Canaanite languages

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Canaanite
Geographic
distribution
Levant, Carthage
Linguistic classification Afro-Asiatic
Subdivisions
Glottolog cana1267[1]

The Canaanite languages or Canaanite dialects[2] are one of the four subdivisions of the Northwest Semitic languages, the others being the Aramaic language, the Ugaritic language, and the Amorite language. They were spoken by the ancient Semitic people of the Canaan and Levant regions, an area encompassing what are today Israel, Jordan, Sinai, Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories, and also some fringe areas of southern Turkey and the northern Arabian peninsula. The Canaanites are broadly defined to include the Israelites (including Judeans and Samaritans), Phoenicians (including Carthaginians), Amorites, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Suteans, Ekronites and Amalekites. The Canaanite languages had ceased to be everyday spoken languages by the 1st millennium AD, but Hebrew remained in continuous use by many Jews since that period into medieval times as a liturgical language, literary language, and for commerce, until it was revived as an everyday spoken language in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and became the main language of the Jews of Palestine and later the State of Israel. Hebrew is the only living Canaanite language today.

This family of languages has the distinction of being the first historically attested group of languages to use an alphabet, derived from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, to record their writings, as opposed to the far earlier Cuneiform of the region.

The primary reference for extra-biblical Canaanite inscriptions, together with Aramaic inscriptions, is the German-language book "Kanaanäische und Aramäische Inschriften", from which inscriptions are often referenced as KAI n (for a number n).[3]

Classification and sources[edit]

The Canaanite languages or dialects can be split into the following:[2][4]

North Canaan[edit]

South Canaan[edit]

  • Hebrew died out as an everyday spoken language between 200 and 400 AD, but remained in continuous use by many Jews since that period, as a written language, a read language and by many people a spoken language as well. It was primarily used in liturgy, literature, and commerce well into medieval times. Beginning in the late 19th century, it was revived as an everyday spoken language by Jews in Palestine and Europe as Zionism emerged as a political movement and Jews began moving to Palestine in increasing numbers, and it became the lingua franca of the growing Jewish community there. After the State of Israel was established, it became the main language of the country. Slightly different dialects of the language were used at different times, but overall it is as much the Hebrew language as the various forms of Hebrew in the first Millennium BC were one language. Hebrew is the only Canaanite language that is a living language, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language.

The main sources of Classical Hebrew are the various books of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh).

Other[edit]

Other possible Canaanite languages:

Comparison to Aramaic[edit]

Some distinctive typological features of Canaanite in relation to Aramaic are:

  • The prefix h- used as the definite article (Aramaic has a postfixed -a). That seems to be an innovation of Canaanite.
  • The first person pronoun being ʼnk (אנכ anok(i), versus Aramaic ʼnʼ/ʼny', which is similar to Akkadian, Ancient Egyptian and Berber.
  • The *ā > ō vowel shift (Canaanite shift).

Descendants[edit]

Modern Hebrew, revived in the modern era from an extinct dialect of the ancient Israelites preserved in literature, poetry, liturgy; also known as Classical Hebrew, the oldest form of the language attested in writing. The original pronunciation of Biblical Hebrew is accessible only through reconstruction. It may also include Ancient Samaritan Hebrew, an dialect formerly spoken by the ancient Samaritan. The main sources of Classical Hebrew are the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), and inscriptions such as the Gezer calendar, Khirbet Qeiyafa pottery shard. All of the other Cannanite languages seem to have become extinct by the early 1st millennium AD.

Slightly varying forms of Hebrew preserved from the First Millennium BC until modern times include:

The Phoenician and Carthaginian expansion spread the Phoenician language and its Punic dialect to the Western Mediterranean for a time, but there too it died out, although it seems to have survived slightly longer than in Phoenicia itself.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Canaanite". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ a b Rendsburg 1997, p. 65.
  3. ^ For example, the Mesha Stele is "KAI 181".
  4. ^ Waltke & O'Connor (1990:8): "The extrabiblical linguistic material from the iron Age is primarily epigraphic, that is, texts written on hard materials (pottery, stones, walls, etc.). The epigraphic texts from Israelite territory are written in Hebrew in a form of the language which may be called Inscriptional Hebrew; this "dialect" is not strikingly different from the Hebrew preserved in the Masoretic text. Unfortunately, it is meagerly attested. Similarly limited are the epigraphic materials in the other South Canaanite dialects, Moabite and Ammonite; Edomite is so poorly attested that we are not sure that it is a South Canaanite dialect, though that seems likely. Of greater interest and bulk is the body of Central Canaanite inscriptions, those written in the Phoenician language of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos, and in the offshoot Punic and Neo-Punic tongues of the Phoenician colonies in North Africa. An especially problematic body of material is the Deir Alla wall inscriptions referring to a prophet Balaam (ca. 700 BC), these texts have both Canaanite and Aramaic features. W. R. Garr has recently proposed that all the Iron Age Canaanite dialects be regarded as forming a chain that actually includes the oldest forms of Aramaic as well."

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]