Ancient vs Modern Hebrew.

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Sarpedon

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I was driving around yesterday, and was thinking about the movie 'the passion of the christ' and got to thinking about how it must be tough to act when there aren't any acting coaches available for the language you are going to be acting in.

So that led me to wonder, 'how similar is ancient Hebrew to modern Hebrew?' Could a modern hebrew language coach also coach someone in ancient hebrew? (yes I know they were mostly speaking aramaic in the movie, but thats completely aside the point)

And if anyone has any insights as to how the modern Hebrew as spoken in Israel was devised, I'd love to hear it. It certainly is fascinating that a language could be revived like that.
 

StephanieFox

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Hebrew was a dead language, and like Latin, used only in prayer or in certain words in Yiddish. How it was revived is interesting and may answer some of your questions.

http://www.malkadrucker.com/elizer.html

In Hebrew the word sandwich transliterates as sandvitch.
 

Prawn

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Aramaic is also a living language. There are still native speakers.
 

Smiling Ted

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Some dialects of Aramaic is still alive. Many others are not. And the dialects that remain are not necessarily mutually intelligible. For instance, Chaldean Christians would find Talmudic Aramaic to be incomprehensible.
 

Smiling Ted

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Oh really? I didn't know that. Where are they spoken?

Isolated communities in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.
A group of Aramaic-speaking Christians emigrated some years back and now form a community in Dearborn, Michigan.

ETA: Biblical and Modern Hebrew are essentially the same. Anyone who speaks Modern Hebrew has no problem understanding the Torah in the original. That's the point, of course. (Medieval European Hebrew is a pain in the butt, though.)
 
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girlyswot

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ETA: Biblical and Modern Hebrew are essentially the same. Anyone who speaks Modern Hebrew has no problem understanding the Torah in the original. That's the point, of course. (Medieval European Hebrew is a pain in the butt, though.)

Actually, it's not quite that simple. ;)

Biblical and modern Hebrew share quite a lot of vocabulary but the grammar and syntax structures are completely different. When I learned biblical Hebrew, there was a woman in my class who was fluent in modern Hebrew. She could generally make a good guess at the gist of the biblical Hebrew but found it hard to grasp some of the nuances of the grammar. The verb system, for example, is very complex in biblical Hebrew and has been much simplified in the modern system.
 

Smiling Ted

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Actually, it's not quite that simple. ;)

Biblical and modern Hebrew share quite a lot of vocabulary but the grammar and syntax structures are completely different. When I learned biblical Hebrew, there was a woman in my class who was fluent in modern Hebrew. She could generally make a good guess at the gist of the biblical Hebrew but found it hard to grasp some of the nuances of the grammar. The verb system, for example, is very complex in biblical Hebrew and has been much simplified in the modern system.

And some speakers of Modern English struggle with Shakespearean English. But to say that grammar and syntax are "completely different" is an exaggeration. When I learned both forms - in kindergarten - we had no problem with either one. Just because a Modern Hebrew speaker won't be using prefixed vav to form her tenses doesn't mean that Biblical Hebrew's a different beast.

Was your classmate a native speaker? Or was it a second or third language?
 
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semilargeintestine

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I learned Biblical Hebrew, and when I went to Israel, I had very little trouble understanding or speaking to anyone. I asked a few people what the differences were regarding syntax and grammar, and I was good to go. Obviously, I was unaware of the slang or modern idioms, but it was not difficult for me to walk around conversatin'.

Hebrew wasn't exactly a dead language, it just was not what they call a "mother tongue". This makes sense, however, when you consider that the Jews had no motherland to speak of; regardless, it was still spoken, albeit by a significantly smaller population when compared to Yiddish and other languages. The "revival" can be said to have started with the First Aliyah in the late 19th century (forget the date...I was always terrible at remembering dates), when Ben Yehuda began trying to spread the language from the small community in which it was already being spoken naturally. It didn't start to really grow, however, until the establishment of Tel Aviv in like 1909 or 1910 or something.

By the way, I know it's a zombie thread, but I figured since it's in a forum specific to its topic, it wouldn't matter.
 

Prawn

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No, I don't think Hebrew wasn't spoken before the revival. Rather, it was read. All Jewish communities could read it, and if they had a language of their own like Yiddish or Ladino, they used it as their alphabet, sort of like writing down German or Spanish using Hebrew letters. Many regarded Hebrew as a sacred language that shouldn't be spoken except in prayer. Hebrew was chosen as a common language to unite a people who spoke Russian, Yiddish, English and dozens of other languages. A hundred years ago, I don't think there was a native population of Hebrew speakers anywhere. That's why when Hebrew was revived, they didn't have words for a lot of things, everything from different flowers to words for refrigerator, telegraph and automobile. If there had been an existing Hebrew-speaking population, they wouldn't have had to make up so many words. Those words would have been around.
 

semilargeintestine

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I'm not sure if you mean that you think it was or you think it wasn't spoken before the revival. If you don't think it was, I'm sorry to tell you that you're wrong. There was a small community of people speaking Hebrew in Israel prior to Ben Yehuda's Aliyah. It's documented by him that the people he met after settling in Jerusalem could and did speak Hebrew, it just wasn't their only or primary language. If you're saying that there was not a group of people who spoke only Hebrew all the time before the revival, you're probably right. But, there were people who spoke it, and indeed, Jews all over the world spoke it several times a day in prayer and the like.
 

Prawn

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Saying something in a prayer doesn't mean you can speak it. Do you think that every catholic who listens to or recites the mass is fluent in Latin? Or every Indonesian Muslim who prays five times a day is fluent in Arabic?

My point is that Hebrew was a liturgical language, not one that was spoken in casual conversation, and it was certainly no one's first language.

That is why a 100 years ago in the land that is now Israel they had many Hebrew terms for priestly vestments, but none for can opener or telegraph.
 

semilargeintestine

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Either you missed something, or I left something out. In Ben Yehuda's writings, he made it clear that upon his aliyah and settlement in Jerusalem, he was able to have conversations with the people already living there in Hebrew only. If they couldn't speak it, they were really good at faking it then.
 

Prawn

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No, my point was that all Jews know Hebrew to some extent. Yes, people back then could understand it and you might say they spoke it since they used it in prayer every day, but until Ben Yehuda started the revival, it was not anyone's first language.

"He had encountered simple people who could speak Hebrew, perhaps with mistakes..." 1

So if you mean that people could understand it, that's true, but that is different than a population of people who spoke it on a daily basis in casual conversation.

"Ben‑Yehuda set out to develop a new language that could replace Yiddish and other regional dialects as a means of everyday communication between Jews who made aliyah from various regions of the world." 2

"Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (אליעזר בן־יהודה) (b. Eliezer Yitzhak Perelman, January 7, 1858-1922), was principally responsible for the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language, whereas it had previously been a ceremonial language." 3

"Ben-Yehuda made his first wife Deborah promise to raise the boy as the first all-Hebrew speaking child in modern history." 4

People could understand it when spoken to and could even say things with mistakes but they didn't speak it well. I would be happy to look at any source you can recommend which shows that there was a native Hebrew-speaking population in Palestine before Ben Yehuda.
 

semilargeintestine

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Gotcha. I understood your post to mean that no one really spoke it at all or understood it outside of prayer.
 

Smiling Ted

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In Semi's defense, Prawn, your first post does sound as if you're saying that no one spoke Hebrew prior to Ben-Yehuda.

BTW, the presence of adopted words in Modern Hebrew is beside the point: Every living language borrows from others...as anyone who has watched Spanish futbol on a televisíon can attest. (And of course, English speakers are indebted to India for bungalow, hammock, divan...)

In addition to mystics who felt that Hebrew was sacred, there were also many Medieval poets like Judah Ha-Levi who composed decidedly secular poetry in Hebrew, paying "special attention to acoustic effect and wit." And the Jewish intelligentsia of the Middle Ages used Hebrew in the same way priests used Latin - not just liturgically, but to discuss sacred matters and overcome the barriers of different local dialects.

So Hebrew did get a workout before Ben-Yehuda...just not as the primary language. ;)
 

Prawn

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Sorry if I wasn't clear. I said Hebrew was not spoken and that "A hundred years ago, I don't think there was a native population of Hebrew speakers anywhere. " I didn't mean no one ever spoke it. If someone spoke Yiddish and someone else spoke Ladino, they could probably get their point across in Hebrew. That is different from Hebrew being a living, breathing language spoken by native speakers.

It would be interesting to find out if the scholars like Ha-Levi coined in new words, or if their poetry was merely a demonstration of their mastery of a static, unevolving language. I would guess they stuck to the vocabulary of the Torah. Their making up new words would have sort have been like a Latin scholar declining the noun coca-cola in the dative case.
 

Smiling Ted

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Sorry if I wasn't clear. I said Hebrew was not spoken and that "A hundred years ago, I don't think there was a native population of Hebrew speakers anywhere. " I didn't mean no one ever spoke it. If someone spoke Yiddish and someone else spoke Ladino, they could probably get their point across in Hebrew. That is different from Hebrew being a living, breathing language spoken by native speakers.

It would be interesting to find out if the scholars like Ha-Levi coined in new words, or if their poetry was merely a demonstration of their mastery of a static, unevolving language. I would guess they stuck to the vocabulary of the Torah. Their making up new words would have sort have been like a Latin scholar declining the noun coca-cola in the dative case.

Hebrew after the fall of Judaea wasn't a fully-spoken national language, but it wasn't a sterile backwater, either. If you look at the prayers of the paytanim, the medieval liturgists, you can certainly tell the difference between their Hebrew and Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew. I don't know if they created new words, but they certainly used Hebrew differently...much as medieval priests used Latin differently from Imperial Romans. They didn't have to coin new words to use Hebrew in a way that was fresh and original.

Ha-Levi was a poet, philosopher, and physician, not a scholar per se. His poetry isn't a scholarly linguistic exercise. It is deeply felt and quite beautiful...and sometimes damned funny.

The Grey Hair
A poem by Yehudah ha-Levi

One day I observed a grey hair in my head;
I plucked it right out, when it thus to me said:
"You may smile, if you wish, at your treatment of me,
But a score of my friends soon will make of you a mockery."
 

Prawn

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Great poem, but I think someone in the medieval era s was a "poet, philosopher, and physician" was also automatically a scholar. This was a time when 99.9999% of people could not even read. I believe that my point still stands. If a few people who were wealthy, widely traveled literate scholars knew Hebrew well enough to speak it, that doesn't make it living language, even if the poetry they wrote in it was beautiful.
 

johnnysannie

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Saying something in a prayer doesn't mean you can speak it. Do you think that every catholic who listens to or recites the mass is fluent in Latin? .


Mass for the vast majority of Catholic hasn't been in Latin for more than 40 years thus very few Catholics younger than myself (who does recall the Latin mass and responses) know more than a few words.
 

reletomp

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nobody can speak Latin. The Latin language died 1500 years ago.
the Latin spoken by liturgy in catholic churches is a written language Latin survived only as a written language.

Hebrew did both as spoken and as written language 2000 years ago.
Nobody knows how it was written (ie make a complete sentense) or speak a complete sentense with out making mistakes.
The only language that is similar to Hebrew is the Arabic language (if not the same).

However I arabic can read and understand Hebrew of the Bible based on my knowledge in Arabic but I can not understand a word if I was listening to Radio Israel for example.
David or Gamlayel could not understand the Modern Hebrew (just like me).
 

Prawn

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The only language that is similar to Hebrew is the Arabic language (if not the same).

Aramaic is another Semitic language similar to Hebrew and Arabic. It is still spoken by about half a million people in North Africa and the Middle East.
 

johnnysannie

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nobody can speak Latin. The Latin language died 1500 years ago.
the Latin spoken by liturgy in catholic churches is a written language Latin survived only as a written language.

Hebrew did both as spoken and as written language 2000 years ago.
Nobody knows how it was written (ie make a complete sentense) or speak a complete sentense with out making mistakes.
The only language that is similar to Hebrew is the Arabic language (if not the same).

However I arabic can read and understand Hebrew of the Bible based on my knowledge in Arabic but I can not understand a word if I was listening to Radio Israel for example.
David or Gamlayel could not understand the Modern Hebrew (just like me).

While it is truth enough that Latin is considered a "dead" language and no one speaks it as their everyday tongue, most Catholics, self included, of a certain age know "church Latin". Also, the roots of many English words are in Latin and my knowledge of Latin, while not that of a speaker of the same, has long enabled me to define words and word roots. My kids find that quite fascinating.
 

reletomp

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Medical terminology is made of latin and greek both dead languages.
If you consider Medical terminology a language then clergy Latin is a similar language.
But not neither Medical terminology and Latin are live languages.
Hebrew also.
As for Aramaeic it must be arabic.
The bible that is written in Arameic (new or old testament) is actually a(EAST Arameic Language) a dead language used only by Magi. it is not the same as the western sarameic language which is identical to arabic and Hebrew (Hebrew being the oldest dialect of the same language, arameic is the middle age dialect of the same language, while Arabic is the last dialect of that language.
That is why people should avoid considering gospels and bible written in the (EASTERN) Arameic language because it was a language exclusive to the magi (example of magi hartoums of Babylonia, and the Talmud).

As a native speaker of Arabic I can read the Bible (hebrew) by replacing the weird alphabet of Hebrew (called Herodian-not original alphabet any way) by Arabic alphabet. However I can not understand a word listening to Radio Israel for example!
Why?
because Ancient Hebrew is Arabic and Modern Hebrew is a compilation of Yiddish Ladino and Talmudic (eastern) Arameic languages with Biblical Hebrew lexicon that is 50% wrong because that lexicon was deciphered by Europpeans speakers of Gothic languages similar to Yiddish ( can not trust them just like you can not trust Yiddish speakers (Ben Yehuda) to decipher the Ancient Hebrew (which is Arabic ie my live first language) I d trust my self before any body like Jerome or Ben Yehuda (both Goths)
 
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