Talk:Biblical Hebrew

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I recommend for phonology using IPA diagrams and audio. There also exists a need to explain intonation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:55, 23 May 2010 (UTC)

wrong correction[edit]

MathKnight, you've mis-corrected /aSer/ -> /aZe/, and /Se/ -> /Ze/

So firstly, this is not a characteristic of early biblical hebrew vs. later. (using the definite article), this was not not the intention, please read the SAMPA page for how to read the phonetic transcription.

Second, if you intend to write 'הזה', /aZe/, can't be a way to transcribe it, again see the SAMPA page for that.

The intention, as originally written, was the switch from /aSer/ (אשר ) to /Se/- (ש-) , please take more care to ensure your corrections make sense. (for example the sound /Z/ probably doesn't even appear in biblical hebrew).

Anyway, as it is probably more appropriate, I'll moved the examples from SAMPA to Semitic translitaration

Note, that /aSer/ marks a 'such that' clause, while /ze/ marks 'this' (demonstrative pronoun), I understand the confusion


Charts should show the ancient script, of paleo-Hebrew along side the adopted Aramaic script.


Was the phonetics of ancient Hebrew slower then today's pronunciation?


"... Hebrew languages as spoken by the Israelites,"

Actually, Biblical Hebrew, usually refers to the language of the Bible, and thus the Kingdom of Judah, while evidence the rest of Israel, show quite a different dialect, can this be inserted into the article using words that would not upset too many people?

No really it seems only, variation of pronunciation existed among the tribes, even as in later times the Galileans had a manner of speech distinct from the Judeans.—Compare Mt 26:73; Lu 22:59. (Jg 12:4-6) This, however, is no basis for claiming (as some have) that the Israelites then spoke separate dialects. They all read the same Hebrew: Which the Bible indicates that the ancient Israelites were a literate people. (Numbers 5:23; Joshua 24:26; Isaiah 10:19) But critics disagreed, arguing that Bible history was largely transmitted by unreliable oral tradition. In 2005 this theory suffered a blow when archaeologists working at Tel Zayit, midway between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean, found an archaic alphabet, perhaps the oldest Hebrew alphabet ever discovered, incised on a piece of limestone.

Dated to the 10th century B.C.E., the find, say some scholars, suggests “formal scribal training,” a “sophisticated level of culture,” and “a rapidly developing Israelite bureaucracy in Jerusalem.” So, contrary to the critics’ claims, it appears that at least as early as the 10th century B.C.E., the Israelites were literate and would have been able to record their history. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:23, 4 February 2008 (UTC)


The "Jew" template should be replaced by the "Jewish languages" template. Hasdrubal 21:26, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)


Could someone add a suggestion for a good introductory text to learn Biblical Hebrew from?

I'm sure many users would find this invaluable, particularly if it is tried and tested.--Poray 14:25, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

I'm currently learning Biblical Hebew (at University on an official course) from Practico & Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar (2001, Zondervan) ISBN 0-310-23760-2 --Sithemadmonkey 18:46, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

I studied biblical Hebrew for 3 years using Menahem Mansoor's Biblical Hebrew - Step by Step ISBN 0801060419 it is inexpensive and very useful. I recommend it especially for someone not taking a class because it lends itself well to independent study. It places less emphasis on grammar and more on vocabulary and reading. Meswallen (talk) 23:34, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

what does these words mean[edit]

Could someone help me to find out what these words could possible mean. I do not know what dialect this is.

The words are - arabatia abriskia

Please help me if you can.

Thank you

LOL! The word is English! I'm guessing Arabatia abriskia is the scientific name for a certain animal, a kind of small "lamp shell" that looks like a clam but isnt a mollusk. Here's an incomplete taxonomy that mentions Arabatia as the animal's genus name, so there must be a second species name, and no doubt it will prove to be: abriskia!

  • kingdom Metazoa (= animal)
  • Epitheliozoa
  • Triploblastica
  • Eutriploblastica
  • Neotriploblastica
  • Eucoelomata
  • Phoronozoa
  • phylum Brachiopoda (= "lamp shell")
  • class Articulata
  • order Terebratulida
  • genus Arabatia
  • species ?

--Haldrik 12:49, 28 August 2006 (UTC)


The "intro" to this article should be wikified. Mo-Al 17:54, 28 August 2006 (UTC)


This article claims that Biblical Hebrew used the five "cardinal vowels /a e i o u/. What about segol (/ɛ/)? Mo-Al 18:12, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

Which Biblical Hebrew?[edit]

The phonetics is confused.

Which "Biblical Hebrew"?

  • There are several dialects of Classical Hebrew in the Bible from the Iron Age.
  • There are scribal interpolations from the Persian Period.
  • The vocalization comes from the Medieval Period.

The discriptions seem confused. For example, the phonetic table says: "Biblical Hebrew" has Bet/Vet. This is true of Medieval Period, but not of the Iron Age Period which only had Bet. Oppositely, it says that the Sin was pronounced like a "Lhin". This is true of the Iron Age Period, but not true of the Medieval Period which had "Sin".

I though behth, & vehth were in ancient Hebrew, because it the same thing in Arabic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:26, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

So, which Biblical Hebrew, does this article discuss. And they shouldnt be confused. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Haldrik (talkcontribs)

The "intro" says "It is the mixed language that is discussed in this article". That doesn't say much for the phonetics. Mo-Al 19:24, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

There is no basis for claiming as some have done that the Israelite people then spoke separate dialects of the Hebrew language. though the Samaritans slowly did become into a dialect.

A Samaritan Hebrew pronciation existed then. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:49, 8 November 2008 (UTC)


What does this article mean by /á:/? Mo-Al 18:12, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

Most likely stress. Pretty bad notation, mixing IPA length marking with older stress marking. Staking diacritics is OTOH fairly advanced Unicode & the issues with only using IPA are brought up elsewhere on this page. Any suggestions for better transcription? --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 09:01, 10 September 2008 (UTC)

How do you say?[edit]

Would it be possible to say "Take up your cross" in Hebrew, how would you say it, and write it, if someone could help me with this I'd greatly appreciate it. Please don't post unless you actually know, this has to be accurate, if you can helpme I'd be extremely grateful, thankyou.

There is no direct equivlent in classic/Biblical Hebrew for "Cross." You might try the Modern Hebrew page for better answer -Cwbachur הרם את.

Well first it was (stau·ros′) not a cross the original Greek (stau·ros′) meaning stake, primarily denotes an upright stake, or pole, and there is no evidence that the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures used it to designate a stake with a crossbeam.

In fact, the Hebrews had no word for the traditional cross. To designate such an implement, they used “warp and woof,” alluding to yarns running lengthwise in a fabric and others going across it on a loom. At Deuteronomy 21:22, 23, the Hebrew word translated “stake” is ‛ets, meaning primarily a tree or wood, specifically a wooden post. Executional crosses were not used by the Hebrews. The Aramaic word ’a‘, corresponding to the Hebrew term ‛ets, appears at Ezra 6:11, where it is said regarding violators of a Persian king’s decree: “A timber will be pulled out of his house and he will be impaled upon it.” Obviously, a single timber would have no crossbeam.

In rendering Deuteronomy 21:22, 23 (“stake”)(σταυρός) and Ezra 6:11 (“timber”), translators of the Septuagint Version employed the Greek word xy′lon, the same term that Paul used at Galatians 3:13. It was also the one employed by Peter, when he said Jesus “bore our sins in his own body upon the stake.” (1 Pet. 2:24) In fact, xy′lon is used several other times to refer to the “stake” on which Jesus was impaled. (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29) This Greek word has the basic meaning of “wood.” There is nothing to imply that in the case of Jesus’ impalement it meant a stake with a crossbeam.-- (talk) 05:17, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

Well, I'm not sure if this word ever appeared in the bible, but the hebrew word for cross is tzlav. "Your cross" would be tzlavkha. So the hebrew translation would be "Kakh et tzlavkha", קח את צלבך (take your cross) or "Harem et tzlavkha", הרם את צלבך (Pick up your cross). Hope I helped. TFighterPilot 14:22, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

IPA not appropriate[edit]

How could this article possibly include IPA? The language is long extinct as a spoken language, and we have only guesses as to its accurate pronunciation. The best we can do is to accurately transliterate the masoretic (or otherwise) vocalisation. Phonetic transcription is not possible and a message saying we should use IPA is silly. Yes, the transcription should be consistent, no it should not be IPA. jnothman talk 15:32, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

I would strongly disagree as the language, much like Koine Greek, has adopted a standardised method of pronunciation. This may or may not be the way it was intended to sound, but is adopted as a standard used by hebrew scholars to communicate with one another. Furthermore, hebrew pedagogy depends upon associating sounds with shapes. 10:33, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
Well, it is not very accurate to say that the language is not spoken anymore. There are several traditions of pronunciation, as the Bible is still read in synagogues. Furtheremore, the Tiberian method of diacritics gives a very accurate account on another tradition of pronunciation (now extinct) used by the Jews of the Galilee during the 7-8 centuries CE. Using all these tranditions and accounts and combining them with comparisons to other Semitic languages, we can come up with rather good guess on how Biblical Hebrew sounded in different times. DrorK 21:35, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
I agree with jnothman. Preciesly because there are different pronunciation traditions, IPA - which is supposed to write sounds - is unsuitable. Transliteration corresponding to letters should be used, and with extra care at that. -- 13:25, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

eth - sorry I too hastily deleted it Realiseyourdignity (talk) 10:49, 5 December 2007 (UTC)[edit]

For the record of a previous discussion of eth, please go to: The site has copyright. It contains valuable information pointing out there is an alternate definition considered by Gesenius and Waltke and O'Connor for example.


Note this is an old revision of the article stored at Wikipedia

The word eth should be discussed.

It is said to denote the accusative of the sentence. However, Gesenius (or his editor) in one of his lexicons says on page XCII, he had previously supposed it to be a sign of the accusative, but now thinks it had the significance of 'self' and could be translated in Greek as 'autos'. "The Theological Word Book of the Old Testament" (1980) Harris et al. Moody p83 says 'More important than indicating the accusative the function of 'et is to emphasize the word to which it is attached'.

Equating 'autos' and 'eth seems to be what some manuscipts of Mark 10:7 did in translating the passage from Genesis where 'et is used before 'faher' and 'mother'; some manuscipts have 'autos' in both places.

To go back to Gesenius; he says (pXCII) the word was preserved in the language of common life (and it would be harder to imagine that this is a sign of the accusative; but easy to imagine each speaker adding subjective value to something by emphasising it).

A reference in the index to the Babylonian Talmud, claims that a certain Rabbi was very couragous in saying he didn't know what the word meant. The Babylonian Talmud / translated into English with notes, glossary, and indices, under the editorship of I. Epstein. Publisher London : Soncino Press, [1961] Please see index under eth, for quotation of the brave Rabi. 00:59, 11 September 2007 (UTC)


Etymologically, I am sure that it is the same as Arabic aya(t), which means "sign" or "proof" (also represented by Hebrew ot; and et followed by a pronominal suffix does indeed become ot-). In Arabic the word (or its masculine equivalent, ayy-, "which") is used both to add emphasis and, sometimes, to bolster up an accusative. Literally, it would mean something like "the whichness of", and thus "the self of", i.e. "that very one". The rabbis, however, confused it with the other et, meaning "with", hence Aquila's translation of the first verse of Genesis as sun tois ouranois kai sun te ge (with the heavens and with the earth). Thus they sometimes interpreted it as a word of extension, connoting "the thing expressed, and something else unspecified". It now survives only as the sign of a definite accusative, and Ben Gurion and others took the view that the word was so confusing that it ought to be eliminated. There is a modern howler "yesh li et ha-sefer" for "I have the book", where "yesh li" is treated as a translation of "I have", so as to take the accusative, even though grammatically "the book" is the subject of the sentence (as if in Latin you said Est mihi librum instead of Est mihi liber). This is all very technical, and should go in a specialised article on Hebrew grammar or particles, rather than in the main Hebrew language article. --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) 08:58, 11 September 2007 (UTC) 07:47, 15 September 2007 (UTC)

In 'Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament scriptures/ translated with additions and corrections from te author's thesaurus and other works by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles', London, Bagster, 1846 p XCII Gesennius or his editor, says, (I think):

"In the Arabic these answer to ,,, ayat(?) ... used reflectively 'I have beaten myself'..." and (this must be Tragelles) this is more probable than that which I lately supposed that et, ot ... are i.q. 'a sign', which however is the opinion of Ewald ...

My own motive is that 'et' is placed before many things (including nominatives) and if it is emphatic it implies value. For example Cain uses it of himself, Daniel uses it of the trouble Israel has received. If we can see value in these things: 'It's all good'. But I am a novice.

In consulting "An introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax" by Bruce K Waltke and M O'Connor, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake Indiana, 1990 pp177-178; there is the following passage: "...(1) ...sign of the accusative ... (2) More recent grammarians regard it as a marker of emphasis used most often which definite nouns in the accusative role. The apparent occurrences with the nominative are most problematic ... AM Wilson late in the nineteenth century concluded from his exhaustive study of all the occurrences of the debated particle that it had an intensive or reflexive force in some of its occurences. Many grammarians have followed his lead. (reference lists studies of 1955, 1964, 1964, 1973, 1965, 1909, 1976.) On such a view, eth is a weakened emphatic particle corresponding to the English pronoun 'self' ... It resembles Greek 'autos' and latin 'ipse' both sometimes used for emphasis, and like them it can be omitted from the text, without obscuring the grammar. This explanation of the particle's meaning harmonizes well with the facts that the particle is used in Michnaic Hebrew as a demonstrative and is found almost exclusively with determinate nouns."

(I am not a student of this college) 01:01, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

To do with the etemology of the word, Gesennius' Lexicon is available on-line at the 'Blue Letter Bible' and he makes a note at the end of strong's number 834 asher in which he says d and t are often used in demonstratives, sometimes with an added first vowel. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for 'aher (Strong's 0834)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2007. 23 Sep 2007. < http:// Strongs=H834&Version=KJV >

I was hoping the meaning could be derived from the importance of hospitality in biblical times. The word eth also means with, and I think some pronouns incorporate it. So an extention could be 'blessed'? Realiseyourdignity 07:28, 26 October 2007 (UTC) 03:22, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

Let me just point out that the word "et" or "eth" (Hebrew: את‎) in the Hebrew Bible is not merely an accusative marker. It usually denotes a semantic role rather than a grammatical role, so it is more accurate to say that it marks the "patient" of the sentence, rather than the accusative. This definition would explain such phrases as yōm hulledeth eth parʕō (Hebrew: יום הלדת את פרעה‎ (Genesis 40:20) and bəyōm higgamēl eth yisˠħāq (Hebrew: ביום הגמל את יצחק‎) (Genesis 21:8). DrorK 21:28, 4 October 2007 (UTC) Please see the above link to Gesenius' lexicon. In 2(a) he says eth is put before nominatives too. - Steve. 01:41, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Indeed, but only in passive sentences. That is exactly what I meant - in Biblical Hebrew (unlike Modern Hebrew) the word "eth" indicates a patient, i.e. a semantic role (a.k.a. thematic role) rather than the grammatical role of accusative. DrorK 19:03, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Right. Thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:08, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Is it used consistently or frequently in such a role? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:27, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Gesenius lists a few examples: Gen21:5, 46:20, Ex10:8, Lev 10:18, Num 11:22, 26:55,60, Josh 7:15. Are these such passive sentances? It seems they could be. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:41, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Does 1Sam 17:34 give an example of et before a nominative in an active sentence? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:22, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

please see: for examples with the nominative. This page is an email from Dr Tiinhard G Lehmann; Forschungsstelle fuer Althebraseische Spache; Johannes-Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz; D - 5509 Mainz. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:29, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

As Dr Tiinhard G Lehmann says, we should first make a clear distinction between "eth" as a preposition (meaning "with" and equivalent to "ʕim") and "eth" as a particle (a case marker or whatever). The two have different meanings and different inflection paradigms, even though they look identical in their base form. The particle "eth" in the Hebrew Bible comes in various grammatical structure, but it all cases it precedes the patient's noun, i.e. the noun indicating the receiver of the action performed. For example, yōm hulledeth eth parʕō (=the Pharaoh's birthday) is a nominal structure, but Pharaoh is definitely a "patient" here - he is the one who received the action of birth. This is the case in all of Gesenius' example. DrorK 08:23, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Yes, infact I read somewhere that my previous quoted Wilson didn't distinguish between the two meanings of eth.

But 1 Sam 17:34 seems to have a clause in which eth is used infront of the subject, an animal, and it seems active. It is about a lion and a bear taking a lamb. Is this right? In this case the lamb is the receiver of the action performed. - Steve —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:00, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

I suppose you could always say the animals are future patients of David? - Steve —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:13, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

Nehmiah 9:34 also seems to use eth with the subject in active voice, so I trust that Dr Lahmann's other examples given do too, and then some are with a passive verb.

The consequences of this is that there are many examples of emphasis of value - even on distasteful things - perhaps this implies God still values them too. For example, I don't think eth is used of the Devil and I don't think it is used after Canan (who was cursed), although it is used after the land of Canan in psalms. - Steve —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:32, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

I hope the word eth explains why Jesus could be so tolerant and yet obey the law. The rule on divorce quoted in Matthew 19:8 and in Deut 24, contains an eth before a new wife in 24:5. If this is his 'very wife' it explains why 'God hates a divorcing', and why Jesus could say that Moses only introduced that law out of their hardness of heart Matt 19:8 - Steve. And why autos is used so many times and redundantly (according to some MS) in John 8 in the story of the adulterous woman and Jesus' hypergraphia - Steve.

About 1 Sam 17:34 - This is the 2nd type "eth", i.e. in this case "eth" is a preposition which means "with" - "the lion came (and) with the bear took a lamb from the herd." Later on, David says that he killed the lion, saved the lamb and then killed the bear as well. Nehmiah 9:34 is more tricky. I could argue that the verse is not properly delimited, i.e. that it should be: "...and we went astray (and) with our kings. Our lords, priests and fathers did not follow thy law." Then again, you could argue I try to wipe a problematice evidence :-) This is indeed an irregular use of "eth" in both meanings.
About Deut 24 - I didn't find the word "eth" in it, in the standard Hebrew Jewish version. DrorK 11:30, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

I checked with the Gesenius Lexicon and no examples given gave the word 'with' before the definite article - not saying that it doesn't occur, but customarily the mark of the accusative is supposed to be before the definite article. There's also the quesion about the waw. Does the word 'with' end up suffixed to a redundant waw many times in the bible?

Deuteronomy mentions a 'new wife' in 24:5, I think the definite article is attached to 'new' which means it is refering to 'the new wife' mentioned in the previous verses. - Steve. I've only done a little bit of Hebrew and can't remember if the word 'wife' should bear the definite article too if the adjective does. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:51, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

I just searched for 'and with' in 1 samuel, the occurences in English are 4:12,13:22, 17:28, 17:45; 17:50 and 18:6. None of them use the 'eth' or 'with'. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:40, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

"The International Critical Commentary, Samuel" by Smith, Eds SR Driver;A Plummer;CA Briggs; T & T Clark, Edinburugh 1904 p161 says: "It may indicate that the bear was an even more formidable enemy than the Syrian lion - even the bear". That is what I believe. "Word Biblical Commentary 1 Samuel", by Ralph W Klein, Word Book Publishers 1983, Texas, p171 says: "MT incorrectly adds the sign of the direct object. Presumably this is a correction that should be added to the word bear in v36". "An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax" (as referenced before) p182, says"The particla is prefixed to nouns in the nominative function in both verbal and verbless clauses, usually in cases involving enumerations or appositions ... In verbal clauses eth can mark the subject of transitive and intransitive verbs and passive verbs. The use with transitives is extremely rare, the other two usages are more common."; and it lists 1 Sam 17:34 as a case of intransitive.

In looking at the problem of eth with nominatives, 'An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax' p177 (as quoted previously) says of these unusual cases, 'are they to be denied, emended away or the like'. This is similar to the comment made Lehmann on the web. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:39, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

My previous comment about the definite article in Deut 24:5 was wrong, and I must admit on this basis I am glad the information so far can support the view of substituting autos for eth, but I am unable to go further in the way of criticism. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:59, 8 October 2007 (UTC) Thanks Drork - Steve —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:38, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

Drork, could the word new in Deut 24:5 be read as 'restored' in unpointed text? This line contains the 'eth' and the sympathy of the text is directed to the woman who was divorced. The subject of the verb(?) restore would be the husband so the consonants would be the same - Steve. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:21, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

We went quite beyond the scope of this talk page, and other users might be uncomfortable with that. Generally speaking, the talk page should discuss the article and not elaborate on its subject. I suggest we continue this discussion on my talk page (simply open a new paragraph there). Thanks! DrorK 20:53, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

Realiseyourdignity (talk) 09:14, 7 December 2007 (UTC)

Verb Stems[edit]

Should a section be added to this article concerning verb stems ie Qal Nephal etc? Meswallen (talk) 23:52, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

Too Many Vowels?[edit]

This is sort-of original research, but my comment as a linguistics student, especially one involved in the Semitic and Afro-Asiatic family, is this: Two things, actually:

The most scholarly opinion of this language I've read is that it never existed as it is in all places of the Hebrew Bible in the mouth of a living person. It's a combination of phases of the Hebrew language from different times, modified for use in the Bible and then used to compose original texts long after any semblance of its original languages were used. Much like the diglossia Classical Mayan and the diglossias of Egyptian and probably post-Shang Chinese (writing).

The second is this reconstruction doesn't carry linguistic water: it has way, way too many vowels! It's ridiculous! This is about the number and quality of an INDO-EUROPEAN vowel phoneme set, not a Semitic or even standard AFRO-ASIATIC. Even Ge'ez' 7 is seen as a later development of extreme strangeness. Furthermore, the writing system itself gives proof to this (the initiated will need no explaination while the unfamiliar will be baffled or upset). Afro-asiatic languages developed writing (or at least consonantal writing) because their languages rely more on consonantal diversity than Indo-European ones, which out of necessity took extra consonant signs (which represented phonemes) and used them for vowel signs (which represented phonemes, or handy combinations thereof, rather).

I and my instructor have noticed similar comments and assumptions in Lambdin's work on Ge'ez. This is a symptom of the overall diconnect between modern synchronic/dichronic Chompsky-based linguistics and Semitology (and other such avenues, like Egyptology, Assyriology). And as some semblance of a linguist, I feel compelled to mention it for the open-minded to look seriously into before Lambdin's work is embraced by all as a monument to the finality of scientific enquiry (apologies for pendantry).

Epigraphist (talk) 05:26, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

Why do you see this as a problem? Nobody's complaining either that French has too many vowels. Besides, when you count length & the difthongs, PS itself had 8 vowels.
On the contrary, the article for some reason seems to think that long /oː/ existed in Proto-Semitic. Weird. Maybe it refers to the secondary /oː/ that develop'd in the previous step? --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 12:01, 10 September 2008 (UTC)

Notation Inquiry[edit]

Are all those consonants in the phonology really supposed to be combined with voiceless pharyngeal fricatives? It seems to me that someone was trying for ejectives and just got their signs mixed up. 9 or foward quotation mark is usually a glottal stop, right, but it's used for denoting ejective consonants, not without good reason. And then 6 or backwards quotation mark is for the voiceless pharyngeal fricatives. I've never seen it used like the glottal stop, unless this is a consonant cluster, which I doubt from what reading of Semitic phonologies I've done.

It's okay, I'm not here to harange anyone. Just a double check, maybe some banter?

Epigraphist (talk) 06:03, 12 August 2008 (UTC) Epigraphist (talk) 06:03, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

In IPA, the sign which looks like a question mark: ʔ is used to denote a glotal stop. A voiceless pharyngeal fricative ("'ayin") is reversed: ʕ. pharyngealized consonant is denoted by a superscript "'ayin" attached to the consonant symbol, e.g. = pharyngealized s. In Semitic languages pharyngealization and velarization are usually not distinguished, and therefore it is common to use a single symbol for both. For example, instead of randomly choosing between and , many linguists cross the letter with a tilde. Unfortunately this option is not offered in the Wikipedia list of IPA symbols. Another option is to put a dot under the letter, but this may cause confusion with other IPA symbols, and is used only when it is clear that only Semitic languages are discussed, and that all listeners/readers have basic knowledge about Semitic phonology. DrorK (talk) 06:24, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

Introduction Inquiry[edit]

The Introduction to this article is irrelevant and suspect, it needs to be cleaned up substantially. It claims that modern Hebrew speakers can understand Classical Hebrew and that it is commonly used in the Israeli print and video media. This assertion is both irrelevant to introducing the idea of "Classical Hebrew", which includes a broad spectrum of Hebrew texts, one of which happens to be the Hebrew Bible, and this assertion is controversial as well. Most Semitic Philologists who command both Modern (fluently) and Ancient Hebrew will tell you in a heart beat that Modern readers cannot, in fact, read Ancient Hebrew appropriately. Modern Hebrew speakers tend to mishandle the vocabulary and syntax of Ancient Hebrew on a fundamentally deep level. Comprehension is especially rare in early texts.nsweet (talk) 01:54, 9 October 2008 (UTC)

I have removed what I consider to be the most dubious of the numerous unsourced statements in the introduction. Colonel Mustard (talk) 12:38, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
I agree. Biblical Hebrew is somewhat comprehensible to Modern Hebrew speakers, but not entirely, and the untrained reader often get the wrong idea about the meaning of the text. Israeli Hebrew speaking schools teach the Hebrew Bible extensively, so an educated Israeli should be able to read and understand Biblical texts, but this is due to formal teaching rather than language acquisition. DrorK (talk) 14:01, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

hebrew language[edit]

When was the Hebrew language orginate and what languages was the Hebrew language come from? also Egypt language was used by Moses and what other language did he have knowldge to be able to speak. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:19, 12 December 2008 (UTC)


In "Phonology" it reads:

rēš        ר       /ɾ/ (trilled like in Arabic)

But when the Tap /ɾ/ is trilled, it is no other sound than /r/ (alveolar trill). The declaration as a tap is only confusing. Could someone please verify that? -- (talk) 00:26, 20 January 2009 (UTC)

I'd suspect that it would be impossible to determine whether it was a tap or a trill, since they tend not to contrast are are very similar. Mo-Al (talk) 00:13, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

Research by comparing Arabic, Samaritan Hebrew, then Aramiac, or write both!

Phonology & sound changes[edit]

The old non-pharyngeal articulations of ḥēṯ and ‛ayin can't have been velar as indicated in the article, as then they would have merged with soft kaph and gîmel. It seems more sensible to suggest that they were uvular, like in Arabic. (talk) 23:35, 11 February 2009 (UTC)

Well, what you say sounds sensible, but it is still aspeculation. We need a reliable linguistic source to support such a claim. DrorK (talk) 16:20, 13 February 2009 (UTC)
Dolgopolsky uses the fact that velar and uvular fricatives rarely contrast to date the pharyngeal/uvular merger to before the Aramaic-influenced begedkefet lenition. Mo-Al (talk) 00:12, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

Should this article really discuss the "mixed language"?[edit]

It seems to me that if this article discussed the "mixed" Biblical consonentism and Tiberian vocalism then it does little more than repeat what is written in Tiberian vocalism. Wouldn't it make more sense for this article to discuss the reconstructed Biblical (pre-Masoretic) forms? This is at least somewhat doable (from looking at Greek transcriptions, historical evidence e.g. pharyngeal/uvular merger occurring before begedkefet). Mo-Al (talk) 00:23, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

why isnt ש both 'sh' and 'ch'?[edit]

If ת is 't' and 'th' and פ is 'p' and 'f' then why isnt ש both 'sh' and 'ch'? Especially since there is already an 's' sound (ס) Lemmiwinks2 (talk) 22:25, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Because natural languages are not constructed according to a plan. The way a language's spelling relates to its pronunciation at any given point in time is usually only partly consistent with its phonology at that same point in time and partly reflective of various older phonological realities, whose effect on the spelling system outlived them. These incongruities exist in English, too: if "h" can modify a "p" to a "ph" sounding like "f", an "s" to a "sh", a "c" to a "ch", why doesn't it modify "b" to a "bh", and "d" to a "dh"? Or: why is there a special letter in English for the "ks" sound – "x" – and no special letters for the "ts" and "ps" sounds? Etc. Dan 23:49, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Meanings of the letters[edit]

The two references cited for the meanings of the letters at the top of the table are difficult to take seriously. Although most of the meanings seem reasonable enough, a few of them seem potentially dubious. Better references are available online, for instance a quick google reveals this: which at least appears more scholarly and differs from the current content on a few points.Moon Oracle (talk) 13:25, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

"a few of them"? Actually pretty much all of the extended meanings given are more-or-less modern (closer to "new-age" with a christian flavour) interpretations. The article, when seen as a whole, seems to spring out of this new-age interpretation (I would not be surprised if most of this article is taken-from or inspired-by the "Ancient Hebrew Research Center" website that is listed in the "See also" section — a horrible website with extreme fringe interpretations of Hebrew and the Hebrew alphabet in particular). This whole article needs to be rewritten, top to bottom. Unfortunately, people who are unfamiliar with the subject would be fooled by this, just as far too many christians (who seem to be the ones who fall prey most often, but also non-christians) are fooled into believing the stuff coming from AHRC. Disclaimer to anyone who reads this article: take it with a handful of salt. — al-Shimoni (talk) 10:40, 20 June 2010 (UTC)

So – not much opposition to removing the column? —Tamfang (talk) 06:41, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

Someone else can take a turn at deleting it today. Perhaps we can encourage User:ILELSH to write Crackpot interpretation of Hebrew letters. —Tamfang (talk) 22:25, 20 November 2010 (UTC)

Emphatics & sibilants[edit]

Some word on the realization of emphatics (pharyngealized, ejective?) and sibilants (s z ṣ still affricates & š still plain [s] or not) should be mentioned in the section on sound changes or pronunciation. (Compare Proto-Semitic language.) --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 17:22, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

At least according to Alice Faber's contribution regarding the subgrouping of Semitic in Hetzron (1997), the change from glottalised/ejective to pharyngealised articulation of the emphatics occurred already at the Proto-Central-Semitic level, hence long before Biblical Hebrew (a living spoken language about 1000–500 BC). That makes it quite improbable that Biblical Hebrew still had glottalised emphatics. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 17:55, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Richard C Steiner would strongly disagree -- according to the book he wrote, the pronunciation of צ as affricated [ts] in various traditions reflects influence of ejective pronunciation. Also, voicing contrasts among the emphatic sounds seem to have developed in Arabic only after the period of the early grammarians, and a lack of voicing contrasts would seem to fit more with an ejective pronunciation than with a pharyngealized/velarized pronunciation... AnonMoos (talk) 04:19, 14 July 2013 (UTC)

Orthography, Consonant Table[edit]

Perhaps it might work better if we split the consonant table into 2 tables, the first covering up to Kaph, while the following table covers the rest. This would decrease the chances of the table overflowing horizontally (which would require horizontal scrolling to view the whole table). — al-Shimoni (talk) 03:10, 7 February 2011 (UTC)

Better: flip it row / columnwise:
Name Paleo-
Aleph Early Aramaic character - Alaph.png א
Beth Early Aramaic character - Beth.png ב
Gimel Early Aramaic character - gimmel.png ג
etc. And please add some references while at it: when was ayin [ɣ] in Hebrew, when were tet and tsadi ejectives, which publications describe biblical vav and yod as "silent after vowels". Dan 21:11, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
I am in the process of finding references. I can already source most of it (see the phonology section), however I want to find a better source describing matres lectionis before adding a ref tag to the row heading. Mo-Al (talk) 00:24, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
re: "Better", yes, that would work, and not sure why I didn't see that and suggest that; it seems obvious to me now. — al-Shimoni (talk) 05:22, 9 February 2011 (UTC)

Update Contradiction[edit]

The Biblical Hebrew article is looking good. I appreciate those of you who are working on it.

Below I removed a section that seems to contradict the rest of the article. If I understand right, most of the new info in the article derives from the recent publication by Blau (2010), an important and comprehensive work. So I infer the section below based on the work of Janssens (1982) is probably earlier, thus not upto date with the research by Blau. The way I read the discussion on vowels is as follows. Biblical Hebrew only has five vowels, and their vowel lengths are phonemic: [i:, i], [e:, e], [a:,a], [o:, o], and [u:, u]. Likewise, the Secunda correctly transcribes only these three vowels and their lengths. Thus the other two vowels [ɔ] and [ɛ] did not come into existence until centuries later by the time of the Tiberian dialect. If that is true then the section below is wrong when it transcribes sounds like [æ] versus [e]. Unfortunately the section doesnt explain the alternative reconstruction and why it differs from the rest of the information in the article. Also the accuracy of the section is now in doubt in light of the more recent findings. But it is interesting, so I didnt want to delete it. I also feel a sample like this of a reconstruction helps the wiki reader put all the etymological information together in a clear and comprehensive way, so if we dont use this transliteration, I hope to see something like it. Haldrik (talk) 19:00, 16 March 2011 (UTC)

Let me clarify. Janssens explains that the phoneme /a/ was pronounced closer to [æ] in the Secunda, as evidenced in the Greek orthography. I didn't make it clear in the article, but this is not a contradiction. I will try to make it more clear, though I don't have the Janssens text with me at the moment. Mo-Al (talk) 00:33, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Ok, but there is still a problem. Classical Hebrew only has five vowels: [i,e,a,o,u]. If the Hebrew [a] really sounds more like [æ], its debatable but fine, but then there cant also be an [a]. There arent six vowels - [i,e,æ,a,o,u] - only five. Haldrik (talk) 01:54, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Right. But note that only short /a/ is pronounced [æ], while long /aː/ is still [aː]. In the Hebrew of the Secunda there are three short vowels /a e i/ and five long /a: e: i: o: u:/. The example adheres to this. Mo-Al (talk) 05:27, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
By the way, your statement that Biblical Hebrew originally had the system "[i:, i], [e:, e], [a:,a], [o:, o], and [u:, u]" is false. Firstly the Secunda only has three short vowels. Secondly, if you go farther back proto-Hebrew had the system /a a: i i: u u:/. Mo-Al (talk) 05:35, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
I meant [i:], [e:,e], [a:,a], [o:,o], and [u:]. (I had Protosemitic vowels [i] and [u] on my mind when I wrote that.)
As the linguists in the article point out: the Greek Alpha stands for both long [a:] and short [a]. Likewise [i] and [u]. They are clear, Protosemitic has 3 vowels, Classical Hebrew has 5 vowels, and *Medieval* Tiberian Hebrew has 7 vowels. Not only is it true, Classic Biblical Hebrew has 5 vowels, it is what the rest of the linguists in the references in this article say. Haldrik (talk) 05:50, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Where the Tiberian 7-vowel system has a Patakh [a], Jansenn misreads the Greek Alpha as [æ], and where the Tiberian 7-vowel system has Kamats [ɔ], Jansenn misreads the same Greek Alpha as [a]. Jansenn contradicts the rest of article where the current linguists agree - the 7-vowel system doesnt exist yet. It is centuries too soon. At this time, there is only 5 vowels, and the Tiberian [ɔ] doesnt exist yet. The transcription contradicts the rest of the information in the article. If you want to want this transcription in the article, its necessary to explain in detail why it contradicts the rest of the article. Haldrik (talk) 05:48, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Wait. Janssens says that short /a/ was [æ] in the Secunda because it appears both as alpha and as epsilon. That's pretty solid evidence. He does not say that the Secunda had 7 vowels -- he says that it had 3 short vowels and 5 long. I don't understand what the contradiction is.Mo-Al (talk) 05:54, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Also, proto-Semitic had 6 vowels: /a a: i i: u u:/. You must take vowel length into account. Mo-Al (talk) 05:56, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Of course, I mean "vowels" as in IPA vowel sounds. Mo-Al, for the record, Im glad you put effort into this article. My main concern is the article is as solid as possible, and just want to make sure each piece of information makes sense in the context of what the article says elsewhere.
Anyway: "Janssens says that short /a/ was [æ] in the Secunda because it appears both as alpha and as epsilon." However, the assertion by Janssen is arbitrary. This Greek Epsilon can easily represent a central vowel, like it does in the word "[gədud]" where Janssen says it represents some kind of Hebrew Shva Na that he renders as mid central [ə]. Especially in this context of the sound of Hebrew short central /a/, Epsilon could for example represent mid-low central [ɜ]. Who knows? None of the other linguists suggest short /a/ is really [æ]. Personally I suspect this Epsilon stands for [ɜ], but in any case, can you find another linguist who believes the vowel is really [æ]? For example, Steinberg says it is allophonic [ɐ]. And so on. Haldrik (talk) 06:33, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
I think I'll use [a] in the sample since it's not technically incorrect, but just a more broad transcription. In any case, I recommend you add to the note in the "vowels" section mentioning how /a/ was pronounced in the Secunda, citing a source. Mo-Al (talk) 20:24, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
Cool. The transcription looks less surprising with the "broad transcription" of a short "[a]". But I have to admit, the more I think about it, the more reasonable Jenssens argument seems. His proposal that Secunda [a:,æ] → Tiberian [ɔ,a] by means of a simple shift backward is a clean argument. For now I added a note to the Sample section. Later, I or anyone can integrate it into the vowel section. Haldrik (talk) 23:04, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
Okay. I've moved the appropriate material to the vowels section. Mo-Al (talk) 23:51, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
Do you have a citation for Tiberian Hebrew having the sound [ɐ]? Mo-Al (talk) 23:52, 18 March 2011 (UTC)

Greek transcription with Latin letters for Tetragrammaton (YHVH) in the sample text?[edit]

Please exlpain! Thanks. Dan 00:26, 19 March 2011 (UTC)

I copied out of Janssens, but I'm not sure what he meant. I suspect that the Tetragrammaton was inserted into the Greek text in Hebrew. According to the following source, "Origen used the Tetragrammaton in all columns of his Hexapla": [1] Mo-Al (talk) 00:31, 19 March 2011 (UTC)

Still, Latin letters YHWH are not appropriate in middle of a Greek text. I propose changing it to Hebrew characters. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:52, 18 November 2012 (UTC)

Historical vowel correspondence chart sorely needed[edit]

I'm not sure if it's feasible, but it would be very nice, rather than simply a list of vowel phonemes for each stage of Hebrew, to have the various Tiberian vocalizations in one column (with their dozen and a half orthographical/diacritical possibilities), with other columns of the same chart showing the corresponding vowel in Proto-Hebrew, Secunda Hebrew, etc. As it is, it is impossible (or very difficult) for a reader who knows the Tiberian/textbook pronunciations to get much insight into how a word was pronounced in earlier stages. I realize that various splits/mergers could make this tricky, but my gut is telling me, not so tricky that the chart couldn't and shouldn't be done.

Or to put it another way, I'm complaining that nowhere in the encyclopedia is there a table like the one at Niqqud#Demonstration that goes beyond "Israeli" and "Tiberian," also giving IPA for each item in earlier reconstructed stages of the language. Wareh (talk) 06:29, 21 July 2011 (UTC)

Hm... This seems like a good idea to me. However maybe it would be better to have the first column be the proto-Semitic vowel quality? I've tried to avoid biasing this article too much in favor of the Tiberian tradition, since it is no more "Biblical Hebrew" than any of the other traditions, including the highly divergent Samaritan tradition. Mo-Al (talk) 06:50, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
That sounds equally good. I think the key criterion is, does it allow someone who has the vocalization of a word as taught in textbooks to make a fair guess at how the word would have been vocalized in Biblical Hebrew. I'm sure there must be cases where a single Tiberian vowel (for example) is the product of two different proto-Hebrew vowels under different conditions; in such cases notes defining the conditions would be great. Wareh (talk) 18:51, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Take a look at the one I'm adding to the vowel section and let me know if there's anything that should be added. Mo-Al (talk) 21:33, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
That's beautifully clear and a great contribution to the article. What I wish I knew (I'm very inexpert) is whether the answer to a question like "When is a particular given Tiberian ɔ a reflex of proto-Hebrew a, when of u, when of aː?" even could be made as clear as this chart makes the answer to "What are the Tiberian/Samaritan reflexes of...and why." Or would it simply require too much knowledge of the laws and processes to be communicated compendiously? While I appreciate the perspective adopted in this chart, I do wonder whether somewhere (here or Niqqud), there could still be room for a clear rule-based account (if possible) of how to reconstruct earlier Hebrew vowels from the vocalizations we read in our texts. I realize this is a typical non-linguist's question ("what did the Hebrew text sound like when it was composed?") asked about a linguistics article, but I'm frustrated how much easier it is to answer the question for consonants than for the vowels (in the present state - but significantly better after your work). Wareh (talk) 01:28, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
I'll try to add some info of this sort. Mo-Al (talk) 05:07, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
I've added in the conditions, but possibly at the expense of clarity. Let me know if you think it should be simplified. I'm also not sure what the Samaritan reflexes are of "reduced" short vowels. Mo-Al (talk) 05:34, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
I think the extra information is great, and my feeling is that anyone trying to learn from the chart will be willing to deal with a slightly more complex layout (which, really, you've presented pretty elegantly).
You've been fantastically responsive; when I left my original observation I figured it would probably languish there unheeded. If I may tax your patience a bit more to clarify my understanding, I'll share some remaining questions. (1) Why does niqqud refer to Tiberian [ɔː] and [oː], whereas here ː is only used up to Secunda Hebrew? (2) Do I correctly infer about Tiberian ɔ-vowels that: (a) šəwâ and ḥăṭep̄ qāmeṣ are reflexes of [u], (b) qāmeṣ gāḏôl and qāmeṣ mālê are reflexes of [a]/[aː], (c) qāmeṣ qāṭān is a reflex of [u] in most closed syllables, of [a] otherwise. (3) In the case of deciding whether Tiberian [o] reflects Proto-Hebrew [oː] or [u], do we have to know the original vowel quantity from comparative evidence, or is there another way?
If (2) is right, then I think the chart does everything I hoped it would. (3) is more of a curiosity.
If, on the other hand, I'm going wrong with such inferences and questions I see three likely reasons why: (A) my knowledge of Hebrew is just too deficient (quite possible!); (B) I'm hoping for clear reconstructions from evidence that simply isn't sufficient (i.e. the vocalizations given in the text before me); (C) there is more to be said (possibly in a chart, possibly otherwise) about what earlier vowels are reflected in various Tiberian niqqud marks and prescribed pronunciations. If (C), then I certainly understand that the subject may be so complex as to be offloaded to future treatment on a more specialized page. On the other hand, our Biblical Hebrew texts are given with the Tiberian vocalization, so that, just as Ancient Greek phonology (closer to my expertise) lets you know, for each reconstructed phoneme, how you will see it written in your text of Herodotus etc., I feel we should eventually offer the reader a clear path from the vocalization in our printed Biblical texts to a reconstructed pronunciation, even if it is unfortunately so much less simple than in the Greek case. Wareh (talk) 22:18, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
Don't worry about taxing my patience; I really enjoy discussing these topics :) I will tell you off the bat that the proto-Semitic is not fully recoverable from the Tiberian Hebrew form, since for example schwa mobile may come from any of the three short vowels. Even so, I do think we can at least try to give the reader of an understanding of how the Tiberian form correlates to the proto-Hebrew from.
To answer your questions: (1) Tiberian Hebrew does not have phonemic vowel length; all (non-hatuf) vowels in open or stressed syllables were lengthened. It just so happens that, for historical reasons, certain niqqud normally occurred in these positions and thus normally had phonetic stress, e.g. holam. This was a later development from a stage where vowel length was phonemic, as seen in Secunda Hebrew. Personally I don't like marking vowel length in Tiberian words, but it's a common convention. (2) You are mostly correct: Hataf qamatz does come from proto-Hebrew */u/, and shva may come from */u/ (as well as */a/ or */i/). Qamatz gadol comes from Proto-Hebrew /a/ or /aː/. However qamatz male normally comes from the feminine ending *atu/*ata/*ati (with final case-ending vowel). The final vowel dropped, leaving (stressed) *at, and later the /t/ elided, leaving (stressed) *a > Tiberian /ɔ/. I believe loss of /t/ happened after Proto-Hebrew, though I am not completely sure. I didn't include this phenomenon in the chart because it's really a morphophonemic shift and not just a phonetic shift. (3) Long vowels in Proto-Hebrew tend to be written male, so if there is a vav then the original vowel was probably */oː/. Otherwise I think comparative evidence may be necessary.
Anyway, thanks for your interest, and let me know whether this answers your questions. Mo-Al (talk) 01:36, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
Those are informative answers of just the kind I hoped for. This is all a stimulus for me to return to my Hebrew studies, which have been laid aside for quite a time. I'm out of questions for the moment! I hope my comments here and at your talk page may have planted a seed, so that as you continue your valuable editing work you'll remember the interests of those who haven't studied the historical phonology in any detail but would love to have insight into pronunciations contemporary with the composition of Biblical texts (indeed, precisely as you've done in reply to my question #2 here: why not attempt a sourced discussion of the same kind in the article space, whether in charts or paragraphs?). I thank you again for your care in replying so particularly to everything I've raised. Wareh (talk) 02:40, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree that this info should all be in the article -- at the moment the article is really just a summary of the most important phenomena. I will try to improve the article in the near future. I appreciate the interest! Mo-Al (talk) 05:06, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Biblical Hebrew/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer:Quadell (talk) 18:47, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Nominator: User:Mo-Al

Rate Attribute Review Comment
1. Well-written:
1a. the prose is clear and concise, it respects copyright laws, and the spelling and grammar are correct. Prose is generally excellent.
1b. it complies with the manual of style guidelines for lead sections, layout, words to watch, fiction, and list incorporation. The lead is great, the use of lists and charts and infoboxes is impeccable, footnotes are interesting and helpful, etc.
2. Verifiable with no original research:
2a. it contains a list of all references (sources of information), presented in accordance with the layout style guideline. References are great!
2b. it provides in-line citations from reliable sources for direct quotations, statistics, published opinion, counter-intuitive or controversial statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged, and contentious material relating to living persons—science-based articles should follow the scientific citation guidelines. Citations are reliable and consistent. Very well done.
2c. it contains no original research. No problems.
3. Broad in its coverage:
3a. it addresses the main aspects of the topic. Exhaustive.
3b. it stays focused on the topic without going into unnecessary detail (see summary style). No problems.
4. Neutral: it represents viewpoints fairly and without bias, giving due weight to each.
5. Stable: it does not change significantly from day to day because of an ongoing edit war or content dispute. No problems.
6. Illustrated, if possible, by images:
6a. images are tagged with their copyright status, and valid fair use rationales are provided for non-free content. No problems.
6b. images are relevant to the topic, and have suitable captions. It seems like there could be more useful images. But there are no problems with what's there.
7. Overall assessment. I am proud to pass this nomination.

Overall comments[edit]

This is an amazing article. Very thorough, very well-sourced. I've found a number of relatively minor issues that I hope can be dealt with without too much difficulty.

Resolved issues[edit]

  • You're missing an endquote at "the earliest Biblical Hebrew [still] had a great deal in common with Ugaritic and Amarna Canaanite.["] Also, this should really be attributed in the text, since it's not clear whose analysis this is.
  • I've now paraphrased this quote. Mo-Al (talk) 18:37, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
  • These two claims seem contradictory: "Biblical Hebrew after the Second Temple period evolved into Mishnaic Hebrew, which was spoken until the 4th century CE." vs. "These additions were added after 600 CE; Hebrew had already ceased being spoken around 200 CE."
  • Fixed. Mo-Al (talk) 21:23, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
  • To a linguist, IPA is clear as day. But to a casual reader, it needs to be introduced or linked somehow. When the lead jumps right in with "Earlier Biblical Hebrew possessed the three phonemes /ɬ χ ʁ/, which...", a non-expert might think ɬ, χ, and ʁ might be Hebrew characters. Featured Articles on languages, such as Turkish language and Swedish language, use {{IPA notice}} before the first use of IPA. Those article don't have IPA in the lead, though, and I'm not sure the best way to handle it in this case. But however you deal with it, I don't think you can throw in IPA symbols without saying what they are. Perhaps the lead should say "...represented in IPA as..."?
  • I've removed the IPA. I think it doesn't impact the quality of the lead. Mo-Al (talk) 15:25, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I've tried too add more appropriate linking. Mo-Al (talk) 15:34, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The lead refers to the "emphatic" consonants as "likely ejective or pharyngealized". But the "Phonology" section says "The so called 'emphatics' were likely glottalized, but possibly pharyngealized or velarized." Which is more accurate?
  • Clarified. Basically glottalized = ejective. Mo-Al (talk) 21:53, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The "Eras" section says "Most of the Hebrew Bible is written in Standard Biblical Hebrew. This is dated to the period from the 8th to the 6th century BCE." Then, later, it says "Later pre-exilic Biblical Hebrew... is known as 'Biblical Hebrew proper' or 'Standard Biblical Hebrew'". So which era is Standard Biblical Hebrew? This is confusing to me.
  • Clarified. The second sentence was misplaced. Mo-Al (talk) 18:43, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The "Classification" section introduces the abbreviations "As Biblical Hebrew (BH) evolved from Proto-Semitic (PS)...", but these abbreviations are never used so far as I can tell. Can they just be removed?
  • Sure, done. Mo-Al (talk) 18:37, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Since Hebrew is a right-to-left language, there are many places in the text where references or punctuation breaks when next to Hebrew words. This can be prevented by using {{rtl-lang|he|עֲשוֹת}} around each word (where עֲשוֹת is used as the example in this case), whenever a parenthesis or reference or period would touch the word. This would prevent the reference problem at the first paragraph of the "Dialects" section, or the parentheses problem in the fifth paragraph in the "Orthography" section. See this discussion for more.
  • I've tried to catch all of these and fix them. Mo-Al (talk) 15:20, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The "Consonants" section refers to "Rabbinic Hebrew", but this term has not been explained. Is this the same as "Mishnaic Hebrew"?
  • Yes. I've standardized the terminology. Mo-Al (talk) 21:06, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The "Consonants" section says "In all Jewish reading traditions /ɬ/ and /s/ have merged completely; however in Samaritan Hebrew /ɬ/ has instead merged with /ʃ/." This seems to state that Samaritan Hebrew is not a Jewish reading tradition. Is this uncontested? (Forgive my ignorance, but it sounds suspect to me.) If it's contested, it should be reworded.
  • I think it is uncontested that Samaritanism and Judaism are considered separate religions. For instance, until recently Samaritans would not marry Jews, though recently this has been relaxed due to concerns of genetic disease. Mo-Al (talk) 18:47, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
    • I checked with a couple other editors, and this is fine. – Quadell (talk) 11:54, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The "Tiberian, etc." chart in "Vowels" has a 4 superscript after the open "a", but no note as to what that means.
  • Removed. Mo-Al (talk) 18:47, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The prose is excellent, but frequently assumes a higher level of expertise than appropriate. A reader may not know what "out-group communication" is, for instance, and I can't find a relevant article on it. The "Classification" section refers to "lexical isoglosses" and "morphological isoglosses" (but the Isogloss article claims an isogloss is a geographic boundary, which doesn't make sense in this context). The "Dialects" section mentions "monopthongization", "an anaptyctic vowel", and "II-y verbs", all without link or explanation. (And does "Jerome" refer to this guy?) The "Orthography" section refers to "construct state" and the "law of attenuation". The "Consonants" section refers to "marginally phonemic", "word-initial spirants", "vowel in sandhi", and "merging into null". The "Morphology" section refers to "epenthesis", "cohortative", "imperative", and "jussive".
  • I've tried to clarify the cases you've mentioned either by paraphrasing or by linking. Let me know if there are other locations where the text should be clarified. Mo-Al (talk) 19:45, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
    • Every case has been suitably linked and explained. Excellent work. – Quadell (talk) 19:59, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

Remaining issues[edit]

None remain. – Quadell (talk) 19:59, 2 August 2011 (UTC)


The following are merely questions, not clearly identified problems, and none of these issues will prevent the article from attaining GA status. However, they are questions that I think should be considered and discussed.

  1. There are very few images in the article, and none with captions. Would any of the images in Commons:Category:Ancient Hebrew inscriptions or subcategories (particularly Commons:Category:Ancient coins of Israel and of Judaea) be useful in this article?
  2. Your method of formatting looks like "Yardeni (1997:25)", with the link split, the opening parenthesis inside the link and the closing parenthesis outside. This looks a bit visually jarring. Have you considered linking the entire line to the bibliography entry? Or using a format, such as "Yardeni (1997), p. 25", where this is not an issue?
    • Having examined the templates you use, and other good and featured articles, I retract this question. It is not an issue. – Quadell (talk) 19:36, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  3. The article states "The Israelite tribes established a kingdom in Canaan at the beginning of the first millennium BCE, which later split into the kingdom of Israel in the north and the kingdom of Judah in the south after a dispute of succession." I think that's a fair statement of the majority scholarly opinion, but it's not undisputed. There is still "The Bible Unearthed" interpretation (Finkelstein & Silberman), which holds there was never a united monarchy. On the one hand, I don't want the article to get waylaid on debates that aren't directly relevant to Biblical Hebrew. On the other hand, I don't want to state something disputed as fact, per our NPOV policy. What's the best way to handle this?
    • I am not knowledgeable about the scholarly view of early Israelite history. This might require input from another editor. Mo-Al (talk) 18:39, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
    Would a phrasing starting something like "A majority scholarly opinion is that the Israelite tribes established a kingdom in Canaan [...]"? This leaves room for other opinion, states who it is that has the majority opinion, what that majority opinion is, and doesn't need to restructure the original sentence that much. I don't think it necessary to really elaborate further about the details in the statement than this. If someone is interested in more details, the link I used here goes to the "History of ancient Israel and Judah" article which gets into more detail. — al-Shimoni (talk) 17:08, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
    Or "According to most scholars,...". If such a disclaimer is necessary. – Quadell (talk) 17:47, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  4. Someone who can read Hebrew will be able to understand the article more fully than someone who cannot (like me), and that's unavoidable... but I wanted to let you know the parts the article starts to lose me. For instance all of the "Orthography" section is perfectly intelligible to me, except for the second half of the sixth paragraph, starting "In the Qumran tradition...". Are these examples--particular letters used in particular traditions--too detailed for a summary article on Biblical Hebrew? Similarly, the "Vowels" subsection of "Phonology" is not only much longer than the other sections, it goes into a far deeper level of detail in terms of subtle vowel differences between traditions and their changes over time. The "Vowels" section is by far the most difficult section for a non-Hebrew-reader to make sense of. Is this more detail than necessary? I don't think it's a criterion 3b violation, but it's worth considering trimming this. It's possible that Phonology of Biblical Hebrew should be its own article, with a shorter summary of the contents here. But these are just things to consider.
    • I've tried to use summary style for the phonology section. Mo-Al (talk) 15:50, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
      • Excellent work, thank you! – Quadell (talk) 17:35, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  5. The "Syntax" section is really about the differences between BH syntax and MH syntax. Since I don't know MH, this is of limited use. Are there aspects of BH syntax that are not covered, but should be? I don't know enough about Semitic languages to say.
    • I am reworking the grammar section into a different format so that it will make more sense. Mo-Al (talk) 17:52, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
      • Wow, that's a lot of new info! Let me look over all of it, and I'll get back with you... – Quadell (talk) 19:36, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
        • This resolves all my concerns, thank you. – Quadell (talk) 19:43, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

Coin image[edit]


The article now shows this image of a coin. Are these Paleo-Hebrew letters? Is that worth mentioning in the caption? – Quadell (talk) 19:50, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

Yes. I'll expand the caption. Mo-Al (talk) 04:34, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

Oceanyam's recent edit[edit]

I see a few problems with the recent addition by Oceanyam. Besides some spelling errors and the wrong word choice between "affect/effect", it seems to confuse aspects of the Babylonian exile with the 70 CE destruction of the Temple, as well as the Roman caused portion of the Jewish Diaspora after the bar-Kokhba revolt ended (c 135 CE). Not to mention, the edit summary is a bit "eyebrow raising" (more along Spock's version than the more common version of "eyebrow raising"). :) I have not checked his sources, yet, to see how the edit's assertions and the sources content compare. At the moment, I'm not touching the edit myself. — al-Shimoni (talk) 08:06, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

exempli gratia comma[edit]

This article makes wide use of "e.g.", which is traditionally followed by a comma in American English. I didn't see any obvious signs of British English used in the piece, but I didn't edit the commas in so as not to disturb the intended style. If the commas were not omitted intentionally, let me know on my talk page and I'll add them. czar · · 17:42, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

Perhaps American English usage is evolving toward no comma? (I see little need for it myself.) —Tamfang (talk) 18:05, 28 October 2012 (UTC)
Agree with Tamfang... AnonMoos (talk) 14:06, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

BC vs. BCE[edit]

Until a drive-by edit last Christmas day, the dates in this article used the BCE/CE nomenclature rather than BC/AD. It seems to me that BCE is the more-appropriate nomenclature for multiple reasons:

  1. The topic of this article is specifically linked to Jews and the Jewish religion; stating dates in term of "Christ" and "our lord" seem particularly POV in that context.
  2. The topic is generally talked of in BCE/CE terms. To verify this, I checked the bibliographic entries that were available online in non-paid, non-database form; I stopped after the first eight that listed dates all had them in BCE/CE format (in some cases, with periods - B.C.E./C.E.).

I recommend we restore this article to BCE/CE format. Any objections or comments? --Nat Gertler (talk) 01:16, 11 November 2012 (UTC)

  • Yes, I agree. It appears the drive–by was the IPs sole edit on enWP, and was made contrary to policy (even as it existed then). Mojoworker (talk) 21:20, 13 November 2012 (UTC)

Etymological vowel length and Tiberian vowel quality[edit]

"By the Tiberian time, all short vowels in stressed syllables and open pretonic lengthened, making vowel length allophonic. ... In the Tiberian and Babylonian systems, */aː/ and lengthened */a/ become the back vowel /ɔ/."

Did short vowels really lengthen in all stressed syllables? And did all lengthened /a/s really become /ɔ/ in Tiberian? If both of these are true, doesn't that imply that patakh should never occur in Tiberian stressed syllables at all (apart from the guttural effects)? In general, I wish the degree to which Tiberian vowel quality corresponds or doesn't correspond to etymological length was a bit clearer.-- (talk) 00:47, 5 April 2013 (UTC)

Short vowels pretty much lengthened in all open stressed syllables, other than those syllables which were only open due to a late epenthesis in segholates. Lengthening in other contexts was dependent on various factors. And קמץ (whatever its phonetic pronunciation may have been) was the Tiberian way of writing a historically long [a] vowel. If a vowel wasn't written with קמץ, then the Tiberian spelling provides no direct evidence for its having an [ā] vowel. AnonMoos (talk) 15:37, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
But don't you think the text as it stands contradicts what you're saying? It says "all short vowels in stressed syllables", not "all short vowels in open stressed syllables". Shouldn't it be changed to something like "all vowels in open stressed and pretonic syllables lengthened, making vowel length allophonic"? -- (talk) 01:25, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
I'm not sure that vowel length was allophonic in Tiberian Hebrew. The short u / long ū distinction was allophonic (or very close), since short u almost always occurred before a geminated (doubled) consonant, while some other short / long contrasts had limited functional loads, or could be partially predicted by higher-level morphological factors, but it would be stretching things quite a bit to say that all short vowel / long vowel pairs were allophones of each other. AnonMoos (talk) 03:38, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
I didn't add the bit about it being allophonic, it was already there; I just repeated the whole sentence as it already stands, changing only the part that we have been discussing. BTW, I had misplaced the adjective "open" in the proposed redaction - of course, it's the syllables that are open, not the vowels.-- (talk) 23:03, 29 June 2014 (UTC)


Explanation of Biblical Hebrew is incorrect. Please Merge is this at the Top. xPx, Aramaic according to Hebrew Universities is recorded as far back as 1,300BCE. Yet this is not being included in Wikipedia. Yet how many arctles dismissing the Aramaic & Arabic languages as secondary in importance to others? Jesus, Moses(Exodus of Egypt) & Abraham(Gen 19) all spoke Aramaic, and the later Two come from the time of Volcano in Minoan Crete 1,600BCE, how do you think the stories of Abraham & Moshe survived until Liturgical Aramaic(Biblical Hebrew) was invented? ~ Please do not coddle religious rhetoric, where it conflicts with proven and provable history. (My Rabbi/Bishop told me... means you need to read it for yourself.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 4WhatMakesSense (talkcontribs) 13:57, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

Actually, the link you provided contradicts what you write in your post, it says that the earliest Aramaic texts date to the 9th century BCE (i.e. between 900 and 800 BCE). This is actually less old than Classical (Biblical) Hebrew, which is attested from the 10th century BC. The term 'Liturgical Aramaic' for Biblical Hebrew is historically quite inaccurate, because Hebrew is neither descended from Aramaic, nor was it a liturgical language. Rather, it was the everyday language spoken in Israel in the first half of the first Millenium BCE. There is no indication that either Abraham or Moses spoke Aramaic. Abraham probably spoke Akkadian natively (having been born in Ur), and Moses proto-Hebrew. Anyway, you'd need reliable sources to back up your assertions. Jesus probably did speak Aramaic, but this is irrelevant to the preservation of Biblical Hebrew. - Lindert (talk) 15:11, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
The problem with this topic as a whole is that "Aramaic" refers to so many different things over the millennium in which is was used. The Aramaic spoken by Jesus was already different from the Imperial Aramaic of the Achaemenids. And then there's the question of what do we mean by "Aramaic", including the question of where do you draw the line between dialects and languages. There is no right answer to this. One sources worth reading is [2] and [3]. Oncenawhile (talk) 22:50, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

Hebrew "similar" to Aramaic[edit]

I really don't understand what the purpose is of saying that Hebrew was "similar" to Aramaic during one particular historical period. It's true that Hebrew and Aramaic both belonged to the Northwestern Semitic group of languages, and that Hebrew was influenced in certain ways by Aramaic at various times. However, Hebrew and Aramaic were were always substantially different languages (Hebrew added its definite article at the beginning of words, while Aramaic added its definite article at the end of words, etc. etc.), and they were never mutually comprehensible (i.e. an Aramaic speaker who knew no Hebrew, or a Hebrew speaker who knew no Aramaic, could not at all easily understand the majority of full sentences of the other language, despite the fact that a number of isolated words were almost identical between the two languages). Furthermore, "One-minute History Lessons: Six Millennia of Great Jewish Leaders" really does not sound like a useful source for technical linguistic matters. AnonMoos (talk) 17:56, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

And the other two sources, anything wrong with them? The fact that the similarity was observed in the Gemara is interesting to me. I don't really understand what your problem is with the statement. There's no POV and no OR, we just seem to be discussing a subjective judgement about whether this is interesting or not? Oncenawhile (talk) 22:23, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
Well, one of them seems to be a book about general Jewish history, and the other a publication of CHABAD. Unfortunately, I know a fair amount about general and historical linguistics, and ancient Semitic languages (especially Biblical Hebrew), but I really don't have the slightest idea what (if anything) that is both true and relevant would be conveyed by a statement that Aramaic and Hebrew were "similar at this period" -- and you have failed to provide any further explanation the matter. Hebrew and Aramaic were always "similar" in the sense of belonging to the same group of related languages, and from the date of our earliest attested records, they have always been quite distinct in having many separate characteristics, and not being fully mutually comprehensible. There have been certain influences of Aramaic on Hebrew, but they were by no means so extensive as to change these basic facts. Therefore the statement that Aramaic and Hebrew were "similar at this period" is a headscratcher to knowledgeable linguists, and could convey a seriously misleading impression to those who are not so knowledgeable. AnonMoos (talk) 23:58, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
Ok fair enough, we should avoid ambiguous language in an area where the facts themselves are ambiguous. How do you feel about the revised language in there now - I tried to clearly caveat it, so that all we're saying is that the writers of the Gemara recognised the similarity.
More broadly, it's nice to hear that this is one of your areas of expertise - it's an interesting and complex subject. Out of interest, do you agree with my points in the section above - basically that the meaning of the terms Hebrew and Aramaic can be very different depending on what time period and what location is being referred to? The spectrum is so broad that some references to dialects of Aramaic at different can be almost as distinct as different languages, and some references to Hebrew may actually refer to Aramaic (eg Hasmonean Aramaic, or the use of Ebraios in the New Testament) and vice versa.
Oncenawhile (talk) 10:17, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
The thing is that the vast majority of Greeks in Hellenistic times and the early Roman Empire had no idea that Aramaic and Hebrew were separate languages -- ancient Greeks tended to be rather vague and apathetic about non-Greek languages, and since most of them didn't care about "barbarian" incomprehensible local Syrian gobbledegook in the first place, they really couldn't have been less interested in the fact that there were two actually separate forms of "barbarian" incomprehensible local Syrian gobbledegook. (The ancient Greek word βαρβαρος refers to the fact that non-Greek languages sounded like endless repetitions of the syllable "bar-bar-bar-bar" to Greek ears.) That's the context in which the Greek word Εβραιστι can refer indifferently to Hebrew or Aramaic in the Greek New Testament. It effectively means "speech of the Hebrews (i.e. Jews)" rather than an exact linguistic designation. However, Hebrew and Aramaic were never indiscriminately confused or merged in Semitic-language writings by Jews, that I know of... AnonMoos (talk) 16:08, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
P.S. Spoken Eastern and Western Aramaic were presumably fairly divergent by the 1st century A.D., though direct evidence of this is somewhat fragmentary. In any case, this would have been simply normal language differentiation... AnonMoos (talk) 16:26, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
FWIW your theory doesn't make sense to me. The New Testament was almost certainly written by local Ioudaioi. Although much of it was originally written in Greek (or in Aramaic if you believe in Aramaic primacy), its writers were certainly local native Aramaic speakers. They would obviously have been able to differentiate between two distinct living languages if they were used side by side. But they do not do this anywhere, only ever referring to the Ebraios language to mean the local dialect of Aramaic. Oncenawhile (talk) 22:32, 22 May 2013 (UTC)
The New Testament was not a linguistic treatise -- and if it had been a linguistic treatise, then it would have had little appeal to Greeks, the overwhelming majority of whom had no interest in non-Greek languages for their own sake (as opposed to a grudging necessity for purposes of trade with foreigners, or communicating with Roman overlords etc.). In this context, distinctions that were obvious to the speakers of Hebrew and Aramaic may not have been considered too important in a Greek translation context. To make a consistent distinction between references to Aramaic and Hebrew, there probably would have had to be some explanation in the text of the New Testament that the two languages were different, but most Greeks didn't understand that there were two separate barbarian Syrian jargons, and didn't care to bother to understand.
As for Aramaic primacy, the mainstream scholarly consensus rejects the idea that any book of the New Testament is a translation of an Aramaic-language written document -- with the just possible (though highly disputed) exception of an Aramaic "sayings document", which would have been mostly a list of unadorned direct quotes of Jesus' sayings. If "Aramaic primacy" means that any of the synoptic gospels existed in written Aramaic in much the form that we now know them, and then were translated into Greek, then such a hypothesis would be quite far from the mainstream. AnonMoos (talk) 07:03, 23 May 2013 (UTC)
English and Bengali are "somewhat similar" - they also share quite a few words in common (path means path in both, for example), and they belong to the same language family. The problem is that word "somewhat". PiCo (talk) 04:51, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
Not sure what you're saying -- the difference between Hebrew and Aramaic was kind of like the difference between English and Danish. The differences between English and Bengali are quite incomparable and irrelevant (as is also the differences among English dialects)... AnonMoos (talk) 06:13, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm saying that the adjective "somewhat" is so vague as to be meaningless. PiCo (talk) 12:09, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

10 Century BCE vs. 12th[edit]

This is just an issue I noticed. How can Biblical Hebrew be "attested from about the 10th century BCE," if it "adopted the Phoenician script around the 12th century BCE?" It would be awefully hard for a language to adopt a script before the language existed. So, something here is wrong. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar enough with the topic to fix it. Thanks goes to whoever does fix it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:22, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

The Hebrew language existed before it was first written. "Attested" means the date of the earliest inscriptions, such as the Gezer calendar etc. But the 12th-century B.C. date is probably wrong... AnonMoos (talk) 10:49, 1 July 2014 (UTC)