"Can you enlighten me on the irregularity of pronunciation among Jewish bearers of surnames with the element -stein (stone)?"
****** Darned if I know, Daividh.
"Supposedly Yiddish derived from Middle High German, and a high percentage of Ashkenazi Jews bear German surnames. And German is one of the most regular major languages in pronunciation."
****** Although I know a lot of folks (really *old* folks) who speak Yiddish, my own ancestry is Sephardic. My tribe hails from Sicily, the Middle East, and similar, wild, exotic places. :)
"So...why the variable pronunciation of -stein as "stine" and "steen"? Zum Beispiel (e.g.), we have Ben Stein (stine), but John Feinstein (finesteen). In the latter, why not "finestine" or "feensteen"? Is there an unwritten rule to this?"
****** I always thought the difference between a "steen" and a "staaaiiiihn" was the same as the difference between the unpretentious folk and the lah-de-dah folk. For instance, I know Leonard Bernstein always *insisted* on people pronouncing his surname "Bern-staaaiiiihn", although there were rumors that the folks who knew Lenny from way back in the days when he was still a kid taking piano lessons, claimed that he was actually a "-steen".
"(Come to think of it, what Jewish mother names her kid "John"?)"
****** Hmmm... Maybe the mother of John Kemeny (co-inventor of BASIC, the computer language), or the mother of John Harsanyi (winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics)?
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