I was taught how to read in an ashekenazi yeshivah where no difference was made between the aleph and ayin. I keep trying to make my ayin gutteral but it never sounds exactly how the sephardim pronounce it. Is there a specific technique I can use to get the right sound. What can I do to practice pronouncing this letter?

The intention behind this question is so that I would be able to read the daily prayers accurately according to my tradition.

  • 1
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    Feb 22, 2016 at 22:08
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    Feb 22, 2016 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


The correct pronunciation is a pharyngealized glottal stop. The best way to learn to pronounce this letter is to learn how to properly learn how to pronounce a Teth (ט) first. This is a pharyngealized voiceless alveolar stop. To make this sound, make your tongue into a cup. It should be pressing on your furthest back top molars. You should also feel an uncomfortable sensation in your throat, which might cause you to gag a little until you get used to it. Keeping your tongue in this shape, say 'Ta'. It'll come out sounding odd, and half way between a T and D. Once you can do that easily, you're ready to try an Ayin. The glottal stop is the sound you probably don't hear that occurs at the beginning of all the words that start with a vowel sound. It's easiest to hear the sound as the '-' in 'uh-oh'. Make your tongue into the bowl shape and say 'oh'. It will sound weird again in the same way as the Teth. That's an Ayin. Practice 'uh'-'Oh' until you sound like a Yemenite.

  • I'm pretty sure glottal stop is silence caused by the glottis and so I'm not sure its proper to call ayin a glottal stop, when aleph is a glottal stop
    – Aaron
    Feb 23, 2016 at 0:34
  • @Aaron Pharyngealization is a secondary articulation that makes it a different letter. All the emphatic letters can be thought of as pharyngealized other letters. Teth is a pharyngealized taw, Sadhi is a pharyngealized Samekh, Qaf is a pharyngealized Kaph, Heth can be thought of as a pharyngealized Heh. Ayin is a pharyngealized Aleph. The constriction of the throat prevents total closure of the glottis, and the secondary articulation colors the following vowel, which is enough to make it it's own letter. Feb 23, 2016 at 1:42
  • Still not comfortable with the term glottal stop as again it refers to the idea that you stop all airflow and it creates a break in sound. i understand what you are referring to, and how maybe you mean you approach a glottal stop. But whatever. It's your description.
    – Aaron
    Feb 23, 2016 at 2:22
  • @Aaron You do stop all airflow. The IPA is ʔˤ. Feb 23, 2016 at 3:31
  • 1
    No, there are several possible IPAs for it as there are a few ways to do Ayin. There is ʕ, ʢ, and ʔˤ. You can pronounce the Ayin in any of those ways. There are those who do a type of glottal stop, i myself do it for emphasis on occasion. But ayin can be made without a full stoppage, or in other words, a voiced pharyngeal approximant or fricative.
    – Aaron
    Feb 23, 2016 at 5:25

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