Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

Get access Subject: Language And Linguistics
Edited by: Geoffrey Khan
Associate editors: Shmuel Bolozky, Steven Fassberg, Gary A. Rendsburg, Aaron D. Rubin, Ora R. Schwarzwald, Tamar Zewi

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The Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online offers a systematic and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the history and study of the Hebrew language from its earliest attested form to the present day.
The Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online features advanced search options, as well as extensive cross-references and full-text search functionality using the Hebrew character set. With over 850 entries and approximately 400 contributing scholars, the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online is the authoritative reference work for students and researchers in the fields of Hebrew linguistics, general linguistics, Biblical studies, Hebrew and Jewish literature, and related fields.

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Maghreb, Teaching of Hebrew in

(3,024 words)

Author(s): Ghrissa, Saloua
The teaching of Hebrew in the countries of the Maghreb has been a function of the socio-political and cultural situation of the countries concerned. In particular, it has been dependent on the events which have fundamentally changed the geo-political scene in these countries. These events are directly subject to two types of factors, some external and others internal. The external factors are linked to world history: the colonial presence in the countries of the Maghreb, the rise of nationalism,…

Maimonidean Tradition of Rabbinic Hebrew

(2,284 words)

Author(s): Avirbach, Barak
1. Introduction Like many other educated Jews in the Arab world during the Middle Ages, Maimonides learned Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic, but he did not use them all equally: he wrote, read and spoke Arabic, wrote and read Hebrew, and only read Aramaic (Hopkins 2005:89). Maimonides wrote Hebrew and Arabic in different contexts. He attached great importance to effective communication, and this is what dictated his choice of one of these languages or the other (ibid:94). As a result, most of Maimonides’ writings were composed in Arabic (more pr…

Manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible in the Middle Ages

(2,520 words)

Author(s): Olszowy-Schlanger, Judith
In the Middle Ages, Hebrew Bible manuscript production underwent important changes. While the consonantal text and the canonical composition of 24 books had long been fixed, it was now provided with the textual apparatus of the Masorah and the system of written vowels and cantillation signs (טעמים ṭeʿamim), which followed three main traditions: Babylonian, Palestinian, and Tiberian. The books acquired a new shape: the codex form was accepted alongside that of the traditional scrolls, which continued to be used in liturgy. The material aspect…

Manuscripts of the Mishna

(811 words)

Author(s): Heijmans, Shai
1. Overview of Extant Manuscripts The text of the Mishna has come down to us in three main types of manuscripts, each having a distinct textual tradition: (a) Manuscripts containing only the Mishna. Excluding the Yemenite manuscripts (which were probably compiled from Maimonides’ commentary and, therefore, belong to the third type), and the material discovered in the Genizah or in book covers, there are only six known manuscripts of this type: Ms. Kaufmann, Ms. Parma A, Ms. Cambridge Add. 470.1 (15th century, containing almost…

Manuscript Sources of Hebrew from the Judean Desert

(1,828 words)

Author(s): Geiger, Gregor
Since 1947 fragments of approximately 700 Hebrew manuscripts (and of about 300 manuscripts in other languages, mostly Aramaic) have been found in the Judean Desert, the semi-arid region on the western shore of the Dead Sea. Most of the manuscripts were found in eleven caves near Khirbet Qumran; the rest come from various other locales, especially Wadi Murabbaʿāt, Naḥal Ḥever, and Masada. Whereas the first manuscripts were published almost immediately, the publication of many of the others, espec…


(800 words)

Author(s): Ofer, Yosef
The term מפיק mappiq has a double meaning: the first meaning pertains to pronunciation; the second to a graphic symbol of vocalization. The first meaning is more ancient, with roots in the Masoretic comments; the second meaning developed in the grammatical literature out of the first meaning, but the scope of the instances included within it is more limited. The literal meaning of the Aramiac word מפיק mappiq (also attested in the form mappeq) is ‘bringing out’. In the Masoretic literature, this verb indicates a consonantal pronunciation of a letter in the biblical reading, usually ʾalef


(2,124 words)

Author(s): Tobin, Yishai
This entry summarizes the concept of ‘markedness’ originally postulated for the new science of phonology, first discussed by Count Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1931a; 1931b; 1939) and Roman Jakobson (1929; 1931a; 1931b; 1936) of the Prague School at the International Congress of Linguistics in the Hague in 1928. The theoretical and methodological implications of phonology and markedness have become the subject of a vast literature (Vachek 1964; Waugh 1976; Sangster 1982; Viel 1984; Liberman 2001; Tobin 2…

Maskilic Hebrew

(2,906 words)

Author(s): Kahn, Lily
Maskilic Hebrew is a literary form of Hebrew used by writers of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) movement in Central and Eastern Europe between ca. 1780 and 1881 in a variety of genres, including essays, autobiographies, news articles, short stories, novels, and poetry. Maskilic Hebrew shows a predilection for biblical vocabulary, morphology, and syntax, but also contains lexical and grammatical elements drawn from Rabbinic and Medieval Hebrew, as well as the authors’ European vernaculars, pa…

Masora, Babylonian

(2,338 words)

Author(s): Ofer, Yosef
According to sources from the 10th century, the Jews of Babylon followed a pronunciation tradition in their reading of the Bible different from that of the reading in the land of Israel (Vocalization, Babylonian). The Babylonian reading tradition was widely followed, in communities that existed in the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. There is also evidence of variation in the biblical text between the Jews in Babylonia and the land of Israel. These are also documented in an ancient Masoretic list of disagreements over the text between the מערבאי maʿarḇaʾe ‘we…

Masora, Tiberian

(7,026 words)

Author(s): Golinets, Viktor
1. Introduction The term ‘Masora’ in its broadest sense designates the system of transmission and arrangement of the text of the Hebrew Bible. This system covers three areas of text presentation and preservation: (i) writing and graphical arrangement of the consonantal text, (ii) vocalization and accentuation signs, (iii) the concordance-like word and form frequency notes and any other metatextual information about the consonantal text and its peculiarities, vocalization, and accentuation. In a na…

Masoretic Treatises

(4,621 words)

Author(s): Khan, Geoffrey
Masoretic notes, written in Aramaic, were added to the margins of medieval Tiberian Bible manuscript codices. These were intended as an aid for the correct written transmission of the Masoretic text, relating to a variety of issues such as the orthography of words, qere and ketiv, differences between Masoretes, etc. They existed in a short version known in later scholarship as Masora Parva, which was written in the side margins, and a longer version known as Masora Magna, which was written in the upper and lower margins. The notes must have been added to the manuscripts …

Mathematical Terminology: Medieval and Modern

(2,391 words)

Author(s): Wartenberg, Ilana
The medieval Hebrew mathematical tradition began in the 12th century with the works of Abraham bar Ḥiyya and Abraham ibn Ezra. It spanned four centuries and yielded a significant corpus of mathematical texts, establishing Hebrew as a new scientific lingua franca for Jews in the Iberian Peninsula, Provence, Italy, Sicily, and Byzantium. With the growing influence of the Christian Reconquista Arabic gradually ceased to be the native tongue of Jews in many parts of the Iberian Peninsula. Concurrently, Almoravid and Almohad invasions from North Africa force…

Matres Lectionis: Biblical Hebrew

(1,830 words)

Author(s): Andersen, Francis I. | Forbes, A. Dean
This entry focuses on one major aspect of Biblical Hebrew spelling, the use of the letters ה he, ו waw, י yod, and (marginally) א ʾalef as matres lectionis (masoretic אמות קריאה ʾimmot qeriʾa) ‘mothers of reading’, to distinguish long vowels from short. 1. A history of Matres Lectionis Cross and Freedman (1952) in a seminal work that has been followed by, among others, Andersen and Forbes (1986), outlined the following stages in the development of Northwest Semitic writing: Stage 1: To the 10th century B.C.E.: Letters were used to indicate consonant sounds only. Stage 2: From 9th century…

Mechanisms of Change

(2,015 words)

Author(s): Gianto, Agustinus
Any living language is constantly in a state of change; some of its elements fall into disuse, while others emerge to keep the linguistic system going. The changes follow certain mechanisms, i.e., the fundamental principles that motivate, govern, and account for the modifications. The most important mechanisms at work are sound change, reanalysis, analogy, and borrowing. Sound change accounts for the modifications of a sound in adapting itself to surrounding sounds (e.g., assimilation, umlaut, vowel harmony) or in following the general tendency to sim…


(2,874 words)

Author(s): Shlesinger, Yitzhak
1. Introduction Among the many sub-languages of Modern Hebrew the written and broadcast texts of the language of mass communications or the media have in recent decades attracted increasing scholarly interest. The broadcast media provide texts which scholars employ mainly for describing or documenting the spoken language, while the press provides texts for the description and documentation of modern written Hebrew. Although modern journalistic writing produces texts of different types, genres and registers, the media as a whole are taken to represent an i…

Medical Texts: Medieval Period

(638 words)

Author(s): Langermann, Y. Tzvi
The earliest medieval texts that exhibit Hebrew medical vocabulary were deliberately formulated to appear older than they were. ספר יצירה sep̄er yeṣira ‘Book of Creation’ mimics the style of the Mishna and appropriates some language from the Talmud. ספר אסף sep̄er ʾasap̄ ‘Book of Asaf’ mimics a biblical style. Though the origins of both remain controversial, the former probably originated in the Middle East during the early Islamic period, the latter written about the same time, but in Byzantium. Medicine at this time in particular con…

Medical Texts: Modern Period

(3,176 words)

Author(s): Porath, Noga
Texts on medical subjects in numerous registers abound in Modern Hebrew, including written texts in a great variety of genres (patient inserts in medication packages, official documents and reports written by physicians, medical textbooks, popular books on medicine, newspaper articles), as well as everyday medical discourse. The main issue concerning medical texts in Hebrew in the present context is the constant need for new Hebrew terms that correspond to accepted non-Hebrew terms in this field…

Medieval Hebrew

(6,462 words)

Author(s): Sáenz-Badillos, Angel
Medieval Hebrew was not what we understand as a living spoken language or a complete linguistic system with its own characteristics. With minor exceptions, it was not a vehicle of communication normally used in daily life. Neither Biblical nor Rabbinic Hebrew had been in use as vernaculars for centuries. A few Jewish communities had preserved written and spoken Hebrew, mostly in the milieu of synagogues and learning institutions. However, instead of remaining as a residual phenomenon during the …


(823 words)

Author(s): Kahn, Lily
Meliṣa is the term commonly employed to describe the style typical of the Hebrew prose fiction, non-fiction narratives, and poetry composed by maskilic (Jewish Enlightenment) writers in Central and Eastern Europe between ca. 1780 and 1881. It is a style characterized by an extensive use of Biblical Hebrew vocabulary, particularly hapax legomena (words appearing only once in the biblical corpus, often with uncertain meaning). An example of this is the term מכֹלת makkolet ‘provisions’ (Romanelli 1792:3), which is attested in the Hebrew Bible only in 1 Kgs 5.25. It als…


(901 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
Metathesis is a linguistic process which involves changes in the position of consonants or vowels in a word. This process may reflect ‘convenience of articulation’, childhood language development (e.g., hospital > hopsital), speech disorder, perhaps as a result of an injury or a stroke (aphasia or dysphasia), or a mistake (e.g., ask > aks). Such a transposition in European languages is mainly the result of historical processes which brought about only one form (e.g., Old English waeps and brid > late English wasp and bird, respectively), or yielded two separate words that share…
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