For instance, the English sounds of "J", "W","Th", and "Ch" are for the most part unused in Hebrew. Although as an exception, I've seen a Yemenite Chazan use some of these sounds while reading the Torah.

Does the particular makeup of the language mean that only the included sounds are capable of being holy? Is there some other significance to it?

  • By "Ch", do you mean the voiceless palato-alveolar affricate (e.g. as in the name Charlie)? Because, if I understand your transliteration correctly, there are Yemenites who pronounce the other sounds in "גּ" (/dʒ/), "ו" (/w/), and "ת" (/θ/) or "ד" (/ð/), respectively (as you mentioned).
    – Fred
    Mar 20, 2015 at 19:49
  • See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… (but ignore the letters with apostrophes; they are diacritics relevant only to modern Israeli Hebrew).
    – Fred
    Mar 20, 2015 at 19:55
  • 1
    Yes, that's the sound I'm talking about, but that was just an example. Not every possible human sound is included in the Hebrew language, which is where this question comes from. Hebrew is made up of particular sounds (with regional / cultural differences). Is there a reason why only these sounds are included in Lashon Hakodesh, the language with which the world was created? Is there something else significant about these particular sounds? What does this say about other languages? Mar 20, 2015 at 20:20
  • 2
    Related (ch): judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/45738/…
    – Scimonster
    Mar 21, 2015 at 21:25
  • 2
    @Scimonster, not a duplicate?
    – msh210
    Mar 22, 2015 at 3:13

1 Answer 1


Quoting R' Avraham DeBalmash: "lashon hakodesh contains all possible movements of the mouth, but there is controversy as to what letter signifies which sound", on which he elaborates between differrent methods.

The yemenites have (some of them at least) kept the original pronounciation intact, where today many if not most Jews have lost some of the more obscure and uncommon sounds in their native country to an extent.

  • 1
    Googling "Avraham DeBalmash" gets me no results at all, for what it's worth.
    – msh210
    Apr 21, 2021 at 6:41
  • This is definitely false. Even if we gave every letter a dagesh kal form, a dagesh chazak form, and a shin/sin dot form, that would only be 88 sounds. There are more than 88 different sounds in the International Phonetic Alphabet, even just in the pulmonic consonant section!
    – Double AA
    Apr 21, 2021 at 12:27
  • @msh210 see he.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Apr 22, 2021 at 23:24
  • @DoubleAA there could be more than one sound per letter. For example, you could have an undotted ת be [t] at the start of a word, [θ] at the start of a syllable in the middle of a word, [s] at the end of a closed syllable after a kamatz katan, and [ʈ] at the end of a closed syllable otherwise, except in one particular word where it's [ɽ] for some reason.
    – msh210
    Apr 22, 2021 at 23:33
  • The reason there are many more sounds in the IPhA is because diphtongs are used and Lashon hakodesh expressly considers diphtongs of any sort as two vowels and not a single movement of the mouth. Apr 22, 2021 at 23:43

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