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Samaritan Hebrew
עברית ‘Ivrit
Pronunciation [ʔiwˈʁiθ]
Spoken in Israel and Palestinian Authority territories, predominantly in Samaria and Holon.
Total speakers fewer than 1,000; liturgical only
Language family Afro-Asiatic
Writing system Samaritan abjad
Official status
Official language in none
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 heb

The Samaritan Hebrew language is a descendant of Biblical Hebrew as pronounced and written by the Samaritans. It is used in the reading tradition of the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Contents

Writing

Samaritan Hebrew is written in the Samaritan alphabet, a direct descendant of the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet (itself a variant of the Phoenician alphabet), whereas all other varieties of Hebrew are written in the later Hebrew alphabet, a variation on the Aramaic alphabet.

Pronunciation

The Samaritan pronunciation of Hebrew differs in several respects from most others. The laryngeals He and Cheth have disappeared or turned into vowels. Behth and Waw both are pronounced as b (in fact, the letters' names are pronounced Bîhth and Baa), only the waw-conjunctive is pronounced as u. There is no double pronunciation of the Shin like Jewish Hebrew; it is always pronounced sh. Consonants with dagesh are pronounced geminate. Stress is commonly penultimate rather than ultimate.

Phonology

Name Letter Phoneme and Allophone (IPA)
’ālāph א /ʔ/
bîhṯ ב /b/ - v allophonically
Gā´mān ג /ɡ/ - ɣ allophonically1
Dā´lath ד /d/ - ð allophonically1
Iē’ ה /i/, null at the end of words.2
ו /b/, null after /o/ or /u/ 2
zēn ז /δ/
ihēṯ ח /i/,
ṭiṯ ט //
Yūhth י /j/, null after /ɛ/, /e/, or /i/2
káph כ, ך /k/ - x allophonically1
Lā´bāth. ל /l/
mīm מ, ם /m/
Nūn נ, ן /n/
Sîn´gath/Sîn´kath. ס /s/
A´yîn ע /ʕ/, (/ɣ/3)
phī’' פ, ף /p/ - f allophonically1
Tsa•dhey´ צ, ץ //
Qūhph. ק // (or /q/)
Rīhšh. ר /ɾ/ (trilled like in Arabic)
śhan/ ש /ɬ/, /ʃ/
tāph ת - θ

Grammar

Parts of speech

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Pronouns

Personal

I anáki
you (male) átta
you (female) átti (note the final yohdh)
he û
she î
we anánu
you (male, plural) attímma
you (female, plural) éttên
they (male) ímma
they (female) ínna

Demonstrative

This: masc. ze, fem. zéot, pl. ílla.

That: alaz (written with a he at the beginning).

Relative

Who, which: éšar.

Interrogative

Who? = mi. What? = ma.

Noun

When suffixes are added, ê and ô in the last syllable may become î and û: bôr (Judean bohr) "pit" > búrôt "pits". Note also af "anger" > éppa "her anger".

Segolates behave more or less as in other Hebrew varieties: beţen "stomach" > báţnek "your stomach", ke′seph "silver" > ke′sefánu (Judean Hebrew kaspe′nu) "our silver", dérek > dirkakimma "your (m. pl.) road" but áreş (in Judean Hebrew: ’e′rets) "earth" > árşak (Judean Hebrew ’arts-ekha) "your earth".

Article

The definite article is a- or e-, and causes gemination of the following consonant, unless it is a guttural; it is written with a he, but as usual, the h is silent. Thus, for example: énnar / ánnar = "the youth"; ellêm = "the meat"; a'émur = "the donkey".

Number

Regular plural suffixes are -êm (Judean Hebrew -im) masc., -ôt (Judean Hebrew: -oth.) fem: eyyamêm "the days", elamôt "dreams".

Dual is sometimes -ayem (Judean Hebrew: a′yim), šenatayem "two years", usually -êm like the plural yédêm "hands" (Judean Hebrew yadhayim.)

Tradition of Divine name

Samaritans have the tradition of either spelling out loud with the Samaritan letters

"Yohth, Ie', Baa, Ie’ "

or saying "Shema" meaning "(The Divine) Name" in Aramaic, similar to Judean Hebrew "Ha-Shem" .

Verbs

Affixes are:

perfect imperfect
I -ti e-
you (male) -ta ti-
you (female) -ti ?
he - yi-
she -a ti-
we ? ne-
you (plural) -tímma te- -un
you (female, plural) -tên ?
they (male) -u yi- -u
they (female) ? ti- -inna

Particles

Prepositions

"in, using", pronounced:

  • b- before a vowel (or, therefore, a former guttural): b-érbi = "with a sword"; b-íštu "with his wife".
  • ba- before a bilabial consonant: bá-bêt (Judean Hebrew: ba-ba′yith) "in a house", ba-mádbar "in a wilderness"
  • ev- before other consonant: ev-lila "in a night", ev-dévar "with the thing".
  • ba-/be- before the definite article ("the"): barrášet (Judean Hebrew: Bere’·shith′) "in the beginning"; béyyôm "in the day".

"as, like", pronounced:

  • ka without the article: ka-demútu "in his likeness"
  • ke with the article: ké-yyôm "like the day".

"to" pronounced:

  • l- before a vowel: l-ávi "to my father", l-évad "to the slave"
  • el-, al- before a consonant: al-béni "to the children (of)"
  • le- before l: le-léket "to go"
  • l- before the article: lammúad "at the appointed time"; la-şé'on "to the flock"

"and" pronounced:

  • w- before consonants: wal-Šárra "and to Sarah"
  • u- before vowels: u-yeššeg "and he caught up".

Other prepositions:

  • al: towards
  • elfáni: before
  • bêd-u: for him
  • elqérôt: against
  • balêd-i: except me

Conjunctions

  • u: or
  • em: if, when
  • avel: but

Adverbs

  • la: not
  • kâ: also
  • afu: also
  • ín-ak: you are not
  • ífa (ípa): where?
  • méti: when
  • fâ: here
  • šémma: there
  • mittét: under

Bibliography

  • J. Rosenberg, Lehrbuch der samaritanischen Sprache und Literatur, A. Hartleben's Verlag: Wien, Pest, Leipzig.
  • Ben-Hayyim, Ze'ev, and Tal, Abraham, A Grammar of Samaritan Hebrew Based on the Recitation of the Law in Comparison with the Tiberian and Other Jewish Traditions: 2000 ISBN 1-57506-047-7

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