Talk:Hebrew language

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Former good article Hebrew language was one of the Language and literature good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
Article milestones
Date Process Result
January 19, 2004 Refreshing brilliant prose Not kept
July 23, 2006 Good article nominee Listed
October 14, 2007 Good article reassessment Delisted
Current status: Delisted good article


See also Talk:Modern Hebrew language.

Direct Heir of Biblical Hebrew[edit]

I was interested in this question, and would like to know the source for the claims between the Mizrahi and Yemenite dialects being considered direct heirs. I'd be very interested in more information and current research on this topic. Also, is this something that should be flagged as needing citation? wjd (talk) 21:53, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

Any claim which is not obvious should be cited. However I can tell you from personal knowledge that these so-called "dialects" (really reading traditions) are certainly descended from at least some stage of Biblical Hebrew -- however they might not be descended from Tiberian Hebrew. Mo-Al (talk) 23:29, 16 May 2011 (UTC)

There is no agreement either way among any academics, most scholars tend to see Temani Hebrew (or Yemenite Hebrew) pronunciation style as likely being closest to what "Biblical Hebrew" may have sounded like; but its all conjecture.Historylover4 (talk) 04:03, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

Any claim that Hebrew is Afro-Asiatic is completely noncorrect because Hebrew is Judaist of the house of Aaron and Seth in so much as communications of timeline between the heaven and the earth over the whole stretch of time and earth. That is why insomuch as an assertion by someone out there that Hebrew is Afro-Asiatic this assertion is absolutely stupid and therefore Hebrew is not Afro-Asiatic; it is Judaist and Ongoingly full of governance of the civilization and the people of the chosen proper peoples. Please edit this page and take off the stupid assertion listed which is absolutely contested by all righteous Jews that Arian Hebrew and Rebbeinical Hebrew and simply Hebrew should be listed as AfroAsiatic. Signed, Joyashrei-Leigh Mueller. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:16, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Please provide reliable sources for your input. Dan 14:35, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
"Any claim that Hebrew is Afro-Asiatic is completely noncorrect because Hebrew is Judaist of the house of Aaron and Seth in so much as communications of timeline between the heaven and the earth over the whole stretch of time and earth." Does anyone out there really have their teaching this totally garbled, or is this some kind of a put-on? "House of Aaron" refers to a non-Judahite tribe, while "Seth" is someone who would be even before Noah. So, you say you object to "Arian Hebrews" wrongly being categorized as having originated in Asia and Africa? Really? Who is miseducating you not only to believe such lies but to think many centuries worth of sources stating actual history are in error? Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 18:52, 22 May 2013 (UTC)
I think its fair to differentiate between scribes in the Egyptian province of Canaan who may by the 10th century before the christian era have been bilingual or multilingual in Afroasiatic Egyptian, Semitic Akkadian, Phoenician, Canaanite, West Semitic and other proto languages even Indo European Mycenean Greek, and the general populace who were generally illiterate, but could perhaps make their mark with a pictograph. I'll stick to the Ethnolouge for decisions on who is in what language family thank you
Unless you allow the Phaistos Disc was written in proto Indo European Greek about the time Kikul was writing about Horse training in proto Indo European Hittite,making Greek contemporary with Hittite, early claims for a Semitic or Afro Asiatic Paleo Hebrew are as ridiculous as claiming a language group for red ocher cave paintings where someone sketched an ox or a bowman in a pictographic stick figure form form similar to an established hieroglyph.
Given you allow that distinction in language skills its conceivable that a calendar divisible into days, weeks, months, and years is linguistically more pattern for the layman and more linguistic process for the scribe as (≈)or(≠). (talk) 10:27, 26 December 2014 (UTC)
The close relationship among Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, and Amharic, among other languages, is unmistakable. These are Semitic languages. The larger language family that includes the Semitic languages, spread out over parts of both Africa and Asia, is called the Afro-Asiatic family. That's all there is to it. I don't know what you think Seth and Aaron have to do with it, but invoking them in a discussion about language relationships is like bringing up the book of Genesis in a scientific discussion about how long ago the dinosaurs lived. —Largo Plazo (talk) 15:40, 26 December 2014 (UTC)
Contradictory statements have been made about the alleged membership of the alleged Afro-Asiatic group.

Opinions needed ...[edit]

... from Hebrews speakers about an apparent discrepancy between Hebrew Wikipedia and English Wikipedia, at Talk:Natalie Portman#First Name. Thanks. Cresix (talk) 23:30, 15 March 2011 (UTC)

Hello Cresix, how are you today? Yes, these discrepencies exist due to the difference in language family, English is considered a Greco-Roman Language, much like Italian, French, and Spanish; whereas, Hebrew is a Semitic Language, much like Aramaic, Arabic, and Samaritan. The rules in Semitic languages are different than the rules in Greco-Roman Languages, in short.AurumSpiral1235813 (talk) 03:32, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

English is not a "Greco-Roman Language" - it is a Germanic language with lots of Norman French tossed in.HammerFilmFan (talk) 20:30, 7 January 2015 (UTC)
Perhaps what "AurumSpiral" truly meant to say was English makes use of Latin characters in its alphabet, while many loan-words are borrowed from Latin and Greek.Davidbena (talk) 21:36, 7 January 2015 (UTC)
None of which is related to the question of how Natalie Portman's parents named her in Hebrew when she was born. —Largo Plazo (talk) 22:12, 7 January 2015 (UTC)

Wexler and Zuckermann 2011[edit]

Hi Francis :)

I restored most of the paragraph about Wexler. Both Wexler and Zuckermann are cited in Modern Hebrew curriculum in my university; not as necessarily correct, but as notable dissenting views.

Saying that they "have not been accepted by most scholars" is indeed weasel wording and it's not really needed anyway, so i removed it. Calling them "minor" is also rather meaningless. Whether one likes it or not, both of them are mentioned in nearly every modern discussion of the nature of Modern Hebrew, so it's reasonable to call them "notable".Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 06:30, 7 April 2011 (UTC)

I agree, if a person is going to add something like that, they should at least give the sources (if it were true, in this case, there would be many) in which drew them to that conclusion.AurumSpiral1235813 (talk) 02:40, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

I removed this part from the article:

This view forms part of a larger complex of theories, such as that Ashkenazi Jews are predominantly descended from Slavic and Turkic tribes rather than from the ancient Israelites, none of which[citation needed] are accepted by mainstream scholarship.[who?]

This information is correct as far as i heard, but a better source is needed. I'll try to find one.

And Zuckermann approach is indeed a compromise; not just because he himself calls it a compromise, but because it really is. Wexler says that Modern Hebrew is Semitic only by typology and Slavic but all other parameters and Zuckermann is not so extreme. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 06:30, 7 April 2011 (UTC)


This article seems to suffer from indecision about what topic it is really discussing -- in places it is an overview of all the varieties of Hebrew, and in places it is a description of Modern Hebrew. I would like to restructure this page in the model of the Greek language article -- a summary of the issues surrounding "Hebrew" as a whole, with links to articles about specific varieties (Biblical Hebrew, Modern Hebrew, etc.). Are there any objections? Mo-Al (talk) 23:16, 16 May 2011 (UTC)

Muhammad has mentioned by name in the holy book Moses in Hebrew[edit]

Details are declred by the following link: — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:08, 10 June 2011 (UTC)

Please show a more reliable proof, you are wrong, look for that word in the old Bible on the internet-- Someone35 (talk) 17:20, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

"Law of attenuation"?[edit]

I see this in the Hebrew language template, but no article exists. Is this an established term, or could something like Lenition be redirected to? I'm not familiar with Hebrew, so forgive my stab in the dark. Thanks! Matttoothman (talk) 21:05, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

the Hebrew language template... which, surprisingly, isn't on this page. You can see it at Tsade, among other places. Matttoothman (talk) 21:09, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

Oldest Hebrew inscriptions[edit]

"The language is attested from the 10th century BCE [3]" "The earliest Hebrew writing yet discovered was found at Khirbet Qeiyafa in July 2008 by Israeli archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel.[6][7]"

These statements are not supported by the Khirbet Qeiyafa find. 1) The inscription on the Qeiyafa ostracon is NOT written in Hebrew. That fact is not contested by any scholar. It is written in Proto-Phonecian which is a precursor language to Hebrew and other semitic dialects. 2) Professor Gershon Galil, who did not discover the artifact, suggests that the contents and of the text indicate that this was a Hebrew speaker writing Hebrew, but using the Proto-Phoenician alphabet. 2a)This is so subtle, like saying this is a Scot writing in Queens English before the Scots might have invented their own alphabet? 3) This is regarded as, though not impossible, a huge stretch and having somewhat less likli-hood than other possibilities.See Prof. Christopher A. Rollston of Johns Hopkins University at 4) Moreover the inscription is in ink and several of the Galil's examples are not even agreed to read what Galil suggests by all scholars. 5) But on top of all that, the dating of the shard is an average estimate and not at all a date certain.

This reference is not Science, it is one person's theory which is not supported by his peers. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wittym (talkcontribs) 08:33, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

Well, hebrew was and is in samaritian hebrew still written with the phoenician script. The hebrew alphabet is actually an Aramaic script, and quite new for the hebrew language. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 17:52, 20 December 2011 (UTC).

While it is true that Modern Hebrew has been influenced by Aramaic, the history of Hebrew as a whole goes back further into the past than the birth of Aramaic, according to this verified chart from the Ancient Hebrew Research Center.AurumSpiral1235813 (talk) 16:33, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

It seems that during the developement of Late Archaic Hebrew(c. 500 - 400 BCE) is when Hebrew starts becoming influenced by Aramaic; however, before this time period, there is no evidence of Aramaic influence on Hebrew, according to the previously mentioned chart.AurumSpiral1235813 (talk) 17:33, 22 May 2013 (UTC)

There is no mention in the article as to when the final forms of six letters were introduced. Modern liturgical Hebrew script employs the final forms where they occur at the end of a word. So, how far back can this use be traced? I would like to see the article make this explicit. --DStanB (talk) 13:03, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

The famous book by Joseph Naveh on the history of the alphabet says that the final forms came first and the medial forms came later. But that book is pretty old now and I wonder what the modern opinion is. Zerotalk 14:02, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

Sorry Zero, my comment/request may have been a bit ambiguous. What I really want is clarification as to when certain Hebrew letters (I said 'six', but meant five) began to be written using two forms instead of one. That is, one form when the letter occurs either at the beginning of or within a word, and an alternative form when the same letter occurs at the end of a word. I am not especially interested in the look or style of the final and medial forms (though others may be), as much as the date when the practice was introduced. --DStanB (talk) 15:52, 9 August 2013 (UTC)


According to Modern Hebrew grammar, Hebrew is SVO, but this article is categorized as Category:VSO languages. Which is it?--Louiedog (talk) 17:53, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

The unmarked order is is SVO. aní shoté máim = I drink water. Dan 15:57, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Then it should be recategorized, yes?--Louiedog (talk) 16:52, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Hebrew is a VSO language, modern hebrew is just simplified. (talk)
A brief review of many verses in Genesis reveals a clear VSO trend in Ancient Hebrew. I don't know about today's Hebrew so much. Flipping Mackerel (talk) 03:26, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
Interesting. Evidence? I don't know much about it. The first thing that I find is an academic's blog post "Basic Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Verbal Clause, Part 6" suggesting that the topic is currently under discussion. On the other hand, in part 1 of 6 he characterizes the status in 2010 as that "the very small minority position—that Hebrew is basically a Subject-Verb (SV) language—has been promoted from D.O.A. status (and an unceremonious burial in a footnote) to meriting serious engagement". So I'm left to suppose that VSO is indeed the conventional wisdom about Hebrew in its historical development. I doubt that anyone regards Modern Hebrew as VSO, but again I don't know much about it. It's just my guess after my limited experience with Modern Hebrew, such as reading some stories and novels. --Hoziron (talk) 00:07, 22 March 2013 (UTC)
See Dr. John A. Cook's dissertation from 2002, posted at the Wisconsin University site, partial title "Grammaticalization of Biblical Hebrew". The syntax depends on the aspect of the verb and other features. (talk) 12:02, 23 April 2015 (UTC)

Translation Request: Please add literal translation for Exanthem subitum[edit] — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:43, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

Question reliability of source[edit]

This source used in the article appears to be a self-published page of one Elina Shkolnikova. She seems to have some relevant qualifications but it isn't at all clear that WP:RS applies. Please forgive my lack of Russian expertise and correct me if I'm not reading it correctly: Our text said "The Soviet authorities considered the use of Hebrew "reactionary" since it was associated with both Judaism and Zionism" until an anon removed "both Judaism and" a few minutes ago. Anon is correct as the source says "Борьба с ивритом рассматривалась и как борьба с сионистской идеологией." (The struggle against Hebrew was considered an anti-Zionist struggle.) and "Подавление иврита стало отражением борьбы с сионистским движением." (The suppression of Hebrew was a reflection of the struggle with the Zionist movement.) The article also indicates that the struggle against Hebrew was not only from the authorities but also within the Jewish community. Finally, it isn't clear why this is in a section called "Status" rather than in some history section. Zerotalk 07:35, 16 June 2012 (UTC)

Hebrew, Ivrit or Israeli?[edit]

Is the present-day majority language of Israel and Classical Hebrew mutually understandable? If not the use of the word “Hebrew” for it is misleading. Then I would prefer to call it Ivrit or Israeli instead.

2012-08-01 Lena Synnerholm, Märsta, Sweden.

That depends on what you mean by "mutually understandable". Though there is a great deal of relative archaisms involved, a speaker/reader of Modern Hebrew is completely capable of reading texts written in Classical Hebrew. When you start to talk about speaking the language, though, you're likely to run into problems. A fluent speaker of Modern Hebrew, thrown 2,700 years into the past, is not likely to be able to communicate with anyone. This is a facet of any language, really, but is especially true of Hebrew, where pronunciation and articulation has been especially fluid and changing from time period to time period, and from community to community. That said, I don't think there is any modern language that is mutually intelligible with its past counterpart back more than 500-800 years or so. The articles Classical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew go into more detail with it than I can. Evanh2008 (talk|contribs) 20:05, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

That's like saying we should call Greek "Demotic" instead of Greek just because it is not the same as ancient Greek. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:05, 30 August 2012 (UTC)

No, let's call Modern Greek "Ellinikí" – Dan 12:42, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Well, “Ellinikí” is the language’s word for itself. I use the word “Greek” for the modern language, “Bysantine” about its Medival counterpart and “Ancient Greek” about the Antiquity version. I think this make the distinctions clear enough.

2013-08-16 Lena Synnerholm, Märsta, Sweden. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:50, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

Dating Error in Intro, end of 2nd paragraph.[edit]

It says, "The earliest examples of written Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE [2] to the late Second Temple period," BUT the Second Temple period was from 530 BCE and 70 CE, so either the date is wrong or it means "First Temple period." I don't know which is correct, so I didn't fix it. Will someone who knows please correct it? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:57, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

I believe the lead is summarizing here both archaic and "classical" Hebrew. Need a linguist Wiki-editor to step in and make the call.HammerFilmFan (talk) 14:21, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
The IP is absolutely right, there was an error in the lead. The source says quite clearly that the earliest written Hebrew dates from the 10th century BCE, so I corrected that. It has nothing to do with the Second Temple period.Jeppiz (talk) 14:27, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

Hebrews, Canaanites and Arabs by Ninorta Dawood.[edit]

The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

This link goes to a Syrian government propaganda channel that has noting to do with the Hebrew language. Presented in Arabic with English translation. Syrian10 (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 06:26, 16 July 2013 (UTC)

Kimwell (talk) 18:53, 25 December 2013 (UTC)

Number of speakers[edit]

I notice that the number of speakers is listed at 5.3 million, dating back to 1998. I am pretty sure that the figure is larger today, given that the population of Israel alone is 8 million today. Using 15-year old statistics doesn't seem like a good idea for an area experiencing rapid population growth. (talk) 01:23, 2 September 2013 (UTC)

Israel's population is diverse, thus it can't be said that everyone knows Hebrew in Israel. OccultZone (talk) 06:44, 7 September 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for bringing this up, the 5.3 million figure is obviously incorrect and needs to be updated. On Hebrew Wikipedia is says there are 9 million speakers of Hebrew worldwide, and this article [1] says 7 million people speak it as a native language. I'll also change this in the Modern Hebrew article tomorrow. Yambaram (talk) 20:20, 1 November 2013 (UTC)
That's not a reliable source, so I reverted you. One problem w sources like that is that they take a figure from another source and just assume it's the number of native speakers, when in fact it may not be. And we certainly can't use WP as a ref for WP. For a linguistic claim, we need a linguistic ref. Granted, Ethnologue isn't always the greatest, but it shouldn't be hard for us to find a good ref for an important language like Hebrew. I brought this up at WP:LANG for broader input. — kwami (talk) 04:37, 30 January 2014 (UTC)

Since you keep reverting me, let's allow other users to decide about this: Should we use the 5.3 million figure from 1998(!) supported by this single website, or should we rely on up-to-date reliable sources, including Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (mentioned here), which all say that the number of Hebrew speakers in the world today is between 7-9 million (some say even more. Just use common sense: Israel's population is 8 million, and this language is also spoken by other Jews throughout the word). Here are some sources, among many others: University College London - here, Frankfurt International School - here, Israel Hayom - here, this book and even this. Regards, Yambaram (talk) 22:14, 6 February 2014 (UTC)

We should use the number sourced to a linguistic ref until we have something better. Your sources are not RS's and, even so, they don't supply the number you're referencing! The first is a newspaper article, not the Bureau of Statistics, and it reports the total number of Hebrew speakers, not the number of native speakers. Hebrew is rather unusual in the high proportion of speakers who are not native, so this is an important distinction that you and your sources are ignoring. The "Self-Access Centre materials database" is hardly a RS either, and it just says H is "spoken by many of the 7M people in Israel", and so would be useless even if it were a RS. The Frankfurt school is not a RS either, and again only speaks of people who speak it daily. Then there's another newsletter, but even so it contradicts you, noting that many H speakers don't speak it well enough to get by. Then there's a book that's blocked, and then a Study Abroad website that does say "native speakers" but is probably just confused, then another newspaper that repeats your other sources. It seems that you're just doing a Google search and posting whatever junk pops up. Come on: This is an encyclopedia, treat it as one.
If we were to accept SYNTH, then according to your sources, Hebrew is spoken by "many" of the 7M in Israel, but also 1.6M of them do not speak it adequately. That means that ≈5.4M Israelis speak Hebrew adequately, but there are fewer native speakers than that, which is what Ethnologue is saying. UCLA,[2] BTW, uses the 5.3M figure.
The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics says that H is spoken "as a mother tongue by most Israeli Jews (whose total number slightly exceeds 5 million)"; looks like the data is from 2004. So it looks like the number of native speakers is somewhere in the range of 3–5 million as of 2004. — kwami (talk) 06:15, 7 February 2014 (UTC)
So much nonsense. The majority of the sources I provided are clearly reliable, and you could take them to WP:RSN if you have doubts and see for yourself. You may be confused about the facts, Israel's population stands at 8 million, not 7, so that refutes your calculation. And you are wrong - these sources DO supply the number I'm referencing, every single one of them says the number of Hebrew speakers, whether fluent ones or not, is either 7, 8, or 9 million. Not only are you using WP:OR, you're so confident in yourself that you're claiming an official source I provided "is probably just confused". I also have no idea where your 1998/2004 "3–5 million" figure came from, but I surely know someone else must interfere here. -Yambaram (talk) 13:04, 7 February 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps you should read what you're editing. We're looking for the number of native speakers, not speakers "whether fluent or not". Also, it's the sources you provided which say there are 7M Israelis. This is basic stuff. So far the only RS for the number of native speakers we have is "the majority" of 5+M. If you can't be bothered to provide RS's which actually support your claim, then I can't be bothered to respond. — kwami (talk) 20:10, 7 February 2014 (UTC)
Look at your very first sentence, you yourself first talked about "speakers", not "native speakers". It's now clear that the sources I provided have proved that the number of Hebrew speakers is around 9 million, so I'll respond on the native speakers issue: The Study abroad organization says in this link that the number of Native Hebrew speakers is 7 million ("Hebrew is a rare but very important language. With roughly 7 million native speakers..."). It just doesn't matter if you think that this figure is right or that they got confused. -Yambaram (talk) 23:35, 7 February 2014 (UTC)
From the beginning we've been talking about native speakers, so you're evidently not paying attention. You're also taking a promotional web site over linguistic sources. That fails verification as well as WP:RS. Sorry, if you want to change data on WP, you need to follow WP guidelines. — kwami (talk) 00:19, 8 February 2014 (UTC)
I fact I was paying at least as much attention as you were clear. A reliable source from 2014 is better than a reliable source from 1998. So I'm going take this website to the WP:RSN and see what they say. -Yambaram (talk) 00:56, 8 February 2014 (UTC)
Except that you don't have a RS at all. — kwami (talk) 01:45, 8 February 2014 (UTC)
Wait a second, but the source we're currently using, the Ethnologue one, does not even say anywhere the word "native". So on what grounds is the 5.3 M L1 based on? We must use a different, more recent source. Yambaram (talk) 16:58, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
No, we do not need to. It would be nice if you found one, but if we don't have one we can hardly use it.
But you're right about the "L1": Although they say that the number of L1 is not close to the number of native, they don't say that the 5.3M is L1, so we need to assume it's native and remove the note. — kwami (talk) 21:59, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
No, we need not assume it's native if it doesn't explicitly say so in that 16-year-old source. It does say there're 7 million native speakers here and here for example. Israel's population is slightly over 8 million. There are about one million Israelis living aboard. Common sense can also be taken into consideration here. Yambaram (talk) 08:35, 17 February 2014 (UTC)
Ethnologue gives the number of native speakers unless they say otherwise. Your source is not WP:RS. So unless you can be bothered to find a RS that gives the number of native speakers, end of discussion. — kwami (talk) 21:08, 17 February 2014 (UTC)
Okay, so if you're talking reliable sources, then please show me where it says "Ethnologue gives the number of native speakers unless they say otherwise". If you are able to provide a link to it, then the current figure will obviously stay, until I find a better one (for the native speakers number), which is apparently a hard task. Yambaram (talk) 23:08, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
"Population gives the number of people in the country for whom this language is a first language, plus the total number of L1 speakers if it is used in multiple countries."[3]
I'm surprised how difficult it is to get good info. — kwami (talk) 02:31, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Finally, I found a reliable source that says there are 7 million native Hebrew speakers.[4]. Will soon add it both to this article and to Modern Hebrew. Yambaram (talk) 23:05, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
Maybe, except that the fact that it was so difficult to find support for your preferred number, and that it's contradicted by every other source, makes it seem dubious. It's also an abstract to a book that isn't concerned with demographics, written by we-don't-know-who, for all we know a copy-editor who doesn't know anything about it. Can you find who wrote that, and what their source was? — kwami (talk) 12:23, 23 February 2014 (UTC)
Here is that book on Amazon. There's information about the book, its author, content etc. there. Apparently it's also used in this professional document written by Reut Tsarfaty of the Weizmann Institute of Science. As it will require some work and because I plan to review other related articles, I'll update the figures some time soon, unless someone will have done it it ahead of me. Yambaram (talk) 01:33, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── That's not "updating", that's grasping at straws to push your POV. I'll simply revert you unless you can find the sourcing expected of an encyclopedia. — kwami (talk) 10:19, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

The Swedish encyclopedia we use for major languages reports that in 1983, 49% of Israelis (projected to 3.7 million people) reported that they spoke Hebrew daily. The number of native speakers would of course be less than that. I'm not sure if that includes the 0.3 million of the West Bank. For the US, 0.09% home-use in 2000 meant another 0.3 million. No other country reported even close to that number. Now, it's been 30 years, but this is consistent with later estimates, and, tellingly, it was the best data they could find in 2010. For whatever reason, there just doesn't seem to be good data available. — kwami (talk) 10:34, 25 February 2014 (UTC)


The section on Hebrew writing is incomplete, unsupported by footnotes, and probably misuses some terms. The Qumran scholars use "paleo" to refer to the script that the Samaritans used in their manuscripts of scripture. Please point to a source which identifies this as the same writing as Canaanitic. That is not what Bezold shows in his work on the Tell el-Amarna tablets where he discusses the Canaanitic glosses. It is also not what Gordon shows in his fundamental work on Ugaritic. Finally, I have found several works on Phoenician on the web and they all show the "square" or Aramaic script. Please cite to one of those where they discuss whether this is used as a courtesy to the large number of scholars who might not be able to read the normal Phoenician script. (talk) 12:02, 23 April 2015 (UTC)


It took me a long time to find a ref for the number of native speakers. Monochrome Monitor has now exported her edit-war from Modern Hebrew here, claiming that there are 9 million native and L1 speakers of Hebrew, and also messing up the coding of the info box. She reverts pretty much anything I edit, so perhaps someone else here can take care of it. — kwami (talk) 06:34, 20 June 2015 (UTC)

Also, the figure of 9M is from a newspaper article, not an RS, and they don't give their source. We don't even know if it's for Modern Hebrew (as now claimed in our MH article) or for all forms of Hebrew. — kwami (talk) 06:47, 20 June 2015 (UTC)

It seems to talk about that many people who are supposed to be speakers of Hebrew have difficulty communicating in it. And I have the impression their '9 million' includes those people. --JorisvS (talk) 09:27, 21 June 2015 (UTC)

Writing Direction[edit]

on the right somewhere should be referenced writing direction right to left, rtl for all languages that have it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:29, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

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"the Holy Tongue"[edit]

"the Holy Tongue" is not a good translation of the phrase. it should be "the holy language". changed it.  — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:36, 12 October 2015 (UTC) 

I tweaked it to read... Hebrew has been referred to by Jews as the "Holy Language" or the "Holy Tongue" since ancient times. 2601:589:4705:C7C0:CD39:BFB6:B7C2:56F0 (talk) 18:46, 23 October 2015 (UTC)

I don't think it's a big deal. Hebrew uses the same word for both (I'm supposing the metonymy was from "mouth part" to "what people speak"), and in English one is often used as a synonym for the other. It's common enough to speak of one's "mother tongue", in fact. I don't see what's wrong with writing "the holy tongue" and letting it go at that. —Largo Plazo (talk) 18:52, 23 October 2015 (UTC)

Jesus teaching in Aramaic.[edit]

I don't mean to offend anyone, nor do I want to initiate a discussion about religion, but I am genuinely curious about the fact that it is generally understood, even among atheists and devout Jews, that Jesus, arguably an officially recognized rabbi, (and likely trained in Hebrew in his scriptural studies), when he originally preached mainly to fellow Jews, and also to Gentiles who might have been present, preached in Aramaic. So the claim that Hebrew was the language of everyday discourse among Jews as late as 200 CE to 400 CE is puzzling to me.

I have read that Hebrew was taught academically, for purposes of scholarship, long after it fell out of common usage among the Jewish people, in ancient times, much as Latin became a language of scholarship long after it ceased to be the common language of the Roman people. Even today, Latin labels and phrases are used in medicine and law.

This question is important to me, in order to accurately understand the situation. Was it the case that Jewish people spoke Hebrew among themselves until as late as 400 CE, but spoke Aramaic as a "lingua franca" when out in the general population? That is, did they practice a bilingualism, with Hebrew spoken within their community and Aramaic spoken outside the community?

Or was the reality completely different? That is, might it have been true that Aramaic was spoken by Jews both inside and outside of their families, and that the Hebrew language was taught separately? For example, in the anglosphere today (US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc.), most Jewish people speak English in everyday life, and learn Hebrew as a second language, to keep their tradition alive, and to be fluent in the language of the state of Israel, in case they decide to visit or live there for a while.

Everything I have read suggests that Hebrew died out as the language of common usage long before Jesus was born, which fits in with the narrative that Jesus preached to the crowds of his fellow Jews in Aramaic, not Hebrew.

So I am merely questioning the idea that Hebrew was the "language of common usage" of the Jewish people as late as 200 or 400 CE.

Does anybody have a source to justify such an assertion?77Mike77 (talk) 01:45, 26 January 2017 (UTC)

I think it varied regionally. There are reports that the maidservants of Judah Hanasi, in the early second century CE, spoke perfect Hebrew; which suggests that this was something unusual. The likely position was that Aramaic was the most common language of daily life, but that there were always people (not only rabbis and scholars) who preserved and spoke Hebrew as an everyday language, rather like the coexistence of English and Welsh in Wales. (And in some towns, such as Scythopolis/Bet Shean, the everyday language was Greek.) This is shown by the fact that the language of the Mishnah had evolved to be considerably different from Biblical Hebrew, without being particularly like Aramaic: if it had been purely a learned language they would have been careful to keep to the classical form.
The sayings of the rabbis of the time are generally recorded in Hebrew, with the significant exception of Hillel's formulation of the Golden Rule, which is in Aramaic; but then Hillel was a recent immigrant from Babylonia. As I see it, Jesus was a preacher rather than a legally trained rabbi, and would have used Aramaic so as to reach as wide an audience as possible (maybe including non-Jews).

Apologies for interjecting mid-comment, but it has been well-argued that Jesus was a proper Rabbi. See, for example, 77Mike77 (talk) 01:07, 2 February 2017 (UTC)

The position is somewhat confused by the fact that in Hellenistic Greek "evraisti" sometimes seems to mean Aramaic as spoken by Jews rather than Hebrew proper, just as in Soviet times "еврейский" (Jewish) was used to mean Yiddish. (Hebrew was called "Древнееврейский", meaning Old Jewish.) For example, Cleopatra was supposed to have been able to speak "evraisti", but I very much doubt she actually spoke Hebrew. --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) (talk) 12:05, 26 January 2017 (UTC)

Thank you for your informative answer.77Mike77 (talk) 01:00, 2 February 2017 (UTC)

Where do you see the article claiming that "Hebrew was the language of everyday discourse"? I only see that it was still used until 200-400, not that it predominated then. That seems to be what the sources say, though I didn't try to search beyond the sources given in the article. I don't get the point about the Dead Sea scrolls, though, because for sure most people could not read. Zerotalk 12:25, 26 January 2017 (UTC)

Sure, most people couldn't read, but Jesus and his disciples preached, orally, in Aramaic. It wasn't written down for several decades, and was written in Greek for the first time. My only question concerns the use of Hebrew as a common language of everyday speech in those locations in areas east of the Mediterranean shores, during that era, i.e 0 CE, +/- 100 years. I have read that the common language was Aramaic, not Hebrew, and I was just asking about it. It is an academic question.77Mike77 (talk) 01:20, 2 February 2017 (UTC)

PS. Maybe there was a sense in which Aramaic was a type of lingua franka that people learned in the area to converse at market places, and in public generally, with a somewhat diverse population, with travelers and traders, while local tribal/national languages (such as Hebrew) were still spoken at home. But that is more on the topic of Aramaic. Another factor is that most languages don't go unchanged over centuries. Chaucer's English is almost unreadable today, and earlier English even more so. On the other hand, Chinese (written)from 1000 years ago is perfectly readable to Chinese people today. The "street Latin" of the Romans of Julius Caesar's time became formalized as a language of scholarship, while the Roman street languages evolved into Italian, Spanish, etc. So I was wondering if written Hebrew remained constant over centuries (as Chinese did), versus changing drastically (as English did), or whether it split (as Latin did) into a formal language of scholarship (as Latin even today in medicine and law) while evolving into other forms in the general public. I don't think Aramaic is a Hebrew dialect, more Persian, with local add-ins, some Semitic. The article is good, but I hope my comments might spur some clarifications on a few points.77Mike77 (talk) 23:29, 2 February 2017 (UTC)

Spoken languages change; languages kept purely for scholarship less so. (Chinese characters remained the same but historical reconstructions of pronunciation suggest that there were radical changes in speech.) We don't know what the spoken Hebrew of Jesus' time was like, but the fact that written Mishnaic Hebrew was so different from Biblical Hebrew suggests that there was some connection between it and the spoken language and that it was not purely a language of scholarship.
Aramaic is another question, and the article is not about this. It is a Semitic language cognate to Hebrew and Arabic, and probably had some influence on the way Hebrew was spoken, especially pronunciation. It is quite unrelated to Persian: the confusion arises because pre-Islamic Persian often used Aramaic words (huzvarishn) in writing while still pronouncing them as Persian words (e.g. the word "sag", for dog, was written KLBA, from Aramaic kalba).
Conclusion: multilingualism was probably the norm. Till quite recent times, Jews living in Kurdistan were bilingual in Aramaic and Arabic, and some knew Kurdish as well (and there were distinctively Jewish dialects of all three). The situation in Judaea was probably similar, with bilingualism in Hebrew and Aramaic and some knowing Greek. --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) (talk) 10:17, 3 February 2017 (UTC)