[b-hebrew] Hebrew as a spoken language

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu Oct 25 18:55:15 EDT 2007

On 10/25/07, Dave Washburn wrote:

> This appears to be a straw man argument, because I don't know
> of anyone who actually claims it died  out *completely*.  The argument
> is that it ceased to be a street language.  I have seen plenty of claims
> that the DSS, BK documents, etc. PROVE that it was still a commonly-
> spoken language at the time of Jesus and such, and my point is that
> they prove no such thing.  To paraphrase your statement above, the
> question is not whether some people stopped speaking Hebrew.  The
> question is whether *most* people stopped speaking Hebrew.  The
> available evidence would suggest the answer is "yes" and the DSS
> and such do not negate that conclusion.

The claim was that we can't be sure that it did not die out.  Not that we
can't be sure that it almost died out.  Not that we can't be sure that it
did not survive in some small cities that people could visit to learn
Hebrew.  Rather, that it died out.  There is no straw man argument here.
When someone makes a claim, I take it as is.  I am not supposed to
put additional conditioning factors on the claim that are not stated.

A language is a means of communication.  It "lives" so long as it is still
spoken by some community on a daily basis.  It does not die out
overnight.  Rather, the community slowly breaks up into smaller
communities, as parts of the community abandon the language.
There is no telling what the size of the community was.  However,
that the Mishnah was written in Hebrew suggests that the community
for whom the Mishnah was written largely spoke Hebrew.  I do not
think it is the Pharisees, however, because the Pharisees are disputed
at one point in the Mishnah.

Yitzhak Sapir

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