I'm interested in finding out where the differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazic pronunciation of Hebrew come from.

On wikipedia it says:

"Leopold Zunz believed that the Ashkenazi pronunciation was derived from that of Palestine in Geonic times (7th–11th centuries CE), while the Sephardi pronunciation was derived from that of Babylonia. This theory was supported by the fact that, in some respects, Ashkenazi Hebrew resembles the western dialect of Syriac while Sephardi Hebrew resembles the eastern, e.g. Eastern Syriac Peshitta as against Western Syriac Peshito. Ashkenazi Hebrew in its written form also resembles Palestinian Hebrew in its tendency to male spellings (see Mater lectionis). ...Others, including Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, believed that the distinction is more ancient, and represents the distinction between the Judaean and Galilean dialects of Hebrew in Mishnaic times (1st−2nd centuries CE), with the Sephardi pronunciation being derived from Judaean and the Ashkenazi from Galilean. This theory is supported by the fact that Ashkenazi Hebrew, like Samaritan Hebrew, has lost the distinct sounds of many of the guttural letters, while there are references in the Talmud to this as a feature of Galilean speech. Idelsohn ascribes the Ashkenazi (and, on his theory, Galilean) pronunciation of kamatz gadol as [o] to the influence of Phoenician: see Canaanite shift."

However, there are no footnotes/sources. Does anyone know where I can look up what Leopold Zunz and Abraham Zevi Idelsohn say (and how they proves their points)?

Wikipedia also says: "The practice of omitting the guttural letters "ayin" and "chet" is very ancient and goes back to Talmudic times (see Sefer He'aruch entry "shudah" as well as encyclopedia Otzar Yisrael entry "mivtah"), when it appears to have been a feature of Galilean pronunciation."

Does anyone know where I can find those books?

  • 1
    While fascinating, this question does not seem to be on topic here, as questions about history and the Hebrew language, (except as pertaining to Judaism itself) are off topic here.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:35
  • I find this question fascinating also, and always have been wondering how the "t" sound of the last letter could find itself turning into an "s" sound somewhere along the way in history of the travels of our people...never mind the "ah" versus "aw" sounds, but the history of the shift in the basic consonantal letters themselves..going all the way back to the language test in Judges where they could not frame/pronounce Sibolet/Shibolet properly, etc...I'm hoping for a good informative answer for this one!
    – Gary
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 17:05
  • 1
    @Gary Why is that so perplexing? Th-alveolarization happens even today in English-as-a-second-language speakers en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 17:58
  • @Double AA - because our Masoretic forefathers spent their lives trying to preserve the written Lashon Kodesh intact for following generations, and still, a basic "t", preserved that way before Hebrew was even Hebrew, managed to become an "s" for a significant part of our people--so WAS it geography, ie, the way the host countries' languages' pronunciations caused it, or other factors? Definitely thought-provoking...and I'm hoping someone out there does come up with some scholar/historian/linguist's effort that explains it.
    – Gary
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 18:09
  • 1
    While old scholarship has suggested that Ashkenazi Hebrew somehow derives from Eretz Israel while Sephardi Hebrew came from Bablylonia, this view is not accepted by most modern scholars.
    – Argon
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 20:40


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