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When learning with Jews of the Syrian community, I noticed that they pronounced מרדכי (the name of the halachic commentary on the g'mara) as "mord'chi", as if the final vowel were a chirik. Why is this? (They pronounce the name in Ester with a patach at the end.)

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Syrians have very different pronunciation from Ashkenanim, and even others from 'Edoth Mizrah. I can't really offer more detailed explanation on this particular subject, however. On a related note, though, I know someone from Iraqi tradition who pronounces the name Mordochai (with a Hataf Kametz). –  Seth J Feb 11 '11 at 4:12
    
I have a mishna brura of Leshem (לשם) and there מרדכי had nekudos of Mord'chi. –  jutky Aug 1 '12 at 8:30
    
@jutky - What is Leshem? –  Adam Mosheh Aug 22 '12 at 2:01
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@AdamMosheh it's name of the publisher. kodeshbook.co.il/product.asp?productid=3586 –  jutky Aug 23 '12 at 11:05
    
I heard (from an Ashkenazi Jew) that it's done to distinguish between the figure in the Tanakh and the mefaresh on the gemara, similarly to how we pronounce Rambam with the accent on the first syllable and Ramban with the accent on the last syllable. –  Malper Dec 9 '13 at 16:03

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I had a Yemenite Jew (who had learned in Ezras Torah in Israel) in my Daf Yomi shiur many years ago. His name is Nagar, a highly respected name of ancient provenance in their community. I said something from the Mordechai, a rishon that is printed in back of the Vilna Shas. Mr. Nagar said that nobody calls him Mordechai. The Teimanim call him "Mord'chee," because that was the name he was given at his Bris. The Ashkenazi yeshiva people call him "Mordcheh." But nobody calls it "The Mordechai."

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Thank you for this reply! If they have a tradition that was his name (despite it not being the usual name), that basically explain it — but does anyone know of a written source for the claim? –  msh210 Apr 1 '11 at 20:13
    
Here's another example: Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch. According to our two Frankfurter Yekkes, both of whom spent their childhood and teenage years in Frankfurt (and who endlessly point to this or that in the Roedlheim Machzor), the Hebrew name is Shamshon, not Shimshon, and that's how he was called to the Torah. Why? Because that was his name, period. –  Barzilai Apr 1 '11 at 21:52
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Interesting. Do you think it likely that the Teimanim would have a tradition as to the given name of an Ashkenazi (albeit late) Rishon? –  Yahu Apr 5 '11 at 9:14
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Good point. Although the Teimanim didn't suffer the dislocations other segments of Jewry did, it does seem odd that they would have a better memory of that German Rishon than German Jews. It makes one wonder if their pronunciation is an artifact of the Arabic influence. –  Barzilai Apr 6 '11 at 22:12

It's just because Arabic has fewer vowels than Hebrew. It doesn't have segol or patah, it only has fatha, which is pronounced halfway in between.

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Joel Spolsky, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for the linguistic note! We'd love to have you as a fully-registered member, which you can accomplish by clicking register/login, above. Does Arabic also not have a cognate for Tzeireh, which is the last vowel in "Esther"? Also, wouldn't the pronunciation of "Mordochai," be more like "Mordochei" thank "Mordochi" if the last vowel applied there was a "fatha"? –  Isaac Moses Mar 18 '11 at 18:19
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Isaac, there is no real cognate to Tzeireh. I don't actually know independently how Esther is written in Arabic, but according to Google Translate, it is استير or "Astir". Mordecai, incidentally, is translated/transliterated as مردخاي or "Murdkhay". This does not answer the original question in full; it answers the Shva Nah portion of the question, but does not address why it is pronounced with a Hirik at the end; it should be a long Kametz, which is the cognate to the Alif (the tall character, second from the left in the name) in Arabic. –  Seth J Mar 18 '11 at 18:41
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There's also no real "O" (like in "slow"). In classical Arabic it's "U" (like in "super"). –  Seth J Mar 18 '11 at 18:44
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Which is why (in keeping with the spirit of Purim, it's appropriate to mention a villain in a topic about Mordechai) you find people who spell the first name of the mastermind of 9/11 "Usama." –  Alex Mar 18 '11 at 19:56
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I've never heard it called that. It could be because it's a short vowel, but that's interesting, as there's no Segol either in Arabic. When the second letter has a Kametz instead of a Patah, it's Shabbaat (emphatically long 'a' like apple in the last syllable). I've heard that many times. –  Seth J Apr 1 '11 at 17:57

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