an offshoot of Western Semitic writing that can be traced to Aramaic (third century B.C.), which had taken its basic shape by the second and first centuries B.C.
Square Hebrew is found in Aramaic and ancient Hebrew inscriptions and in literature in ancient and modern Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino (a Spanish-Hebrew language of the Mediterranean). Cursive varieties include the Ashkenazic (Eastern Europe), the Sephardic (Mediterranean), and the Rashic (a rabbinic script used in Italy for religious texts). The alphabet was at first purely consonantal. Several vowel-mark systems, using diacritics, were created between the sixth and eighth centuries a.d.; the principal system in use today is the Tiberian Masoretic.