Re: Matronymics and the way Zayin is pronounced #general


In a message dated 3/6/2006 11:23:24 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, writes, in response to my statement:

There is no sound in the German language that resembles the Z in "zero."
< I hesitate to question Michael's knowledge of German, but I was taught
< that a single s before a vowel (as in "sie" or "Hase") is pronounced as
< the English z in "zero". It certainly sounds that way to me when I
< hear German. I this a question of regional differences?

==Mea culpa! I was just half-way through the third grade when I left
Germany . . . It would have been more correct for me to say Hebrew, as
pronounced by Jews in Germany and Western Europe, pronounced the letter zayin
with an S sound, indistinguishable >from samekh or sin. And the letter Z in
German, was always pronounced "ts," whether at the beginning, the middle or
the end of a word.

==I thank Robert Israel for pointing out to me the fact that the
z-as-in-zero sound is actually heard in German. I wondered whether it was
regional (I was born and schooled in middle Franconia) and to test it, I
stuck the tip of my tongue between my teeth and quickly withdrew it as I
said "Sie" and "Sonne" and discovered that the z-as-in-zero sound did not
sound alien to me--but it worked neither for Samstag nor for Sontag. Did we
have that sound in our home and school, or had it become familiar to me from
hearing all those unFrankish people in the decades since?

==One plausible alternative: The z-as-in-zero sound did not obtain in
Judaeo-German, the prototypical Yiddish, and since it was a relatively lesser
occurrence in speech, it was not acquired by those whose environment (in the
synagogue or in the countryside) did not use it.

==Come to think of it, my mother could hold us in stitches when she told us
how, on her visit to her sister's in-laws in Hungary, she would be addressed
as "Du ~Z~ ue ~z~ e" [~z~ like z in zero]

==Which is really where I entered the argument, about the origin of the
names Sussman and Suskind which, I think, are never pronounced with an
initial ~z~

Michael Bernet, New York

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