Jews have been multilingual for most of their history, mainly because of their geographical diversity. Therefore, Hebrew languages are a variety of dialects and languages created by Jewish communities in the diaspora. Hebrew is the original Hebrew language; it was replaced by Aramaic as the main vernacular following the Babylonian exile. The Jewish people have adopted not only the various languages spoken in their native lands, but have also adopted a good number of Jewish hybrid languages. In this regard, Hebrew languages include a syncretism of Judeo-Aramaic and Hebrew native languages along with other dialects spoken by the local non-Jewish population.
History of the development of the Hebrew language
Towards the end of the Bronze Age, the Hebrew language was not differentiated from other Semitic languages such as Amarna, Canaanite and Ugaritico, however, during the Iron Age 1200-540 BCE there was a noticeable difference. It is believed that Hebrew as a separate language developed around Canaan, an area located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, in the second millennium BC. Although the main reason for the decline of the Hebrew language is not completely understood, it is believed that the Babylonian exile played an important role in facing the trial in 587 BCE along with the continued foreign domination of Palestine after the period of the Second Restoration of the Temple . The rest of the Hebrew hybrid languages have existed for over two millennia, leaving linguists confused that they should be considered as Creole languages, dialects or unique languages. The most common Hebrew hybrid languages include Yiddish and Judeo-Spanish, also known as Ladino. Here are some of the Hebrew languages.
Dating back to the 10th century BCE, Hebrew is part of the North Semitic language group spoken by more than 9 million people worldwide. Because the language is native to the nation of Israel, it is historically considered the language of the Israelites and their ancestors. Hebrew is also the language of the Bible, the main language spoken in present-day Israel, and the main language of the Jewish liturgy. Hebrew is a great example of a successfully resuscitated language that had died and the only living Cananan language left.
Aramaic is a group of languages or a language that rose to prominence during the rabbinic era, sometimes between 901 and 605 BC. The Aramaic languages belong to the northwestern Semitic group which also includes Phoenician and Hebrew, which are part of the Canaanite languages. Aramaic is plausibly the second most significant Hebrew language after Hebrew, and is known as Judeo-Aramaic. The widespread and diverse use of language and long history have led to many dialects, many of which have become extinct. The Jewish Kurds speak mainly Judeo-Aramaic as important Hebrew texts like Kaddish is written in the language.
Dating back to the 9th century, Yiddish is the historical language of the Ashkenazi Jews who came from central Europe. The language provided a vast vernacular based on the German language mixed with elements borrowed from the Aramaic and Hebrew languages, as well as traces of Romance and Slavic languages. More Jews spoke Yiddish than other Hebrew languages. Before the Holocaust, there were more than 10 million Yiddish speakers. In fact, an estimated 85% of Jews who died as a result of the gas chambers during the Nazi regime were Yiddish speakers. As a result of the genocide, there has been a massive decline in language use. The assimilation caused a further decrease in the use of the Yiddish language by survivors and speakers of other nations after the Second World War.
The Judeo-Arab language is a variant of the dialects spoken by the Jews who once lived or still live in the Arab states. There are a good number of important Jewish works that were originally written in the language that includes several religious writings by Judah Halevi and Maimonides. The main reason why these works were written in Judeo-Arabic and not in Hebrew or Aramaic is because it was the main everyday language of the authors.
Also known as Judeo-Spanish, Ladin is the Hebrew language derived from ancient Spanish; this Romance language was originally used in Italy, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Morocco and the former territories of the Ottoman Empire. The Ladin language also declined following the Holocaust, where the Nazi regime decimated a large number of communities that spoke Judaeo-Spanish. At the moment, Ladin is used by Sephardic minorities in more than 30 countries, but a large percentage of speakers are in Israel. Despite the Judeo-Spanish language lacking an official status in any country, it is recognized not only as a Hebrew language but also as a minority language in Herzegovina, Turkey, Israel, Bosnia and France.
Status of Hebrew languages
The Judeo-Arab, Yiddish and Ladin languages are among the most widely spoken Hebrew languages that have been developed in the diaspora. A good number of distinct and ancient Hebrew languages such as Judeo-Malayalam, Judeo-Arab, Krymchak, Judeo-Berber and Judeo-Georgian have fallen into disuse due to the massacre of European Jews, assimilation of Israeli policies during its earliest days, and the Jewish exodus from the Arab states, as well as other factors. Several Hebrew languages, including Yiddish, have contributed greatly to the development of vocabulary for co-territorial languages such as French and English, which are non-Hebrew.
Languages such as Spanish, English, Greek, French, Arabic and German were transcribed using the Hebrew alphabet. Although the practice is rare, it is believed to have occurred in the late 2000s. Throughout the world, Jews have spoken for centuries of the dominant or local languages of the places where they migrated, thereby separating themselves from independent languages or developing forms distinct dialectal languages. The development of these languages has often occurred through the addition of Hebrew phrases or words to uniquely express Jewish concerns and concepts.
The Hebrew languages today
Wherever Jews have lived, all over the world, they have written or / and spoken differently from the non-Jews around them. The Hebrew languages differ from each other as much as a highly variant grammar or a few Hebrew words incorporated. Linguists have devoted much time and resources to carry out in-depth research on various Hebrew languages including Judeo-Arabic, Hebrew English, Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish, Hebrew neo-Aramaic and Judeo-Italian. During the 1850s, Yiddish was the most widely spoken Hebrew language since it had the largest number of speakers, but today the most common languages spoken among Jews are English, Russian and modern Hebrew.