Jews - Languages

Languages

Hebrew is the liturgical language of Judaism (termed l'shon ha-kodesh, "the holy tongue"), the language in which the Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh) were composed, and the daily speech of the Jewish people for centuries. By the 5th century BCE, Aramaic, a closely related tongue, joined Hebrew as the spoken language in Judea. By the third century BCE, Jews of the diaspora were speaking Greek.

For centuries, Jews worldwide have spoken the local or dominant languages of the regions they migrated to, often developing distinctive dialectal forms or branches that became independent languages. Yiddish is the Judæo-German language developed by Ashkenazi Jews who migrated to Central Europe. Ladino is the Judæo-Spanish language developed by Sephardic Jews who migrated to the Iberian peninsula. Due to many factors, including the impact of the Holocaust on European Jewry, the Jewish exodus from Arab lands, and widespread emigration from other Jewish communities around the world, ancient and distinct Jewish languages of several communities, including Judæo-Georgian, Judæo-Arabic, Judæo-Berber, Krymchak, Judæo-Malayalam and many others, have largely fallen out of use.

For over sixteen centuries Hebrew was used almost exclusively as a liturgical language, and as the language in which most books had been written on Judaism, with a few speaking only Hebrew on the Sabbath. Hebrew was revived as a spoken language by Eliezer ben Yehuda, who arrived in Palestine in 1881. It had not been used as a mother tongue since Tannaic times. Modern Hebrew is now one of the two official languages of the State of Israel along with Arabic.

The three most commonly spoken languages among Jews today are Hebrew, English and Russian. Some Romance languages, such as French and Spanish, are also widely used. Yiddish has been spoken by more Jews in history than any other language, but it is far less used today, after the Holocaust and the adoption of Hebrew, first by the Zionist movement, and then by Israel.

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Famous quotes containing the word languages:

    I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigree of nations.
    Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)

    The less sophisticated of my forbears avoided foreigners at all costs, for the very good reason that, in their circles, speaking in tongues was commonly a prelude to snake handling. The more tolerant among us regarded foreign languages as a kind of speech impediment that could be overcome by willpower.
    Barbara Ehrenreich (b. 1941)

    No doubt, to a man of sense, travel offers advantages. As many languages as he has, as many friends, as many arts and trades, so many times is he a man. A foreign country is a point of comparison, wherefrom to judge his own.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)