All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hebrew Language ---But Were too Shy to Ask!
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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.
- the language of the Hebrew bible, spoken by the Israelitesfrom the 12
century BCE to the 2
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
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.