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The way we pronounce words has changed over many years and we now have many different customs. Many of the changes derive from Jews moving to different geographic locations and adopting similar language styles.

What gives a community the heter to change the way words are pronounced in the first place? Or was it just subtle stylistic changes that evolved over time to what we have today? Any examples would be welcome!

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related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/26665/759 –  Double AA May 19 '13 at 1:29
    
user2670 I'm not sure what kind of examples you are looking for. Examples of other languages that have shifted pronunciation with time? –  Double AA May 19 '13 at 1:30
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Does anyone believe that they changed their pronunciation? –  Shmuel Brin May 19 '13 at 4:30
    
@ShmuelBrin Do you mean intentionally or unintentionally? If the latter, then I think, yes, most people do believe that. –  Double AA May 19 '13 at 6:14
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@user2670 By "adopted from the middle east" you mean, from the land Jews originated from? –  Double AA May 19 '13 at 18:30
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1 Answer

While you have brought no evidence to suggest that it shouldn't be allowed (I believe there is quite a bit, although it's outside the scope of this answer), that's not what happened.

Changes in language occur organically. Compare, for example, Cockney English to the Queen's English to standard American English (and even the latter to Appalachian English).

In the 7th chapter of Bava Kama (Bab. 83a) the Gemara quotes a Baraitha that mentions the language of "Sursi", and there is a commentary by Tosafoth explaining that "Sursi" is a dialect of Aramaic spoken in Eretz Yisrael. To address the obvious question of why it has a different name, Rabbeinu Tam says: "לפי שמעט משתנה כעין לשון לעז שמדברים אותו לשון צח במדינה אחת יותר מבאחרת"; (loose translation) "It had changed enough to be considered its own language, similar to La'az, which is more or less pure depending on where you are."

I've personally always found that statement fascinating, when you consider that now, though Romance languages share similarities, they are regarded as entirely distinct. Evidently, in the 12th Century or so, they were still close enough that the relationship between them could be used as an example to explain this phenomenon happening to Aramaic in Eretz Yisrael in the times of Tannaim.*

Different regions and groups have developed different pronunciations for the same words, and each claims Mesorah for its organic development, and any prohibition that may exist against changing one's pronunciation is against changing outside of one's tradition to a different one or a new one.


* Charles Koppelman points out that I may have made too great an assumption that La'az refers to Romance languages as they were evolving in the 12th Century, and that it may refer to French itself as it was evolving. I wouldn't say I'm convinced, but he makes a good argument. In either case, the point is that it demonstrates that languages do evolve organically, especially when regional divisions are considered.

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Seth J, I would love to see that source. Do you have any clues as regards where in the Bavli it might be? Do you know the general context? Do you recall any examples that the sugya brings (specific Aramaic words, etc)? Do you recall how they referred to different types of Aramaic? Minin? Sugin? Also, did they refer to the language as Aramit or Ashurayye? –  Shimon bM May 20 '13 at 8:24
    
Maybe it's said somewhere in relation to the third mishna in Nedarim, or the first mishna in Nazir? (The ones that mention נזיק, נזיח, פזיח, etc...) Haven't found it so far, but am hesitant to commit too much time to this off the bat, in case you have a clue that might actually lead me somewhere else instead... –  Shimon bM May 20 '13 at 8:40
    
@ShimonbM, updated. –  Seth J May 29 '13 at 14:15
    
@CharlesKoppelman, I disagree. As it was taught to me, it most likely represents different Latins, not different Frenches. –  Seth J May 29 '13 at 15:43
    
@CharlesKoppelman in case it's not clear, the assumption I'm making is that if it were different Frenches, it would serve as a poor example of similarly-based languages that are nonetheless distinguishable and worthy of having a different name depending on which country you were in. –  Seth J May 29 '13 at 15:49
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