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Hebrew (in Hebrew עברית)
עִבְרִית Ivrit
Pronunciation standard Israeli: [(ʔ)ivˈʁit] - [(ʔ)ivˈɾit],
standard Israeli (Sephardi): [ʕivˈɾit],
Iraqi: [ʕibˈriːθ],
Yemenite: [ʕivˈriːθ],
Ashkenazi: [ˈivʀis]
Spoken in Israel
Global (as a liturgical language for Judaism), in West Bank, and Gaza[1]
Total speakers Total Speakers < 10,000,000
First Language 5,300,000 (2009);[2]
Second Language 2,000,000 - 2,200,000 (2009)
 United States
Home Language 200,000 (approx.) in the United States speak Hebrew at home1

1United States Census 2000 PHC-T-37. Ability to Speak English by Language Spoken at Home: 2000. Table 1a.PDF (11.8 KB)
Palestinian territories
Palestinian territories Second Language 500,000 - 1,000,000

Extinct as a regularly spoken language by the 4th century CE, but survived as a liturgical and literary language; revived in the 1880s

Ranking 77
Language family Afro-Asiatic
Writing system Hebrew alphabet
Official status
Official language in  Israel
Regulated by Academy of the Hebrew Language
האקדמיה ללשון העברית(HaAkademia LaLashon Ha‘Ivrit)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 he
ISO 639-2 heb
ISO 639-3 either:
heb – Modern Hebrew
hbo – Ancient Hebrew

Hebrew (עִבְרִית, Ivrit,About this sound Hebrew pronunciation ) is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Culturally, it is considered the Jewish language. Hebrew in its modern form is spoken by most of the seven million people in Israel while Classical Hebrew has been used for prayer or study in Jewish communities around the world for over two thousand years. It is one of the official languages of Israel, along with Arabic. Ancient Hebrew is also the liturgical tongue of the Samaritans, while modern Hebrew or Palestinian Arabic is their vernacular, though today about 700 Samaritans remain. As a foreign language it is studied mostly by Jews and students of Judaism and Israel, archaeologists and linguists specializing in the Middle East and its civilizations, by theologians, and in Christian seminaries.

The core of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) is written in Classical Hebrew, and much of its present form is specifically the dialect of Biblical Hebrew that scholars believe flourished around the 6th century BCE, around the time of the Babylonian exile. For this reason, Hebrew has been referred to by Jews as Leshon HaKodesh (לשון הקודש), "The Holy Tongue", since ancient times.


The name of the language

The modern word "Hebrew" is derived from the word "ivri" (plural "ivrim") one of several names for the Jewish people. It is traditionally understood to be an adjective based on the name of Abraham's ancestor, Eber mentioned in Genesis 10:21. This name is possibly based upon the root "`avar" (עבר) meaning "to cross over" and homiletical interpretations of the term "ivrim" link it to this verb. In the Bible "Hebrew" is called Yehudith (יהודית) because Judah (Yehuda) was the surviving kingdom at the time of the quotation, late 8th century BCE (Is 36, 2 Kings 18). In Isaiah 19:18, it is also called the "Language of Canaan" (שְׂפַת כְּנַעַן)


This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.


The Hebrew word for consonants is ‘itsurim (עיצורים). The following table lists the Hebrew consonants and their pronunciation in IPA transcription:

Note: The voiceless

consonants in left,
and The voiced

consonants in right.
Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryn-
Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal      m          n        
Plosive p   b     t   d     k   g   ʔ
Affricate       ts            
Fricative   f   v   s   z ʃ         χ ʁ h   
Approximant              j    
Lateral Approximant        l        

The pairs /b, v/, /k, x/ and /p, f/ have historically been allophonic, as a consequence of the phenomenon of spirantization known as "begadkefat". In Modern Hebrew, however, all six sounds are phonemic, due to mergers involving formerly distinct sounds (/v/ merging with /w/, /k/ merging with /q/, /x/ merging with /ħ/), loss of consonant gemination (which formerly distinguished the stop members of the pairs from the fricatives when intervocalic), and the introduction of syllable-initial /f/ through foreign borrowings.

ע was once pronounced as a voiced pharyngeal fricative. Most modern Ashkenazi Jews do not differentiate between א and ע; however, Mizrahi Jews and Arabs pronounce these phonemes. Georgian Jews pronounce it as a glottalized q. Western European Sephardim and Dutch Ashkenazim traditionally pronounce it [ŋ] (like ng in sing) – a pronunciation which can also be found in the Italian tradition and, historically, in south-west Germany. (The remnants of this pronunciation are found throughout the Ashkenazi world, in the name "Yankl" and "Yanki", diminutive forms of Jacob, Heb. יעקב.)

Historical sound changes

Standard (non-Oriental) Israeli Hebrew (SIH) has undergone a number of splits and mergers in its development from Biblical Hebrew.[3]

  • BH /b/ had two allophones, [b] and [v]; the [v] allophone has merged with /w/ into SIH /v/
  • BH /k/ had two allophones, [k] and [x]; the [k] allophone has merged with /q/ into SIH /k/, while the [x] allophone has merged with /ħ/ into SIH /χ/
  • BH /t/ and /tˤ/ have merged into SIH /t/
  • BH /ʕ/ and /ʔ/ have usually merged into SIH /ʔ/, but this distinction may also be upheld in educated speech of many Sephardim and some Ashkenazim
  • BH /p/ had two allophones, [p] and [f]; the incorporation of loanwords into Modern Hebrew has probably resulted in a split, so that /p/ and /f/ are separate phonemes.


Hebrew also has dagesh, a phonological process of consonant strengthening that is indicated in fully-pointed texts by a dot placed in the center of a consonant. There are two kinds of strengthenings: light (kal, known also as dagesh lene) and heavy (hazak or dagesh forte). The light version applies to the phonemes /b/ /k/ /p/ (historically, also /ɡ/, /d/ and /t/), causing them to be pronounced as stops rather than fricatives, and operates when the dagesh occurs in the beginning of a word or after a consonant (i.e. a silent shva). The heavy dagesh occurs after vowels and applies to all consonants except gutturals and /r/, originally causing them to be pronounced as geminate (doubled) consonants; it also selects the stop allophone of /b/, /k/, /p/, etc. (In Modern Hebrew, gemination has disappeared, and the hence the heavy dagesh has a phonological effect only on /b/ /k/ /p/, affecting them the same as the light dagesh.) Traditional Hebrew grammar distinguishes two sub-categories of the heavy dagesh according to their historical origin: structural heavy (hazak tavniti) and complementing heavy (hazak mashlim). . Structural heavy dagesh corresponds to consonant doubling that was inherited from Proto-Semitic, and occurs in certain verb conjugations and noun patterns (mishkalim and binyanim; see the section on grammar below). Complementing heavy dagesh corresponds to consonant doubling that arose within Hebrew as a result of consonant assimilation, most commonly of an /n/ to a following consonant (e.g. Biblical Hebrew /attā/ "you (m. sg.)" vs. Classical Arabic /anta/).


The vowel phonemes of Modern Israeli Hebrew

The Hebrew word for vowels is tnu'ot (תְּנוּעוֹת). The orthographic representations for these vowels are called Niqqud. Israeli Hebrew has 5 vowel phonemes, represented by the following Niqqud-signs:

phoneme pronunciation in
Modern Hebrew
approximate pronunciation
in English
orthographic representation
"long" * "short" * "very short" / "interrupted" *
/a/ [ä] (as in "spa") kamats ( ָ ) patach ( ַ ) chataf patach ( ֲ )
/e/ [e̞] (as in "bet") tsere male ( ֵי ) or tsere chaser ( ֵ ) segol ( ֶ ) chataf segol ( ֱ ), sometimes shva ( ְ )
/i/ [i] (as in "ski") chirik male ( ִי ) chirik chaser ( ִ )  
/o/ [o̞] (as in "gore") cholam male ( וֹ ) or cholam chaser ( ֹ ) kamatz katan ( ָ ) chataf kamatz ( ֳ )
/u/ [u] (as in "flu" but with no diphthongization) shuruk (וּ) kubuts ( ֻ )  
* The severalfold orthographic representation of each phoneme attests to the broader phonemic range of vowels in earlier forms of Hebrew. Some linguists still regard the Hebrew grammatical entity of Shva na—marked as Shva (ְ)—as representing a sixth phoneme, /ə/.

In Biblical Hebrew, each vowel had three forms: short, long and interrupted (chataf). However, there is no audible distinction between the three in modern Israeli Hebrew, except that tsere is often pronounced [eɪ] as in Ashkenazi Hebrew.


The Niqqud sign "Shva" represents four grammatical entities: resting (nach / נָח), moving (na' / נָע), floating (merahef / מְרַחֵף) and "bleating" or "bellowing" ('ga'ya' / גַּעְיָּה). In earlier forms of Hebrew, these entities were phonologically and phonetically distinguishable. However, in Modern Hebrew these distinctions are not observed. For example, the (first) Shva Nach in the word קִמַּטְתְ (fem. you crumpled) is pronounced [e̞] ([kiˈmate̞t]) even though it should be mute, whereas the Shva Na in זְמַן (time), which theoretically should be pronounced, is usually mute ([zman]). Sometimes the shva is pronounced like a tsere when accented, as in the prefix "ve" meaning "and".


Hebrew has two frequent kinds of lexical stress, on the last syllable (milrá; מלרע) and on the penultimate syllable (the one preceding the last, mil‘él; מלעיל), of which the first is more frequent. Contrary to the prescribed standard, some words exhibit a stress on the antepenultimate syllable or even further back. This occurs often in loanwords, e.g. פּוֹלִיטִיקָה /poˈlitika/, "politics", and sometimes in native Hebrew words, e.g. אֵיכְשֶׁהוּ [4]/ˈeχʃehu/, "somehow"; אֵיפֹשֶׁהוּ /ˈefoʃehu/, "somewhere". Colloquial stress is also often shifted from the last syllable to the penultimate, contrary to the prescribed standard, e.g. כּוֹבַע, normative stress /koˈvaʕ/, colloquial stress /ˈkovaʕ/ "hat"; שׁוֹבָךְ normative stress /ʃoˈvaχ/, colloquial stress /ˈʃovaχ/, "dovecote". This is also common in the colloquial pronunciation of many personal names, for example דָּוִד normative stress /daˈvid/, colloquial stress /ˈdavid/, "David".[5]

Specific rules correlate the location or absence of stress in a syllable with the written representation of vowel length and whether or not the syllable ends with a vowel or a consonant.[6] Since spoken Israeli Hebrew does not distinguish between long and short vowels, these rules are not evident in speech. They usually cannot be inferred from written text either, since usually vowel diacritics are omitted. The result is that nowadays stress has phonemic value, as the following table illustrates: acoustically, the following word pairs differ only in the location of the stress; orthographically they differ also in the written representation of the length of the vowels, however if vowel diacritics are omitted (as is usually the case in Modern Israeli Hebrew) they are written identically:

common spelling
(Ktiv Hasar Niqqud)
mil‘él-stressed milrá-stressed
spelling with vowel diacritics pronunciation translation spelling with vowel diacritics pronunciation translation
ילד יֶלֶד /ˈjeled/ boy יֵלֵד /jeˈled/ will give birth
אוכל אֹכֶל /ˈoχel/ food אוֹכֵל /oˈχel/ eating (masculine singular participle)
בוקר בֹּקֶר /ˈbokeʁ/ morning בּוֹקֵר /boˈkeʁ/ cowboy

Little ambiguity exists, however, due to context and syntactic features; compare e.g. the English word "conduct" in its nominal and verbal forms.


Hebrew grammar is partly analytic, expressing such forms as dative, ablative, and accusative using prepositional particles rather than grammatical cases. However, inflection plays a decisive role in the formation of the verbs and nouns. E.g. nouns have a construct state, called "smikhut", to denote the relationship of "belonging to": this is the converse of the genitive case of more inflected languages. Words in smikhut are often combined with hyphens. In modern speech, the use of the construct is sometimes interchangeable with the preposition "shel", meaning "of". There are many cases, however, where older declined forms are retained (especially in idiomatic expressions and the like), and "person"-enclitics are widely used to "decline" prepositions.


Triliteral roots

Like all Semitic languages, the Hebrew language exhibits a pattern of stems consisting typically of "triliteral", or 3-consonant consonantal roots (2- and 4-consonant roots also exist), from which nouns, adjectives, and verbs are formed in various ways: e.g. by inserting vowels, doubling consonants, lengthening vowels, and/or adding prefixes, suffixes, or infixes.

Many of the Hebrew triliteral roots are shared with the other Semitic languages. This fact eases Hebrew learning for persons with a large vocabulary in another Semitic language, and eases learning of other Semitic languages by Hebrew speakers.

One-letter prefixes

Hebrew uses a number of one-letter prefixes that are added to words for various purposes. These are called "Letters of Use" (Hebrew: אותיות השימוש, Otiyot HaShimush). Such items include: the definite article ha- (/ha/) (="the"); prepositions be- (/bə/) (="in"), le- (/lə/) (="to"), mi- (/mi/) (="from"; a shortened version of the preposition min'); conjunctions ve- (/və/) (="and"), she- (/ʃe/) (="that"), ke- (/kə/) (="as", "like").

The vowel accompanying each of these letters may differ from those listed above, depending on the first letter or vowel following it. The rules governing these changes are hardly observed in colloquial speech, as most speakers tend to employ the regular form. The correct form may be heard in more formal circumstances. For example, if a preposition is put before a word which begins with a moving Shva, then the preposition takes the vowel /i/ (and the initial consonant may be weakened): colloquial be-kfar (="in a village") corresponds to the more formal bi-khfar.

The definite article may be inserted between a preposition or a conjunction and the word it refers to, creating composite words like mé-ha-kfar (="from the village"). The latter also demonstrates the change in the vowel of mi-. With be and le, the definite article is assimilated into the prefix, which then becomes ba or la. Thus *be-ha-matos becomes ba-matos (="in the plane"). Note that this does not happen to (the form of "min" or "mi-" used before the letter "he"), therefore mé-ha-matos is a valid form, which means "from the airplane".

* indicates that the given example is grammatically non standard.


Like most other languages, the vocabulary of the Hebrew language is divided to verbs, nouns, adjectives, and so on, and its sentences structure can be analyzed by terms like object, subject, and so on. However, persons who speak only Indo-European languages (e.g. English, French, Persian) may find the structure of Hebrew sentences quite surprising. Hebrew, sentences do not have to include verbs. The verb To Be does not exist in present tense in Hebrew. Unlike the verb To Have, none of the possession terms in Hebrew is a verb. There is no word that is supposed to come before every singular noun. Moreover, many sentences can have a few correct orders of words.

Writing system

Modern Hebrew is written from right to left using the Hebrew alphabet, which is an abjad, or consonant-only script of 22 letters. The ancient paleo-Hebrew alphabet is similar to those used for Canaanite and Phoenician. Modern scripts are based on the "square" letter form, known as Ashurit (Assyrian), which was developed from the Aramaic script. A cursive Hebrew script is used in handwriting: the letters tend to be more circular in form when written in cursive, and sometimes vary markedly from their printed equivalents. The medieval version of the cursive script forms the basis of another style, known as Rashi script. When necessary, vowels are indicated by diacritic marks above or below the letter representing the syllabic onset, or by use of matres lectionis, which are consonantal letters used as vowels. Further diacritics are used to indicate variations in the pronunciation of the consonants (e.g. bet/vet, shin/sin); and, in some contexts, to indicate the punctuation, accentuation and musical rendition of Biblical texts (see Cantillation).


As a language, Hebrew belongs to the Canaanite group of languages. In turn the Canaanite languages are a branch of the Northwest Semitic family of languages.[7] Hebrew (Israel) and Moabite (Jordan) are Southern Canaanite while Phoenician (Lebanon) is Northern Canaanite. Canaanite is closely related to Aramaic and to a lesser extent South-Central Arabic. Whereas other Canaanite languages became extinct, Hebrew flourished as a spoken language in Israel from an uncertain date before the 10th century BCE, Scholars debate the degree to which Hebrew was a spoken vernacular in ancient times following the Babylonian exile.

Around the 6th century BCE, the Neo-Babylonian Empire conquered the ancient Kingdom of Judah, destroying much of Jerusalem and exiling its population far to the East in Babylon. During the Babylonian captivity, many Israelites were enslaved within the Babylonian Empire and learned the closely related Semitic language of their captors, Aramaic. The Babylonians had taken mainly the governing classes of Israel while leaving behind in Israel presumably more-compliant farmers and laborers to work the land. Thus for a significant period, the Jewish elite became influenced by Aramaic.[8] (see below, Aramaic spoken among Israelites).

After Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, he released the Jewish people from captivity. The King of Kings or Great King of Persia, later gave the Israelites permission to return. Hebrew came to be spoken alongside new dialects of Hebrew and a local version of Aramaic. Yet, Aramaic represented the hated language of slavery, conquest, and occupation, while Hebrew remained the language of Israel's history and national pride. Preserved largely by the remnant in Israel proper, Hebrew continued to be a thriving language until shortly before the Byzantine era.

Hebrew has been in continuous use as a religious and literary language since the 10th-century BCE. It faded as a spoken language at a disputed point in antiquity (sometime between the-century BCE and the Roman period) but continued to be used as a lingua franca among scholars and Jews traveling in foreign countries throughout history. It was revived as a spoken language in the early 20th century.[9] After the 2nd century CE when the Roman Empire exiled most of the Jewish population of Jerusalem following the Bar Kokhba revolt, the Israelites adapted to the societies in which they found themselves, yet letters, contracts, commerce, science, philosophy, medicine, poetry, and laws continued to be written in Hebrew, which adapted by borrowing and inventing terms.

Hebrew persevered along the ages as the main language for written purposes by all Jewish communities around the world for a large range of uses (poetry, philosophy, science and medicine, commerce, daily correspondence and contracts, in addition to liturgy). This meant not only that well-educated Jews in all parts of the world could correspond in a mutually intelligible language, and that books and legal documents published or written in any part of the world could be read by Jews in all other parts, but that an educated Jew could travel and converse with Jews in distant places, just as priests and other educated Christians could once converse in Latin. It has been 'revived' several times as a literary language, and most significantly by the Haskalah (Enlightenment) movement of early and mid-19th century. Near the end of that century the Jewish activist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, owing to the ideology of the national revival (Hibbat Tziyon, later Zionism), began reviving Hebrew as a modern spoken language. Eventually, as a result of the local movement he created, but more significantly as a result of the new groups of immigrants known under the name of the Second Aliyah, it replaced a score of languages spoken by Jews at that time. Those languages were Jewish dialects such as the Judeo-Spanish language (also called Judezmo or Ladino), Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, and Bukharian language, or local languages spoken in the Jewish diaspora such as Russian, Persian, and Arabic.

The major result of the literary work of the Hebrew intellectuals along the 19th century was a lexical modernization of Hebrew. New words and expressions were adapted as neologisms from the large corpus of Hebrew writings since the Hebrew Bible, or borrowed from Arabic (mainly by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda) and Aramaic. Many new words were either borrowed from or coined after European languages, especially English, Russian, German, and French. Modern Hebrew became an official language in British-ruled Palestine in 1921 (along with English and Arabic), and then in 1948 became an official language of the newly declared State of Israel. Hebrew is the most widely spoken language in Israel today.


Hebrew is a Semitic language and as such a member of the larger Afro-Asiatic phylum.

Within Semitic, the Northwest Semitic languages formed around the 3rd millennium BCE, grouped along with the Arabic languages as Central Semitic. The Canaanite languages are a group within Northwest Semitic, emerging in the 2nd millennium BCE in the Levant, gradually separating from Aramaic and Ugaritic.

Within the Canaanite group, Hebrew belongs to the sub-group also containing Edomite, Ammonite and Moabite. Another Canaanite sub-group contains Phoenician and its descendant Punic.

Oldest Hebrew inscriptions

The earliest Hebrew writing yet discovered was found at Khirbet Qeiyafa in July 2008, Israeli archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel discovered the oldest known Hebrew inscription.[10][11] A 3,000-year-old pottery shard bearing five lines of faded characters were found in the ruins of an ancient town south of Jerusalem. Garfinkel noted that the find suggests Biblical accounts of the ancient Israelite kingdom of David could have been based on written texts.[12]

The Gezer calendar also dates back to the 10th century BCE at the beginning of the Monarchic Period, the traditional time of the reign of David and Solomon. Classified as Archaic Biblical Hebrew, the calendar presents a list of seasons and related agricultural activities. The Gezer calendar (named after the city in whose proximity it was found) is written in an old Semitic script, akin to the Phoenician one that through the Greeks and Etruscans later became the Roman script. The Gezer calendar is written without any vowels, and it does not use consonants to imply vowels even in the places where later Hebrew spelling requires it.

The Shebna lintel, from the tomb of a royal steward found in Siloam, dates to the 7th century BCE.

Numerous older tablets have been found in the region with similar scripts written in other Semitic languages, for example Protosinaitic. It is believed that the original shapes of the script go back to Egyptian hieroglyphs, though the phonetic values are instead inspired by the acrophonic principle. The common ancestor of Hebrew and Phoenician is called Canaanite, and was the first to use a Semitic alphabet distinct from Egyptian. One ancient document is the famous Moabite Stone written in the Moabite dialect; the Siloam Inscription, found near Jerusalem, is an early example of Hebrew. Less ancient samples of Archaic Hebrew include the ostraka found near Lachish which describe events preceding the final capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian captivity of 586 BCE.

Classical Hebrew

In its widest sense, Classical Hebrew means the spoken language of ancient Israel flourishing between the 10th century BCE and the turn of the 4th century CE.[13] It comprises several evolving and overlapping dialects. The phases of Classical Hebrew are often named after important literary works associated with them.

  • Archaic Biblical Hebrew from the 10th to the 6th century BCE, corresponding to the Monarchic Period until the Babylonian Exile and represented by certain texts in the Hebrew Bible (Tanach), notably the Song of Moses (Exodus 15) and the Song of Deborah (Judges 5). Also called Old Hebrew or Paleo-Hebrew. It was written in a form of the Canaanite script. (A script descended from this is still used by the Samaritans, see Samaritan Hebrew language.)
  • Biblical Hebrew around the 6th century BCE, corresponding to the Babylonian Exile and represented by the bulk of the Hebrew Bible that attains much of its present form around this time. Also called Classical Biblical Hebrew (or Classical Hebrew in the narrowest sense).
  • Late Biblical Hebrew, from the 6th to the 4th century BCE, that corresponds to the Persian Period and is represented by certain texts in the Hebrew Bible, notably the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Basically similar to Classical Biblical Hebrew, apart from a few foreign words adopted for mainly governmental terms, and some syntactical innovations such as the use of the particle shel (of, belonging to). It adopted the Imperial Aramaic script.
  • Israelian Hebrew is a proposed northern dialect of biblical Hebrew, attested in all eras of the language, in some cases competing with late biblical Hebrew as an explanation for non-standard linguistic features of biblical texts.
  • Dead Sea Scroll Hebrew from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE, corresponding to the Hellenistic and Roman Periods before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and represented by the Qumran Scrolls that form most (but not all) of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Commonly abbreviated as DSS Hebrew, also called Qumran Hebrew. The Imperial Aramaic script of the earlier scrolls in the 3rd century BCE evolved into the Hebrew square script of the later scrolls in the 1st century CE, also known as ketav Ashuri (Assyrian script), still in use today.
  • Mishnaic Hebrew from the 1st to the 3rd or 4th century CE, corresponding to the Roman Period after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and represented by the bulk of the Mishnah and Tosefta within the Talmud and by the Dead Sea Scrolls, notably the Bar Kokhba Letters and the Copper Scroll. Also called Tannaitic Hebrew or Early Rabbinic Hebrew.

Sometimes the above phases of spoken Classical Hebrew are simplified into "Biblical Hebrew" (including several dialects from the tenth century BCE to 2nd century BCE and extant in certain Dead Sea Scrolls) and "Mishnaic Hebrew" (including several dialects from the 3rd century BCE to the 3rd century CE and extant in certain other Dead Sea Scrolls).[14] However, today, most Hebrew linguists classify Dead Sea Scroll Hebrew as a set of dialects evolving out of Late Biblical Hebrew and into Mishnaic Hebrew, thus including elements from both but remaining distinct from either.[15] By the start of the Byzantine Period in the 4th century CE, Classical Hebrew ceases as a regularly spoken language, roughly a century after the publication of the Mishnah, apparently declining since the aftermath of the catastrophic Bar Kokhba War around 135 CE.


By the early half of the 20th century, most scholars followed Geiger and Dalman in thinking that Aramaic became a spoken language in the land of Israel by the start of Israel's Hellenistic Period in the 4th century BCE, and that as a corollary Hebrew ceased to function as a spoken language around the same time. Segal, Klausner, and Ben Yehuda are notable exceptions to this view. During the latter half of the 20th century, accumulating archaeological evidence and especially linguistic analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls has disproven that view. The Dead Sea Scrolls, uncovered in 1946-1948 near Qumran revealed ancient Jewish texts overwhelmingly in Hebrew, not Aramaic. The Qumran scrolls indicate that Hebrew texts were readily understandable to the average Israelite, and that the language had evolved since Biblical times as spoken languages do. Recent scholarship recognizes that reports of Jews speaking in Aramaic indicates a multi-lingual society, not necessarily the primary language spoken. Alongside Aramaic, Hebrew co-existed within Israel as a spoken language.

Some further evidence for this contention has been found in the Christian Bible, in which rare occasions of a person speaking in Aramaic are given special attention as being unusual. Rather than dialogue being primarily in Aramaic with the exceptional Hebrew, the New Testament presupposes dialogue in Hebrew and points out Aramaic discussions as being exceptions to normal speech.

Similarly, Paul is portrayed as speaking to a crowd of Jews têi hebraïdi dialéktôi[16] lit.'in the Hebrew dialect'. A commonly proposed translation for this Greek passage is 'in the Aramaic vernacular of Palestine'[17]. Such a translation ignores, of course, the fact that Aramaic has a standard word in Greek συριστι/συριακη (cf. LXX Job 42:17ff, and Dan 2:4.), it is really only based on place names that are called Hebrew and that had an Aramaizing etymology. In a groundbreaking article Grintz suggested that Hebrew, rather than Aramaic, lay behind the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.[18] Grintz dates the demise of Hebrew as a spoken language to the end of the Roman Period. Hebrew nonetheless continued on as a literary language down through Byzantine Period from the 4th century CE.

The exact roles of Aramaic and Hebrew remain hotly debated. A trilingual scenario has been proposed for the land of Israel. Hebrew functioned as the local mother tongue with powerful ties to Israel's history, origins, and golden age and as the language of Israel's religion; Aramaic functioned as the international language with the rest of the Mideast; and eventually Greek functioned as another international language with the eastern areas of the Roman Empire. Communities of Jews (and non-Jews) are known, who immigrated to Judea from these other lands and continued to speak Aramaic or Greek.

Many Hebrew linguists postulate the survival of Hebrew as a spoken language until the Byzantine Period, but some historians do not accept this. The Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls distinguishes the Dead Sea Scroll Hebrew from the various dialects of Biblical Hebrew out of which it evolved: "This book presents the specific features of DSS Hebrew, emphasizing deviations from classical BH."[19] The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church which once said, in 1958 in its first edition, that Hebrew "ceased to be a spoken language around the fourth century BCE", now says, in its 1997 (third) edition, that Hebrew "continued to be used as a spoken and written language in the New Testament period".[20] An Introductory Grammar of Rabbinic Hebrew says, "It is generally believed that the Dead Sea Scrolls, specifically the Copper Scroll and also the Bar Kokhba letters, have furnished clear evidence of the popular character of MH [Mishnaic Hebrew]."[21] And so on.[13] It is widespread among Israeli scholars to treat Hebrew as a spoken language as a feature of Judea's Roman Period.

Mishnah and Talmud

The term generally refers to the Hebrew dialects found in the Talmud תלמוד, excepting quotations from the Hebrew Bible. The dialects organize into Mishnaic Hebrew (also called Tannaitic Hebrew, Early Rabbinic Hebrew, or Mishnaic Hebrew I), which was a spoken language, and Amoraic Hebrew (also called Late Rabbinic Hebrew or Mishnaic Hebrew II), which was a literary language.

The earlier section of the Talmud is the Mishnah משנה that was published around 200 CE and was written in the earlier Mishnaic dialect. The dialect is also found in certain Dead Sea Scrolls. Mishnaic Hebrew is considered to be one of the dialects of Classical Hebrew that functioned as a living language in the land of Israel.

A transitional form of the language occurs in the other works of Tannaitic literature dating from the century beginning with the completion of the Mishnah. These include the halachic Midrashim (Sifra, Sifre, Mechilta etc.) and the expanded collection of Mishnah-related material known as the Tosefta תוספתא. The Talmud contains excerpts from these works, as well as further Tannaitic material not attested elsewhere; the generic term for these passages is Baraitot. The dialect of all these works is very similar to Mishnaic Hebrew.

About a century after the publication of the Mishnah, Mishnaic Hebrew fell into disuse as a spoken language. The later section of the Talmud, the Gemara גמרא, generally comments on the Mishnah and Baraitot in Aramaic. Nevertheless, Hebrew survived as a liturgical and literary language in the form of later Amoraic Hebrew, which sometimes occurs in the text of the Gemara.

Medieval Hebrew

Aleppo Codex: 10th century Hebrew Bible with Masoretic pointing (Joshua 1:1).

After the Talmud, various regional literary dialects of Medieval Hebrew evolved. The most important is Tiberian Hebrew or Masoretic Hebrew, a local dialect of Tiberias in Galilee that became the standard for vocalizing the Hebrew Bible and thus still influences all other regional dialects of Hebrew. This Tiberian Hebrew from the 7th to 10th century CE is sometimes called "Biblical Hebrew" because it is used to pronounce the Hebrew Bible; however properly it should be distinguished from the historical Biblical Hebrew of the 6th century BCE, whose original pronunciation must be reconstructed.

Tiberian Hebrew incorporates the remarkable scholarship of the Masoretes (from masoret meaning "tradition"), who added vowel points and grammar points to the Hebrew letters to preserve much earlier features of Hebrew, for use in chanting the Hebrew Bible. The Masoretes inherited a biblical text whose letters were considered too sacred to be altered, so their markings were in the form of pointing in and around the letters. The Syriac script, precursor to the Arabic script, also developed vowel pointing systems around this time. The Aleppo Codex, a Hebrew Bible with the Masoretic pointing, was written in the 10th century likely in Tiberias and survives to this day. It is perhaps the most important Hebrew manuscript in existence.

In the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain important work was done by grammarians in explaining the grammar and vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew; much of this was based on the work of the grammarians of Classical Arabic. Important Hebrew grammarians were Judah ben David Hayyuj, Jonah ibn Janah and later (in Provence) David Kimhi. A great deal of poetry was written, by poets such as Dunash ben Labrat, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Judah ha-Levi and the two Ibn Ezras, in a "purified" Hebrew based on the work of these grammarians, and in Arabic quantitative or strophic metres. This literary Hebrew was later used by Italian Jewish poets.

The need to express scientific and philosophical concepts from Classical Greek and Medieval Arabic motivated Medieval Hebrew to borrow terminology and grammar from these other languages, or to coin equivalent terms from existing Hebrew roots, giving rise to a distinct style of philosophical Hebrew. This is used in the translations made by the Ibn Tibbon family. (Original Jewish philosophical works were usually written in Arabic.)

Another important influence was Maimonides, who developed a simple style based on Mishnaic Hebrew for use in his law code, the Mishneh Torah. Subsequent rabbinic literature is written in a blend between this style and the Aramaized Rabbinic Hebrew of the Talmud.

Modern Hebrew


In the Modern Period, from the 19th century onward, the literary Hebrew tradition as pronounced in Jerusalem revived as the spoken language of modern Israel, called variously Israeli Hebrew, Modern Israeli Hebrew, Modern Hebrew, New Hebrew, Israeli Standard Hebrew, Standard Hebrew, and so on. Israeli Hebrew exhibits many features of Sephardic Hebrew from its local Jerusalemite tradition but adapts it with numerous neologisms, borrowed terms (often technical) from European languages and adopted terms (often colloquial) from Arabic.

The literary and narrative use of Hebrew was revived beginning with the Haskalah (Enlightenment) movement. The first secular periodical in Hebrew, Hameassef (The Gatherer), was published by Maskilim literati in Königsberg from 1783 onwards.[22] In the mid-19th century, publications of several Eastern European Hebrew-language newspapers (e.g. HaMagid, founded in Lyck, Prussia, in 1856) multiplied. Prominent poets were Chaim Nachman Bialik and Shaul Tchernichovsky; there were also novels written in the language.

The revival of the Hebrew language as a mother tongue was initiated in the late 19th century by the efforts of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. He joined the Jewish national movement and in 1881 immigrated to Palestine, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. Motivated by the surrounding ideals of renovation and rejection of the diaspora "shtetl" lifestyle, Ben-Yehuda set out to develop tools for making the literary and liturgical language into everyday spoken language.

However, his brand of Hebrew followed norms that had been replaced in Eastern Europe by different grammar and style, in the writings of people like Achad Ha-Am and others. His organizational efforts and involvement with the establishment of schools and the writing of textbooks pushed the vernacularization activity into a gradually accepted movement. It was not, however, until the 1904-1914 Second Aliyah that Hebrew had caught real momentum in Ottoman Palestine with the more highly organized enterprises set forth by the new group of immigrants. When the British Mandate of Palestine recognized Hebrew as one of the country's three official languages (English, Arabic, and Hebrew, in 1922), its new formal status contributed to its diffusion. A constructed modern language with a truly Semitic vocabulary and written appearance, although often European in phonology, was to take its place among the current languages of the nations.


While many saw his work as fanciful or even blasphemous[23] (because Hebrew was the holy language of the Torah and therefore some thought that it should not be used to discuss everyday matters), many soon understood the need for a common language amongst Jews of the Palestine Mandate who at the turn of the 20th century were arriving in large numbers from diverse countries and speaking different languages. A Committee of the Hebrew Language was established. Later it became the Academy of the Hebrew Language, an organization that still exists today. The results of his and the Committee's work were published in a dictionary (The Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew). The seeds of Ben-Yehuda's work fell on fertile ground, and by the beginning of the 20th century, Hebrew was well on its way to becoming the main language of the Jewish population of both Ottoman and British Palestine. At the time, members of the Old Yishuv and a very few Hasidic sects, most notably those under the auspices of Satmar, refused to speak Hebrew and only spoke Yiddish. However, while this ideological stance persists in certain quarters, almost all members of these groups have learned modern Hebrew in order to interact with outsiders.[citation needed]

Modern Israeli Hebrew

Standard Hebrew, as developed by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, was based on Mishnaic spelling and Sephardi Hebrew pronunciation. However, the earliest speakers of Modern Hebrew had Yiddish as their native tongue and often brought into Hebrew idioms and literal translations from Yiddish. Similarly, the language as spoken in Israel has adapted to Ashkenazi Hebrew phonology in the following respects:

  • the elimination of pharyngeal articulation in the letters chet (ח) and ayin (ע)
  • the conversion of (ר) /r/ from an alveolar flap [ɾ] to a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] or trill [ʀ]. see Guttural R
  • the pronunciation (by many speakers) of tzere (ֵ) as [eɪ] in some contexts (sifrey and teysha instead of Sephardic sifré and tésha')
  • the gradual elimination of vocal schwa (ְ) (zman instead of Sephardic zĕman)
  • in popular speech, penultimate stress in proper names (Dvóra instead of Dĕvorá; Yehúda instead of Yĕhudá)
  • similarly in popular speech, penultimate stress in verb forms with a second person plural suffix (katávtem "you wrote" instead of kĕtavtém).[24]

Loan Words

Modern Israeli Hebrew has borrowed many words from Aramaic, Yiddish, German, Polish, Russian, Arabic, English and other languages.


The vast majority of scholars see Modern Hebrew as a direct continuation of Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew, though they concede that it has acquired some European vocabulary and syntactical features, in much the same way as Modern Standard Arabic[25] (or even more so, dialects such as Moroccan Arabic). There are two minor dissenting views, which have not been accepted by most scholars, and are in fact subject to much criticism. They are:

  • Paul Wexler[26] claims that modern Hebrew is not a Semitic language at all, but a dialect of "Judaeo-Sorbian". He argues that the underlying structure of the language is Slavic, but "re-lexified" to absorb much of the vocabulary and inflexional system of Hebrew in much the same way as a creole. This view forms part of a larger complex of theories, such as that Ashkenazi Jews are predominantly descended from Slavic and Turkic tribes rather than from the ancient Israelites, none of which are accepted by mainstream scholarship.
  • Ghil'ad Zuckermann[27][28] compromises between Wexler and the majority view: according to him, "Israeli" (his term for Israeli Hebrew) is a Semito-European hybrid language, which is the continuation not only of literary Hebrew but also of Yiddish, as well as Polish, Russian, German, English, Ladino, Arabic and other languages spoken by Hebrew revivalists.[29][30] Thus, "Yiddish is a primary contributor to Israeli Hebrew because it was the mother tongue of the vast majority of revivalists and first pioneers in Eretz Yisrael at the crucial period of the beginning of Israeli Hebrew".[31] According to Zuckermann, although the revivalists wished to speak Hebrew, with Semitic grammar and pronunciation, they could not avoid the Ashkenazi mindset arising from their European background. He argues that their attempt to deny their European roots, negate diasporism and avoid hybridity (as reflected in Yiddish) failed. "Had the revivalists been Arabic-speaking or Berber-speaking Jews (e.g. from Morocco), Israeli Hebrew would have been a totally different language – both genetically and typologically, much more Semitic. The impact of the founder population on Israeli Hebrew is incomparable with that of later immigrants."[32]

So far, neither view has gained significant acceptance among mainstream linguists, and both have been criticized by some as being based less on linguistic evidence than post- or anti-Zionist political motivations.[33] However, some linguists, for example American Yiddish scholar Dovid Katz, have employed Zuckermann's glottonym "Israeli" and accept his notion of hybridity. Few would dispute that Hebrew has acquired some European features as a result of having been learned by immigrants as a second language at a crucial formative stage. The identity of the European substrate/adstrate has varied: in the time of the Mandate and the early State, the principal contributor was Yiddish, while today it is American English. There has also been some influence, on vocabulary rather than structure, from Arabic, both in the form of Palestinian Arabic and, during the large scale immigrations of Mizrahi Jews during the 1950-60s, the Yemenite and North African dialects. Some Russian influence may also be observed, both during the founding period and as a result of the wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union following its collapse in 1991.

Modern dialects and accents

Hebrew has two dialects; a Jewish one and a Samaritan one. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Samaritan dialect nearly became extinct, along with the Samaritan population itself. It is now generally used only for Samaritan religion purposes.

According to the Academy of the Hebrew Language, in 1880s (the time of the beginning of the Zionist movement and the Hebrew revival) there were mainly three groups of Hebrew regional accents: The Ashkenazi (European), The Sephardi (Hispanic/Mediterranean) and that of Jewish communities who had little influence from those two groups of Jews, mostly in Iraq and Yemen. Ben-Yehuda decided that the standard accent would be the Sephardi one, but eventually, the standard accent became something in between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi one.

In the 2010s most Hebrew speakers have that standard accent. Most of the other Hebrew speakers have an accent with more Sephardi/Iraqi/Yemenite influence since they try to keep on with non-Ashkenazi tradition, and since they try to avoid the ambiguity that the standard accent force, by making various consonants sound alike. This accent can be called Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) accent. A third group has an accent with more Ashkenazi influence. It includes mostly a minority group within the Hasidic Ashkenazi Jews.

Phonologically, standard Hebrew accent may most accurately be described as an amalgam of pronunciations preserving Sephardic vowel sounds and some Ashkenazic consonant sounds with Yiddish-style influence, its recurring feature being simplification of differences among a wide array of pronunciations. This simplifying tendency also accounts for the collapse of the Ashkenazic [t] and [s] allophones of ת (/t/) into the single phone [t]. Most Sephardic and Mizrahi accents share this feature, though some (such as those of Iraq and Yemen) differentiate between these two pronunciations as /t/ and /θ/. Within Israel, however, the pronunciation of Hebrew more often reflects the diasporic origin of the individual speaker, rather than the specific recommendations of the Academy. For this reason, over half the population pronounces ר as [ʀ] (a uvular trill, as in Yiddish and French) or as [ʁ] (a voiced uvular fricative, as in Standard German), rather than as [r], an alveolar trill, as in Spanish and Italian.

There are mixed views on the status of the two accents.[citation needed] On the one hand, prominent Israelis of Sephardic or Oriental origin are admired for the purity of their speech and Yemenite Jews are often employed as newsreaders.[citation needed] On the other hand, the speech of middle-class Ashkenazim is regarded as having a certain Central European sophistication, and many speakers of Mizrahi origin have moved nearer to this version of Standard Hebrew, in some cases even adopting the uvular resh.[citation needed]

Main differences between the accents
  • Yiddish influence on the consonants In Ashkenazi and standard accents:
    • The צ is [ts] instead of its original Semitic sound /sˤ/.
    • ר is pronounced as the Yiddish-German-like R /ʁ/ instead of an Italian-Spanish-Scottish-like R /r/.
    • disappearance of Semitic sounds: the ח <ħ> sounds just like כ /x/, the ק <q> just like the כּ with a dot inside [k], and the ע <ʕ> like the א <ʔ> merging into [ʔ] or becoming silent.
  • In Yemenite accent, when the ו is a consonant, it is pronounced as a [w] and not as a [v].
  • <t> sounds:
    • In the Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and standard accents the ט /tˤ/ and the תּ with a dot inside /t/ had lost their original difference and merged into [t].
    • In Ashkenazi accent the תwithout a dot inside (th) <θ> sounds like [s] while in all the others it sounds like the a regular [t].
  • Stress: in the Ashkenazi accent many more words are pronounced with a stress on the beginning of the word.
  • Vowels:
    • In the Ashkenazi and Yemenite accents many more ָ (Kamats) are pronounced oh /o/ instead of ah /a/.
    • In the Ashkenazi accent many more ֵ (Tsere) are pronounced like in the English word “ate” /eɪ/ instead of /e(ː)/.

Modern Hebrew out of Israel

Russia and the Soviet Union

Russian has separate terms for Ancient Hebrew (Древнееврейский язык, "ancient Jewish language") and Modern Hebrew (Иврит (Ivrit), directly borrowed from the Hebrew name).

The Soviet authorities considered the use of Hebrew "reactionary" since it was associated with both Judaism and Zionism, and the teaching of Hebrew at primary and secondary schools was officially banned by the Narkompros (Commissariat of Education) as early as 1919, as part of an overall agenda aiming to secularize education (the language itself didn't cease to be studied at universities for historical and linguistic purposes[34]). The official ordinance stated that Yiddish, being the spoken language of the Russian Jews, should be treated as their only national language, while Hebrew was to be treated as a foreign language.[35] Hebrew books and periodicals ceased to be published and were seized from the libraries, although liturgical texts were still published until the 1930s. Despite numerous protests,[36] a policy of suppression of the teaching of Hebrew operated from the 1930s on. Later in the 1980s in the USSR, Hebrew studies reappeared due to people struggling for permission to go to Israel (refuseniks). Several of the teachers were imprisoned, for example, Ephraim Kholmyansky, Yevgeny Korostyshevsky and others responsible for a Hebrew learning network connecting many cities of USSR.

Hebrew in Judaism

According to some Jewish traditions, Hebrew was the language of the creation.[37][38] Likewise, Hebrew is considered to be the one language spoken by the united mankind before the dispersion connected with the Tower of Babel.[38][39] According to Jewish esoteric teachings, the Hebrew letters are the lifeforce of all things created, determining their essence.[40]

Liturgical use

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Hebrew has always been used as the language of prayer and study, and the following pronunciation systems are found.

Ashkenazi Hebrew, originating in Central and Eastern Europe, is still widely used in Ashkenazi Jewish religious services and studies in Israel and abroad, particularly in the Haredi and other Orthodox communities. It was influenced by the Yiddish language.

Sephardi Hebrew is the traditional pronunciation of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews and Sephardi Jews in the countries of the former Ottoman Empire. This pronunciation, in the form used by the Jerusalem Sephardic community, is the basis of the Hebrew phonology of Israeli native speakers. It was influenced by the Judezmo language.

Mizrahi (Oriental) Hebrew is actually a collection of dialects spoken liturgically by Jews in various parts of the Arab and Islamic world. It was possibly influenced by the Aramaic and Arabic languages, and in some cases by Sephardi Hebrew, although some linguists maintain that it is the direct heir of Biblical Hebrew and thus represents the true dialect of Hebrew. The same claim is sometimes made for Yemenite Hebrew or Temanit, which differs from other Mizrahi dialects by having a radically different vowel system, and distinguishing between different diacritically marked consonants that are pronounced identically in other dialects (for example gimel and "ghimel".)

These pronunciations are still used in synagogue ritual and religious study, in Israel and elsewhere, mostly by people who are not native speakers of Hebrew, though some traditionalist Israelis are bi-dialectal.

Many synagogues in the diaspora, even though Ashkenazi by rite and by ethnic composition, have adopted the "Sephardic" pronunciation in deference to Israeli Hebrew. However, in many British and American schools and synagogues, this pronunciation retains several elements of its Ashkenazi substrate, especially the distinction between tsere and segol.

See also


  1. ^ CIA's World Fact Book
  2. ^ Ethnologue: Statistical Summaries
  3. ^ Robert Hetzron. (1987). Hebrew. In The World's Major Languages, ed. Bernard Comrie, 686–704. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-520521-9.
  4. ^ Morfix dictionary – אֵיכְשֶׁהוּ
  5. ^ Netser, Nisan, Niqqud halakha le-maase, 1976, p. 11.
  6. ^ Theses rules are sometimes slightly different for verbs and nouns; thus the stress in the noun דָּבָר (/daˈvar/, "thing") and the verb גָּבַר (/ɡaˈvar/ "to overpower") are both on the last syllable, even though this syllable is pointed with the sign for a long vowel for the noun and for a short vowel for the verb. Modern classification of vowel diacritics according to the vowel length they allegedly denote, however, might not concur with the historically correct phonological distinction between vowel lengths, see Tiberian vocalization → Full vowels.
  7. ^ Ross, Allen P. Introducing Biblical Hebrew, Baker Academic, 2001.
  8. ^ Nicholas Ostler, Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World, Harper Perennial, London, New York, Toronto, Sydney 2006 p80
  9. ^ Languages of the World (Hebrew)
  10. ^ BBC News, 30 October 2008, 'Oldest Hebrew script' is found, Retrieved 3 March 2010
  11. ^ Mail Online, 31 October 2008, [1], Retrieved 3 March 2010
  12. ^ Oldest Hebrew inscription' Discovered in Israelite Fort on Philistine border, Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2010, p. 52.
  13. ^ a b William M. Schniedewind, "Prolegomena for the Sociolinguistics of Classical Hebrew", The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures vol. 5 article 6
  14. ^ M. Segal, A Grammar of Mishnaic Hebrew (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927).
  15. ^ Elisha Qimron, The Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Harvard Semitic Studies 29 (Atlanta: Scholars Press 1986).
  16. ^ Acts 21:40; 22:2; 26:14
  17. ^ Geoffrey W.Bromley (ed.)The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, W.B.Eeerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1979, 4 vols. vol.1 (sub.'Aramaic' p.233
  18. ^ J.M.Griatz, ‘Hebrew in the Days of the Second Temple’ QBI, 79 (1960) pp.32-47
  19. ^ Elisha Qimron, The Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1986), p. 15.
  20. ^ "Hebrew" in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edit. F.L. Cross, first edition (Oxford, 1958), 3rd edition (Oxford 1997).
  21. ^ Miguel Perez Fernandez, An Introductory Grammar of Rabbinic Hebrew (Leiden, Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill 1997).
  22. ^ Shalom Spiegel,Hebrew Reborn,(1930) Meridian Books reprint 1962, New York p.56
  23. ^ Eliezer Ben Yehuda and the Resurgence of the Hebrew Language by Libby Kantorwitz
  24. ^ These pronunciations may have originated in learners' mistakes formed on the analogy of other suffixed forms (katávta, alénu), rather than being examples of residual Ashkenazi influence.
  25. ^ Blau, Joshua, Tehiyyát ha'ivrít ut'hiyyát ha'aravít hasifrutít: kavím makbilím umafridím (The Renaissance of Hebrew in the Light of the Renaissance of Standard Arabic) (=Texts and Studies, vol. ix), Jerusalem: The Academy of the Hebrew Language, 1976; Blau, Joshua, The Renaissance of Modern Hebrew and Modern Standard Arabic: Parallels and Differences in the Revival of Two Semitic Languages (=Near Eastern Studies, vol. xviii), Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981.
  26. ^ Wexler, Paul, The Schizoid Nature of Modern Hebrew: A Slavic Language in Search of a Semitic Past: 1990.
  27. ^ Zuckermann, Mosaic or mosaic? – The Genesis of the Israeli Language
  28. ^ Zuckermann, Abba, Why Was Professor Higgins Trying to Teach Eliza to Speak Like Our Cleaning Lady?: Mizrahim, Ashkenazim, Prescriptivism and the Real Sounds of the Israeli Language
  29. ^ Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2006), "Complement Clause Types in Israeli", Complementation: A Cross-Linguistic Typology, edited by R. M. W. Dixon and Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 72-92.
  30. ^ See p. 62 in Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2006), "A New Vision for 'Israeli Hebrew': Theoretical and Practical Implications of Analysing Israel's Main Language as a Semi-Engineered Semito-European Hybrid Language", Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 5 (1), pp. 57-71.
  31. ^ Ibid., p. 63.
  32. ^ ibid.
  33. ^ Hebrew vs. Israeli –
  34. ^ The Transformation of Jewish Culture in the USSR from 1930 to the Present (in Russian)
  35. ^ Nosonovski, Michael (in Russian)
  36. ^ Protest against the suppression of Hebrew in the Soviet Union 1930-1931 signed by Albert Einstein, among others.
  37. ^ Rashi, Genesis 2, 23
  38. ^ a b "A brief history of Hebrew". Christian Friend of Israel. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  39. ^ Rashi, Genesis 11, 1
  40. ^ Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Tanya. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 


  • Hoffman, Joel M, In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language. New York: NYU Press. ISBN 0-8147-3654-8.
  • Izre'el, Shlomo, "The emergence of Spoken Israeli Hebrew", in: Benjamin Hary (ed.), The Corpus of Spoken Israeli Hebrew (CoSIH): Working Papers I (2001)
  • Kuzar, Ron, Hebrew and Zionism: A Discourse Analytic Cultural Study. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter 2001. ISBN 3-11-016993-2, ISBN 3-11-016992-4.
  • Laufer, Asher. "Hebrew", in: Handbook of the International Phonetic Association. Cambridge University Press 1999. ISBN 0-521-65236-7, ISBN 0-521-63751-1.
  • Sáenz-Badillos, Angel, 1993 A History of the Hebrew Language (trans. John Elwolde). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55634-1

External links

Hebrew language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Complete texts in Hebrew


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to Hebrew article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




From Middle English Ebreu < Old French Ebreu < Latin hebraeus or Hebraic < Ancient Greek Ἑβραῖος (hebraios) < Aramaic  ('ibrāy) < Hebrew עברי (ʿIḇrî), traverse or pass over) (referring to the Ibri people, known in the Middle East for their place of origin relative to the major culture of the time, they were called Ibri (people from over on the other side of the Jordan river)).



Hebrew (not comparable)


not comparable

none (absolute)

  1. Of or pertaining to the Hebrew people or language.





Hebrew (plural Hebrews)

  1. A member or descendant of a Semitic people claiming descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  2. A descendant of the biblical Patriarch Eber.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Proper noun




  1. The language of the Hebrew people, ISO 639 code he.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

See also


  • Hebrew” in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
  • Hebrew” in Unabridged, v1.0.1, Lexico Publishing Group, 2006.
  • "Hebrew" in WordNet 3.0, Princeton University, 2006.

External links


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Hebrew article)

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

This book teaches the Hebrew Language.



Hebrew is spoken by about 7 million people world-wide who use it as their main language. It is the national language of Israel, used by Jews for community and religion purposes and by religious scholars to understand the history of various religions (more about the history and variations). This Hebrew WikiBook is to help English readers learn Hebrew.

Hebrew is a very old language. It was created more than 4000 years ago! And many cultures used it as their main language.

Taking advantage of the capabilities of hypertext, this WikiBook can be used in several different ways. The prerequisite for all of them is the phonetic Hebrew alphabet. After that, a learner can go through in numerical order starting with Hebrew/Basic 1 or focusing on vocabulary based topics. For instance, a student could begin with Hebrew/Food and move onto related topics like Hebrew/Meals, Hebrew/Drinks or Hebrew/Fruit. Lessons have links to suggested prerequisites, related topics and more advanced lessons.

At this point the lessons are introductory. More advanced levels should come. In general, the level 2 lessons assume students have become familiar with the content of level 1 and so forth.

Lessons ( שיעורים – כיתה א)

Lesson 1 - Alphabet


Lesson 2 - Verbs
Lesson 3 - Verbs To be merged in the future
Lesson 4 - Places
Lesson 5 - Nouns
Lesson 6 - Pronouns
Basic Under construction at the moment


Vocabulary Index
Greetings Level 1, Greetings Level 2
Family Level 1, Family Level 2
Miscellaneous Vocabulary
Common phrases

See also

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

the language of the Hebrew nation, and that in which the Old Testament is written, with the exception of a few portions in Chaldee. In the Old Testament it is only spoken of as "Jewish" (2 Kings 18:26, 28; Isa. 36:11, 13; 2 Chr 32:18). This name is first used by the Jews in times subsequent to the close of the Old Testament.

It is one of the class of languages called Semitic, because they were chiefly spoken among the descendants of Shem.

When Abraham entered Canaan it is obvious that he found the language of its inhabitants closely allied to his own. Isaiah (19:18) calls it "the language of Canaan." Whether this language, as seen in the earliest books of the Old Testament, was the very dialect which Abraham brought with him into Canaan, or whether it was the common tongue of the Canaanitish nations which he only adopted, is uncertain; probably the latter opinion is the correct one. For the thousand years between Moses and the Babylonian exile the Hebrew language underwent little or no modification. It preserves all through a remarkable uniformity of structure. From the first it appears in its full maturity of development. But through intercourse with Damascus, Assyria, and Babylon, from the time of David, and more particularly from the period of the Exile, it comes under the influence of the Aramaic idiom, and this is seen in the writings which date from this period. It was never spoken in its purity by the Jews after their return from Babylon. They now spoke Hebrew with a large admixture of Aramaic or Chaldee, which latterly became the predominant element in the national language.

The Hebrew of the Old Testament has only about six thousand words, all derived from about five hundred roots. Hence the same word has sometimes a great variety of meanings. So long as it was a living language, and for ages after, only the consonants of the words were written. This also has been a source of difficulty in interpreting certain words, for the meaning varies according to the vowels which may be supplied. The Hebrew is one of the oldest languages of which we have any knowledge. It is essentially identical with the Phoenician language. (See MOABITE STONE.) The Semitic languages, to which class the Hebrew and Phoenician belonged, were spoken over a very wide area: in Babylonia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine and Arabia, in all the countries from the Mediterranean to the borders of Assyria, and from the mountains of Armenia to the Indian Ocean. The rounded form of the letters, as seen in the Moabite stone, was probably that in which the ancient Hebrew was written down to the time of the Exile, when the present square or Chaldean form was adopted.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)

Simple English

This language has its own Wikipedia Project.
File:Israel in
"Israel" written in the Hebrew alphabet.

The Hebrew language is a Semitic language. It is the language of Israel.

The language was spoken by Israelites a long time ago - during the time of the Bible. After Judah was conquered by Babylonia, the Jews were taken captive to Babylon and started speaking Aramaic. Hebrew was no longer used as much in day-to-day life, but it was still known by Jews who studied religious books.

In the 20th century, many Jews decided to make Hebrew into a spoken language again. It became the language of the new country of Israel in 1948. People in Israel came from many places, and decided to learn Hebrew so they could all speak one language.

Hebrew is close to the Arabic language. Hebrew words are made by combining a root with a pattern. In Israeli Hebrew, some words are translated from European languages like English, French, German, and Russian. Many words from the Old Testament were given new meanings in Israeli Hebrew. People learning Hebrew need to study the grammar first in order to read correctly without vowels. In Israeli Hebrew, there is no verb "to be" in the present tense, only in the future and the past tenses. In Biblical Hebrew, there are no tenses but only two "aspects": imperfect and perfect. The imperfect is something like the future and the present tenses. The perfect is something like the past tense. Mishnaic Hebrew is the Hebrew spoken as well as Judeo-Aramaic in the time of Jesus and in the time of the Bar-Kokhba revolt (2nd century AD), until the Byzantine Empire of Justinian (6th century AD).


The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters. Five of these letters change when they are at the end of a word. The Hebrew language is read from right to left.

א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ
ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ת
ם ן ף ץ
Wikibooks has more about this subject:

bjn:Bahasa Ibranirue:Гебрейскый язык


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