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tongue among the Jews after they were defeated by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Well before the time of Jesus it had been replaced by AramaicAramaic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 ?
Since the website's launch in Israel in January of 2016, users could choose English, Arabic, or other languages, but not Ivrit.
Where this language comes from and where Hebrew slang is today can best be seen in Ruvik Rosenthal's Millon ha-Sleng ha-Makif, published in 2005 with 10,000 entries, as well as in Nissan Netzer's Ivrit be-Jeens ("Hebrew in Jeans," 2007), an academic study with thousands of typological examples.
Berdichevsky explores the creation of the modern language Ivrit from traditional Hebrew.
While Hebrew has always been acknowledged and studied as the sacred written language or Loshen-Koydesh (Yiddish for "holy language") of the Bible, it was revived, revised and developed into the spoken language referred to as Ivrit during the half-century or so leading up to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 when it became Israel's official language, all the while retaining its high status (Alter 1988: 13).
Canadian Jews have historically expressed a strong commitment to Israel and its culture, and the prominence of Ivrit has more recently been augmented by Israelis who have settled in Canada and maintained strong ties to their home culture (Gold and Cohen 1996).
Rabbi Kotler also issued a psak (religious decree) forbidding the teaching of Bible in American yeshivas using ivrit b'ivrit (translating the Torah into Modern Hebrew as a method of classroom instruction) because of its Zionist associations.
He had traveled in Palestine, read Hebrew, spoke Ivrit, and set up his daughter Brigitte to run a weaving school in Jerusalem, 1933-38.
11) "Built in to the Arab complaint against Avoda Ivrit (Jewish labor) was the assumption that the Zionists owed employment to the Arabs of Palestine.
Yet, none of this entails the congregation members to be mostly English speakers, and even less so speakers of either Hebrew or the modern Ivrit.
The Hebrew word for the Hebrew language is Ivrit and for television, is televizia.
Paper presented at Ivrit Safa Xaya [Hebrew Living Language] conference, Oranim College, Israel, February.
Leon Wieseltier talks Ruth Bader Ginsburg and peppers a well-written disquisition on the Supreme Court's ACA decision with ivrit word "pilpul.