The CANAANITE LANGUAGES or CANAANITE DIALECTS are one of the four
subdivisions of the Northwest
Semitic languages , the others being the
Aramaic language , the
Ugaritic language , and the
Amorite language .
They were spoken by the ancient
Semitic people of the
Levant regions, an area encompassing what are today
Syria , the
Palestinian territories , and also some
fringe areas of southern
Turkey and the northern
Arabian peninsula .
Canaanites are broadly defined to include the Israelites
Amorites , Ammonites ,
Edomites , Suteans
, Ekronites , and
Amalekites . The
Canaanite languages had ceased to
be everyday spoken languages by the 1st millennium AD, but Hebrew
remained in continuous use by many Jews since that period into
medieval times as a liturgical language, as a literary language, and
for commerce, until it was revived as an everyday spoken language in
the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and became the main language
of the Jews of Palestine and later the State of
Hebrew is the
only living Canaanite language today.
This family of languages has the distinction of being the first
historically attested group of languages to use an alphabet, derived
Proto-Canaanite alphabet , to record their writings, as
opposed to the far earlier
Cuneiform of the region.
The primary reference for extra-biblical Canaanite inscriptions,
together with Aramaic inscriptions, is the German-language book
Kanaanäische und Aramäische Inschriften ", from which inscriptions
are often referenced as KAI N (for a number n).
* 1 Classification and sources
* 1.1 North
* 1.2 South
* 1.3 Other
* 2 Comparison to Aramaic
* 3 Descendants
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 Bibliography
* 7 External links
CLASSIFICATION AND SOURCES
Canaanite languages or dialects can be split into the following:
* Phoenician . The main sources are Ahiram sarcophagus inscription ,
Eshmunazar , the
Tabnit sarcophagus , the Kilamuwa
inscription , the
Cippi of Melqart , the other Byblian royal
inscriptions . For later Punic : in
Plautus ' play
Poenulus at the
beginning of the fifth act.
Hebrew died out as an everyday spoken language between 200 and 400
AD, but remained in continuous use by many Jews since that period, as
a written language, a read language and by many people a spoken
language as well. It was primarily used in liturgy, literature, and
commerce well into medieval times. Beginning in the late 19th century,
it was revived as an everyday spoken language by Jews in Palestine and
Zionism emerged as a political movement and Jews began
moving to Palestine in increasing numbers, and it became the lingua
franca of the growing Jewish community there. After the State of
Israel was established, it became the main language of the country.
Slightly different dialects of the language were used at different
times, but overall it is as much the
Hebrew language as the various
Hebrew in the first Millennium BC were one language. Hebrew
is the only Canaanite language that is a living language, and the only
truly successful example of a revived dead language .
The main sources of Classical
Hebrew are the various books of the
Jewish Bible (
* Ammonite – an extinct Hebraic dialect of the Ammonite people
mentioned in the Bible.
* Moabite – an extinct Hebraic dialect of the Moabite people
mentioned in the Bible. The main sources are the
Mesha Stele and
El-Kerak Stela .
* Edomite – an extinct Hebraic dialect of the Edomite people
mentioned in the Bible.
Other possible Canaanite languages:
Ugaritic , although the inclusion of this language within
Canaanite is disputed
Deir Alla Inscription , written in a dialect with Aramaic and
South Canaanite characteristics, which is classified as Canaanite in
* Ekronite or Philistine Semitic - not to be confused with the
non-Semitic (assumed Indo-European )
Philistine language . The former
is attested by several dozen inscriptions in Phoenician script
scattered along Israel's southwest coast, in particular the Ekron
Royal Dedicatory Inscription .
COMPARISON TO ARAMAIC
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Some distinctive typological features of Canaanite in relation to
* The prefix h- used as the definite article (Aramaic has a
postfixed -a). That seems to be an innovation of Canaanite.
* The first person pronoun being ʼnk (אנכ anok(i), versus
Aramaic ʼnʼ/ʼny', which is similar to
Akkadian , Ancient Egyptian
and Berber .
* The *ā > ō vowel shift (
Canaanite shift ).
Hebrew , revived in the modern era from an extinct dialect of
Israelites preserved in literature, poetry, liturgy; also
known as Classical Hebrew, the oldest form of the language attested in
writing. The original pronunciation of
Biblical Hebrew is accessible
only through reconstruction. It may also include Ancient Samaritan
Hebrew , an dialect formerly spoken by the ancient
Samaritans . The
main sources of Classical
Hebrew are the
Hebrew Bible (
Tanakh ), and
inscriptions such as the
Gezer calendar , Khirbet Qeiyafa pottery
shard . All of the other Cannanite languages seem to have become
extinct by the early 1st millennium AD.
Slightly varying forms of
Hebrew preserved from the First Millennium
BC until modern times include:
Hebrew – Masoretic scholars living in the Jewish
Tiberias in Palestine c. 750-950 AD.
Mizrahi Jews , liturgical
Yemenite Jews , liturgical
Sephardi Jews , liturgical
Ashkenazi Jews , liturgical
Hebrew (Rabbinical Hebrew) – Jews , liturgical,
rabbinical, any of the
Hebrew dialects found in the
Hebrew – Jews , liturgical, poetical, rabbinical,
scientific, literary; lingua franca based on Bible, Mishna and
neologisms forms created by translators and commentators
Hebrew – Jews , scientific, literary and journalistic
language based on Biblical but enriched with neologisms created by
writers and journalists, a transition to the later
Hebrew used in
Samaritans , liturgical
The Phoenician and Carthaginian expansion spread the Phoenician
language and its Punic dialect to the
Western Mediterranean for a
time, but there too it died out, although it seems to have survived
slightly longer than in
* Classification of
* ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck
Institute for the Science of Human History.
* ^ A B Rendsburg 1997 , p. 65.
* ^ For example, the
Mesha Stele is "KAI 181".
* ^ Waltke this "dialect" is not strikingly different from the
Hebrew preserved in the Masoretic text. Unfortunately, it is meagerly
attested. Similarly limited are the epigraphic materials in the other
South Canaanite dialects, Moabite and Ammonite; Edomite is so poorly
attested that we are not sure that it is a South Canaanite dialect,
though that seems likely. Of greater interest and bulk is the body of
Central Canaanite inscriptions, those written in the Phoenician
language of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos, and in the offshoot Punic and
Neo-Punic tongues of the Phoenician colonies in North Africa. An
especially problematic b