Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

Get access 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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Shewa: Modern Hebrew

(724 words)

Author(s): Kreitman, Rina
1. Orthographic Shewa שווא šva ‘shewa’ is the name given to the Hebrew vowel that is denoted orthographically by two points arranged in a vertical line under a consonant as exemplified here under the Hebrew letter samekh: סְ. The vowel shewa stands for either no vocalic sound (known as שווא נח šva nax̱ ‘quiescent [lit. ‘resting’] shewa’) or a short epenthetic vowel. In words like סגרְתְּ sagart ‘you (fs) closed’ there are two shewas at the end of the word: under the penultimate letter reš (רְ) and under the final letter tav (תְּ). In both cases the shewas indicate that no vowel is pres…

Shewa: Pre-Modern Hebrew

(7,536 words)

Author(s): Khan, Geoffrey
The shewa sign (ְ) in the Tiberian reading tradition of Biblical Hebrew had two types of phonetic realization, viz. (i) a short vowel (referred to below as ‘vocalic shewa’) or (ii) zero (referred below to as ‘silent shewa’). In the Tiberian Masoretic literature (Masoretic Treatises) it is stated that vocalic shewa binds the letter to the syllabic unit of the letter that follows it, whereas a silent shewa separates it from the following letter. The word תִּסְפְּר֖וּ ‘you (m) shall count’ (Lev. 23.16), for example, was considered to have been composed of two prosodic units, viz. תִּסְ–פְּרוּ tis-pə…

Shewa: The Term schwa in Modern Linguistics

(653 words)

Author(s): van Oostendorp, Marc
In modern general linguistics the term schwa is used in a number of distinct senses (Van Oostendorp 1998; Silverman 2011). In the scholarly literature it is usually spelled according to the German orthography, although shva, sheva, and shewa are also found. Broadly speaking, the term has two different meanings in modern general linguistics. Most commonly schwa refers to a vowel of a certain ‘neutral’ acoustic quality, e.g., the vowel in the second syllable of the English word model.The other meaning is a vowel which alternates with zero; an example is the second vowel in the Hindi word dewa…


(745 words)

Author(s): Rendsburg, Gary A.
The English word shibboleth has its origins in an episode narrated in Judg. 12.1–6. The story there revolves around the Hebrew word שִׁבֹּלֶת šibbōlεṯ, meaning both ‘ear of grain’ and ‘flow, stream, torrent’ (15× and 4×, respectively, in the Bible). In Judg. 12.6 the form סִבֹּ֗לֶת sibbōlεṯ occurs as well, alongside the standard form of the noun. The use of both forms in this verse is prime evidence for the existence of regional dialects in ancient Hebrew, at least in the realm of phonology (in this case, a dialectal difference between Ephraim…

Sibilant Consonants

(2,722 words)

Author(s): Bosker, Hans Rutger
Fricative consonants in Hebrew can be subdivided into two classes: bgdkpt and sibilants. In the latter class of sounds “the principal source of the sound is the turbulent airstream produced when the jet of air created by the dental or alveolar constriction strikes the teeth, which form an obstacle downstream from the constriction itself” (Ladefoged and Maddieson 1996:145). The constriction is formed by the tongue by forming a tongue hollowing or dome and results in high frequency frication (> 3000 Hertz). The Hebrew class of sibilants consists of ז z, ס s, צ , שׁ š, and שׂ ś and has been char…

Sign Language in Hebrew

(3,765 words)

Author(s): Meir, Irit
Sign languages are natural languages, emerging spontaneously when a group of deaf people meets and interacts on a regular basis over a period of time. They differ from spoken languages in terms of the physical modality in which they are transmitted. However, like spoken languages, they arise within a community, and are not contrived systems of communication. Since they develop within communities, sign languages differ from one another; there is no one uniform universal sign language. Sign langua…


(3,397 words)

Author(s): Ephratt, Michal
Every speaker notices that just as there is ‘empty speech’, i.e., speech that is not meant to communicate, so there is verbally eloquent silence (hence verbal silence), i.e., silence that is not mere stillness or pause in discourse, but a means chosen by the speaker (holding the floor) to communicate. The ad of לתת latet (an Israeli humanitarian aid organization) published in Israeli daily newspapers on the eve of the Jewish New Year ( Rosh Ha-Shana) certainly does not contain a ‘cut and (no)paste’ typo. This ad, which reads תַפּוּחַ בִּ tapuax̱ bi ‘Apple with ____’, deliberately and clev…

Simplification of Language

(877 words)

Author(s): Uziel-Karl, Sigal
The term ‘linguistic simplification’ (פישוט לשוני pišuṭ lešoni) refers to any process that reduces the structural complexity of a text while trying to preserve its meaning and information content. Simplification is intended to make the text more comprehensible and more suited to the needs, knowledge, and proficiency level of the reader (or listener) without rendering it childish or simplistic. Linguistic simplification can be achieved using a variety of means: a vocabulary of familiar, everyday words (e.g.,להגיד lehagid ‘to say’ vs. להצהיר lehaṣhir ‘to declare’, לקנות liqnot ‘to…

Slang, Israeli Hebrew

(1,077 words)

Author(s): Muchnik, Malka
Slang often characterizes specific groups, such as teenagers, soldiers, or the underworld. Modern Hebrew slang has been described since the 1960s (Sapan 1965). The first salient group in which it is known to have developed is the פלמ"ח palmax̱, a Jewish fighting force in the British Mandate period (operated in the years 1941–1948). The richest source of Israeli slang is undoubtedly the IDF, but since military service is mandatory for the majority of citizens, and many of them also serve in the army reserves, most of this in-group sl…

Slavic Influence on Hebrew

(1,764 words)

Author(s): Dubnov, Keren
The two main historical factors that brought about Slavic influence on the structure of Modern Hebrew were: (1) the high percentage of Jews from Russia and eastern Europe among the young Zionist immigrants in Eretz Yisrael who formed the first society of Modern Hebrew speakers; and (2) the predominance of Jewish writers from eastern Europe in the emergence of the new Hebrew literary norm. This Slavic influence affects various areas of Modern Hebrew grammar and phraseology. 1. Morphological Structure Slavic influence is most well known with regard to the borrowing of suffix…

Slavic Loanwords

(2,106 words)

Author(s): Krivoruchko, Julia G.
1. Sociolinguistic Background The linguistic impact of Slavic languages, Russian in particular, has been prominent in all stages of Modern Hebrew. Most immigrants who arrived in Palestine before the 1920s came from the Russian Empire. Mainly Yiddish-speaking, they were usually competent in Russian and/or Ukrainian/Byelorussian, and often bilingual. Eastern-European Yiddish itself abounded in Slavic loanwords. The Jewish elite of major urban centers were occasionally monolingual in Russian, and the inhabitants of the western parts of the Empire knew Polish. From the mid-192…