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All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hebrew Language --- But Were too Shy to Ask!

All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hebrew Language --- But Were too Shy to Ask!

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Published by Dina Ripsman Eylon
The articles describes the revival of Modern Hebrew.
The articles describes the revival of Modern Hebrew.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Dina Ripsman Eylon on Apr 18, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hebrew Language ---But Were too Shy to Ask!
© 2011 The author and Sisterhood Press, Inc.All rights reserved. The textual, graphic, audio and audiovisual material is protected by Canadian copyright law and internationaltreaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except as necessary for your personal, non-commercial use. Anydistribution requires the written approval of the author.
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All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hebrew Language ---But Were too Shy to Ask!
ByDina Ripsman Eylon 
 Hebrew – An Ancient Semitic Language
Judaism without Hebrew is like a Canadian winter without snow. Hebrew, a 3,500years old Semitic language, is the blood that runs through the veins of Jewish religion,history, and literature. A language, presumed dead for seventeen centuries, wasresurrected at the end of the 19
th
century, experiencing an unparallel linguisticawakening. Who would have imagined that a language that ceased to be publicly spokenduring Jesus’ lifetime, as the Romans conquered Jerusalem, would re-emerge and become the official national language of the State of Israel?Judaism, a religion based solely on scriptures, has kept the language of its firstscriptures, the Hebrew bible also known as the Old Testament, alive for threemillenniums. Although the Hebrew bible has been translated into every languageimaginable, Jews have continued to use Hebrew in their religious studies and rituals.Today, even in congregations where daily prayers are recited in the local language, manyare still chanted in their original Hebrew.Hebrew belongs to one of the oldest families of languages, the North Centralgroup of the Semitic languages, which includes the ancient Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaicand the still existing Syriac, or Christian Aramaic. Grammatically alike, the Semiticlanguages comprise roots of three or occasionally four consonants – each having aspecific meaning or connotation – a concept similar to what English speakers describe asfamily words.Written from right to left, the Hebrew alphabet, a consonantal alphabet, consistsof 22 square letters, of which five serve also as vowel auxiliaries. A comprehensivevowel system and punctuation were introduced only at the beginning of the Middle Ages.Presently, vocalized texts include the bible, Hebrew prayer books, poetry books, and
 
All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hebrew Language ---But Were too Shy to Ask!
© 2011 The author and Sisterhood Press, Inc.All rights reserved. The textual, graphic, audio and audiovisual material is protected by Canadian copyright law and internationaltreaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except as necessary for your personal, non-commercial use. Anydistribution requires the written approval of the author.
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children’s books. For all other purposes, an unvocalized alphabet is the norm. Similar tothe English language, Hebrew is written in two formats: The print read-only scriptappears in books and other print media, and the cursive handwriting, reserved for privatecorrespondence.Like its sister languages, Hebrew is a phonetic language. Along the lines of “whatyou see is what you say,” phonetic pronunciation is a little easier than in English, French,or German. For instance, there is no equivalence to the “gh” or “ough” of English. Evennew students, when given the opportunity, can adapt to this phonetic system quiterapidly.
The Evolution of Hebrew Through History
The average Hebrew dictionaries, available in any large bookstore in NorthAmerica, reflect the evolution that Hebrew went through during the various historical periods. This evolution is usually divided into four chronological periods:1.
 
Biblical Hebrew
- the language of the Hebrew bible, spoken by the Israelitesfrom the 12
th
century BCE to the 2
nd
century BCE. The vocabulary of the Hebrew bible is quite limited and estimated at 8,000 words, of which 2,000 appear onlyonce. The vocabulary is relatively small due to the restricted subject-matter.Linguists estimate the actual vocabulary of the ancient Israelites at 30,000 words.The grammatical structure of Biblical Hebrew, unique to this period, is considerednow almost obsolete. However, a recent study found that at the beginner’s level800 words out of the new 1,000 words are biblical. The Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the most important discoveries of the 20
th
century, are written in a beautiful, richBiblical Hebrew.2.
 
Mishnaic or rabbinic Hebrew
– the language of the Mishnah and the Talmud, alarge body of literature written during and after the Second Temple period [TheSecond Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, but thesescriptures represent a considerable longer period. The Talmudic literature iswritten in both Aramaic and Hebrew.] Mishnaic Hebrew differs grammaticallyfrom Biblical Hebrew, and echoes an everyday spoken dialect.
 
All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hebrew Language ---But Were too Shy to Ask!
© 2011 The author and Sisterhood Press, Inc.All rights reserved. The textual, graphic, audio and audiovisual material is protected by Canadian copyright law and internationaltreaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except as necessary for your personal, non-commercial use. Anydistribution requires the written approval of the author.
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3.
 
Medieval Hebrew
– the language used for about a millennium in various Jewishcommunities around the world. This period represents a highly prolific literaryactivity, featuring for the first time secular works in philosophy, pure sciences,linguistics, prose and poetry. A unified cohesive development cannot be assumed;every community had its unique characteristics and utilized the languagedifferently. However, one major phenomenon cannot be ignored – the effectArabic had on the Hebrew. Arabic influence is detected in syntax, vocabulary andmost importantly in the development of the vocalization system. While MishnaicHebrew predominated in prose and non-fiction genres, Biblical Hebrew remainedthe main creative force within the many works of religious and secular poetry.
4. Modern Hebrew
- the next four sections tell the story of this historical period.Unlike their English companions, Hebrew dictionaries are not standardized. For example, some list verbs by root and some by the third person masculine singular  pronoun in the Past tense. Some follow the traditional vocalized spelling, somefollow the more recent unvocalized spelling and some use both. When buying aHebrew-English dictionary, read the introduction carefully to find out its particular setup. It is not recommended to purchase a dictionary beforecompleting the beginner’s level of the language. As a general rule, any dictionaryshould challenge your present competence in the language.
Was Hebrew “Dead”?
On August 29, 1897, the First Zionist Congress took place in Basel, Switzerland,marking the beginning of political Zionism and the initiation of a new era in Jewishhistory – an era when Zionism and Hebrew formed an intriguing symbiosis. Moreover,from that point, developments in the history of Zionism and the revival of the Hebrewlanguage moved rapidly. It is worth noting that the official language of the early Zionistcongresses was German. Eventually, two camps formed within the Zionist movement:one followed Ahad Ha’am’s (1856-1927) viewpoint which advocated Hebrew as thenational language of the future Jewish state, and the other supported the Orthodox-Zionist party which believed that Yiddish should predominate. Following heated debates during

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