- Semitic language that is both a sacred language of Judaism and a modern vernacular in Israel.Like Aramaic, to which it is closely related, Hebrew has a documented history of nearly 3,000 years. The earliest fully attested stage of the language is Biblical Hebrew: the earlier parts ("Standard Biblical Hebrew") date before 500 BC and include even older poetic passages; the later parts ("Late Biblical Hebrew") were composed с 500–200 BC. Post-Biblical Hebrew, variously termed Rabbinic or Mishnaic Hebrew (see Mishna), is characterized by an early period when Hebrew was still probably to some degree a vernacular and a later period, after с AD 200, when Aramaic became the everyday speech of Jews in the Middle East. The 6th and 7th centuries marked a transition to Medieval Hebrew. The resurrection of Hebrew as a vernacular is closely linked with the 18th-century Haskala movement and 20th-century Zionism. Contemporary Israeli Hebrew is spoken by about five million people in Israel and abroad. See also Ashkenazi; Sephardi; Hebrew alphabet.
* * *Semitic language of the Northern Central (also called Northwestern) group; it is closely related to Phoenician and Moabite, with which it is often placed by scholars in a Canaanite subgroup. Spoken in ancient times in Palestine, Hebrew was supplanted by the western dialect of Aramaic beginning about the 3rd century BC; the language continued to be used as a liturgical and literary language, however. It was revived as a spoken language in the 19th and 20th centuries and is the official language of Israel.The history of the Hebrew language is usually divided into four major periods: Biblical, or Classical, Hebrew, until about the 3rd century BC, in which most of the Old Testament is written; Mishnaic, or Rabbinic, Hebrew, the language of the Mishna (a collection of Jewish traditions), written about AD 200 (this form of Hebrew was never used among the people as a spoken language); Medieval Hebrew, from about the 6th to the 13th century AD, when many words were borrowed from Greek, Spanish, Arabic, and other languages; and Modern Hebrew, the language of Israel in modern times. Scholars generally agree that the oldest form of Hebrew is that of some of the Old Testament poems, especially the “Song of Deborah” in chapter 5 of Judges. The sources of borrowed words that first appeared during this period include the other Canaanite languages, as well as Akkadian. Hebrew also contains a small number of Sumerian words borrowed from an Akkadian source. Few traces of dialects exist in Biblical Hebrew, but scholars believe this to be the result of Masoretic editing of the text. In addition to the Old Testament, a small number of inscriptions in Hebrew of the biblical period are extant; the earliest of these is a short inscription in Phoenician characters dating from the 9th century BC.During the early Mishnaic period, some of the guttural consonants of Biblical Hebrew were combined or confused with one another, and many nouns were borrowed from Aramaic. Hebrew also borrowed a number of Greek, Latin, and Persian words.Use of the spoken language declined from the 9th century until the 18th century. Nevertheless, the medieval language underwent development, however spasmodic, in various directions. The cult of the liturgical poem called a piyyûṭ (itself a Greek word) in the 6th–9th century enriched the written vocabulary by giving fresh meanings to old words and coining new ones, especially in the so-called Kalirian style; and the Spanish-Hebrew poets of the period 900–1250 followed suit. This period saw also the addition of about 2,000 or 3,000 scientific, philological, and philosophical terms; some of these were formed by making new use of old roots, as in the case of geder, “fence,” which served also for “definition.” Some were based on existing Hebrew words like kammût, “quantity,” from kammāh, “how much?”, and others were adapted from foreign languages, chiefly Greek and Arabic, such as ʾaqlîm, “climate,” and ṭibʿî, “natural.”Modern Hebrew, based on the biblical language, contains many innovations designed to meet modern needs; it is the only colloquial speech based on a written language. The pronunciation is a modification of that used by the Sephardic (Sephardi) (Hispano-Portuguese) Jews rather than that of the Ashkenazic (Ashkenazi) (East European) Jews. The old guttural consonants are not clearly distinguished (except by Oriental Jews) or are lost. The syntax is based on that of the Mishna. Characteristic of Hebrew of all stages is the use of word roots consisting usually of three consonants, to which vowels and other consonants are added to derive words of different parts of speech and meaning. The language is written from right to left in a Semitic script of 22 letters.
* * *
Look at other dictionaries:
Hebrew language — Hebrew redirects here. For other uses, see Hebrew (disambiguation). Not to be confused with Yiddish language. Hebrew עִבְרִית … Wikipedia
HEBREW LANGUAGE — This entry is arranged according to the following scheme: pre biblical biblical the dead sea scrolls mishnaic medieval modern period A detailed table of contents precedes each section. PRE BIBLICAL nature of the evidence the sources phonology… … Encyclopedia of Judaism
Hebrew Language — The official language of the state of Israel, Hebrew, is a Semitic language in which most of the Bible, the Mishna, parts of the Talmud, and much of rabbinic and secular Jewish literature are written. It is written from right to left. Until… … Historical Dictionary of Israel
Hebrew Language — Although the early Christian church accepted the Hebrew scriptures (known to Christians as the Old Testament) as part of its own divine revelation, relatively few early Christian biblical scholars learned Hebrew, and most Christians relied on… … Historical Dictionary of Renaissance
Hebrew language — The language of the Hebrew nation, and that in which the Old Testament is written, with the exception of a few portions in Chaldee. In the Old Testament it is only spoken of as Jewish (2 Kings 18:26, 28; Isa. 36:11, 13; 2 Chr 32:18). This name … Easton's Bible Dictionary
Hebrew language — … Википедия
Hebrew Language and Literature — • Hebrew was the language spoken by the ancient Israelites, and in which were composed nearly all of the books of the Old Testament Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Hebrew Language and Literature Hebrew … Catholic encyclopedia
Hebrew Language Committee — (formerly the Academy for the Hebrew Language) institution that works to develop proper Hebrew language … English contemporary dictionary
Hebrew Language Academy — institution in Jerusalem considered to be the authority on the Hebrew language … English contemporary dictionary
Revival of the Hebrew language — The revival of the Hebrew language was a process that took place in Europe and Israel at the end of the 19th century and in the 20th century, through which the Hebrew language changed from an exclusively liturgical, written language to a spoken… … Wikipedia