SEPHARDI HEBREW (or SEPHARADI HEBREW) is the pronunciation system for
PHONOLOGY OF SEPHARDI HEBREW
There is some variation between the various forms of Sephardi Hebrew, but the following generalisations may be made.
* The stress tends to fall on the last syllable wherever this is the
* The Sephardi dialects observe the Kimhian five-vowel system (a e i o u), either with or without distinctions of vowel length: that is
* Tsere is pronounced , not * Holam is pronounced , not or * Kamats gadol is pronounced , not
This last difference is the standard shibboleth for distinguishing
Sephardi from Ashkenazi (and Yemenite) Hebrew. The differentiation
between kamatz gadol and kamatz katan is made according to purely
phonetic rules without regard to etymology, which occasionally leads
to spelling pronunciations at variance with the rules laid down in
Sephardim differ on the pronunciation of bet raphe (ב, bet
without dagesh). Persian, Moroccan, Greek, Turkish, Balkan and
Jerusalem Sephardim usually pronounce it as , and this is reflected in
Spanish and Portuguese Jews
This may reflect changes in the pronunciation of Spanish . In medieval Spanish (and in Ladino ), b and v were separate, with the same sounds as in English. However, in Renaissance and modern Spanish, the sounds of the two letters have assimilated, and both are pronounced (bilabial v) when following a vowel (or continuant ) and as otherwise (after a pause).
There is also a difference in the pronunciation of taw raphe (ת, taw without dagesh) .
* The normal
Sephardi pronunciation (reflected in modern Israeli
Hebrew) is as an unvoiced dental plosive ();
* Greek Sephardim (like some
Closely related to the Sephardi pronunciation is the Italian pronunciation of Hebrew , which may be regarded as a variant of it.
In communities from Italy, Greece and Turkey, he is not realized as , but as a silent letter. This is due to the influence of Italian, Ladino and (to a lesser extent) Greek , all of which lack the sound. This was also the case in early transliterations of Spanish-Portuguese manuscripts (e.g. Ashkibenu as opposed to Hashkibenu), but today he is consistently pronounced in these communities. ( Basilectal Modern Hebrew shares this characteristic, but it is considered substandard.)
There have been several theories on the origins of the different Hebrew reading traditions. The basic cleavage is between those who believe that the differences arose in medieval Europe and those who believe that they reflect older differences between the pronunciations of Hebrew and Aramaic current in different parts of the Fertile Crescent, that is to say Judaea, Galilee, Syria, northern Mesopotamia and Babylonia proper.
Within the first group of theories, Zimmels believed that the Ashkenazi pronunciation arose in late medieval Europe and that the pronunciation prevailing in France and Germany in the time of the Tosafists was similar to the Sephardic. His evidence for this was the fact that Asher ben Jehiel , a German who became chief rabbi of Toledo, never refers to any difference of pronunciation, though he is normally very sensitive to differences between the two communities.
The difficulty with the second group of theories is that we do not know for certain what the pronunciations of these countries actually were and how far they differed. Since the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, if not before, the Sephardic pronunciation of the vowels became standard in all these countries, ironing out any differences that previously existed. This makes it harder to adjudicate between the different theories on the relationship between today's pronunciation systems and those of ancient times.
Abraham Zevi Idelsohn , believed that the
distinction is more ancient, and represents the distinction between
the Judaean and Galilean dialects of Hebrew in Mishnaic times (1st-2nd
centuries CE), with the
Sephardi pronunciation being derived from
Judaean and the Ashkenazi from Galilean. This theory is supported by
the fact that
Ashkenazi Hebrew , like
In the time of the Masoretes (8th-10th centuries CE) there were three distinct notations for denoting vowels and other details of pronunciation in biblical and liturgical texts. One was the Babylonian ; another was the Palestinian ; the third was the Tiberian, which eventually superseded the other two and is still in use today.
Of these, the Palestinian notation provides the best fit to the
Sephardi pronunciation: for example it does not distinguish
between pataẖ and qamats, or between segol and tsere. (Similarly,
the Babylonian notation appears to fit the Yemenite pronunciation .)
The Tiberian notation does not quite fit any pronunciation in use
today, though the underlying pronunciation has been reconstructed by
modern scholars: see
The accepted rules of Hebrew grammar, including the current Sephardic pronunciation, were laid down in medieval Spain by grammarians such as Judah ben David Hayyuj and Jonah ibn Janah . By then the Tiberian notation was universally used, though it was not always reflected in pronunciation. The Spanish grammarians accepted the rules laid down by the Tiberian Masoretes, with the following variations.
* The traditional Sephardic pronunciation of the vowels (inherited,
as it seems, from the old Palestinian system) was perpetuated. Their
failure to fit the Tiberian notation was rationalized by the theory
that the distinctions between Tiberian symbols represented differences
of length rather than quality: thus pataẖ was short a, qamats was
long a, segol was short e and tsere was long e.
* The theory of long and short vowels was also used to adapt Hebrew
to the rules of
Further differences from the Tiberian system are:
* Sephardim now pronounce shewa na as /e/ in all positions, though the older rules (as in the Tiberian system) were more complicated. * Resh is invariably pronounced by Sephardim as a "front" alveolar trill; in the Tiberian system the pronunciation appears to have varied with the context, so that it was treated as a letter with a double (sometimes triple) pronunciation.
In brief, Sephardi Hebrew appears to be a descendant of the Palestinian tradition, partially adapted to accommodate the Tiberian notation and further influenced by the pronunciation of Arabic, Spanish and Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino).
INFLUENCE ON ISRAELI HEBREW
Eliezer ben Yehuda drafted his
Standard Hebrew language , he
based it on
Sephardi Hebrew, both because this was the de facto spoken
form as a lingua franca in the land of Israel and because he believed
it to be the most beautiful of the Hebrew dialects. However, the
* ^ Solomon Pereira, 'Hochmat Shelomo.
* ^ To a lesser extent the same is true for the consonants, though
the Jews of Iraq retain /w/ for waw and /θ/ for taw raphe, and the
* Almoli, Solomon , Halichot Sheva: Constantinople 1519 * Kahle, Paul , Masoreten des Ostens: Die Altesten Punktierten Handschriften des Alten Testaments und der Targume: 1913, repr. 1966 * Kahle, Paul, Masoreten des Westens: 1927, repr. 1967 and 2005 * S. Morag, 'Pronunciations of Hebrew', Encyclopaedia Judaica XIII, 1120–1145 * Sáenz-Badillos, Angel (1996). A History of the Hebrew Language. trans. John Elwolde. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55634-1 . * Zimmels, Ashkenazim and Sephardim: their Relations, Differences, and Problems As Reflected in the Rabbinical Responsa : London 1958 (since reprinted). ISBN 0-88125-491-6
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