THE ETERNAL LANGUAGE
5761 / 2001
skokie, illinois, usa
Copyright © 2001 by Varda Books Original copyright © 1957 by
THE JEWISH PUBLICATION SOCIETY OF AMERICA All Rights Reserved Second Printing, 1958
New ISBN 1-59045-441-3 Library PDF
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage retrieval system, except for brief passages in connection with a critical review, without permission in writing from the publisher: Varda Books, 9001 Keating Avenue, Skokie, Illinois, USA Prepared as an ebook by Varda Graphics, Inc.
Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 578140
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
To My Children
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There has long been need for a book on the origin of the Hebrew language, its struggle for survival in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles, and its survival as a spoken vernacular in our own day. I confess to having for many years cherished the hope that it would some day be given me to write this story. At the same time, I shrank from undertaking a task so vast and important, so basic to the Jewish cultural heritage, and involving so many aspects of Jewish life and history. When, therefore, the Zionist Organization of America approached me several years ago with the request that I prepare a pamphlet on the subject, Hebrew, The Story of a Living Language, I allowed myself to be persuaded for the very reason that the discussion would be brief and tentative. Yet some of my friends at once began urging me to expand that pamphlet into a full-sized book, and this is the result. The account is far from exhaustive. It is designed primarily for the intelligent reader rather than for the scholar. In the process of popularization much had to be diluted, omitted or condensed. In many areas the presentation is very sketchy, though, I hope, authentic and accurate. A more comprehensive account will have to await more auspicious circumstances. In the writing of this book I had to resort to various sources of information and to the help of individuals who are expert in certain specific areas, and I herewith wish to pay grateful acknowledgment. I am, of course, primarily indebted to Dr. Solomon Grayzel for his stimulation and encouragement, criticism and advice, in the preparation of this book. My thanks are due to the following individuals for helpful counsel and information: Judah Lapson, Chairman of Hebrew Culture Service Committee for American High Schools and Colleges; A. Leo Oppenheim, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago; Cecil Roth, Oxford vii
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University, England; E. A. Speiser, Chairman, Department of Oriental Studies, University of Pennsylvania. I also wish to make appreciative acknowledgment of the following publications from which illustrative materials were taken: The Hebrew Scripts, S. A. Birnbaum; Millon ha-Lashon ha-Ibrit, Eliezer Ben Yehudah; The Field of Yiddish, edited by Uriel Weinreich, Linguistic Circle of New York; Semitic Writing, G. R. Driver, Oxford University Press; A Study of Writing, I. J. Gelb, University of Chicago Press. Recognition is also due to Historische Grammatik der Hebraischen Sprache, Hans Bauer and Pontus Leander, Verlag von Max Niemeyer, which provided a model for the illustration of Branches of the Semitic Languages, on page 22. It is my hope that this volume will stimulate new interest in the Hebrew language among those who know it as well as those who do not. May the story of the ancient tongue prove as fascinating to my readers as it has always been to me. W. C . March 1, 1957
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INTRODUCTION—The Role of Hebrew in Jewish Life, 1 PART I—How the Language Began to Be Spoken CHAPTER 1—Hebrew and the Languages of Mankind, 17...