Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

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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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Lachish Ostraca

(948 words)

Author(s): Aḥituv, Shmuel
The Lachish Ostraca were found in the guard room in the gate of stratum II, which was destroyed by the Babylonians during the last days of the Kingdom of Judah, and is thus datable to ca. 586 B.C.E. The most interesting ostraca are the letters sent by the officer Hoshayahu, stationed on the road to Egypt, most probably at nearby Maresa, to his master Yaʾush at Lachish. Five ostraca (nos. 2, 6, 7, 8, 18) were written on sherds from the same vessel. The most dramatic letter is ostracon no. 4, which was interpreted as having been written after Azekah had already been conquered by the Babylonian army: ויד…

Landscape of Language

(650 words)

Author(s): Adiel, Yair
Language (or Linguistic) Landscape (LL) is the common name of the sub-field of Sociolinguistics that focuses on the study of public signage. This field began to evolve as an autonomous area of research in the last three decades of the 20th century thanks to the pioneering work of Fishman (1977), Spolsky (1991), and Landry and Bourhis (1997), who have coined the term ‘Language Landscape’. Traditionally, the main objectives of study in LL research have been written public signs, such as road signs…

Latent Quiescent (Sākin Layyin)

(4,280 words)

Author(s): Basal, Nasir
1. Introduction ‘Latent quiescent’ ( sākin layyin) is an important term in Yehudah Ḥayyūj’s grammatical theory. This and the term ʾaṣl (Root: Medieval Rabbanite Notions) constitute the usual basis for his phonological and morphological analyses. Ḥayyūj’s writings on Hebrew grammar are the earliest texts in which the phrase sākin layyin appears, both as a term and as a concept, and constitute an innovation in Judeo-Arabic terminology and in medieval Hebrew grammatical theory. G. Goldenberg (1979–1980) was the first modern scholar to have discus…

Latin, Hebrew Loanwords in

(1,271 words)

Author(s): Kraus, Matthew
True Hebrew loanwords in Latin are actually rather few. We do find a large number of Hebrew words used in the Latin Bible translations, but most of these are simple transcriptions of Hebrew words, which have not found their way into the lexicon of Latin. The appearance of Hebrew loanwords in Latin can be divided into three periods: (1) the Hellenistic-Roman period (ca. 300 B.C.E.–200 C.E.), during which the first direct contact between Jews and Romans took place; (2) the period of the Latin Bibl…

Latin Influence on Hebrew

(616 words)

Author(s): Aslanov, Cyril
In the Roman period a small number of Latin loanwords entered Hebrew, through the mediation of Greek (Krauss 1898–1899), for example: טירון ṭiron ‘beginner’ < Latin tiro (the final -ן -n of the Hebrew form is due perhaps to the Hellenized form τίρων tiron); מטרונית maṭronit ‘lady’ < Latin matrona (with an added Hebrew feminine suffix); ספסל sap̄sal ‘bench’ < Latin subsellium; טריקלין ṭriqlin or טרקלין ṭraqlin ‘salon’ < Latin triclinium; קופסה / קופסא qup̄sa ‘box’ < Latin capsa; and קרון qaron ‘cart’ < Latin carrum (accusative of carrus, probably through the mediation of the Greek a…

Legal Hebrew

(2,983 words)

Author(s): Azuelos-Atias, Sol
1. Introduction Legal Hebrew—the language spoken in Israeli courts and written in Israeli legal documents (including contracts, wills, and so on)—is, naturally, a legal language. In Tiersma’s terms, legal Hebrew is a ‘sublanguage’ of Hebrew, where a ‘sublanguage’ is a […] language used in a body of texts dealing with a circumscribed subject area … in which the author[s] of the documents share a common vocabulary and common habits of word usage (Tiersma 1999:143). In what follows, the peculiarities making legal Hebrew a sublanguage of (modern) Hebrew will be surveyed. 2. Non-Technical…


(760 words)

Author(s): Matras, Yaron
Lekoudesch (also Lechoudesch, Lottegorsich, Lothekolisch, etc.) is the name given by users to a special vocabulary of mainly Hebrew origin that was used as a means of in-group and secret communication among Jewish traders in rural areas in Germany and neighboring countries and regions (the Netherlands, Alsace and Lorraine, Switzerland). The most frequent use of Lekoudesch was in the context of the cattle trade, at cattle markets and among butchers. The original group of users included Jewish mer…

Lexical Affixes

(361 words)

Author(s): Shlesinger, Yitzhak
Lexical affixes are particles, usually prepositions, which are attached to adjectives and nouns (and, in rare cases, to adverbs as well), usually as prefixes, but occasionally also as suffixes. They modify the meaning of the word to which they are attached, and form a highly cohesive structure with it. This type of construction is very common in the languages of the West, but almost completely absent from the early stages of Hebrew. Small wonder, then, that many of the prefixes are borrowed: פאן-ערבי pan-ʿaravi ‘pan-Arab’, אנטי-מוסרי ʾanṭi-musari ‘immoral’, פרו-מערבי pro-maʿaravi ‘p…

Lexical-Functional Grammar

(1,582 words)

Author(s): Falk, Yehuda N.
Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG) is a theoretical syntactic framework in the generative tradition. First developed in the late 1970s by Joan Bresnan and Ron Kaplan, LFG is a non-derivational constraint-based framework with a parallel architecture in which constituent structure and grammatical functions are represented at distinct levels of representation. The formal structure of the theory was first laid out in Kaplan and Bresnan (1982), and has been covered in a book-length treatment by Dalrymp…

Lexical Semantics

(3,542 words)

Author(s): Hovav, Malka Rappaport
1. What is Lexical Semantics? ‘Lexical semantics’ is that area of semantics which deals with the meanings of words. This is usually opposed to ‘compositional semantics’, which deals with how the meanings of given words in particular syntactic constructions are composed to derive the meanings of larger syntactic constituents. As an area of inquiry lexical semantics aims to do more than just specify the meanings of individual words, but rather to explore whether there is linguistically relevant interna…

Lexicography: Biblical Hebrew

(1,906 words)

Author(s): Holtz, Shalom E.
The modern lexicography of biblical Hebrew began with the publication of Hebräisch-deutsches Handwörterbuch über die Schriften des Alten Testament (Leipzig, 1810–1812) by Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius. The main statement of Gesenius’s methodology occurs in the introductory essay to the second edition of the dictionary (Leipzig, 1823). Gesenius identifies three main “sources of Hebrew lexicography”, which he lists at the very beginning of the treatise, in descending order of importance. These are: 1) the linguistic usage of the Old Testament itself, in so far as this…

Lexicography: Middle Ages

(3,261 words)

Author(s): Delgado, José Martínez
Medieval Hebrew lexicography is very rich, not only because of the number of works dedicated to the subject, but also because of their quality and importance. The study of the Hebrew language reached a high level of development in the Middle Ages, especially in Alandalus, where the foundations of the methodology used in modern times were established. In the medieval Islamic world, the study of language occupied the leading position in the catalogue of the sciences, since language was the key tha…

Lexicography: Modern Period

(5,543 words)

Author(s): Merkin, Reuven
1. Hebrew Lexicography in the 19th Century In the 19th century Hebrew lexicography flourished as it had not done for many centuries. A list of lexicographers of this period would contain some of the most prominent names in European Hebrew Haskala literature: Yehuda Ben-Zeʾev (1764–1811), Yitzhak Dov Beer Levinson (1788–1860), Meir Halevy Leteris (1800–1871), Yosef Scheinhak (1812–1870), Shmuel Yosef Fein (1818–1890), Yehoshua Steinberg (1825–1908), and Moshe Shulboim (1830–1918). For a discussion of Ge…

Lexicography: Pre-Modern Period

(4,288 words)

Author(s): Craig, Marie-Louise
1. Introduction Pre-modern Hebrew lexicography falls between medieval Jewish lexicography (Lexicography: Medieval Hebrew) (up to c. 1500 C.E.), which was influenced by contemporary Arabic linguistics and used context, comparisons with cognate Semitic languages, and rabbinic tradition to establish definitions, and modern Hebrew lexicography (from c. 1800), (Lexicography: Modern Hebrew) which began when modern comparative linguistic methods were first applied to the study of Hebrew. Historical perio…

Lexicon: Biblical Hebrew

(2,813 words)

Author(s): Kogan, Leonid
1. Diachronic Stratification of the Inherited Vocabulary Biblical Hebrew (BH) vocabulary (ca. 8000 lexemes, Anderson and Forbes 1989) is diachronically conservative: most of the basic lexical stock is directly traceable to Proto-Semitic (PS); much of the cultural vocabulary is produced from inherited roots; loanwords are comparatively few and usually not deeply rooted. Many of the key items of the PS basic vocabulary are preserved intact in BH: דָּם då̄m ‘blood’ < *dam-, עֶצֶם ʿεṣεm ‘bone’ < *ʿaṯ̣m-, אֹזֶן ʾōzεn ‘ear’ < *ʾuḏn-, עַיִן ʿayin ‘eye’ < *ʿayn-, כֶּלֶב kεlεḇ ‘dog’ < *kalb-, שׁוּעָ…

Lexicon: Modern Hebrew

(4,865 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
The lexicon of Modern Hebrew is composed of native Hebrew words from all language periods and of loanwords. In the first part of this entry the lexical components of Hebrew will be described. This is followed by a discussion of the linguistic principles used in the most recent Modern Hebrew lexicons. 1. The Hebrew Component The Hebrew words listed in Even-Shoshan’s Modern Hebrew dictionary show the following distribution with respect to their initial appearance in the language: 22% of the words are first attested in Biblical Hebrew, 21% in Rabbinica…

Lexicon: Rabbinic Hebrew

(2,170 words)

Author(s): Bar-Asher, Moshe
The Hebrew vocabulary of rabbinic literature has been documented by a number of lexicographers. Among the lexicons that most deserve mention in this respect are those by Jacob Levy (1924 second edition), Marcus Jastrow (1903) and Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1948–1959) (the latter dealt in his dictionary with all the stages of Hebrew), all of whom based their entries on the material found in the printed editions of rabbinic literature, but also provide some data from manuscripts. Jastrow, in particular, …