Hebrew is one of the few
Hebrew dialects found in the Talmud,
except for direct quotations from the
Hebrew Bible. The dialects can
be further sub-divided into Mishnaic
Hebrew proper (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 only.
Hebrew language or Early Rabbinic
Hebrew language is one
of the direct ancient descendants of
Biblical Hebrew as preserved by
the Jews after the Babylonian captivity, and definitively recorded by
Jewish sages in writing the
Mishnah and other contemporary documents.
It was not used by the Samaritans, who preserved their own dialect,
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.
1 Historical occurrence
4 See also
5 Further reading
7 External links
Hebrew is found primarily from the 1st to the 4th centuries
of the Common Era, corresponding to the Roman period after the
destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It developed under the
profound influence of spoken Aramaic.Also called Tannaitic Hebrew
or Early Rabbinic Hebrew, the dialect is represented by the bulk of
Mishnah (משנה, published around 200) and the
the Talmud, and by some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, notably the Copper
Scroll and the Bar Kokhba Letters.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls archaeologist
Yigael Yadin mentions that three Bar
Kokhba documents he and his team found at
Nahal Hever are written in
Mishnaic Hebrew, and that it was Bar Kokhba who revived the Hebrew
language and made
Hebrew the official language of the state during the
Bar Kokhba revolt
Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 AD).
Yigael Yadin also notes the shift from
Hebrew during the time of
Bar Kokhba revolt
Bar Kokhba revolt in his book
"Bar Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish
Revolt Against Imperial Rome," Yadin notes, "It is interesting that
the earlier documents are written in
Aramaic while the later ones are
in Hebrew. Possibly the change was made by a special decree of
Bar-Kokhba who wanted to restore
Hebrew as the official language of
the state" (page 181). In the book "A Roadmap to the Heavens: An
Anthropological Study of Hegemony among Priests, Sages, and Laymen
Judaism and Jewish Life)" by Sigalit Ben-Zion (Page 155), Yadin
remarks: "it seems that this change came as a result of the order that
was given by Bar Kokhba, who wanted to revive the
Hebrew language and
make it the official language of the state."
However within a century after the publication of the Mishnah,
Hebrew began to fall into disuse as a spoken language. The
Gemara (גמרא, circa 500), as well as the earlier
Talmud published between 350 and 400, generally comment on
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
Many of the characteristic features of Mishnaic
may well have been found already in the period of Late Biblical
Hebrew. A notable characteristic distinguishing it from Biblical
Hebrew of the classical period is the spirantization of post-vocalic
stops (b, g, d, p, t, k), which it has in common with Aramaic.
A new characteristic is that final /m/ is often replaced with final
/n/ in the Mishna (see
Bava Kama 1:4, "מועדין"), but only in
agreement morphemes. Perhaps the final nasal consonant in the
morphemes was not pronounced, and the vowel previous to it was
nasalized. Alternatively, the agreement morphemes may have changed
under the influence of Aramaic.
Also, some surviving manuscripts of the Mishna confuse guttural
consonants, especially ʾaleph (א) (a glottal stop) and ʿayin
(ע) (a voiced pharyngeal fricative). That could be a sign that
they were pronounced the same in Mishnaic Hebrew.
Hebrew displays various changes from Biblical Hebrew, some
appear alreadying in the
Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some, but not
all, are retained in Modern Hebrew.
For the expression of possession, Mishnaic
Hebrew mostly replaces the
Biblical Hebrew status constructus with analytic constructions
involving של 'of'.
Missing in Mishnaic
Hebrew is the waw-consecutive.
The past is expressed by using the same form as in Modern Hebrew. For
Pirkei Avoth 1:1): "משה קיבל תורה מסיני".
("Moses received the Torah from Sinai".)
Continuous past is expressed using the present tense of to be unlike
Biblical but like Modern Hebrew. For example, (
Pirkei Avoth 1:2):
"הוא היה אומר" ("He often said".)
Present is expressed using the same form as in Modern Hebrew, by using
the participle (בינוני). For example, (
Pirkei Avoth 1:2): "על
שלושה דברים העולם עומד". ("The world is sustained
by three things", lit. "On three things the world stands")
Future can be expressed using עתיד + infinitive. For example,
Pirkei Avoth 3:1): "ולפני מי אתה עתיד ליתן דין
וחשבון". However, unlike Modern
Hebrew but like contemporary
Aramaic, the present active participle can also express the future.
It mostly replaces the imperfect (prefixed) form in that function.
The imperfect (prefixed) form, which is used for the future in modern
Hebrew, expresses an imperative (order), volition or similar meanings
in Mishnaic Hebrew. For example, (
Pirkei Avoth 1:3): "הוא היה
אומר, אל תהיו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב" ("He
would say, don't be like slaves serving the master...", lit. "...you
will not be..."). In a sense, one could say that the form pertains to
the future in Mishnaic
Hebrew as well, but it invariably has a modal
(imperative, volitional, etc.) aspect in the main clause.
Hebrew (State of Israel)
Bar-Asher, Moshe, Mishnaic Hebrew: An Introductory Survey, Hebrew
Studies 40 (1999) 115-151.
Kutscher, E.Y. A Short History of the
Hebrew Language, Jerusalem:
Magnes Press, Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1982 pp. 115–146.
Pérez Fernández, Miguel, An Introductory Grammar of Rabbinic Hebrew
(trans. John Elwolde), Leiden: E.J. Brill 1997.
Sáenz-Badillos, Angel, A History of the
(ISBN 0-521-55634-1) (trans. John Elwolde), Cambridge, England:
Cambridge University Press, 1993.
M. H. Segal, Mishnaic
Hebrew and its Relation to
Biblical Hebrew and
to Aramaic, JQR 20 (1908): 647–73
^ David Steinberg, History of the Ancient and Modern
^ The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Sep., 1961), Pg. 93
^ Yadin, Yigael. Bar-Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of
the Second Jewish Revolt Against Rome. New York: Random House, 1971
(hardcover, ISBN 0-394-47184-9); London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson,
1971 (hardcover, ISBN 0-297-00345-3).
^ Sáenz-Badillos, Ángel and John Elwolde. 1996. A history of the
Hebrew language. P.170-171: "There is general agreement that two main
periods of Rabbinical
Hebrew (RH) can be distinguished. The first,
which lasted until the close of the Tannaitic era (around the year
200), is characterized by RH as a spoken language gradually developing
into a literary medium, in which the Mishnah, Tosefta, baraitot and
Tannaitic midrashim would be composed. The second stage begins with
the Amoraim, and sees RH being replaced by
Aramaic as the spoken
vernacular, surviving only as a literary language.
^ a b c "History of the
Hebrew Language by David Steinberg".
History of the Ancient and Modern
Hebrew Language, David Steinberg
Short History of the
Hebrew Language, Chaim Rabin
Transliteration to English / from English
Biblical (northern dialect)
Kubutz and Shuruk
Niqqud / missing / full
Law of attenuation
Hebrew / ancient / modern Israeli literature
Unicode and HTML
Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament
Betanure Jewish Neo-Aramaic
Kayla / Qwara (Cushitic)
Dialects / Argots
Yiddish sign language
Krymchak / Karaim (Turkic)