The Litvish/Russian pronunciation of the Cholam sound is an /ay/ sound, similar (I think actually exactly the same) as a tzeirei. Are there any sources saying that it is a Halachic problem pronouncing the cholam like a tzeirei?

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    Maybe they're pronouncing the tzeirei like a cholom. – Double AA Nov 3 '13 at 6:16
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/222 – Fred Nov 3 '13 at 17:23
  • @Fred Oops, I mistyped. I meant to write that Galitzianers pronounce cholom as /oj/ and tzeirei as /aj/, while Litvaks pronounce both cholom and tzeirei as /ej/. Thanks for the correction. (Incidentally, I recall there was a musical number in Yiddish which poked fun at this pronunciation difference, by having a Litvak and a Galitzianer arguing with each other in song -- I think you can still find it on Youtube somewhere. It was mostly dealing with the pronunciation of Yiddish words, but the same sound shifts have affected the pronunciation of Hebrew words in roughly the same way.) – user3318 Nov 3 '13 at 17:56
  • @Malper Ok, then, I'll defer to you. I'm probably mixed up about who pronounces the tzeirei which way. I'm not so sure about the ending /j/, though. Are you sure these traditions treat that as a standard part of the "vowel" sound? – Fred Nov 3 '13 at 17:59
  • @Fred It's just a notational difference whether one writes, say, /ej/ or /ei/ or /eɪ/. Either way it's phonetically a diphthong. – user3318 Nov 3 '13 at 18:01

It's generally accepted that traditional pronunciation schemes for Hebrew are always halachically acceptable. The basic mekor for this is that the Gemara (e.g. Megillah 24b, brought down by the Shulchan Aruch) implies that there are halachic problems with pronouncing ayin as aleph. Numerous mefarshim qualify that this does not apply in a place where the common pronunciation merges these sounds; the problem is only if this is an uncommon or distracting pronunciation in the locale where it is being used (see the mefarshim on the Shulchan Aruch which brings the previous Gemara down, c.f. Igros Moshe OC 3:5).

While the sources generally refer to pronunciation differences in general, there are a few specific references to the Litvish pronunciation. Aruch Hashulchan OC 62:2 specifically states that it is acceptable that many Litvaks pronounce cholam as /ej/, and both sin and shin as /s/ (the infamous "Sabosdiker losn"), although he mentions that a person who is careful to pronounce the words "avodah" and "aveidah" differently will be rewarded greatly (since the word "aveidah" has highly negative connotations). I also remember a source poking fun at Litvaks for pronouncing "kavod va'oz" as "kaveid va'eiz" ("liver and goat"), although at the moment I can't seem to find it.

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  • I found a forum comment making the same remark as in your last sentence, but a source is not provided. – Fred Nov 3 '13 at 18:55
  • @Malper Thanks, anymore sources for litvish that you nknow of? – termsofservice Nov 4 '13 at 2:18
  • I remember that שרשי מנהגי אשכנז has a discussion of all the different pronunciations of cholam among Ashkenazi Jews, and mentions the Litvish pronunciation. Unfortunately I don't have access to that sefer at the moment, and I don't recall if it has anything interesting to say about Litvish in particular. – user3318 Dec 9 '13 at 21:40

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