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1. the ancient language of the Hebrews, revived as the official language of Israel. It belongs to the Canaanitic branch of the Semitic subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages
2. a member of an ancient Semitic people claiming descent from Abraham; an Israelite
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a Semitic language of the Canaanite subgroup, the official language of Israel.

Hebrew is spoken by about 2.5 million people, according to 1972 estimates. The Hebrews of Palestine spoke ancient Hebrew in the second and first millennia B.C. The most important work in ancient Hebrew is the Old Testament. The oldest part of the Old Testament, the Song of Deborah, was written in the 13th or 12th century B.C.; the rest of the text, between the ninth and the second century B.C.; and the various legends, beginning in the ninth century B.C. The phonetics, grammar, and lexicon of ancient Hebrew are typically Semitic. The proto-Semitic consonant-ism has basically been retained, but the vocalism has become much more complex, through different developments of the vowels in various syllablic and accentual conditions. The Semitic morphology, except for the cases, has been almost entirely retained. Grammatical meanings are rendered through the alternation of vowels, the gemination of stem consonants, and the use of suffixes and prefixes.

At the beginning of the Common Era, Hebrew was replaced by Aramaic in everyday speech, remaining only a language of culture and religion. During the Middle Ages (and in modern times), Hebrew became the language of artistic, philosophical, scholarly, and religious literature.

Hebrew again became a spoken language in Palestine around the turn of the 20th century. Modern Hebrew retains a number of the ancient morphological forms, roots, and words, but its semantics and syntax have undergone strong substratal and superstratal influences of Yiddish, other Germanic languages, and Slavic languages. There are several traditional pronunciations of Hebrew, including the Ashkenazic, among the Jews of Eastern Europe; the Sephardic, in the Balkans and among those Jews who had come from Spain; the pronunciation of the Jews of the Arabic countries; and the pronunciation of the Georgian Jews. The basis of modern Hebrew is Sephardic. In modern Hebrew, vowels and consonants are no longer distinguished through gemination, and several specifically Semitic consonants, such as the emphatics and most of the laryngeals, have been lost. The lexicon is being modernized and supplemented mainly from Semitic roots and models of word formation.


Shapiro, F. L. Ivrit-russkii slovar’, s prilozheniem kratkogo grammati-cheskogo ocherka iazyka ivrit. Compiled by B. M. Grande. Moscow, 1963.
Steuernagel, C. Hebäische Grammatik, 12th ed. Leipzig, 1961.
Rosen, H. B. A Textbook of Israeli Hebrew. Chicago, 1966.
Even-Shoshan, A. Milon khadash, 5th ed., vols. 1–5. Jerusalem, 1956–57.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In Hebrew, all nouns have grammatical gender, and adjectives, verbs and pronouns are morphologically inflected fore gender in order to match the gender of nouns.
"Modern scholarship does not deal at all with the etymology of European or world languages from Hebrew," said Barat.
'It turned out that over 80 percent of the words were in a Hebrew dictionary, but we didn't know if they made sense together,' said Kondrak.
A reader will further find an instructive treatment of the behavior of the diphthongs and triphthongs in the Hebrew of the DSS.
Petrovich's Hebrew identification for the ancient inscriptions is starved for evidence, said biblical scholar and Semitic language specialist Christopher Rollston of George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
In early 2009, the Hebrew and Yiddish literary scholar Shachar Pinsker approached me with the opportunity to participate in a translation project that would bring into English the work of two relatively unknown American Hebrew female poets: Anne (Chana) Kleiman and Annabelle (Chana) Farmelant.
Famously, there Miron relates the literary work of figures like Gnesin and Brenner first and foremost to a series of generative problems like the decline of readership for Hebrew literature, the suffocating authority of the previous literary generation, and the potentially stultifying pressures of organized Zionism.
In 2003, Alan Mintz wrote in The Cambridge Companion to Jewish American Literature that the "existence of a substantial body of Hebrew literature written on American shores is one of the best-kept secrets of Jewish American cultural history" (92).
Using the sources available to them, by the end of the nineteenth century scholars had been able to construct an elegant theory of the history of Hebrew in the ancient period.
The lawsuit, filed by 11 Hebrew National customers in Minnesota state court in May, asserts that AER Services Inc., the company that provides meat-processing and inspection services for ConAgra, does not operate under the standards needed to classify Hebrew National products as kosher, (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/18/conagra-lawsuit-hebrewnational-idUSL1E8HICXD20120618) Reuters reported .
In Japanese, the word pronounced tora (as in the movie title "Tora Tora Tora," the code name for the December, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor) means "tiger." The same pronunciation in Hebrew, usually Romanized as torah, has the basic meaning of "Law", and is often used to mean the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible (often referred to as "The Five Books of Moses").
That may explain why JNU's Centre of Arabic and African Studies has become the first institution in the country to offer a course in Hebrew, enrolled programmes Languages.