Modern Hebrew or Israeli Hebrew (עברית חדשה, ʿivrít ḥadašá[h], [ivˈrit xadaˈʃa] – "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), generally referred to by speakers simply as Hebrew (עברית Ivrit), is the standard form of the Hebrew language spoken today. Spoken in ancient times, Hebrew, a member of the Canaanite branch of the Semitic language family, was supplanted as the Jewish vernacular by the western dialect of Aramaic beginning in the third century BCE, though it continued to be used as a liturgical and literary language. It was revived as a spoken language in the 19th and 20th centuries and is one of the two official languages of Israel, along with Arabic.
Modern Hebrew is spoken by about nine million people, counting native, fluent, and non-fluent speakers. Most speakers are citizens of Israel: about five million are Israelis who speak Modern Hebrew as their native language, 1.5 million are immigrants to Israel, 1.5 million are Arab citizens of Israel, whose first language is usually Arabic, and half a million are expatriate Israelis or diaspora Jews living outside Israel.
The organization that officially directs the development of the Modern Hebrew language, under the law of the State of Israel, is the Academy of the Hebrew Language.
The most common scholarly term for the language is "Modern Hebrew" (עברית חדשה ʿivrít ħadašá[h]). Most people refer to it simply as Hebrew (עברית Ivrit).
The term "Modern Hebrew" has been described as "somewhat problematic" as it implies unambiguous periodization from Biblical Hebrew. Haiim B. Rosén (he) supported the now widely used term "Israeli Hebrew" on the basis that it "represented the non-chronological nature of Hebrew". In 2006, Israeli linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann proposed the term "Israeli" to represent the multiple origins of the language.
One can divide the history of the Hebrew language into four major periods:
Jewish contemporary sources describe Hebrew flourishing as a spoken language in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, during about 1200 to 586 BCE. Scholars debate the degree to which Hebrew remained a spoken vernacular following the Babylonian captivity, when Old Aramaic became the predominant international language in the region.
Hebrew died out as a vernacular language somewhere between 200 and 400 CE, declining after the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132–136 CE, which devastated the population of Judea. After the exile Hebrew became restricted to liturgical use.
Hebrew had been spoken at various times and for a number of purposes throughout the Diaspora, and during the Old Yishuv it had developed into a spoken lingua franca among the Jews of Palestina. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda then led a revival of the Hebrew language as a mother tongue in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Modern Hebrew used Biblical Hebrew morphemes, Mishnaic spelling, and Sephardic pronunciation. Idioms and calques were made from Yiddish. Its acceptance by the early Jewish immigrants to Ottoman Palestine was primarily due to support from the organisations of Edmond James de Rothschild in the 1880s and the official status it received in the 1922 constitution of the British Mandate for Palestine. Jews from Arab lands introduced many loanwords from Arabic (e.g. na'ana, zaatar, mishmish, kusbara, ḥilba, lubiya, hummus, gezer, rayḥan, etc.). The words gerev (sing.) / garbayim (pl.) are now applied to "socks," a diminutive of the Arabic ğuwārib ("socks"). Ben-Yehuda codified and planned Modern Hebrew using 8,000 words from the Bible and 20,000 words from rabbinical commentaries. He also invented some words, such as ḥatzilīm for eggplants (aubergines) and ḥashmal for electricity. As no Hebrew equivalent could be found for the names of certain produce endemic to the New World, they devised new Hebrew words for maize and tomato, calling them tiras (Heb. תירס) and ʿagḇaniyyah (Heb. עגבניה), respectively. The latter word is derived from the shape of the vegetable, which resembled a buttocks (Heb. ʿagaḇīm). Sometimes, old Hebrew words took on different meanings altogether. For example, the Hebrew word kǝvīš (כביש), which now denotes a "street" or a "road," is actually an Aramaic adjective meaning "trodden down; blazoned", rather than a common noun. It was originally used to describe "a blazoned trail."
One of the phenomena seen with the revival of the Hebrew language is that, occasionally, old meanings of words were changed for altogether different meanings, such as bardelas (ברדלס), which in Mishnaic Hebrew meant "hyena", but in Modern Hebrew now means "cheetah;" or shezīph (שְׁזִיף) which is now used for "plum," but formerly meant "jujube." The word kishū’īm (formerly "cucumbers") is now applied to a variety of summer squash (Cucurbita pepo var. cylindrica), a plant native to the New World.
For a simple comparison between the Sephardic and Yemenite versions of Mishnaic Hebrew, see Yemenite Hebrew.
Modern Hebrew is classified as an Afroasiatic language of the Semitic family and the Canaanite branch of the North-West semitic subgroup. Although it has been influenced by non-Semitic languages, Modern Hebrew retains its Semitic character in its morphology and in much of its syntax.[page needed] A minority of scholars argue that the revived language had been so influenced by various substrate languages that it is genealogically a hybrid with Indo-European. These theories have not been met with general acceptance, and Modern Hebrew continues to be considered a Semitic language by most experts. Modern Hebrew is based on Mishnaic and Biblical Hebrew, and is commonly seen as a direct continuation of one or both.
Modern Hebrew is written from right to left using the Hebrew alphabet, which is an abjad, or consonant-only script of 22 letters based on the "square" letter form, known as Ashurit (Assyrian), which was developed from the Aramaic script. A cursive script is used in handwriting. When necessary, vowels are indicated by diacritic marks above or below the letters known as Nikkud, or by use of Matres lectionis, which are consonantal letters used as vowels. Further diacritics like Dagesh and Sin and Shin dots are used to indicate variations in the pronunciation of the consonants (e.g. bet/vet, shin/sin). The letters "צ׳", "ג׳", "ז׳", each modified with a Geresh, represent the consonants [t͡ʃ], [d͡ʒ], [ʒ]. [t͡ʃ] is also in some places written as "תש". [w] is represented interchangeably by a simple vav "ו", non-standard double vav "וו" and sometimes by non-standard geresh modified vav "ו׳".
|Pronunciation||[ʔ], ∅||[b], [v]||[g]||[d]||[h]||[v]||[z]||[x]~[χ]||[t]||[j]||[k], [x]~[χ]||[l]||[m]||[n]||[s]||[ʔ], ∅||[p], [f]||[t͡s]||[k]||[ɣ]~[ʁ]||[ʃ], [s]||[t]|
|Transliteration||'||b, v||g||d||h||v||z||ch||t||y||k, ch||l||m||n||s||'||p, f||tz||k||r||sh, s||t|
Modern Hebrew has fewer phonemes than Biblical Hebrew but it has developed its own phonological complexity. Israeli Hebrew has 25 to 27 consonants and 8 to 10 vowels, depending on the speaker and the analysis.
Obstruents assimilate in voicing: voiceless obstruents (/p t ts tʃ k, f s ʃ x/) become voiced ([b d dz dʒ ɡ, v z ʒ ɣ]) when they appear immediately before voiced obstruents, and vice versa.
Hebrew has nine vowel phonemes, five short and four long:
|mid||e̞ e̞ː||o̞ o̞ː|
Long vowels occur unpredictably where two identical vowels were historically separated by a pharyngeal or glottal consonant, and the first was stressed. Any of the five short vowels may be realized as a schwa [ə] when far from lexical stress. There are two diphthongs, /aj/ and /ej/.
Most lexical words have lexical stress on one of the last two syllables, of which the last syllable is the more frequent in formal speech. Loanwords may have stress on the antepenultimate syllable or even further back.
Modern Hebrew morphology (formation, structure, and interrelationship of words in a language) is essentially Semitic. Modern Hebrew showcases much of the inflectional morphology of the classical upon which it was based. In the formation of new words, all verbs and the majority of nouns and adjectives are formed by the classically Semitic devices of triconsonantal roots (shoresh) with affixed patterns (mishkal). Mishnaic attributive patterns are often used to create nouns, and Classical patterns are often used to create adjectives. Blended words are created by merging two bound stems or parts of words. As any living language, Modern Hebrew has expanded its vocabulary effectively to meet the needs of casual vernacular, of science and technology, of journalism and belles-lettres.
The syntax of Modern Hebrew is mainly Mishnaic, while also showing the influence of different contact languages to which its speakers have been exposed over the past century.
The word order of Modern Hebrew is predominately SVO (subject–verb–object). Biblical Hebrew was originally verb–subject–object (VSO), but drifted into SVO. Modern Hebrew maintains classical syntactic properties associated with VSO languages—it is prepositional rather than postpositional in making case and adverbial relations, auxiliary verbs precede main verbs; main verbs precede their complements, and noun modifiers (adjectives, determiners other than the definite article ה-, and noun adjuncts) follow the head noun, hence in genitive constructions the possessee noun precedes the possessor. Moreover, Modern Hebrew allows and in cases requires sentences with a predicate initial.
While the pronunciation of Modern Hebrew is based on Sephardi Hebrew, the pronunciation has been affected by the immigrant communities that have settled in Israel in the past century and there has been a general coalescing of speech patterns. The guttural [χ] has largely replaced the softer [ħ] of Sephardi Hebrew for the phoneme chet (Hebrew: ח) which Sephardi Hebrew only used for fricative chaf (Hebrew: כ). The pronunciation of the phoneme ayin (Hebrew: ע), has merged with the pronunciation of aleph (Hebrew: א) which is either [ʔ] or unrealized [∅] and has come to dominate Modern Hebrew; in many variations of liturgical Sephardi Hebrew, it is [ʕ], a voiced pharyngeal fricative. The letter vav (Hebrew: ו) is realized as [v], which is standard for both Ashkenazi and most variations of Sephardi Hebrew. The Jews of Iraq, Aleppo, Yemen and some parts of North Africa pronounced vav as [w]. Yemenite Jews, during their liturgical readings in the synagogues, will still make use of the older pronunciation of this Hebrew letter. The pronunciation of the letter resh (Hebrew: ר) has also largely shifted from Sephardi [r] to either a [ɣ] or a [ʁ].
Modern Hebrew has loanwords from Arabic (both from the local Levantine dialect and from the dialects of Jewish immigrants from Arab countries), Aramaic, Yiddish, Judaeo-Spanish, German, Polish, Russian, English and other languages. Simultaneously, Israeli Hebrew makes use of words that were originally loanwords from the languages of surrounding nations from ancient times: Canaanite languages as well as Akkadian. Mishnaic Hebrew borrowed many nouns from Aramaic, as well as some from Greek. In the Middle Ages, liturgical Hebrew borrowed heavily from Spanish, Greek, and Arabic. Some typical examples of Hebrew loanwords are:
|דיג׳יי||/ˈdidʒej/||DJ||לדג׳ה||/ledaˈdʒe/||to DJ||to DJ|
|כיף||/kef/||fun||לכייף||/lekaˈjef/||to have fun[w 1]||كيف||pleasure|
|חפיף||/χaˈfif/||lightly||להתחפף||/lehitχaˈfef/||to scram[w 2]||خَفِيف||lightly|
|אבא||/ˈaba/||daddy||Aramaic||אבא||the father/my father|
|חלטורה||/χalˈtura/||shoddy job||לחלטר||/leχalˈteɣ/||to moonlight||Russian||халтура||shoddy work[w 3]|
|בלגן||/balaˈɡan/||mess||לבלגן||/levalˈɡen/||to make a mess||балаган||chaos[w 3]|
|חרופ||/χʁop/||deep sleep||לחרופ||/laχˈʁop/||to sleep deeply||כראָפּ||snore|
|שפכטל||/ˈʃpaχtel/||putty knife||German||Spachtel||putty knife|
|פוסטמה||/pusˈtema/||stupid woman||Ladino||inflamed wound[w 5]|
|אדריכל||/adʁiˈχal/||architect||אדריכלות||/adʁiχaˈlut/||architecture||Akkadian||arad-ekalli||temple servant[w 6]|