James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Wed May 8 03:29:19 UTC 2002

In a message dated 05/07/2002 10:44:42 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
dcamp911 at JUNO.COM writes:

> what [Sharon] is speaking
>  sounds quite different from the Hebrew I have heard in several Orthodox
>  services I have attended.  Is there a significant difference between
>  liturgical Hebrew and colloquial Hebrew?

To start off with, Sharon as an Israeli speaks the Sefardic dialect of
Hebrew, and it is not unlikely that  the Orthodox services you attended were
in the Ashkenazic dialect.  The difference is that a certain Hebrew letter is
/t/ in Sefardic and /s/ in Ashkenazic, and there is a vowel that is /uh/
(short u, probably not a schwa) in Sefardic and frequently /aw/ in

Then within Ashkenazic there are regional variations, e.g. Litvak versus
Galitzianer (Lithuania versus the region around Lvov).  These variations to
my ear are as distinctive as say Brooklyn versus Boston.  However, it is only
among Old-World types that you will hear these variations.

I think that what happens is that liturgical Hebrew is nobody's native
language (a perhaps self-obvious statement,  since if Hebrew is your native
language then by definition it is not "merely" your litugrical language.)
Hence children learning Hebrew for services will pronunce it with the same
phonemes as s/he uses for his birth language.  Since the birth language in
Europe was usually Yiddish, I imagine that the various flavors of Ashkenazic
pretty much reflect regional variations in Yiddish.

Imagine someone unfamiliar with English listening to an English-language to
you (you are a native speaker of English, aren't you?) taliking with an
Israeli who speaks English with a definite Israeli accent.  This observer
would probably notice the same qualiity of difference as you noticed between
the liturgists and General Sharon.

     James A. Landau

P.S.  Quite aside from whatever you think of Sharon's policies:  If I
remember correctly, he was a student of Oriental philosophy before he got
sidetracked into the military, and by an odd coincidence his most noted
victory was at "the Battle of the Chinese Farm" (where he defeated the
Egyptians by attacking them with his rearguard).

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