Hebrew language

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עִבְרִית ʿIvrit
Pronunciation[(ʔ)ivˈʁit] - [(ʔ)ivˈɾit][note 1]
Native toIsrael, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria;[1] used globally as a liturgical language for Judaism
Native speakers
5.3 million [2] (1998)
Hebrew alphabet
Hebrew Braille
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1he
ISO 639-2heb
ISO 639-3Either:
heb – Modern Hebrew
hbo – Ancient Hebrew
"Israel" written in the Hebrew alphabet.

Hebrew is a Semitic language. It was first spoken in Israel. Many Jewish people also speak Hebrew, as Hebrew is part of Judaism.

It 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 (prisoner) to Babylon and started speaking Aramaic. Hebrew was no longer used much in daily life, but it was still known by Jews who studied halakha.

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, the language of their common ancestors, so that they could all speak one language. However, Modern Hebrew is quite different from Biblical Hebrew, with a simpler grammar and many loanwords from other languages, especially English.

As of 2021, Hebrew has been the only dead language that had been made into a living language again.[3]

The Hebrew Bible was originally written in Biblical Hebrew.

Grammar[change | change source]

Hebrew is a Semitic language. Arabic is another semetic language and is similar to Hebrew. 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.[4] People learning Hebrew need to study the grammar first so that they can read correctly without vowels.

In Israeli Hebrew, there is no verb "to be" in the present tense, but 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 was 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 been adapted to write Yiddish, another Jewish language. However, Yiddish is different from Hebrew because Yiddish comes from a mix of German, Hebrew and other languages.

Alphabet[change | change source]

The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters.[5] Five of them change when they are at the end of a word. Hebrew is read and written from right to left.[6] The first three letters, aleph, beth and gimel, are also used in mathematics in the context of transfinite numbers.[7]

The Hebrew alphabet is an abjad and so only the consonants are written, and readers must supply the vowels. Since that can be difficult, the vowels can be marked as dots called “nikkud” or “tnuah” (plural ”nikkud” signs and “tnuot” respectively.) In Modern Hebrew, some letters can denote vowels, which are called matres lectionis (mothers of the reading) since they greatly help reading. Vav (or Waw) can make the 'oo' sound (/u/ in IPA) like in food. Yodh (or Yud) can make the 'ee' sound (/i/ in IPA) like in feed.

Aleph Bet Gimel Dalet Hey Vav Zayin Heth Teth Yodh Kaf
א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ
Lamed Mem Nun Samekh Ayin Pe Tsadi Kuf Resh Shin Tav
ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ת
ם ן ף ץ

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Standard Israeli (Sephardi) [ʕivˈɾit]; Iraqi [ʕibˈriːθ]; Yemenite [ʕivˈriːθ]; Ashkenazi [ˈivʀis]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

Wikibooks has more about this subject:
  1. "CIA's World Fact Book". Archived from the original on 2014-07-08. Retrieved 2013-03-04.
  2. "Hebrew language report". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on 22 December 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  3. "Hebrew | Foreign Languages | Monroe Community College". www.monroecc.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-05.
  4. Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003). Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. England: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781403917232.
  5. "Hebrew alphabet | writing system". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-10-02.
  6. "The Hebrew Alphabet (Aleph-Bet)". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2020-10-02.
  7. "Greek/Hebrew/Latin-based Symbols in Mathematics". Math Vault. 2020-03-20. Retrieved 2020-10-02.