[b-hebrew] Hebrew - dialect of canaanite

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Tue Jun 27 19:53:01 EDT 2006

On 6/27/06, Chris and Nel wrote:

> Hallo,
> If the Lingua Franca of the Israelites at the time of entering Canaan circa
> 1400 BC(1250 BC for some), is classed, by linguists and biblical scholars,
> as a dialect of Canaanite, how can I understand this in terms of:

Scholars do not know or classify the "lingua franca of the Israelites
at the time
of entering Canaan circa 1400 BC (1250 BC)" for several reasons:
1) It is not clear at all if the Israelites entered Canaan at 1400 BC or 1250 BC
or were just there to begin with or whether "Israelites" was not a phenomenon
that developed much later.
2) In any case, there is no evidence from this time of the language of the
3) The Hebrew of the Bible is classified as a Northwest Semitic (NWS)
language, a development of Canaanite.  Canaanite and NWS are known from
various inscriptions include Amarna letters, Ugaritic tablets, Alalah tablets,
and Taanakh tablets.  In any case, from a linguistic point of view it represents
a later stage than the attested languages of those dates.
4) Hebrew and Aramaic differ markedly.   Babylonian Aramaic did not exist
until much later, however.  Aramaic is only known from about the 9th century
onwards, as are various later Canaanite dialects (Moabite, Israelite, Judaean,
5) In the late 2nd millenium BCE, the "lingua franca" was Akkadian, another
Semitic branch.  It was used by Canaanite city state rulers to address the
Egyptian rulers of the time, even though the rulers' native tongue was
Canaanite, and the Egyptians' was Egyptian.

Yitzhak Sapir

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