[b-hebrew] will: modern vs. old hebrew

Nir cohen - Prof. Mat. nir at ccet.ufrn.br
Thu Dec 30 19:22:58 EST 2010

hello will,

first i want to refer to your comment on the difference between 
the examples i cited: 

i do not believe that a nation's sentiment to its language
is influenced by knowing the past trajectory of this language.
both religious jews and nationalist israelis believe, for better 
or for worse, that hebrew had always been used, and only had 
suffered setbacks here and again. most of them (including, i 
discover, myself) do not know the facts about jewish life in 
the early diaspora. still, they consider old hebrew as part 
and parcel of their language.

returning to your question, below i try to describe what i mean 
by "modern hebrew subsumes old hebrew". basically, jews throughout
history were careful not to change hebrew as it appears in the bible.
it is exactly for this reason that i as an israeli find it so easy
to read the bible.

all the revisions of old hebrew (mishnaic, medieval, modern
etc) were made so as to preserve all the features of the canonized torah.
most words have been preserved VERBATIM and without a change of meaning, 
the grammer has been preserved TO THE LETTER. the old past form 
VAYEDABER was abandoned, but the new form DIBER is also biblical. the
accusative/genitive suffix (UNETATIXA, MIPI) etc is not the rule anymore, but 
is still used (MA SHIMXA etc). the 7 binyanim are just as in the bible,
without any change. ALL the grammatical rules of the bible are respected,
though not all are studied at school and/or are respected
(say, nobody nowadays drops the DAGESH in beged-kefet berosh mila
(KI-VAXAR instead of KI-BAXAR). 

most of the later modifications in the language are merely
additions, and those additions which diverged from the 
original have been later abandoned.

journalistic hebrew deviates slightly due to lack of vowels, and adds freely
aleph, yod, vav where they do not belong. some daily-use dictionaries, 
and many authors, already adopt this modified way of writing, altogether in a
non-uniform way.

clearly, street language, slang, and internet talk are pretty different. 
for example, most israelis cannot spell correctly, apply the vowel system.
or use the DAGESH correctly. exactly because 


so, in this sense i do not completely agree with karl when he says that modern
hebrew has different grammar than biblical hebrew. just a 
little bit.

in the broader cultural sense, biblical (and to some degree, mishnaic) 
quotations are frequent in common daily use, biblical hebrew features in
songs, poems and other literay work, much more so 
than shakespeare in english.

nir cohen
On Tue, 28 Dec 2010 20:32:31 -0500 (EST), Will Parsons wrote
> Nir,
> I am not completely sure I'm following your train of thought here. 
>  If you're saying that modern speakers of Hebrew can look at 
> Biblical Hebrew as a kind of "classical" version of their own 
> language, I would suppose that's true, although the reasons that's 
> possible are not quite parallel to the relationship of Modern 
> English to Elizabethan English, or of Modern German to the language 
> of Luther's Bible translation.  In the latter cases, the modern 
> languages have grown out of the earlier stages of the languages in 
> question; in the case of Hebrew, it's not so much a case of the 
> normal process of evolution of a spoken language as an extremely 
> atypical (perhaps unique) re-invention of a spoken language on the 
> basis of an earlier model, in fact in many cases consciously 
> choosing BH as its model rather than later forms (such as Mishnaic 
> Hebrew) of the same language.
> -- 
> Will Parsons

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