Hebrew language

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Hebrew language,

member of the Canaanite group of the West Semitic subdivision of the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic family of languages (see Afroasiatic languagesAfroasiatic languages
, formerly Hamito-Semitic languages
, family of languages spoken by more than 250 million people in N Africa; much of the Sahara; parts of E, central, and W Africa; and W Asia (especially the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and
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). Hebrew was the language of the Jewish people in biblical times, and most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The oldest extant example of Hebrew writing dates from the 11th or 10th cent. B.C. Hebrew began to die out as a spoken tongue among the Jews after they were defeated by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Well before the time of Jesus it had been replaced by AramaicAramaic
, language belonging to the West Semitic subdivision of the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic family of languages (see Afroasiatic languages). At some point during the second millenium B.C.
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 as the Jewish vernacular, although it was preserved as the language of the Jewish religion. From A.D. 70, when the dispersion of the Jews from Palestine began, until modern times, Hebrew has remained the Jewish language of religion, learning, and literature. During this 2,000-year period, Hebrew has always been spoken to some extent. At the end of the 19th cent. the Zionist movement brought about the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language, which culminated in its designation as an official tongue of the state of Israel in 1948. There it is spoken by most of the 4.5 million Jews of that country.

Grammatically, Hebrew is typical of the Semitic tongues in that so many words have a triconsonantal root consisting of three consonants separated by vowels. Changes in, or omissions of, the vowels alter the meaning of a root. Prefixes and suffixes are also added to roots to modify the meaning. There are two genders, masculine and feminine, which are found in the inflection of the verb as well as in noun forms. Modern Hebrew has experienced some changes in phonology, syntax, and morphology. Pronunciation of various orthographical forms has changed, as well as the rules for prefixing and suffixing prepositions to nouns and pronouns. Ancient Hebrew seemed to favor a word order in which the verb precedes the subject of a sentence, but in modern Hebrew the subject typically precedes the verb. Hebrew vocabulary has been updated by the addition of many new words, especially words of a scientific nature.

The earliest alphabet used for Hebrew belongs to the Canaanite branch of the North Semitic writing and is known as Early Hebrew. Later the Jews adapted the Aramaic writing and evolved from it a script called Square Hebrew, which is the source of modern Hebrew printing. Most modern Hebrew handwritten text uses a cursive script developed more recently. Today the Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters, all consonants. Symbols for the vowels were apparently introduced about the 8th cent. A.D. and are usually placed below the consonants if employed. Their use is generally limited to the Bible, verse, and children's books. Hebrew is written from right to left.


See W. Chomsky, Hebrew: The Eternal Language (1957); D. J. Kamhi, Modern Hebrew (1982); E. Kutscher, A History of the Hebrew Language (1984); L. Glinert, The Grammar of Modern Hebrew (1989).

References in periodicals archive ?
Applying a Greek mode of thinking into the exegetical discourse of biblical material will almost always result in a distortion of the Hebraic psychologic and produce an affirmation of Greek-based assumptions concerning the human condition.
The use of Hebraic titles sets this translation apart of other popular contemporary translations available today.
Yet, Layton's cavalier/classical facets pertain to the Hellenic/Byronic mask, while his Gothic/apocalyptic and black orientations relate to the Hebraic Poet-Prophet mask.
In their works, Michael Ragussis argued, "the Hebraic is moved to the center of definitions of English national identity.
This requires an integration of the contributions of both the Hellenic and Hebraic cultures, not the severing of the two (contra G.
Despite the few lines of Hebraic prayer they're made to utter, Abramo and Angeluccio, on the other hand, don't seem particularly representative of "Jewishness.
Although still written in England, the pro-American The Book of America foresaw in many respects the distinct genre that was soon to develop in America: its theme was historical and American (it traced English history from the Seven Years War to the Repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766), its language and form biblical, its tone anachronistic and ironic: the notorious British tax stamps (as "a stamp it is called unto this day"), for example, were written on lamb skins, the coin used in America was the Hebraic shekel, and mobs were the biblical evil-doers, "sons of Belial.
In the Hebraic culture, Jesus, the kindest of all people, is regarded as the ultimate enemy.
Artistic reworkings of Talmudic texts also appear in this portion of the exhibition, suggesting the often-overlooked liaison between the Islamic and Hebraic traditions.
His face is repulsive, not because the physiognomy is Hebraic, but because it is Pulitzeresque .
Pushing off from Auden's astute rendering of collective malaise and anomie, this essay seeks to re-engage the notion of community through an assessment of two contrasting foundational sites--one Hebraic, the other Hellenic--that are concerned with cultural definitions.
Austin vividly describes the academic situation in sixteenth-century Europe, the emergence of new universities, the development of Hebraic studies, and the impact of Reformation conflicts upon these institutions and their faculty.