Features Of Hebrew The Jewish Language


It is considered a Semitic language whose roots can be traced back to the Afro-Asian family. The ancient origins of the language can be traced to Canaanite language which was spoken back in the 4th century CE. It then gained popularity as it became the literary language to be used in the Jewish faith, especially as the language used for writing the Hebrew bible. It is a spoken language that is part of Jewish communities across the world and is a language widely spoken in Israel. There are about fifteen million speakers for whom Hebrew is a native language.


The language contains different dialects and there are versions that are spoken in different areas of Palestine in ancient times that collectively form the classical Hebrew version. Later on, it came to acquire a specialized stream called Biblical Hebrew; this was spoken around the first century CE. The Mishnaic version existed till the 4th century CE. A literary language was Amoraic that coexisted around the same time and these forms were often classed together to form the Rabbinic Hebrew. Around the third and 5th century the rabbinic commentaries were made in this dialect. Towards the Medieval era, there arose several regional dialects. Important ones were Masoretic and Tiberian which also found references in Biblical Hebrew.

Before Hebrew became popular as a spoken language, its use was more rampant in the religious practices of the Jewish community. The Biblical form was most pronounced at such a time. The communities in eastern and central Europe developed a dialect of the language known as Ashkenazi Hebrew. A similar dialect known as Sephardi Hebrew came to be used in Israel and spread to areas like Iberian Peninsula. Oriental Hebrew, also known as Mizrahi, became popular as a dialect used by Jewish communities in the Middle East.

As a secular language, Hebrew saw several works done in the language around the middle part of the 19th century. At such a time the Jewish writers started to use the language in their poetic narrations or in the writing of novels. The standard form of the language as is spoken in modern times was established by Eliezer Ben Yehuda who was a Palestinian around the 20th century. The British Mandate of Palestine was subsequently established and that made it a spoken language that was officially recognized by 1922. The Academy of Hebrew Language was subsequently formed and this helped to regulate the norms of the language, especially its written form.