Hebrew language

Hebrew (עִבְרִית, Ivrit , IPA: [ivˈʁit] or [ʕivˈɾit]) is a Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the spoken language of the Israelites and of their longest surviving descendants, the Judeans and Samaritans, being preserved as the main language used in religious context in post-Temple Judaism and in Samaritanism. It is the only Canaanite language still spoken and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language, and one of only two Northwest Semitic languages still spoken, the other being Aramaic.[10][11]

Hebrew
עִבְרִית, Ivrit
Portion of the Temple Scroll, one of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran
PronunciationModern: [ivˈʁit]
Tiberian: [ʕiv'riθ][1]
Biblical: [ʕibˈrit]
Native toIsrael
RegionLand of Israel
EthnicityIsraelites; Jews and Samaritans
ExtinctMishnaic Hebrew extinct as a spoken language by the 5th century CE, surviving as a liturgical language along with Biblical Hebrew for Judaism[2][3][4]
RevivalRevived in the late 19th century CE. 9 million speakers of Modern Hebrew of which 5 million are native speakers (2017)[5]
Early forms
Standard forms
Hebrew alphabet
Hebrew Braille
Paleo-Hebrew alphabet (Archaic Biblical Hebrew)
Imperial Aramaic script (Late Biblical Hebrew)
Signed Hebrew (oral Hebrew accompanied by sign)[6]
Official status
Official language in
 Israel (as Modern Hebrew)[7]
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byAcademy of the Hebrew Language
האקדמיה ללשון העברית (ha-akademyah la-lashon ha-ʿivrit)
Language codes
ISO 639-1he
ISO 639-2heb
ISO 639-3Variously:
heb  Modern Hebrew
hbo  Classical Hebrew (liturgical)
smp  Samaritan Hebrew (liturgical)
obm  Moabite (extinct)
xdm  Edomite (extinct)
Glottologhebr1246
Linguasphere12-AAB-a
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The word HEBREW written in modern Hebrew language (top) and in Paleo-Hebrew alphabet (bottom)

The language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Hebrew Bible, but as Yehudit ("the language of Judah") or səpaṯ Kəna'an ("the language of Canaan").[2][note 1] Mishnah Gitin 9:8 refers to the language as Ivrit meaning Hebrew; however, Mishnah Megillah refers to the Hebrew language as Ashurit, meaning Assyrian, which is derived from the name of the alphabet used, in contrast to Ivrit meaning the paleo-Hebrew alphabet.[12] The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date to the 10th century BCE.[13]

Hebrew ceased to be an everyday spoken language sometime between 200 and 400 CE, declining in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba revolt.[14][15][note 2] Aramaic and, to a lesser extent, Greek were already in use as international languages, especially among elites and immigrants.[17] Hebrew survived into the medieval period as the language of Jewish liturgy, rabbinic literature, intra-Jewish commerce and poetry. With the rise of Zionism in the 19th century, it was revived as a spoken and literary language, becoming the main language of the Yishuv and subsequently of the State of Israel. According to Ethnologue, in 1998, Hebrew was the language of five million people worldwide.[5] In 2013, Modern Hebrew was spoken by over nine million people worldwide.[18] After Israel, the United States has the second largest Hebrew-speaking population, with about 220,000 fluent speakers,[19] mostly from Israel.

Modern Hebrew is the official language of the State of Israel, while premodern Hebrew is used for prayer or study in Jewish communities around the world today. The Samaritan dialect is also the liturgical tongue of the Samaritans, while modern Hebrew or Arabic is their vernacular. As a foreign language, it is studied mostly by Jews and students of Judaism and Israel, by archaeologists and linguists specializing in the Middle East and its civilizations, and by theologians in Christian seminaries.

Nearly all of the Hebrew Bible is written in Biblical Hebrew, with much of its present form in the dialect that scholars believe flourished around the 6th century BCE, around the time of the Babylonian captivity. For this reason, Hebrew has been referred to by Jews as Lashon Hakodesh (לשון הקודש), "the holy language" or "the language of holiness", since ancient times.