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
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 18:38
  • I assume you mean currently active traditions
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 18:39
  • 1
    Teimonim, mizra7im, safaradim(Spanish/Portuguese), even kavkazim still differentiate between all except for samekh n seen Commented Sep 16, 2014 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. Commented Sep 16, 2014 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
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 13:36

2 Answers 2


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.

  • According to the gemara in Yoma 75b, 76b, sin and samech should not be distinguished.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Apr 28 at 14:38

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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 16:56
  • @CashCow It was.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 17:50

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