Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

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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

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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(338 words)

Author(s): Rendsburg, Gary A. | Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
For regional dialects of ancient Hebrew, with a focus on the division between Judahite Hebrew (in the south) and Israelian Hebrew (in the north), Biblical Hebrew: Dialects and Linguistic Variation. For Hebrew as a dialect of ancient Canaanite (with Phoenician, Moabite, Ammonite, and Edomite as the other main dialects), Canaanite and Hebrew; Phoenician/Punic and Hebrew; Amarna Canaanite and Hebrew; Ammonite and Hebrew; Edomite and Hebrew; Moabite and Hebrew. For written and spoken registers of ancient Hebrew during both the biblical and rabbinic periods, Diglossia. For other var…

Diaspora, Modern Hebrew in

(2,653 words)

Author(s): Nava Nevo
A prevailing conception of many years’ standing has been that the Hebrew language was part of the identity and culture of Diaspora Jews, a medium that served to connect Jews to each other, to their heritage, and to the State of Israel. Today, however, educators, Hebrew teachers, and communal leaders sense that the status of Hebrew in Diaspora communities is in decline; this feeling is supported by research (Zisenwein 1997; Bekerman 1999; Schiff 1999; Shohamy 1999; Mintz 2002; Wohl 2005). Differe…
Date: 2014-10-01

Diaspora, Modern Hebrew in

(2,655 words)

Author(s): Nevo, Nava
A prevailing conception of many years’ standing has been that the Hebrew language was part of the identity and culture of Diaspora Jews, a medium that served to connect Jews to each other, to their heritage, and to the State of Israel. Today, however, educators, Hebrew teachers, and communal leaders sense that the status of Hebrew in Diaspora communities is in decline; this feeling is supported by research (Zisenwein 1997; Bekerman 1999; Schiff 1999; Shohamy 1999; Mintz 2002; Wohl 2005). Differe…


(2,425 words)

Author(s): Retsö, Jan
1. Definition Diathesis can be defined as the syntactic relationship between the verbal core of a sentence and its nominal constituents, i.e., the verbal predicate and the parts of speech directly relating to it, mainly subject and object. Some linguists call such nominal complements ‘actants’. Verbs can be classified into zero- (‘it rains’), one- (‘the stone falls’), two- (‘the man hit the thief’), and three- (‘he gave her the book’) actant verbs. A special case of diathesis involves verbs in whi…

Diglossia: Biblical Hebrew

(900 words)

Author(s): Rendsburg, Gary A.
Diglossia refers to the use of two registers, one written or classical and the other spoken or colloquial, in a particular language (Ferguson 1959; 1991; some scholars have expanded the meaning of ‘diglossia’, on which see below, “Diglossia: (ii) Rabbinic Hebrew”; in the first section of the present entry we retain the original, more restricted connotation of the term). The prototypical example of diglossia, not only within Semitic, but in general, is Arabic, with its classical and colloquial va…

Diglossia: Medieval and Modern Hebrew

(1,632 words)

Author(s): Bunis, David M.
In both the Middle Ages and the modern era, varieties of Hebrew existed in states of diglossia (Ferguson 1959) with other varieties of Hebrew, as well as in states of ‘out-diglossia’ (Kloss 1966) or ‘extended diglossia’ (Fishman 1967) with Jewish Diaspora languages. 1. Biblical and Other Varieties of Hebrew Throughout medieval and modern Jewish history, the text of the Bible was read and studied in synagogues and study halls. The Torah in particular was chanted in each community according to its interpretation of the Masoretic טעמים ṭeʿamim ‘accents’, which were included in medie…

Diglossia: Rabbinic Hebrew

(2,587 words)

Author(s): Siegal, Elitzur A. Bar-Asher
1. Historical Background The Jewish communities of the Hellenistic, Roman, and early Byzantine periods consisted of people who spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek to such an extent that many were probably bilingual and perhaps even trilingual (for surveys, see Barr 1989; Watt 2000). While it is clear that some of the Diaspora communities no longer knew Hebrew (as demonstrated by the need for translations of the Bible into Greek and Aramaic, and as explicitly attested by some rabbinic sources (cf., e.g…


(2,755 words)

Author(s): Bolozky, Shmuel
A diminutive is a variant of (usually) a noun or an adjective, which denotes a smaller version of the base word; it may also variously connote affection and familiarity, disparagement, and occasionally even intensification (see Dressler et al. 1994; Sagi 1999). The semantics associated with diminution and the relative frequency of diminutive formation devices in Hebrew have changed significantly over the years. Segal (1925) associates diminution with affixation, mainly feminine gender marking, and argues that in the early stages of lan…

Diphthongs: Modern Hebrew

(644 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
A diphthong is a sequence of two vowels in one syllable. One of the vowels constitutes the syllable peak and the other, a semi-vowel, marks its edge and in most cases becomes a glide. In a rising diphthong the vocalic peak is at its end (e.g., ya [ i̯a] , we [ u̯e]), whereas in a falling diphthong the syllable starts with the peak vowel and ends with the semi-vowel (e.g., ay [ ai̯], ew [ eu̯]). The Modern Hebrew semi-vowels are the glides y, and rarely w and ă. Phonetic rising diphthongs exist in examples like יד yad ‘hand’, יום yom ‘day’, ציור ṣiyur ‘painting’, ילד yéled ‘boy’. Examples for falling …

Diphthongs: Pre-Modern Hebrew

(705 words)

Author(s): Bruck, Amnon
A diphthong is a vowel sound that starts near the articulatory position of one vowel and moves towards the position of another. Biblical Hebrew diphthongs include a semi-vowel (i.e., /y/ or /w/) and a pure vowel. They are classified into two types: (1) falling diphthongs, in which a semi-vowel precedes a vowel, e.g., /wa/ and /ya/, and (2) rising diphthongs, in which the semi-vowel follows a vowel, e.g., /aw/ and /ay/. Falling diphthongs occur regularly in Biblical Hebrew (e.g., /ya/ in יָשַׁ֫ב yå̄šáḇ, /yi/ in יִשְֹרָאֵ֫ל yiśrå̄ʾē´l, /yu/ in יֻשְׁלַ֫ךְ yušláḵ, etc.) and special commen…

Direct and Indirect Speech: Biblical Hebrew

(3,193 words)

Author(s): Miller-Naudé, Cynthia L.
Direct speech and indirect speech are two modalities of reported speech, that is, the reflexive use of language to report (or, represent) speech. In reported speech, two discourse events are brought together—that in which an utterance was originally expressed and that in which it is reported by another (Miller 1996:3). The reported speech event is depicted in the ‘quotation’ and the reporting speech event in the ‘quotative frame’. In traditional grammar, two opposing strategies for reporting speech are subsumed under the rubrics of ‘direct speech’ and ‘indirect …

Directive He

(1,494 words)

Author(s): Zewi, Tamar
The directive (locative) - ̄å[h], also known as He locale, is a mostly unstressed - ̄å[h] suffix attached to Biblical Hebrew common and proper place nouns that generally expresses direction and occasionally location. Examples of common nouns accompanied by this suffix are, e.g., וַיָּבֹ֥א הַחַ֖דְרָה way-yå̄ḇō ha-ḥaḏrå̄ ‘he entered his chamber’ (Gen. 43.30); עֲלֵ֣ה לְךָ֣ הַיַּ֔עְרָה ʿălē ləḵå̄ hay-yaʿrå̄ ‘go up to the forest’ (Josh. 17.15), both with the definite article, and עֲל֤וּ כַרְמֶ֙לָה֙ ʿălū ḵarmεlå̄ ‘go up to Carmel’ (1 Sam. 25.5); מְשִׁיבֵ֥י מִלְחָמָ֖ה שָֽׁעְרָה məšīḇē milḥå̄…

Discourse Analysis: Biblical Hebrew

(2,086 words)

Author(s): Bergen, Robert D.
Discourse Analysis or Discourse Linguistics (DL) is the formal discipline that seeks to identify and catalog the hierarchy of language features present within written texts and then to explain coherently the role these features play in individual texts; emphasis is given to the study of supra-sentential-level language structures and the identification of organizational, componential, and semantic expectations associated with the various textual genres. Applied to Biblical Hebrew (BH), DL performs these tasks on discrete texts present within the Hebrew Bible. This branch of …

Discourse Analysis: Modern Hebrew

(2,971 words)

Author(s): Ziv, Yael
Discourse Analysis, the study of stretches of text in context, has been implemented within a wide variety of theoretical and empirical frameworks, concerning a broad range of linguistic and socio-linguistic phenomena. In Modern Hebrew the investigation covers, among other sub-fields, areas as diverse as genre analysis and stylistics, conversation analysis, coherence and cohesion, discourse markers, issues in translation, acquisition of discourse skills, speech acts, the interfaces between text a…

Discourse Anaphora: Modern Hebrew

(2,910 words)

Author(s): Abadi, Adina
‘Anaphora’ is defined here in a broad sense—as a substitution for an already mentioned full NP (noun phrase), proposition, etc. In the example, משה נסע לחו״ל; לא ראיתי אותו כבר שנה moše nasaʿ le-x̱ul; lo raʾiti ʾoto kvar šana ‘Moshe traveled abroad; I haven’t seen him for a year’ אותו ʾoto ‘him’ substitutes for a proper name. In the example רות ודן התגרשו; איש לא האמין בכך rut ve-dan hitgaršu; ʾiš lo heʾemin be-xax ‘Ruth and Dan got divorced; nobody believed that’ כך kax (xax) ‘that’ substitutes for a proposition (Rodrigue-Schwarzwald and Sokoloff 1992:17). Anaphora is also def…

Discourse Marker: Biblical Hebrew

(743 words)

Author(s): Di Giulio, Marco
In traditional grammars of Biblical Hebrew what are called ‘particles’ have received considerable attention, due to scholarly interest in the functioning of certain rhetorical devices in Hebrew. However, the categories and definitions used today differ from those in standard works on Biblical Hebrew. The study of Biblical Hebrew particles has made considerable progress using an approach called Rhetorical Criticism, developed mostly in the United States towards the end of the 1960s. Aimed at anal…

Discourse Marker: Modern Hebrew

(2,990 words)

Author(s): Maschler, Yael
Discourse markers (DMs) constitute a grammatical category of utterances functioning in the realm of discourse and interaction. When using language, i.e., ‘languaging’ (Becker 1988), we generally look through language at a world we believe to exist beyond language. However, we may also employ language for ‘metalanguaging’ (Maschler 1994), i.e., looking at the process of language use itself. This discourse-related need has brought about the emergence of the category of DMs, namely linguistic elements employed for …

Disjoining in Discourse

(1,736 words)

Author(s): Shimasaki, Katsuomi
‘Disjoining’ is a term used to describe verbal clauses whose word order is inverted in order to break the flow of a narrative. Waw-consecutive and waw-conversive clauses are known to connect to preceding clauses logically or temporally, but clauses with the inverted word order, a non-verbal element followed by a finite verb (XV), have different functions. Hebrew linguists have taken several different approaches to this phenomenon. 1. Sentence-level and discourse-level Approaches GKC (455–456) mentions two functions which inverted word order has, namely ‘emphasis’ a…


(633 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E.
Dissimilation is a linguistic process in which one of two nearby similar sounds changes with regard to one or more of these sounds’ shared features. While the inverse process of assimilation is phonetically motivated by ease of pronunciation, dissimilation is a conscious process intended to keep neighboring segments distinct. The most common type of dissimilation is ‘regressive’, i.e., the first of the successive sounds changes; less frequent is ‘progressive’ dissimilation, in which it is the second sound which is affected. Both vowels and consonants may dissimilate. 1. Vowel dis…