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Are there any two letters which do not have a distinction between their pronunciation in any tradition of pronunciation? To ask the inverse, is there at least one tradition of pronunciation for each letter that has it pronounced distinctly from every other letter?

For example, a ches and a chof are not pronounced distinctly in traditional Ashkenazic pronunciation, but in many Sefardi traditions they are.

I am including rafeh/dagesh (dotted and undotted) letters as separate letters.

  • Sin and samekh. That's it – Double AA Sep 16 '14 at 18:38
  • I assume you mean currently active traditions – Double AA Sep 16 '14 at 18:39
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    Teimonim, mizra7im, safaradim(Spanish/Portuguese), even kavkazim still differentiate between all except for samekh n seen – MoriDowidhYa3aqov Sep 16 '14 at 20:59
  • @DoubleAA Yes - I was wondering if there would be a way to "construct" an alphabet with distinctions for every letter using existing traditions. – Y     e     z Sep 16 '14 at 21:02
  • If you go back far enough, of course, every letter was distinct. It appears that originally, sin had a lateral articulation (IPA: ɬ). – Argon Jun 17 '16 at 13:36
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The book מפתח הדלת, by ישראל חיים (Chaim) Lenchitz, revised edition, 5766, quotes this from Radak's Michlol, though I don't know where it is in Michlol:

צריך אדם להזהר ולהבדיל בין ו״ו ובית רפה

That is:

A person must be careful and distinguish between vav and light ves.

The same book claims that Radak says the same (in the same place in Michlol) about ס and צ, about כ and ק, and about תּ and ט. The most common modern pronunciations distinguish (among them) all other pairs except ס and שׂ, about which you can see more info at an earlier question.

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In Aruch Hashulchan, סימן ס״א, סעיף ח׳, regarding K'rias Shema, it states:

וכן בין שי"ן שמאלית לתי"ו רפה.... וכן הסמ"ך לא יהיה דומה לתי"ו רפה

That means that one should be careful to distinguish between שׂ (Sin) and ת (Saf, or Taf without a dagesh), and also between ס (Samech) and ת.

  • I was led to believe that taf without a dagesh was probably not pronounced "T" or "S" but more like "Th". I also wondered if Daled without dagesh was "th" like in the word "this". – CashCow Aug 10 '15 at 16:56
  • @CashCow It was. – Double AA Jan 18 '16 at 17:50

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