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A Social History of HebrewIts Origins Through the Rabbinic Period$
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William M. Schniedewind

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780300176681

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300176681.001.0001

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Hebrew under Imperialism

Hebrew under Imperialism

(p.139) 7 Hebrew under Imperialism
A Social History of Hebrew

William M. Schniedewind

Yale University Press

The Hebrew language evolved under the long shadow cast by Aramaic and the Persian Empire. In the Persian provence of Yehud, Hebrew vernacular would survive in a few villages. Most of the major cities of Judah had been destroyed by the Babylonians, and the land was depopulated. The few villages that did survive would have continued to speak Hebrew, but new settlements would have used the Aramaic lingua franca. The scribal infrastructure was also completely Aramaic, and Hebrew documents now would begin using Aramaic script. The old Hebrew script (or, paleo-Hebrew) became a relic frozen in time because it was no longer in regular use. When Hebrew begins to be written again, Aramaic shows pervasive influence on Late Biblical Hebrew. There is also a gap in the Hebrew scribal tradition. While in some pockets Hebrew continued to be spoken, very little Hebrew was written. Late Biblical Hebrew was a revival of the literary tradition that drew upon vernacular Hebrew, the Aramaic scribal infrastructure, and the legacy of Standard Biblical literature from a bygone era.

Keywords:   Persia, living language, language shift, Aramaic, Late Biblical Hebrew

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