\MHAT WAS THE JEWISH VERN/\CUL/\I{ 'I;HE SECOND By W.

\VHAT

J)\H{ I NC

COMMONWEf\LTI-P Gratz College by the Jews after the

CHOMSKY,

was the language

spoken

first Exile, ill Babylonia or Hebrew? The Hebrew notion has

and in Palestine? among

Was it ~-\rall1aic scholars that

prevailed

some after

ceased being

a living language During language

the destrucExile, it and vogue and

tion of the first Temple, has been assumed, ually forgotten, was displaced diplomacy, severely The both

the Babylonian

the Hebrew

had, been grad-

in Babylonia as the

and in Palestine, of commerce

by Aramaic,

which was then gaining language

as the lingua franca, throughout for having

the Near East, and to reproach their language according the Jews "up to was Saadia, to him,'

The first to state this explicitly abandoned Hebrew language flourished,

tiJ1 the exile from Jerusalem Babylon, Tongue of our God (485 13, C EY anel to employ breaks Our heart because

i11 the clays of Zcdakiah
we began toabanclon

In the year 101 after the destruction the languages was removed book, , ."

of the city the Holy .',

of alien nations,

of all this; for the Holy Speech, fr0111our mou til, and became to
LIS

our source of strength,

the vision of all its prophecies like the words of a sealed

and messages

This seems to have

r Cf . Saaciia, Introduction to Agron, cd. Harkavi, ,54 I. 'This date is erroneously identified with Seder Olani Rabba, chap, .l0, as that of Nehemiah's arrival in Jerusalem, where he chastised those who had been neglecting the use of the Hebrew language (Neh em. 13,24 L),

193

194
been the schohrs,J pretation the sense rejected that

THE JEWISII

QU.\lZTEHLY

REVIEW

THE JEWISH

VERNACULAR-ClIOMSKY

195
of the M ishna, of merchants, of or

prevailing of Neb.

view

among based

the

medieval
tVlfll,'

Jewish interin

who has examined will concede and artisans. simple, trade, purely that a typical vernacular, and direct. craftsmanship literary

carefully employed

the language

and it is probably 8.8, where

on the talmudic This was,

this language

bears all the earmarks by the peasants,

the word

is taken

of tar gum. or 'aramaic.! and Noelcleke.8

however, maintain

It is a vigorous

tongue;

it is concise, flexible, covers every aspect of dead and it bears no trace creative vitality it

by Geseniuss

and, 1110re recently, All these alive during

by L. Herzfeld," scholars the Babylonian and probably up to the dialect

Its vocabulary and profession, or periphrasis

Neubauer,7 Hebrew

was 'certainly

of circumlocution and virility. connotations created language,

characteristic

Exile ancl the period of Ezrah and Nehemiah, continued to live alongside the aramaic period of the Maccabees .. Yet, a little over a century introduction that of the medieval of the however, nacular Jews Hebrew

languages. It produced and shades

It possesses of meaning

new word-coinages,

it lent new Only a living

to old words, and

ago, Abraham and asserted Temple ... Aramaic

Geiger, in the the charge dogmatically the vernacular Hebrew had ver! and of It remained,

new idioms and turns of expression. spoken by peasantry scholars that

to his J1![ishnaic Grammar renewed scholars

and simple folk could evince still adhere was to the view of as N. H. of is that Zion,;' during

such characteristics." Yet, some modern Saadia and Geiger. assumes Torczyner the Second utterly Even so erudite aramaic a philologist

"since the time of the Second in Palesti n~ was

ZLccordingly ceased like Latin of scholars

to be 'a living language. in the Medieval during the period .... thereafter

the vernacular

ages, a religious of the Temple " Mishnaic modification

the exiles in Babylonia without

and of the Jews in Palestine It is quite inconceivable "sat

Commonwealth." foundation.

But such an assumption to the Psalmist,

also about two centuries was, according Hebrew,

Hebrew

to him, only "a later literary

the exiles who, according the rivers of Babylon, the language A language articulated
f

down bv and adopt vernacular. are

after the language

had ceased to live in the mouths criticized point by S. D. Luzatto? failure to character of rnishlinguistics,

weeping as they remembered their language as their these hated captors, when

of the people." Geiger's view was severely and Graetz.IO Both 'Indeed scholars quality grasp the dynamic naic Hebrew.
J

would in so short a time abandon of their is too intimately especially and incorporated

to Geiger's of modern

interwoven in cherished the situation

with the experiexperiences literary compo-

and popular

ences of a people, sitions,

any student

as was undoubtedly exiles in Babylonia.

in the case of the who flourished and the so-called

Meiurgemon;

Cf. Kimhi, introduction to Mikhlol; Elias Levita, introduction t? Profiat Duran, Ma'ose Efod, chap. 7; Azariah de Rossi,

J udean

It is interesting

to note that the prophets captivity, Ezekiel,

Meor Eino-yr:m, chaps. 9 and 57. , Meg. 3a and Ned. 37b . . Geschichie 1 del' Hebr. Spracize, chap. 13. (, Geschichie des Volkes Yisrael I, 211-2. 1 Studia Biblica 1,42. , Semitische SfJWcli.1vissensciurjt, 23. , Oriel1t, 1.8<15, DiUerat1ablaU I, 14 f. ,0 Ibid., 1847, LitterMurbloU I, 3 f.

during the Babylonian
11

l'w
':l~i'I 'i~i'I ra

~!)nnDl

Cf. such graphic homespun expressions as ~ni'l 11~ ,~ ~W!) Ket. lO8b' ibid. I, 6; l'Y 11:110, W'I-\ I1D'" ibid. I, 7; W':;Y:J i'll11Wibid. III,S l'P 1'111)10 n'li'l ibid. 107b; D'i'YW:l " rrnrn D'~n:l 'l)l~ B. K. 35b; 11M)I'JWO l'z:l1Pi'l 1'1{Ber. 3b. Cf. ha-Lashon weha-Sefer I, 110; also introduction to Mishle Shlomo,

')I

196

'I'll"

JI~\vISII

QU,\WrLRLY

HI';VII,W

TilE JEWISH VFRNACULAH~CnOMSKY

197 under political be expected alicn arid to

Dcutcro-Isaiah, whatever
exiles,

who were quick

and ready

to denounce by the

transgression Should

they found among the exiles, never of the Hebrew that neglect language of the Hebrew as a transa century of Persia, Was so to of mothers his zeal for of its or in why,

Jews were able to preserve domination, religious during a period they regained conditions,

their

vernacular

refer to the abandonment language gression, later, corning was not regarded a favorite

of unsettled cultural

it be argued

would certainly national,

bv these prophets to explain Jewish that and of the royal court

do so after having independence,

and religiolls writings elenlenunder History

it would be difficult from a less cohesive or from versa tion Amon and his

when the authority was gaining

of the biblical vogue. No nation language.

Nehemiah,'

over Jewish life was growing, and Jewish education, tary and advanced, such circumstances abandons its national can record no such instances. '4 But the Hebrew not that specialized prophets creativity and writers. and fostered Deuteronomy. by the prophets must spoken during biblical of Amos and Isaiah, The typical and literary

community,

wroug h t up when he found f 1'0111 Ashdod speak Hebrew purity? The speech ccn.turv l'alesti-Ilc. speech
0111\' COil

the children Moab

were unable

a pure Hebrew. Certainly conclusion

Where did he acquire expert

that'period

was certainlv
0-1'

knowledge of Persia, that

nor even that of Genesis style was apparently and cultivated The period.

not in the royal court is therefore but that even imputes inescapable among it flourished in Persia,

a

the Persian

circles where he must have moved. Hebrew of the in the exiles and

genre, which was studied writers of that

earl\' which

was 110t only' ill vogue captivity, or 1110re later Nehemiah

and poets of the Golden have founded literary

Era in Hebrew tradition generations

literar;'

Ihbvlonian

also at least a especially Hebrew These foreign and in-

a classical

served as a model for subsequent This
IS

of prophets studied (sons may

tlte use of a corrupt mothers.

genre may

have been

to the children

of non-Hebrew

in the schools

of the benei ha-Nevi'im and priests

must have constituted

a small minori ty, for in the book of list of those who married priests, must from a total this ten levitcs, have

of the prophets). have been drilled cast their molds.

The fledgling prophets ill these classical

Ezra (10.18-43) a complete and eighty-six men. during "Israelites," Even

lJ1odeJs_,mcl tr-a-inecl to stylistic man

wives is given, which includes seventeen thirteen creased though

ideas and feelings into the established not to be assumed "the butcher, the they heyday that baker

of one hundred number

It is therefore in the street, maker," Bible. period spoke ering their picturesque quaintances

the average and

Nehemiah's

brief absence

Palestine,

candle-stick biblical of the

he could not have found upon his return a very substan,tial proportion vernacular display, of such intermarriages. persisted insight as the Jewish period. when They they If the in Palestine however, up to the Maccabean Most scholars agree that Hebrew

even during

of the classical prose typical

the noble and majestic lofty and stirring' style,

Even Amos and Isaiah, after writing down or delivmessages in the viri Ie and their acin a
'

a lack of historical

classical

must

have addressed

contencl that
'l

it began to die out after that period.»

and relatives,

in their daily intercourse,

I r,

Compo
J ()

Gcscnius, 0/). cit., Schurer, Gcscliicluc des liidischenVolkes (.lr-d cdirion}: Dalman. The Words oj J eSIIS, Inll'odllctwl1;F~-anz

Delitzsch, quoted by BenYehucJah .TQR. XXXIV, 3, 336. q See Neubauer, op, cit., 64 f.
'5

in Ita-Aralia ha-Cadol, 215; S. Zeitlin

cr.

I Sam.

19:12;

II Kings 4.1,38;

etc.

198 simple, quialisms direct

THE JEWISH

QUARTERLY

REVIEW

THE JEWISH

VERNACULAR-CHOMSKY

199 of mishthe words by the in linnot from the of the

and conversational among employed

dialect,

including

collo-

In any event,it naic Hebrew character and Hebrew guistics borrow are of the language. that

seems quite clear from a study Hebrew language. The aramaic principle

and slang, current

the rest of the people.

that the ararnaic influence did not impair were absorbed and assimilated

It was this dialect,

by the people as their ver-

nacular during the biblical perioa; which must have been in vogue, with the normal changes and modifications, also during the period of the Second Kohelet Commonwealth. and Chronicles, and large It is the dialect This non-classical language as a literary conditions lacked for this quality. In this as well as portions of generally dialect during to the undialect were written the Mishna, the Talmud designated the Song of Songs, and such later books compositions Hebrew.

constructions

It is a well-established of a language

the nature

is determined grammar through

by its words but by its grammar one another. Roman. influence The majority They came

and structure. borrow

Languages

of the Bible as Esther, liturgical and as mishnaic

words but do not generally into

of words in the English language the language conquest. language Yet Eng-

Midrashimcurrency

of French

after the Norman is Germanic. the wide-spread in Palestine available.

must. have gained settled

lish is regarded Evidence Hebrew Commonwealth of the language, its dynamic viously." cation

as a Germanic

by virtue use of

the exilic and post-exilic and transmigratory those periods. Mishnaic Hebrew imagery, vocabulary exercised East. elegance and

periods, owing especially

fact that its grammar attesting

of the people during the artistry, poetic biblical in obviOlilsy Hebrew, 'Yay into from taken

m ishnaic structure and to premodifiinsight. the

as a vernacular is readily character

during

the Second

certainly and

The organic been referred as "a literary

grandeur

of the' classical Aramaic on mishnaic found their

its rich and all-embracing have already

vocabulary,

style, but it was compensated in dynamic a considerable

lack by richness

To regard such a language is to betray proof of its vitality scholars." There

influence words are

of Hebrew"

a lack of linguistic and currency

since it was at that Hence, the Hebrew to determine aramaic, from the dally

period the lingua franw However, words are genuine

of the Middle

But further by various except

among

some aramaic language. which

people is not lacking.

Such proof has already

been adduced it here, addiarguments, Some

it is not alwaysipossible directly hebraic borrowfd coinages,

is no need to repeat therefrom.

to point out some of the more cogent will also be presented. to the use of the mishnaic coins as evidence in Palestine. Maccabean either pure "Had dialect; princes biblical

and which

and to draw the full implications tional evidence Neubauer points

vernacular,

that for some reason 'or other in the literary texts of the Bible. constituted all the that the seven or eight thousand Bible in the language during that period words employed by

had not been incorporated 1t is certainly vocables inconceivable in the found

word herui Hebrew the spoken and not the would ... words
ff.

on the Hasrrionean language modernised have
16 17

that mishnaic

Hebrew

was the Jewish vernacular been at that Hebrew, on their the coins

words that were current used Milton by Shakespeare represent periods.
I

time an aramaic

just as it would be absurd the total

to assume that the 16,000 words 11,000 vocahulary in vogue at their

or the

put

or

respective

See above, p. 198. See Neubauer, op, cit., 42 ff.; Ben Yehudah, ope cit"83

20()

THE JEWISH arc

VERNACULAR-CHOMSKY

201

aram

words.":"

In further sayings literature included

corroboration of Pirke

of his thesis and the and literature

The term Torah," may

leshon l;akhamim have misled

applied

in the Talmud to assume

to that

he refers prophetical

to the ethical lessons

Abot and to the

certain words and grammatical mishnaic Hebrew only by scholars. mishnaic language; Hebrew

forms; in contrast scholars

to leshon

ag-gadico-ho1lliletical

on the Pentateuch as popular

some

in the Melshilia; Pesiktc., Hebrew.

was a special literary But as was already cannot be designated

lang-uage em ployed pointed out above,> as a purely literary

Sijre ; all of which are to be considered and arc written and especially in mishnaic in that the same argument aphorisms aramaic which esting would apply of the

One mav add that proverbs and from

in the case of the prayers numerous It is inconceivable

it has all the hall-marks

of a living vernacular. the language in which the of the l:takhamim, was in which a otherform literary A A the not merely

Furthermore, Talmud, written, literary the Torah

the term leshon luikhamirn. does not mean the

in the Talmud

and Midrashim.

language of the learned, but rather in contrast language.

that these proverbs ill such concise, is possible Hebrew-speaking proverbs Hillel, included although

and sayings

arc mere translations Hebrew

viz., the words or discourses was written,

or any other language. pithy, only

Most of them are'couched phraseol9gy, It ris interof the Hebrew are aln:ost language very adept are someof an indigenous

to leshon Torah, the language which was certainly would reject It would be difficult

and poignant

as the product

to explain,

population

and civilization. that the number Talmud native

wise, how the rabbis ing the youth, event,

a grammatical

to note incidentally

found in the Bible (a',ni), and give preference, to a form in vogue (rn?m). classical dialect of the scholars

in instruct-

in the Palestinian proverbs. a Babylonian, aramaic,

in the artificial models

twice that of the aramaic was in all likelihood in Hebrew.'?
'7:1:1,'0

Such a dialect would, in any of grammar. was written. inmishnaic was leshon Mishna ;'.1 mebushal

whose

tend to preserve

was nevertheless sayings

synonymous variant

term for leshon l;akhamim in which word

in the use of epigrammatic times introduced to express

turns of thought comment

and expression
l1tvl;r:l il.m~ ~1i1

viz., the language

the Mishna

Since some of his ararnaic by the editorial

usage of the biblical

"1~

the inference

may he drawn that he was accustomed in Hebrew, and, indeed, most found in the Talmud are couched

Hebrew is also designated language of the people. on a par with biblical ha-kodesk, formulae
21

as leshon benei adam=! i.e.

himself generally

The rabbis seem, however, to have put mishnaic Hebrew, earl;' in leshon designating Mishna ha-leodesh.>s an apparently to be recited contains

Hebrew a list of

of his pronouncements in good Hebrew.

both as leshon. The list in-

,8 Sec np. cit, 45. Prof. S. Zeitlin, however, rejects the possibility of (bting these coins from the Hasmonean period. The use of the term Yisrael, he maintains, was not in vogue in reference to the Jews during that period. The Jews at that time were designated as Yehudim. Hence, these coins belong, according to him, to a later dale, probably to the Bar Kokhba period. But the argument with regard to the mishnaic word her ut is still pertinent. The use of this word demonstrates that mish naic Hebrew was a living languagee ven as late as the Bar Kokhba

period.
an

" Cf. Ab. r. 14; II, 4, 5, 7_ .\b. cl'Rabbi Nathan XlT, 13.

Cf. 'Ab. Zarah S8b and H ul. 137b. See above, p. 199. '3 Bam. Rabba I, 2: i1l~1.) J1~:' "j'l '''1.). '4 Y. Ned. VI, 1; also 13. Ned. 49a, where it is stated that in some localities the Hebrew':'" is employed in leshon. benei adam to differentiate meat which is roasted from that which is cooked (~~1::lr.l), while in other places the term '~':Ir) is used to include both roasted and cooked or boiled meat. '5 Sot. vn. 2.
aa

202
eludes beside ball:zah gadal, Deuteronomy,

THE JEWISH

QUARTERLY

REVIEW

THE JEWISH

VERNACULAR-CI-IOMSKY

203

the recitation also that

of bikkllrim I~entioned

(Deut.

26.1-11),

of which are in Hebrew, by Yose ben Yo'ezer, century cited in perfectHeb~ew statements ity, probably quoted in the

there are included maxims

three in ararnaic of this scholar are

(ibid. 5-10), and others
for both

in the book of and birkat kohen in the Bible. have been recited

a pre-Maccabean

scholar of the second aramaic authorof to be

of birkat kohanim must therefore

B. C. E!l The original

of whicl~ no basis

is found

in Pirke Abot (1.4), but.his from another origin.

These last two formulae in mishnaic recited Mishna Hebrew. is entitled

in Edtcyot are quotations of Babylonian

Yet the language

in which they were

leshon. ha-kodesh. comprise

The early date of this chapters in the

'::11 ]1lV~:J "I.)~~

Cl'~

On the principle had they were

:J'n,8

these

"testimonies"

may be inferredfrol11

the fact that its amplification close to three

language

in which

originally utter-

and interpretation

articulated. There are several ances dating the influence or Alexandrian nouncements Temple J ust.> mud.v andrian by the other stray instances construed category of aramaic from the pre-Maccabean of the aramaic-spcaking Jews. To this of the bat kol (divine High-Priest is attested of Alexandrian in several both or early Maccabean as being due to Syrian the anthe in the priests belong heard and Babylonian, voice)

later Mishna (ibid., VII, 3-8; VIII, IX). It cannot be denied of course that aramaic by large sections of the Jewish population simultaneously cidae. Greek larly with Hebrew, especially settlements although aramaic Galilee

was spoken in Palestine

period, which may be similarly

after Syriac became such it never dialect as Caesaria, attained the was particuparts: of

the official language

of Asia during

the reign of the Seleu-

In some Hellenized was also employed, of aramaic. among Immigrants common the The from

johanan=

Simon

popularity Palestine. contributed Jerusalem a number Syria must There into nentlv. quoted
,6

The presence

or Babylonian passages

Jews of the northern

in the Temple

in the Taland Alexby

and from Babvlonia in

as. is the fact that

the Babylonian

to the spread a Babylonian became toward of students and' perfect persisted

of ararnaic also in the southern There was apparently community!6 of Jewish from Jewish Since "Jeruscholarship, and the view to ararnaic Babylonia

Jews were not generally

held in high esteem

parts of Palestine salem gradually gravitated have

and J:erusalem.

the Jews of Palestine."

It is for this reason that the aramaic

the center and scholars

the holy city with use of their

promote dialects,

their knowledge in the

of the Law, and they native

especially during

the early part of their stay there. of pilgrims from foreign lands settled among there pennawhy the statements

was also a continuance the Holy City, This might explain

some of whom

from older authorities

in the tractate

Eduvot, all

Cf. Yom a VI, 4.

'Eduy. VIII, 4. 'Eduy. I, 3, etc. In the light of this injunction, which apparently antedates Hillel (see comment. ad lac.), Ben Yehudah proves cogently that .Hebrew was generally alive in the mouths of the talmudic sages; op. cii., chap. 8. '9 Sot. 33a. JO Ibid .. But see also Y. Sot. IX, 13, where the' aramaic part of the message of Simon the just is omitted and the name Ol7l0P is replaced. by Olp'71l O"l. According to Ben Yehudah (op. cit. 129) this message r~fers to the death of Gaius Caligula and is erroneously attributed to SImon the Just of the pre-Maccabean era. It belongs to a much later period. J! Cf. Men. XI, 7; also in the Gemara 99b and Rashi ad loc.; Yoma' VI,4 and 66b. l' See Yoma9b, S7a and 66b; Y. Pes. V, 3 and VI, 1; and the like.
'7 ,3

204 language ....
)

THE JEWISH

QU.\H.TERLY

RE\,IEIY TIJE JEWISH VERNACUL\R-CJJ.OMSKY

205

'-_

is sometimes
who stayed

clubbed behind

Ijl'ii111tl>7,.1J

a term that

has priestly vestments, current formulae generally utensils and expressions ernployed in the Temple,are ci ted in the Taim ud in had HebrewnCll11es.J9 in the with Temple some caJTied ararnaio visitor~.4o

dcrOl!,aton'
TI~e

conuotntious.v in Babylonia and refused to Palestine under Zerubabel or Ezra were prob-

J cws

ahl v such a" adapted themselves readily to the culture persisted in reJ.llC 1·' . '1' Zcl.ti1011 of Babvlonia <.' while they CIVI l c.
J .

to return

Hebrew.»
The labels sacred Hebrew

The gates in the Temple articles and labels or inscriptions along

taini ng their Jewish aramaic vernacular did not abandon mainly, spcaking language employs pricsts." during
.T ews ..1o

identity .. They rn list have adopted current in Babylonia, although

the they

for the benefit

of the aramaic

speaking

As a matter as

of fact the Hebrew

language

was designated

the study of Hebrew. the early Hellenistic however,

This was true to an who consiste.d period, , of aramaic was the the

even grcater degree of the Jews in Alexandria,

by the Targum Jonathan ben Uziel or Targurn Yerushalmi ~tvi1j? n':::! )tv,~, viz., the language oj the Temple.v
Aramaic "vas, however,' was undoubtedly It is therefore at that period the international of diplomacy. in the courts lanai when and the visits of foreign in the presof the Near East and the language used on occasion during rulers, especially would converse diplomatic

language that Hebrew Hence,it diplomats. employed but quotes in the Temple. the Hebrew Witness

There can be little doubt, generally among aramaic Similarly conversation

of the Hasll10nean Simon bell Shctah ence of the foreign

the three priests,

where the narrator dialogue of the among them-

clear why Alexander in aralilaic visitorsY But

the Levites spoke Hebrew

selves in the Temple."

The names of the vessels and of the

'" B. M. 104a. . 11 1 .1-1 Cf. Me~. 12b: ~I-n:l y!llP 01'iil~lV, where 01'1~ IS C ear y usee as a disparaging'term, in the sense of ignoramus or boar. Se: also Shem. R;lbb~ .16' (n", 11':1 p-llV O"iilil); Sanh. 21 b, where 1l101':~ IS contrasted with
~H"1IV':

same Hasl110nean King advised his wife privately as to her attitude'toward the various parties in the 1ewish state he did so in good Hcbrcw.v The widespread LIse of aramaic, the international Ianguage of the Near East, among the masses in northern Palestine and aJI through the Near East, as well as among certain immigrant groups in Jerusalem, a few years may have been in aramaic. responsible struction sections proaching
J8 .1"

caw.

The

Ruth Rabba same derogatory

111,7:

n'o1""

connotat ion

:": 1m. 1,1if~rtor or wayw~rd IS Implied 111 the expression

7N'IV':l1V 01'1il Kid.

66a.. .. f. • lThe a ramaic. langllage was ca 11 d [j1'i~'I I11V''f to. differentiate It 10111 e . . the sacred tongue iVi1P~ !111!'. The word 01'i~, (?(WT1]S has U:c mean.lI1g "rommoner" like t11"~ in contrast to lim, an~l hl~e t11'iil ,1~J 111 .contlast 10 )111 rD, and was not used by the Tannaim ..111 .~ derogatory sense. The Ta n nairn considered aramaic as the authoritative language of the . 'h iV" cople and•. interpreted the documents wntten In t a t 1ang~l.age ',I;.
'01' '1 ;t11'1il ]1iV' 1V'11 il1~ Hnlp

for the writing of the Temple,

of Megillat: Ta'anit its. main purpose

Since this book was composed and groupsof and unitary doom.

before the dewas to reach all them into the apIS,

the people and to cement body, able to withstand of aramaic

~~11 ~',i ":JY'H

p

YIV1~'

'i

:01'i~. 1~ j1lV''.

IPT~

"

H'1 1'::J1H OH

1 ·1 h P cit 122 • Yet. when the jewish commurud .15 See B en Y C1Uc.a,".... of J;rusalcm wanted to appoint Juclah ben Tabba~, who had ~e. " to the [ewish commuru t ty Alcxanr .lr i rIa, "N' .l~l, they addressed dS ., .' hi . . Alexandria a plea in classical Hebrew (Y. Hag. 11,2) for IS re l~ln. • . ,c L L ]6 Pes. 3b: ,n'TJ 'l))'l:1 i1.1H im ,719J 'ly'm_ :1~7 '1.1H in , 'l~J Hn7n ,
ilNtl'" :lllJ 'lY'l~ :'1.1N im. 'i ' n!llilJ , • 31 'Ar.

,,7

::JnJ VIV

...

l'I-UJ "

IV"

;t1l'i~

S. Z. J

..
ty

a cohesive

The choice

as a vehicle

to of
'l~ ,

40

S11k. IV, 9; V, '1. Micl, II, 6; Y. 'Er. V, 22c. She!,:. V, 3; VI,S .

Cf. YOl11a I, 3, 5,7;

11b:

S"K mil"

O'lY1~il 1tJ H'1 Q'1'1i!ItJ~ ]1.1iln~iV

T'1n~' ll1n

Y"D'

l'~1V
'l::J

nnn

)J YIV1~' .~'n11 p

'::Jl::J ~iVY.1.1

4' Cf. this TargUI1l ad Gen. 31,47, 35.18,45.12, .' Y. Ber. VII, 2.
LJ

:7"~

prn-.

.story

Sol:. 22b. See als~ the beaUliful classical .Hebrew of j anai and the Pharisees is related, Kid. 66a.

In which

the

206 therefore, planation deeds

THE JEWISH

QUARTERLY

REVIEW

THE JEWISH

VERNACULAR-CHOMSKY

207

understandable,

although

another

plausible

ex-

ever attained expressions languages naculars altar

such popularity. found

Numerous

words were borbut these of the verto the

for the use of aramaic

in this instance including written

is offered

rowed from Persian,

Greek, and Latin ; some stray Greek upon the position apostrophe daughter

bv Ben Yehudah.:" (marriage al though existed contract), Hebrew alongside

This may also account were generally of deeds

for the fact that the Keiubak in aramaic, as well On may have

their way into the language, The

of sale and other .contracts, versions

failed to encroach in Palestine. ,the

addressed

and con tracts, aramaic

by Miriam,

Hellenized

of the priest and included of ara.maic toward its against

as of the Get (bill of divorce) the other hand, the marriage So is the prosbul," batical generally unity the right introduced his loan. year does not release to demand

and the Ketubah, formula

the more popular

versions.v

Bilgah, was worded in good rnishnaic Hebrew, only one Greek word.> When, became aramaic, generations use even johanan however, evident, the competitive ha-Nasi influence remonstrated Arnora Yehudah the rabbis changed A babylonian Rab Joseph, Rabbi

is worded in Hebrew." giving the creditor aramaic was the they due

by Hillel by which the Sabthe debt, Nevertheless,

their attitude

Rabbi Yehudah later, in

use in PalestineY

of some three opposed and to its Rabbi time

used for such purposes , between

ill order to maintain people wherever

was equally

and solidarity

of the Jewish

BabyloniaY

might reside. The close relationship to linguistic dou btedly kinship, facilitated

objected

to praying in aramaic.s: on the other hand, of speaking

The importance was stressed was regarded

Hebrew and aramaic, tradition,uno[ aramaic aramaic was that than

, of speaking and again.

Hebrew,

as well as to ancestral the adoption regarded aramaic observed rather

The practice

Hebrew

by the Jews. with respect in the language the other was

I neleed, some of the rabbis and reverence. Babylonia, language.s" Jews country, included language maintained Rabbi that

Rab, the founder

of Jewish scholarship

. as one ,of the virtues which assured a share in the world-to, corne,« while parents were exhorted to speak Hebrew to , their children as soon as they began to talk.ss Throughout especially
!

the period the latter

of the Second part thereof,

Commonwealth, the Jews must SomeUl1-

spoken by Adam and had accordingly Hanina were exileel to Babylon, was that ararnaic the Babylonian of the Torah.w portions

preceded the Hebrew the reason to any (aramaic) prestige

during

. have been generallyconversant times they used one, sometimes they shifted.from :consciously is reported , one language and unaware to have

with both languages. another, to the other,

and at other times probably they are speaking Thus Rabbi Eliezer whom
"m~ 'nI:J

language

akin to the language

The fact that the Bible .to the among the Jews.

of the fact that simultaneously. the sick

lent additional to its popularity

two different languages

and contributed

blessed
'~l~' ,~

None of the other languages
14

of the ruling powers in Palestine

he visited ,
1)1 ,D1P1' ,OlP1'

_ ,5 Cf. Ket. IV, 12; IX, 1,4; B. B. X, 6; XI, 2, cu. IX, 1-3.
,6

Op, cit., pp. 229-3l.

v

r'

:

pri1:'1I1)1~:J
5' 5'

so Suk. 56b: 101)1 ;,n~ l'~l

em,.

OJ1!)/) ;"JO

B. B. X, 1, Tosef. B. B.
..• ,~

Kid , I I, 1 etc.;

III,

1 etc.:

...

,S

'W,P11;'

nw"p!)

n~ :-,~.

.IJ .14

4i Sheb. X, 3 and 4. ,8 Sanh, 38b,

" Pes. 87b.

'.1

Sot. 49b .. Ibid. . Shabo 12b. Y. Shek. 47d. Sifre on Ekeb

V.

19.

208

THE ]EWJSH

QU,\RTERLY

lZl';v!E\v THE JEWISH VERNACUL\R'-CIIOMSKY

20<) all aralllalC
a layer of

. .. ," In "'1 ··n Hebrew or In aramaic. sr. .. the midst of a long '.1 cit leI I ti.. between. I) bbi Johanan ben Zakkai and t rc on "a .c converse 1. ,., .rfcct Hebrew, we l: z h tcr of Nnkdimon hen Gurion, In pc f ( dug . . . , , 11 'an 'lramalC injection 0 I apparent 1 easo " ,. find, wit lout any, I . I.' .h are delivered half Statements W uc , 1'11t one short p Irrase.: 57 ~, . to 1)(, ' . . al .C t 00 numerous . ' .'.' and half in aramalC . 111 Hebrew .1 o r- tl t Josephus records such " ted 58 Li ttle wonder, t ren, 1a . 1 ' cl 1 • CI. ' -tac oasha hahame. as those employe J) stock words as cztu ta, pa.s:, 'd ust have been current '9 These aramaic WOl s rn , the j ews.' '. 1, f [oseph us, especially among the Jews 111 the ca)s 0 • . ' among.1 , itl Wh0111 he came 111 Galilee and of Rome, WI 1 t Ire J ews of \J .. hi Iter vears. , contact 111 11S a.. . . '.1 . nablc certainty that ' , be stated wi th le,lSO., In sum, It C,111. ti 1 to be the pre' d Jerusalem Hebrew COI1muec 111 anel aroun " . ". cular pro bah 1y un til tl 1e ill-fa ted :revolt of I dominant \ erna . lr d f thousands of . r. b (132-135), when hum rc S 0 Bar Kokh a . while many were .' 1 cl bv famine and massaCles,' . Jews pel ISre ,. 1 ,. of Hebrew-speaking .J cws ' 1 \t (1 '1( tunc the num ret . exiled. j ... 1,. . . 11 1 Galile« on the other . I, -e cl wind led considcra J Y, J1 must rav '. ' Id [ especial I v In 13a IJ) donia , the prcdorn inant vcrnacI ran ,ane. .' . . alt I ugh Hebrew was a so t I 'e been ararnaic, ,1 10 ~ , ular mus .,av, ~. d Hence when Rabban Garualiel spoken and understood. I . 'I bitants of Galilee and . ldr letters to t re 1I1 tat c had t~ ac ,~eS':l Babylonia and other COlin tries 011 111<1tthe diaspore 1 . , did so in aramaic." " ters pertammg to the calendar, he I
L V'

The same Rabban translation

Gamaliel,

however,

ordered beneath

of the book of Job immured story is related girl. The

stones in the Temple, An interesting Babylonian a Palestinian l11anwho

in order to drive it out: of circulation.o,

in the Talmud"' spoke a

about

a

came to Palestine h usband

where he married Babylonian One day pumpkins).

ararnair , which his wife generally he asked \\Then she brought in exasperation baba (the door)," ahead and broke who happened hilll instead

misconstrucd,

her to bring him two bozine (young to go and break them

two candlcs,".l he told her them "on the head of the him again of Baba she went ben Buta,

Misunclerstanding on the head

to be sitting in the neighborhood

interpreting

the law. When Baba asked her in aramaic do this?", she answered him in Hebrew, commanded me to do it," speak to her in Hebrew . Thereupon

,"\Vliy did you "My husband to

Baba proceeded

7,

'.

.

"

This woman was evidently a simple unlearned person, She was apparently more or less llnilingual. The only language vernacular, clltrent she was conversant perhaps including ill the Hebrew with was her native
a sprinkling of aralllaic

Hebrew words Bel' hus-

vernacular

in Palestine,

band Illllst also have been uuilingual, but being a Babylonian his native vernacular was ararnair. Yet there is ample evidence language masses lonia. to indicate that the Hebrew of the did 110t die out as the vernacular for several CentUries after Thus we are told that not only in Palestine Rabbi

56 57
8

Shabo 12b.
Ket. 66b: 0"11'11'::1 Cf 'EI' s3a: ;J',J
Sa:
, ,"

"

,

J ewish
of the once their

':],1

Hag,
59

5

KilVn'

1"

K7n1.) , n1.) l'i:l 1', ~7 ll:m, ;J11n;J 7:l ';JH i ::Iyn L ;Jull: Inl);}' ;J7 'n"1.) '"InO:1 ;JIVK7 , I ,

'lO l'Yi

'I-U);

also

the destruction judah ha-Nasi

'Second Temple,

but even in Baby-

Cf. Ant. III, 6 and 7., . tl txt (see Rashi ad loc.) this refers Go See Sanh, lib, According to l-1.,e\\Tc", (Dol' Dol' wc-Dorsluno I, 178) I· I ' 1 erss . to Rabban Cama ie III ,)U, t Isaac -itten only by Gama '1' I I ' ie c '. I t1 ... could have )een IVII " .1 ... asserts that these e .ers . . . the pll.ases, <.,.., I, R G al11a 1'1 the Second, Ie . [These letters were wnttenL») ., 1':1 '1'1:l 'rn I'n,. can refer only
"llJVl '"In::l ~tl'i ", "l'ln::l 'JnllY 7 'l'r.JiP l'~lpn _I

came to a place where he found the people kneading
6,

Cf. Shabo 116a, t.his word was el1lployed the sense of candles or

~
G,l 'In Palestine ·calidlesticks. III

to R. Gamaliel

the Second.

S, Z.

210

THE JEWISH

QUARTERLY

HEVIEvV

THE JEWISH

VERNACULAR-CIlOMSKY

211

dough with swamp water. of tl1is strange the' scholar water).6.\
tury

\\1he11 asked for an explanation practice, they told him that Actually of . centhat them to him, shefilled to only the to do this by a scholar. them

under the influence of the preceding "1'¥' R11.... type,
~l:tiJ',

liqir.l

2 Sam. 3.25; "lin/,! "errors" of this 1',;lI (for ,tVl,Ji1 o~l'l~ such

and forbidden

(for '1ll,P,11,) Ezek. 25.6; i11'1;111i1l't;l¥ (for i11N~) Can. Hebrew we find numerous e'f
10'iJ

thcv had been instructed had taught Similarly,

3.11. In mishnaic

to use mei bezim (liquid Arnora of the third

i1Q~l;~ i1:J,.,r.l nnen

(for i1~1>1;l),66 ... l':Jn
il:)~1J Isa,

eggs), which they misconstrued a Babylonian

to mean mei bizzim (swamp in kneading.

1',;lir),67 1J'11:)1 1J'?1:) (for 07ir.l),68 ctc., also such forms as P!'i;J, (for ~1:t1J, 101J, PiIJ, d. where changes 14.23 Job 25.2) etc. The principle of assonance in spoken languages, and articulation. In a dead changes are inconceivable. Mishnaic tions with and third Hebrew waw consecutive, person, Iern. plural or literary is operati~e language

C. E., Rab Matria,
for Passover,

told the people that, they must she-lanu).

Matzah

use only the water

are governed

by sounds

was kept over night (mayim understood interpreting lnnu) brought translate guity

But the people mis-

him. They thought the expression

that he had forbidden by him (mayim

to use any other water except that which belonged employed

also dropped

the intricate

construc-

characteristic

of the biblical Attempts

in the sense of our water, and the next day they all their vessels to him, in order to have them Rab Matna thereupon in to aramaic, his injunction found it necessary are possible demonstrating

style, as well as the cumbersome

form i1~'1jpn in the second

of the Imperfect.

with water.

where no such ambi-

at such simplifications are already in evidence in the Bible, (j. g. ilE.J.~m ... il::>Mr.l1 ilpno ... il::1~i11 Judg. 5.26; ... illit>1
~"Nl Jer. 52.3; 'n:JIV'1 'Mir.ln Can. 2.3; 1'i1' 0::1'1Y1 (for i1l"i1~)

existcd ." Such misunderstandings the most cogent evidence

in Hebrew. Probably dynamic

Lev. 26.33; ticles out three mishnaic of Hebrew as a vernacular is to be drawn It is an estabis marked are static gramHebrew
66 6, ,

1::>1' O::1'~ll

(for ill::>11n) 1sa. 59.7; etc. In Canof such forms to retain and feminine plural forms, ten have between the simple masculine distinction the" ~ "deviations" as characteristic from clasof misharc

of 13 instances the biblical making Attempts forms,

character

retain

Irorn the organic structure [ishcd fact that the progress by slight mistakes of generations. from the rules. matical and grammatically

of that language.

no distinction

of a living language languages

and feminine.

this artificial unwarranted;

that have become accepted "correct," they permit

in the course of no deviation by usage is

Dead or purely literary The capacity

in modern Hebrew are linguistically futile and doomed to failure. Virtually naic Hebrew,
Suk. I, 1. Git. 1,6.

all other

grammatical are regarded

for coining "erroneous" sanctioned Mishnaic Hebrew

sical Hebrew, which

forms which are eventually

are found in use to a greater

or lesser degree

one of the hall-marks

of a vernacular.

clearly displayed such a capacity. One series of "mistakes" in mishnaic the principle of assonance. On this Hebrew
6, 6,

stems from; biblical

principle,

vields such "erroneous"

forms as liqil,)- (for lNi:lI.?

Sanh. Sb -. Pes. 42a.

68 I;Iu~. 1l3a. Our text reads here 07io. But there is little doubt i;,hat this ~vas tampered with by grammar-minded copyists, who ~emende~ It In con~onance with a conventional grammatical rule. The medieval grammarians, who had before them completely vocalized :ex:s read here 0'71,;'1 and explained the form on the principle of assimratIOn to the following 1}'11;1; cf. Chomsky, JQR., XXXVIII, 410.

;;~t

212

'1'1II';

.I EW

lSI 1

<iu.\ Wn:RLY

IU:V

n:w

ill the Bible. Thus, for example,
111011

the plural ending 1'--:- cornis generally times attributed Bible. article eleven in the

ill rnishnaic

Hebrew, occurs

which

to urnmaic Si111lady, i
(;1))'I'il

influence,

the occasional
tv

droppi ng of the definite

'rt), the introduction for
I~~,

of the time idea in the tenses, of the "17 and ~'7 verbs Hebrew. is a normal evolutionary 1t cvol vcd ou as modern Hebrew Second as in
t

the use of

the interchange Hebrew
t

_- all have their origin in biblical To conclude, of biblical mishnaic stage in the dcvcloprncn Hebrew l_<~iJgJisheveloped d was the standard Commonwealth conquest. a medium prose, Haskalah mindcdncss" them biblical

of the language.

much 'in the same manner from Middle English. language of

Mishnaic cluringthe after

J udaism
centuries

and for many expression the

the Roman

It continued of litcrnrv writers of

to serve with some modification, among- Jews, especially period. and the The revolt and "rigorism" Hebrew

clown to the Haskalah against Rahbinism with dubious in modern Scfarim, Hebrew,

of the

"narrowprompted

Talmud

to look askance Hebrew, Era"

at mishnaic

and to. revive ushered in

success, even in prose.Bul Hebrew Ahad these literature Ha-AI11 and supreme Bialik masters

the "Golden by Mcndclc ga vc rnishnaic mish uaic created erated sources

Mokher Hebrew biblical modern

a new lease of life. By synthesizing as a model for the regenin Israel. The vast reenormously

and

a style which has served Hebrew vernacular of rnishnaic Hebrew

have contributed

to the revival

of this vernacular.

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