MODERN HEBREW or ISRAELI HEBREW (Hebrew : עברית חדשה,
ʿivrít ḥadašá, – "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), generally
referred to by speakers simply as HEBREW (עברית Ivrit), is the
standard form of the
Hebrew language spoken today. Spoken in ancient
times, Hebrew , a member of the Canaanite branch of the Semitic
language family, was supplanted as the Jewish vernacular by the
western dialect of
Aramaic beginning in the third century BCE, though
it continued to be used as a liturgical and literary language. It was
revived as a spoken language in the 19th and 20th centuries and is one
of the two official languages of Israel, along with
Modern Hebrew is spoken by about nine million people, counting
native, fluent, and non-fluent speakers. Most speakers are citizens
Israel : about five million are
Israelis who speak
Modern Hebrew as
their native language, 1.5 million are immigrants to Israel, 1.5
million are Arab citizens of
Israel , whose first language is usually
Arabic, and half a million are expatriate
Israelis or diaspora Jews
living outside Israel.
The organization that officially directs the development of the
Modern Hebrew language, under the law of the State of Israel, is the
Academy of the Hebrew Language
Academy of the Hebrew Language .
* 1 Name
* 2 Background
* 3 Revival
* 4 Classification
* 6 Morphology
* 7 Loanwords
* 8 Syntax
* 8.1 Word order
* 9 Bibliography
* 10 References
* 11 External links
The most common scholarly term for the language is "Modern Hebrew"
(עברית חדשה ʿivrít ħadašá). Most people refer to it
simply as Hebrew (עברית Ivrit).
The term "Modern Hebrew" has been described as "somewhat problematic"
as it implies unambiguous periodization from
Biblical Hebrew . Haiim
B. Rosén supported the now widely used term "Israeli Hebrew" on the
basis that it "represented the non-chronological nature of Hebrew".
In 2006, Israeli linguist Ghil\'ad Zuckermann proposed the term
"Israeli" to represent the multiple origins of the language.
One can divide the history of the
Hebrew language into four major
Biblical Hebrew , until about the 3rd century BCE; the language of
most of the
Mishnaic Hebrew , the language of the
Medieval Hebrew , from about the 6th to the 13th century CE
* Modern Hebrew, the language of the modern State of Israel.
Jewish contemporary sources describe Hebrew flourishing as a spoken
language in the kingdoms of
Israel and Judah , during about 1200 to
586 BCE. Scholars debate the degree to which Hebrew remained a spoken
vernacular following the
Babylonian captivity , when Old Aramaic
became the predominant international language in the region.
Hebrew died out as a vernacular language somewhere between 200 and
400 CE, declining after the
Bar Kokhba revolt of 132–136 CE, which
devastated the population of
Judea . After the exile Hebrew became
restricted to liturgical use.
Main article: Revival of the
The revival of the
Hebrew language was led by
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in
the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Modern Hebrew used
Biblical Hebrew morphemes , Mishnaic spelling, and Sephardic
pronunciation. Idioms and calques were made from
Yiddish . Its
acceptance by the early Jewish immigrants to Ottoman Palestine was
primarily due to support from the organisations of Edmond James de
Rothschild in the 1880s and the official status it received in the
1922 constitution of the British Mandate for Palestine .
Ben-Yehuda used a stock of 8,000 words from the Bible and 20,000 words
from rabbinical commentaries and codified and planned the new
language, Modern Hebrew. Some words he invented, such as ḥatzilīm
for eggplants (aubergines) and ḥashmal for electricity. Sometimes,
old Hebrew words took on different meanings altogether. For example,
the Hebrew word kǝvīš (Hebrew : כביש), which now denotes a
"street" or a "road," is actually an
Aramaic adjective meaning
"trodden down; blazoned", rather than a common noun. It was originally
used to describe "a blazoned trail." For a simple comparison between
the Sephardic version of
Mishnaic Hebrew and the Yemenite version of
the same, see
Yemenite Hebrew .
Modern Hebrew is classified as an Afroasiatic language of the Semitic
family and the Canaanite branch of the North-West semitic subgroup.
Although it has been influenced by non-Semitic languages, Modern
Hebrew retains its Semitic character in its morphology and in much of
its syntax. A minority of scholars argue that the revived language
had been so influenced by various substrate languages that it is
genealogically a hybrid with Indo-European. These theories have
not been met with general acceptance, and
Modern Hebrew continues to
be considered a Semitic language by most experts.
Modern Hebrew is
based on Mishnaic and Biblical Hebrew, and is commonly seen as a
direct continuation of one or both.
Modern Hebrew phonology
Modern Hebrew is phonetically simpler than Biblical Hebrew, having
fewer phonemes, but is phonologically more complex. It has 25 to 27
consonants and 8 to 10 vowels, depending on the speaker and the
The following table lists the consonant phonemes of Israeli Hebrew in
x ~χ 1
ɣ ~ʁ 3
1 In modern Hebrew /ħ/ for ח has been absorbed by /x~χ/ that was
traditionally only for fricative כ, though some older Mizrahi
speakers still separate these. 2 The glottal consonants are mostly
elided in unstressed syllables, and sometimes also in stressed
syllables as well, but are pronounced in careful or formal speech. In
modern Hebrew /ʕ/ for ע has been absorbed by /ʔ/ that was
traditionally only for א, though some older
Mizrahi speakers still
separate these. 3 Commonly transcribed /r/. This is usually
pronounced as a velar fricative , sometimes as a uvular fricative or
approximant , and sometimes as a uvular or alveolar trill, depending
on the background of the speaker. 4 The phonemes /w, tʃ, dʒ, ʒ/
were introduced through borrowings.
Obstruents assimilate in voicing: voiceless obstruents (/p t ts tʃ
k, f s ʃ x/) become voiced () when they appear immediately before
voiced obstruents, and vice versa.
Hebrew has nine vowel phonemes, five short and four long:
Long vowels occur unpredictably where two identical vowels were
historically separated by a pharyngeal or glottal consonant, and the
first was stressed. Any of the five short vowels may be realized as a
schwa when far from lexical stress. There are two diphthongs, /aj/
Most lexical words have lexical stress on one of the last two
syllables, of which the last syllable is the more frequent in formal
speech. Loanwords may have stress on the antepenultimate syllable or
even further back.
Modern Hebrew morphology (formation, structure, and interrelationship
of words in a language) is essentially Biblical.
Modern Hebrew has
also maintained much of the inflectional morphology of its classical
forebears. In the formation of new words, all verbs and the majority
of nouns and adjectives are formed by the classically Semitic devices
of triconsonantal roots (shoresh) with affixed patterns (mishkal).
Mishnaic attributive patterns are often used to create nouns, and
Classical patterns are often used to create adjectives. Blended words
are created by merging two bound stems or parts of words. Modern
Hebrew has thus been able to expand its vocabulary effectively to meet
the needs of casual vernacular, of science and technology, of
journalism and belles-lettres , while retaining the flavor of its
ancient Semitic origins.
Modern Hebrew has loanwords from
Arabic (both from the local
Levantine dialect and from the dialects of Jewish immigrants from Arab
Aramaic , Yiddish,
Judaeo-Spanish , German , Polish ,
Russian , English and other languages.
Modern Hebrew has preserved
many ancient Hebrew words that were originally loanwords from the
languages of surrounding nations: Classical
Hebrew literature borrowed
Canaanite languages as well as Akkadian. Mishnaic Hebrew
borrowed many nouns from Aramaic, as well as some from Greek. In the
Middle Ages Hebrew borrowed heavily from Spanish, Greek, and Arabic.
Some typical examples of Hebrew loanwords are:
to have fun
the father/my father
to make a mess
to sleep deeply
eau gazeuse carbonated
* ^ bitFormation. "Loanwords in Hebrew from Arabic".
Safa-ivrit.org. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
* ^ "morfix dictionary". Morfix.mako.co.il. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
* ^ A B bitFormation. "Loanwords in Hebrew from Russian".
Safa-ivrit.org. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
* ^ bitFormation. "Loanwords in Hebrew from Turkish".
Safa-ivrit.org. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
* ^ bitFormation. "Loanwords in Hebrew from Ladino".
Safa-ivrit.org. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
* ^ אתר השפה העברית. "Loanwords in Hebrew from
Akkadian". Safa-ivrit.org. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
The syntax of
Modern Hebrew is mainly Mishnaic, while also showing
the influence of different contact languages to which its speakers
have been exposed over the past century.
The word order of
Modern Hebrew is predominately SVO
Biblical Hebrew was originally
verb–subject–object (VSO), but drifted into SVO. Modern Hebrew
maintains classical syntactic properties associated with VSO
languages—it is prepositional rather than postpositional in making
case and adverbial relations, auxiliary verbs precede main verbs; main
verbs precede their complements, and noun modifiers (adjectives ,
determiners other than the definite article ה-, and noun adjuncts
) follow the head noun, hence in genitive constructions the possessee
noun precedes the possessor. Moreover,
Modern Hebrew allows and in
cases requires sentences with a predicate initial.
* Haiim B. Rosén (1962). A Textbook of Israeli Hebrew. University
of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-72603-8 .
* Gila Freedman Cohen; Carmia Shoval (2011). Easing Into Modern
Hebrew Grammar: A User-friendly Reference and Exercise Book. Magnes
Press. ISBN 978-965-493-601-9 .
* Ornan, Uzzi (2003). The Final Word: Mechanism for Hebrew Word
Generation. Haifa University.
* Ben-Ḥayyim, Ze'ev (1992). The Struggle for a Language.
Jerusalem: The Academy of the Hebrew Language.
* Dekel, Nurit (2014). Colloquial Israeli Hebrew: A Corpus-based
Survey. De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-037725-5 .
* Matras, Yaron ; Schiff, Leora (2005). "Spoken Israeli Hebrew
revisited: Structures and variation" (PDF). Studia Semitica. Journal
of Semitic Studies Jubilee Volume. 16: 145–193.
* Shlomo Izreʾel; Shlomo Raz (1996). Studies in Modern Semitic
Languages. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-10646-4 .
* Stefan Weninger (23 December 2011). The Semitic Languages: An
International Handbook. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-025158-6 .
* Bergsträsser, Gotthelf (1983).
Peter T. Daniels , ed.
Introduction to the Semitic Languages: Text Specimens and Grammatical
Sketches. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-0-931464-10-2 .
* Wexler, Paul (1990). The Schizoid Nature of Modern Hebrew: A
Slavic Language in Search of a Semitic Past. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.
ISBN 978-3-447-03063-2 .
* Choueka, Yaakov (1997). Rav-Milim: A comprehensive dictionary of
Modern Hebrew. Tel Aviv: CET. ISBN 965-448-323-8 .
* ^ "Hebrew". UCLA Language Materials Project. University of
California. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
* ^ A B C D Dekel 2014
* ^ Meir Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds.
Glottolog 2.7 . Jena: Max Planck Institute for the
Science of Human History.
* ^ Klein, Zeev (March 18, 2013). "A million and a half Israelis
struggle with Hebrew".
Israel Hayom . Retrieved 2 November 2013.
* ^ Nachman Gur, Behadrey Haredim. "Kometz
Aleph – Au• How many
Hebrew speakers are there in the world?". Retrieved 2 November 2013.
CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link )
* ^ A B C Dekel 2014 ; quote: "Most people refer to Israeli Hebrew
simply as Hebrew. Hebrew is a broad term, which includes Hebrew as it
was spoken and written in different periods of time and according to
most of the researchers as it is spoken and written in
elsewhere today. Several names have been proposed for the language
Modern Hebrew is the most common one,
addressing the latest spoken language variety in
Israel (Berman 1978,
Saenz-Badillos 1993:269, Coffin-Amir & Bolozky 2005, Schwarzwald
2009:61). The emergence of a new language in Palestine at the end of
the nineteenth century was associated with debates regarding the
characteristics of that language.... Not all scholars supported the
Modern Hebrew for the new language. Rosén (1977:17) rejected the
term Modern Hebrew, since linguistically he claimed that 'modern'
should represent a linguistic entity that should command autonomy
towards everything that preceded it, while this was not the case in
the new emerging language. He also rejected the term Neo-Hebrew,
because the prefix 'neo' had been previously used for Mishnaic and
Medieval Hebrew (Rosén 1977:15–16), additionally, he rejected the
term Spoken Hebrew as one of the possible proposals (Rosén 1977:18).
Rosén supported the term Israeli Hebrew as in his opinion it
represented the non-chronological nature of Hebrew, as well as its
territorial independence (Rosén 1977:18). Rosén then adopted the
term Contemporary Hebrew from Téne (1968) for its neutrality, and
suggested the broadening of this term to Contemporary Israeli Hebrew
* ^ A B C Matras quote: The language with which we are concerned in
this contribution is also known by the names Contemporary Hebrew and
Modern Hebrew, both somewhat problematic terms as they rely on the
notion of an unambiguous periodization separating Classical or
Biblical Hebrew from the present-day language. We follow instead the
now widely-used label coined by Rosén (1955), Israeli Hebrew, to
denote the link between the emergence of a Hebrew vernacular and the
emergence of an Israeli national identity in Israel/Palestine in the
early twentieth century."
* ^ Haiim Rosén (1 January 1977). Contemporary Hebrew. Walter de
Gruyter. pp. 15–18. ISBN 978-3-11-080483-6 .
Hebrew language Encyclopædia Britannica
* ^ אברהם בן יוסף ,מבוא לתולדות הלשון
העברית (Avraham ben-Yosef, Introduction to the History of the
Hebrew Language), page 38, אור-עם, Tel Aviv, 1981.
* ^ Sáenz-Badillos, Ángel and John Elwolde: "There is general
agreement that two main periods of RH (Rabbinical Hebrew) can be
distinguished. The first, which lasted until the close of the
Tannaitic era (around 200 CE), 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. Then it continued to be used in later rabbinic writings
until the tenth century in, for example, the Hebrew portions of the
two Talmuds and in midrashic and haggadic literature."
* ^ Hobsbawm, Eric (2012). Nations and Nationalism since 1780:
Programme, Myth, Reality. Cambridge University Press. ISBN
978-1-107-39446-9 . , "What would the future of Hebrew have been, had
not the British Mandate in 1919 accepted it as one of the three
official languages of Palestine, at a time when the number of people
speaking Hebrew as an everyday language was less than 20,000?"
* ^ Swirski, Shlomo (11 September 2002). Politics and Education in
Israel: Comparisons with the United States. Routledge. ISBN
978-1-135-58242-5 . : "In retrospect, question should be rephrased,
substituting the Rothschild house for the British state and the 1880s
for 1919. For by the time the British conquered Palestine, Hebrew had
become the everyday language of a small but well-entrenched
* ^ Palestine Mandate (1922): "English,
Arabic and Hebrew shall be
the official languages of Palestine"
* ^ Benjamin Harshav (1999). Language in Time of Revolution.
Stanford University Press. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-0-8047-3540-7 .
* ^ Roberto Garvio, Esperanto and its Rivals, University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2015, p. 164
* ^ Which words are marked as "New Words" in the Even-Shoshan
Hebrew Dictionary , s.v. חצילים; see:
Modern Hebrew usages
* ^ Compare
Rashi 's commentary on Exodus 9:17, where he says the
word mesillah is translated in
Aramaic oraḥ kevīsha (A blazoned
trail); the word "kevīsh" being only an adjective or descriptive
word, but not a common noun as it is used today. It is said that
Ze\'ev Yavetz (18