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Walking Dead or Sleeping Beauty

Week 15, Episode 29

I bet you heard about Hebrew before, the language of the Jewish people. It seems so ancient, so full of wisdom—and it is. But—surprise, surprise!—Hebrew was in coma for centuries! Dead or sleepy, the language survived only in liturgy, rabbinic literature, poems. Nobody actually used it in speech for 1700 years! And then, some 100 years ago, it was awakened.

Hebrew got its status of an official language of Israel only in 1922! But it didn't just happened by itself. The man named Eliezer Perlman (alias Ben-Yehuda which means "Yehuda's son") devoted his life to the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language. How can I not mention that he was born in Russia and spoke Russian when he was a little boy? Now, here is the story (2 minutes):

I have to mention here, though, that the idea of one man bringing to life an extinct language is being debated upon and has many different angles to look from as whether it was at all possible or not. Hebrew we know today is even argued to be an artificial language, i.e. not developed through historical evolution and adaptation but intentionally created.

So which language then people used instead? And then I go deeper into history, and words like "Yiddish", "Aramaic", "Israeli", "Biblical Hebrew", even "Ladino" and others start to occur. The story is so confusing that probably let's leave aside the biggest part of it, especially because there is no one certain answer to the question posed.

Let's just say that there are 2 main ethnic groups of Jews: Ashkenazi—the Jews of Germany and Northern France—and Sephardi—the Jews of Spain and Portugal. The first ones speak in Yiddish, which is Germanic language based on the Hebrew alphabet, and the latter ones speak in Ladino (or Judeo-Spanish), which is derived from Old Spanish.

This being said, we suddenly realize that Hebrew was not a mother tongue of any Jews for the most of the AC (CE?) era! And then suddenly it rises form the dead (well, it did took some time) and about 9 million people start using "the language of the Jews" as their first language! This didn't happen in history before, and actually kind of a miracle, almost like when Sleeping Beauty woke up with Charming Prince's kiss after years of coma.

It was always considered to be impossible—to ressurect a deceased language, the one that people stopped speaking even if it was used in literature. But here it is, alive and kicking, Hebrew—the only language ever that made it from another side and became the language of a whole nation.

Does the whole thing sound a bit as a zombie story of a walking dead to you? Well, so does the happy end of some comatose princess's tale. I resist making an analogy with mamoths :)

And it is just the beginning! Follow me to the next episode that reveals deeper the fantastic nature of Hebrew.

Yalla! (Ya-lah) Let's go!

" You know I am a fantastic article! Like me now! "

Read more about Hebrew and other languages at

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