The Emergence of Modern Hebrew



The Emergence of Modern Hebrew (MH) as a spoken language constitutes a unique event in modern history: a language which for generations did not have native speakers underwent a process popularly called “revival”, acquiring native speakers and becoming a language spoken for everyday use. Despite the attention the revival of Hebrew has drawn, the linguistic properties of the emergent language in its formative stages have not been systematically studied, and the multilingual societal aspects of the context in which this unprecedented phenomenon took place are not well understood. To this date, almost no research has traced the structural aspects of the language in different stages of the revival. Consequently, theories about the linguistic processes involved in the emergence of Modern Hebrew are based on speculation rather than on solid linguistic data.

The proposed Research Group will facilitate interdisciplinary collaborative research, involving Hebraists and theoretical, descriptive and historical linguists. We aim at achieving an understanding of the development of Hebrew in a multilingual setting through careful study of existing documentation, with attention paid to the linguistic and sociolinguistic patterns of development. The influence of contact languages will be scrutinized, characterized and formalized. The results of the study will be analyzed and used to enhance our understanding of (general, not just Hebrew-specific) processes of language contact, language genesis and language change.

Our methodology will be based on the documentation and subsequent formalization of the changes which took place within the early periods of the emergence of MH. We will use large corpora of sources which most accurately represent the trajectory of change; to this end, we will use large arrays of texts from the last two centuries which have been digitized by the Academy of the Hebrew Language and other agencies such as the Ben Yehuda Project and the HebrewCorpus, and others which have not yet been digitized, such as articles in the Hebrew press, archives of Hebrew bureaucratic administration, textbooks, professional journals and manuals.


Group Members:  

Prof. Malka Rappaport Hovav:  

Prof. Edit Doron: 

Prof. Yael Reshef:

Prof. Moshe Taube:

Chanan Ariel:

Miri Bar-Ziv Levi:

Einat Keren:

Avigail Tsirkin-Sadan: