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tongue among the Jews after they were defeated by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Well before the time of Jesus it had been replaced by AramaicAramaic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 ?
Petersburg, Russia (formerly Leningrad, hence the codex's designation) is the best known and is the basis for the widely used Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, its predecessors, and successor, Biblia Hebraica Quinta.
Biblia Hebraica (Stuttgart: Virtembergicum Institutum Biblicum, 1949), ad loc.
The Harper-Green exchange, titled "The Pentateuchal Question," appeared in Hebraica between 1888 and 1892.
Concerning the Musica hebraica he wrote: "Its failure was due to the dilettantism$of the editors and their incapacity to conceive the necessary scientific-theoretical basics for it.
In a footnote on the same page, Pereswetoff-Morath added ambiguously: "It is uncertain if the Rus' bookman would have been able fully to appreciate a Hebrew origin for his Bible; even though the versio hebraica was known, for example, from discussions in Theodoret's Commentary on Psalms.
To rescue the repertoire from oblivion and bring it to the stage, the Krauthammers founded Pro Musica Hebraica in 2004.
Since there were no Jews in England in Selden's time, at least not openly, his extensive Hebraica knowledge must have been derived solely from Christian teachers and from his own self-education, or perhaps resulted from contact with the few Spanish-Portuguese conversos who had managed to enter England.
Topel, "Do retorno ao passado e da construcao do futuro: algumas observacoes sobre os baalei teshuva de Sao Paulo," em REVISTA DE LINGUA E LITERATURA HEBRAICA, N0.
Torah Nevi'im u-Khetuvim]: Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia: Prepared according to the Vocalization, Accents, and Masora of Aaron Ben Moses Ben Asher in the Leningrad Codex.
Interestingly enough, the Danish Royal Library possesses one of the largest collections of Judaica and Hebraica in Europe with some 85,000 volumes covering everything from a richly illuminated Hebrew translation by Samuel ibn Tibbon of Moses Maimonides's Moreh Nevukhim (Cod.
In December 2007, and earlier in 2004, Venezuela police raided the Hebraica, the Caracas complex housing the Jewish community center and school.