Since this exodus, Aramaic became more and more dominant, with the expected influence on Hebrew in term of vocabulary and pronounciation.
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    The Gemara (the Talmud part that you qouted) is from 3rd-5th centuries. Specifically, Rabbi Abba belong to the 3rd generation of Amoraim, end of 3rd century.
    Thanks for the correction! I've edited my post to reflect this.

    I know that many Ashkenazi Jews follow a tradition according to which there are some verses in which they have to pronounce the ain.
    Do you happen to know which verses these are (roughly) and how the Ayin is actually pronounced in them? Do they manage to pull off the Arabic [ʕ] or is it something else?
     

    Zeevdovtarnegolet

    Senior Member
    English - usa
    Wasn't this at a time though when the Middle East was under heavy European influence, the Greeks, Romans etc? Btw, there's some dialects of Arabic in which this merger has occurred (I'm sure you know of at least Maltese), and all of them are on the periphery of the Arabic world, where the speakers are heavily influenced by non-Semitic languages which don't have ayin in them.

    Maltese is not a dialect of Arabic at all, but a separate language. It is NOT mutually intelligible with Arabic at all. Yes the base of the vocabulary is Semitic, but more than 50 percent of the total vocab is of Italian or English derivation. Maltese are not Arabs, and their language is not Arabic.


    As far as the periphery of the Arab world, how do we define that? The original area in the Arabian peninsula before massive expansion and imperialism with the coming of Islam? Are we to include northern Africa, home to Berbers, Egyptians, and other indigenous people as part of the original Arab world? How about Spain? LOL
     

    Zeevdovtarnegolet

    Senior Member
    English - usa
    If I'm not mistaken the reader of the Tanakh is Amikam Gurevich, who is a professional reader, who adopted a certain pronounciation.

    His ain and het are gutteral, but are a little bit artificial. If you talk to yemenite jews or to other Israelis who still hold the pronounciation of those phones, you'd sometimes have difficulties in understanding. The Het is sometimes too deep - almost like Heh.

    I know that many Ashkenazi Jews follow a tradition according to which there are some verses in which they have to pronounce the ain.
    Ok so his ayin is effected :) But he does pronounce it as I thought :)
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Zeev said:
    Maltese is not a dialect of Arabic at all, but a separate language. It is NOT mutually intelligible with Arabic at all.
    I'm not going to get into what the delimiter is between a language and a dialect with you, as it's well known this argument has no worthwhile outcome.

    But there are other varieties of Arabic that are not mutually intelligible with the bulk of Arabic varieties, yet are still classified as dialects of Arabic. In fact even most Maghrebi dialects are not really mutually intelligible with the bulk of Arabic dialects.

    As far as the periphery of the Arab world, how do we define that?
    The periphery that I was referring to is the very far West of Africa as well as Sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey and Central Asia. All of these regions have Arabic dialects which are not really mutually intelligible with the core of the Arabic world's dialects, and most of them also seem to have merged ayin/alef.

    Zeev]The original area in the Arabian peninsula before massive expansion and imperialism with the coming of Islam?
    Seems you are not quite sure what periphery means. It refers to the edges, not the centre. That would be the centre, that you've described.

    Zeev said:
    Are we to include northern Africa, home to Berbers, Egyptians, and other indigenous people as part of the original Arab world? How about Spain? LOL
    Yes al-Andalus was on the periphery, and yes its dialect of Arabic did merge ayin/alef, thanks for pointing that one out.
     

    Ihsiin

    Senior Member
    English
    I don't see what being Muslim has to do with it. Maltese is as a much a descendant of classical Arabic as what we'd call the modern Arabic "dialects" (or what I'd call the modern Arabic languages), and is pretty closely related the North African variates of Arabic.

    Of course there's a debate about it, but I suspect this isn't the place for it, so I won't go any further.
     

    utopia

    Senior Member
    Israel, Hebrew
    Maltese is as far as I know a seperate language - politically, religiously and linguistically.

    It's considered by its speakers as a seperate language.

    The substratum is semitic, but it becomes a seperate language and not a dialect when it has a political motivation behind it.

    The Italian and English influences have made it very hard to understand for outside the Maltese islands.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Zeev said:
    Maltese is a separate language there is no debate about that. They are not Arabs, nor are they Muslims. Facts are facts.
    I guess the Judeo-Arabic dialects can't really be dialects either then, since their speakers are not Arabs, nor are they Muslims... facts?

    I don't know where you're steering this discussion Zeev, but I really don't see how someone's religion determines whether or not they're a speaker of a language or a dialect. There's millions of Christian, Jewish, Mandaic, Atheist, Yazidi, Druze, Animist, Bahai Arabic-speakers, who are obviously not Muslims, what bearing does that have on their speech?

    Whether Maltese is politically defined as a dialect or a language is irrelevant anyway. It is a part of the historical development of the Arabic language, no matter how far it has deviated from the mainstream, and therefore its merging of alef/ayin (which was my point) is just as relevant to this discussion either way you want to classify it.
     

    Zeevdovtarnegolet

    Senior Member
    English - usa
    I guess the Judeo-Arabic dialects can't really be dialects either then, since their speakers are not Arabs, nor are they Muslims... facts?

    I don't know where you're steering this discussion Zeev, but I really don't see how someone's religion determines whether or not they're a speaker of a language or a dialect. There's millions of Christian, Jewish, Mandaic, Atheist, Yazidi, Druze, Animist, Bahai Arabic-speakers, who are obviously not Muslims, what bearing does that have on their speech?

    Whether Maltese is politically defined as a dialect or a language is irrelevant anyway. It is a part of the historical development of the Arabic language, no matter how far it has deviated from the mainstream, and therefore its merging of alef/ayin (which was my point) is just as relevant to this discussion either way you want to classify it.
    It is because of your particular world view that your must see Maltese as Arabic, and you must see anything touched by the Islamic world as Muslim. That was what I was referring to.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Zeev said:
    It is because of your particular world view that your must see Maltese as Arabic, and you must see anything touched by the Islamic world as Muslim. That was what I was referring to.
    It is? I fail to see where in my posts this became apparent. I couldn't care less if Maltese wants to classify itself as Altaic, it has absolutely no bearing on the point that it evolved from Arabic, and like most other dialects of Arabic that existed on the periphery of the Arabic-speaking world, it merged alef/ayin.

    Please try to keep this discussion restricted to linguistic issues, religio-political issues are not being discussed here.
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    Maltese is not a dialect of Arabic at all, but a separate language. It is NOT mutually intelligible with Arabic at all. Yes the base of the vocabulary is Semitic, but more than 50 percent of the total vocab is of Italian or English derivation. Maltese are not Arabs, and their language is not Arabic.
    I think all that Abu Rashid was pointing out was that Maltese began (regardless of its current position) as a dialect of Siculo-Arabic. The Maltese language still graphically represents Ayin (with either the graph or the apostrophe ' ) however it is a silent letter (although exerting some effects on the surrounding vowels). ** Interestingly, quite like Hebrew, this also represents a merger of both original phonemes Ayin [ʕ] and Ghayin [ɣ] before later being lost entirely.

    The Ayin was still and may current still be pronounced by certain rural communities, especially on the island of Gozo (Għawdex) whose dialect is more conservative than that of Malta (the main island).

    Abu Rashid's main point was that although ayin is/was in the phonemic inventory, it's likely that cultural and linguistic contact with European languages led to its loss. Since Maltese began as a dialect on the periphery of the Arabic-speaking world with contact with non-Semitic systems, he was making a connection between that and loss of the Ayin sound. Even if you reject it as "Arabic", it's still classed as Semitic language, so it's another example of a Semitic language possessing an original phoneme of Ayin and then losing it later in analogous fashion to some others.

    Analogously, we can envision that Jewish people in the diaspora with heavy contact with speakers of languages lacking a sound such as Ayin, that such contact contributed to its loss among them in their vernaculars and in their pronunciation of Hebrew.

    Although off-topic here, you can find more discussion about the relationship of the Maltese language and the Arabic language in this thread in our Arabic forum (and some others I believe in EHL and OL). I'm sure the Hebrew forum mods would prefer you direct any discussion about this topic there (and I encourage it as it is an interesting topic). :D
     
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    tFighterPilot

    Senior Member
    Israel - Hebrew
    I am Ashkenazi and I pronounce ע correctly when I'm trying to stress a word. To how Hebrew should sound like, I suggest listening to Syriac Aramaic.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    FighterPilot said:
    To how Hebrew should sound like
    How "should" a language sound? Languages are living organisms, they are as they are. Why only go back as far as Syriac in that case? Why not go back further? To pronounce ayin and ghayin, haa and khaa etc. There is no specific point in Hebrew's history when one can say that's what Hebrew should sound like. Aramaic likewise has changed dramatically since it was first written down, at which point did it "sound as it should sound"? Answer, never, it sounded as it sounded at each different point in time.
     

    tFighterPilot

    Senior Member
    Israel - Hebrew
    How "should" a language sound? Languages are living organisms, they are as they are. Why only go back as far as Syriac in that case? Why not go back further? To pronounce ayin and ghayin, haa and khaa etc. There is no specific point in Hebrew's history when one can say that's what Hebrew should sound like. Aramaic likewise has changed dramatically since it was first written down, at which point did it "sound as it should sound"? Answer, never, it sounded as it sounded at each different point in time.
    I have no problem with consonants which naturally change, like ו changing from W to V or even ר changing from R to GH. My problem is with these which just disappear. Each language has its own special consonants, modern Hebrew only has the bare minimum. It's a shame.
     

    Ihsiin

    Senior Member
    English
    How "should" a language sound? Languages are living organisms, they are as they are. Why only go back as far as Syriac in that case? Why not go back further? To pronounce ayin and ghayin, haa and khaa etc. There is no specific point in Hebrew's history when one can say that's what Hebrew should sound like. Aramaic likewise has changed dramatically since it was first written down, at which point did it "sound as it should sound"? Answer, never, it sounded as it sounded at each different point in time.
    Well, it is possible to pronounce things incorrectly.
    I don't think we can really say there is no "should". What we could say (or what I would say) is that the proper pronunciation conventions are those used by native speakers of a living, colloquial language. Obviously there are a variety of temporal and regional variations, which would all be included as "proper". Once might also consider the origin of the piece of writing in question when reading; for example, when reading Shakespeare a few early modern English pronunciation conventions are often necessary, otherwise the meter is messed up.
    From here it's clear to conclude that any innovations in pronunciation made by non-native speakers are corruptions and therefore "improper". If we want to bandy around "shoulds", then I'd say these innovations "shouldn't" be pursued. The ayin merger to alef, then, is a corruption of Hebrew stemming from the native languages of the corrupters.

    This is how I see it, anyway. I'm sure there are many who disagree with me.

    (Incidentally, waw turning to /v/ is something that really makes me grind my teeth, much more so than the disappearance of ayin.)
     

    origumi

    Senior Member
    N/A
    To how Hebrew should sound like, I suggest listening to Syriac Aramaic.
    I think that Syriac is similar to modern Jewish Aramaic dialects that existed in northern Iraq, northern Iran, southern Azerbaijan. These do not sound like Hebrew. The Syriac pronounciation changed along history and was influenced by Kurdish and Persian.

    Listen to aspirated b and p which sound as v and f in modern Hebrew: both became w in eastern Syriac. This is by no way true Hebrew sound.
     

    tFighterPilot

    Senior Member
    Israel - Hebrew
    I think that Syriac is similar to modern Jewish Aramaic dialects that existed in northern Iraq, northern Iran, southern Azerbaijan. These do not sound like Hebrew. The Syriac pronounciation changed along history and was influenced by Kurdish and Persian.

    Listen to aspirated b and p which sound as v and f in modern Hebrew: both became w in eastern Syriac. This is by no way true Hebrew sound.
    You're right, I should've been more specific and say western Syriac.

    It's kinda funny how in Syriac Veth has gone through the exact opposite change than the Hebrew Waw. BTW, the original pronunciation of soft ב\ܒ was probably /β/.

    Again, I don't expect modern Hebrew to include all the correct consonants. Ghimel couldn't be used in modern Hebrew because the consonant is already taken by ר. Tsade is already unique and changing in to Sade would be 3 letters for /s/. But ח,ט,ע,ק are letters that if pronounced correctly could greatly enhance Hebrew.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    ihsiin,

    My point was, at what point do you stop "correcting" Hebrew pronunciation? For instance, would you re-separate out words with ayin and ghayin in them, knowing that in the pre-Christian era Hebrew still had them separated at that time. Likewise for ح and خ. Then should we go further and separate shin back into ث as well? And tsade into ص, ض & ظ? At some point in Hebrew's history these sounds were all distinct, etymologically, and they merged much like ayin and alef have merged today, only most of them were not graphically represented separately.

    You could keep "correcting" Hebrew until you reached the original 29 distinct proto-Semitic phonemes.
     
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    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    FighterPilot said:
    Ghimel couldn't be used in modern Hebrew because the consonant is already taken by ר.
    Well if you "corrected" ר as well, then you could.

    FighterPilot said:
    Tsade is already unique and changing in to Sade would be 3 letters for /s/
    Hebrew tsade is actually a merger of 3 separate phonemes, and all 3 were distinctly pronounced in ancient times. Should they be "corrected" and returned back to their original state?
     

    tFighterPilot

    Senior Member
    Israel - Hebrew
    ihsiin,

    My point was, at what point do you stop "correcting" Hebrew pronunciation? For instance, would you re-separate out words with ayin and ghayin in them, knowing that in the pre-Christian era Hebrew still had them separated at that time. Likewise for ح and خ. Then should we go further and separate shin back into ث as well? And tsade into ص, ض & ظ? At some point in Hebrew's history these sounds were all distinct, etymologically, and they merged much like ayin and alef have merged today, only most of them were not graphically represented separately.

    You could keep "correcting" Hebrew until you reached the original 29 distinct proto-Semitic phonemes.
    Hebrew never had ظ and ض. These developed only in Arabic. The original pronunciation of Sin was most likely lost before Hebrew was a language. The only languages which have what it might have been are south Semitic (which incidentally also have /ts/).
     

    ks20495

    Senior Member
    Hebrew and English
    I know I'm joining this conversation at a late stage...But, I just think that this discussion of language correction needs a little proportion. Even people in Israeli academia who have called for language correction do not (to my knowledge) call for a revival of the Proto-Semitic sounds that have fallen out of use. The entire idea seems rather ridiculous to me. Just take the example of separating צ into ظ, ض, and ص: Every native speaker would have to relearn every root with a צ -- not to mention be asked to produce three sounds that are not in their sound vocabularies. Moreover, in Arabic (at least), ض-ص-ظ are emphatic consonants that change the vowels in their vicinities. Can we expect native Hebrew speakers -- on top of learning new consonants -- to learn an entire new vowel system?

    Hebrew is - like any other language - a living 'organism' that is constantly undergoing change. If [ʕ] (ع) falls out of use completely, then that, to me, is just one other development in the long and convoluted history of the language. I think it's important that we put aside our subjective preferences for what makes language "beautiful" when approaching this issue.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Fighterpilot said:
    Hebrew never had ظ and ض. These developed only in Arabic.
    It had equivalents, I'm not saying they sounded exactly the same, just using the Arabic letters to represent them, as obviously they can't be represented with Hebrew letters. They did not develop in Arabic, they were just never lost to begin with in Arabic as they were in Hebrew & Aramaic. As an example, in Aramaic they merged into Tet and Ayin respectively, which is different to how they merged in Hebrew. So in the ancestor language of Hebrew & Aramaic, they were still distinct. I think even early in the first millennium B.C they were still distinct in Aramaic. And ظ still existed in Ugaritic, which is closer to Hebrew than Aramaic or Arabic.

    FighterPilot said:
    The original pronunciation of Sin was most likely lost before Hebrew was a language.
    I wasn't talking about Hebrew sin, but Hebrew shin, which is merged with a letter represented as ث in Arabic. In Aramaic again it merged with a separate letter ܬ (taw) altogether. It is pronounced like the letter that the English word for 3 begins with.

    Hebrew sin/samek merged sometime in the first millennium C.E, certainly long after it had become a language. This was probably due to Aramaic influence, where they'd already merged.

    Anyway this is all well known stuff, that you can find in any book about comparative Semitic linguistics. My point was just that Hebrew has done a lot of merging, so if you want to "correct" the merges, then there's a lot more to do than you might think.
     
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    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    ks20495 said:
    Just take the example of separating צ into ظ, ض, and ص: Every native speaker would have to relearn every root with a צ -- not to mention be asked to produce three sounds that are not in their sound vocabularies. Moreover, in Arabic (at least), ض-ص-ظ are emphatic consonants that change the vowels in their vicinities. Can we expect native Hebrew speakers -- on top of learning new consonants -- to learn an entire new vowel system?
    Precisely, it's not going to happen, just as I don't think ayin/alef is going to be undone either. In fact this kind of merging almost seems to be part of what Hebrew is, so if Hebrew wasn't still merging phonemes, we'd probably say that was un-Hebrew-like.

    The only difference is that the alphabet Hebrew uses had distinct graphemes for the phonemes being merged nowadays, and so the merges become more apparent, as we have these "left over" graphemes like sin, ayin, tet, qof etc. that don't really get pronounced as distinct phonemes anymore.

    This is no different to the merges that occurred 2000~ years ago between ayin/ghayin and ح/خ
     
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