Hebrew is a member of the Canaanite group of Semitic languages. It
was the language of the early Jews, but from 586 BC it started to be
replaced by Aramaic. By 200 AD use of Hebrew as an everyday language
had largely ceased, but it continued to be used for literary and
religious functions, as well as a lingua franca among Jews from
Hebrew at a glance
Native name: עברית [ʔivˈʁit / ʕivˈɾit]
Linguistic affliation: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central Semitic, Northwest Semitic, Canaanite
Number of speakers: c. 7.4 million
Spoken in: mainly Israel, and also in Argentina, Australia, Brazil,
Canada, France, Germany, Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, Panama, the UK and USA
First written: 10th century BC
Writing system: Hebrew script
Status: official language in Israel; recognised minority language in Poland
During the mid-19th century the first efforts were made to revive
Hebrew as a everyday language. One man who played a major role in
these efforts was Eliezer Ben Yehuda (1858-1922), who was the first
to make exclusive use of Hebrew in his home, and encouraged the use
of Hebrew among others, as well as its use in schools.
Today Hebrew is spoken by some 5 million people mainly in Israel,
where it is an official language along with Arabic. and a further 2
million people speak the language in Argentina, Australia, Brazil,
Canada, France, Germany, Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, Panama,
the UK and USA.
The first alphabet used to write Hebrew emerged during the late second
and first millennia BC. It is closely related to the Phoenician
alphabet. The modern Hebrew alphabet was developed from an alphabet known as
Type of writing system: abjad
Direction of writing: right to left in horizontal lines.
Number of letters: 22 consonants, plus final letters and diacritics
The first row of IPA transcriptions is the Modern Israeli Hebrew pronunciation,
the second row is the Medieval/Tiberian pronunciation.
Modern Cursive Hebrew script
The Rashi style is used mainly to write commentaries on texts. It is named after
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 AD) a.k.a. Rashi, one of the greatest medieval
Jewish scholars and bible commentators. Rashi did not use the Rashi sytle to write
his commentaries but it is named in honour of him.
Kol benei ha'adam noldu benei xorin veshavim be'erkam uvizxuyoteihem.
Kulam xonenu batevuna uvematspun, v xova 'aleihem linhog ish bere'ehu
beruax shel axava.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Corrections and text samples provided by Tal Barnea.
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