"Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby GothicSp » 2014-07-12, 20:53

IpseDixit wrote:
"Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?


Hebrew was quite a dead language. If nowadays there are roughly 10 million native Hebrew speakers, someone must have learnt it as a "natural" language...


Modern Hebrew is only partly a development of medieval and ancient Hebrew. Although a modern Israeli could indeed read the Bible and has to learn some words which aren't used that much anymore in modern speech, some Israeli linguists say that Hebrew is more like a creole language of ancient Hebrew and several other languages. If you regard the history modern Hebrew was a mixing of ancient Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Assyrian and some other languages, so the only way in which it could have been a real revival of an ancient language was if Elizer Ben Yehuda only used ancient Hebrew words for the whole language, which he decided not to do, also for good reasons as that would have made the process of reviving the language way too complex.

It is learnt as a native language by the way. Elizer Ben Yehuda isolated his son from other people, he wasn't allowed to play with other kids, because he wanted to prevent his son from coming into contact with speakers of another language, and this was quite smart of him as he realized that if he would play with other children he wouldn't learn Hebrew as a native language. He and his wife only spoke Hebrew to their son, sometimes people refer to this with the phrase: raq be ivrit! (only in Hebrew!)

Although it's the way in which Hebrew was made in a first language, I wonder if this was the best method, as this wouldn't be allowed for children anymore in these days. Though, it's interesting how modern Israelis can read the Bible with words which they know as their first language.

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2014-07-12, 22:40

GothicSp wrote:Modern Hebrew is only partly a development of medieval and ancient Hebrew. Although a modern Israeli could indeed read the Bible and has to learn some words which aren't used that much anymore in modern speech, some Israeli linguists say that Hebrew is more like a creole language of ancient Hebrew and several other languages. If you regard the history modern Hebrew was a mixing of ancient Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Assyrian and some other languages, so the only way in which it could have been a real revival of an ancient language was if Elizer Ben Yehuda only used ancient Hebrew words for the whole language, which he decided not to do, also for good reasons as that would have made the process of reviving the language way too complex.
How much Aramaic and Assyrian is there in modern Hebrew? Surely it can't be anywhere near as much as English or even Russian.
Although it's the way in which Hebrew was made in a first language, I wonder if this was the best method, as this wouldn't be allowed for children anymore in these days. Though, it's interesting how modern Israelis can read the Bible with words which they know as their first language.
Israelis consider their first language to be Hebrew. That's what they call it.

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby GothicSp » 2014-07-12, 23:33

mōdgethanc wrote:
GothicSp wrote:Modern Hebrew is only partly a development of medieval and ancient Hebrew. Although a modern Israeli could indeed read the Bible and has to learn some words which aren't used that much anymore in modern speech, some Israeli linguists say that Hebrew is more like a creole language of ancient Hebrew and several other languages. If you regard the history modern Hebrew was a mixing of ancient Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Assyrian and some other languages, so the only way in which it could have been a real revival of an ancient language was if Elizer Ben Yehuda only used ancient Hebrew words for the whole language, which he decided not to do, also for good reasons as that would have made the process of reviving the language way too complex.
How much Aramaic and Assyrian is there in modern Hebrew? Surely it can't be anywhere near as much as English or even Russian.
Although it's the way in which Hebrew was made in a first language, I wonder if this was the best method, as this wouldn't be allowed for children anymore in these days. Though, it's interesting how modern Israelis can read the Bible with words which they know as their first language.
Israelis consider their first language to be Hebrew. That's what they call it.


If I call the language I speak Greenlandic it doesn't mean that I speak a language which also has to do with Greenlandic.

According to Israeli linguists modern Hebrew has a Slavic substrata so it can't be really regarded as a direct development from medieval Hebrew and is rather a creole of different languages. He proposed to call the modern language of Israel 'Israeli' instead of Hebrew. I already said the name of him.

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Saim » 2014-07-13, 10:05

The substrate influence is more Germanic (Yiddish) than Slavic. The pronunciation of ר (i.e. as an uvular trill) is just one of the most obvious examples of this. Most actual Slavic influence would also be filtered through Yiddish (e.g. the slang word nudnik), as Yiddish was historically in close contact with Slavic languages.

Also, keep in mind that substrate influence is not the same as the creation of a creole. In a creole you must first have a pidgin that is turned into a mother tongue, where in the case of Israeli Hebrew we have a literary standard (written Hebrew) turned into a mother tongue. The process is similar in that the new language has to develop more styles and registers, but you should keep in mind that pidgins are much simpler and more chaotic than literary standards, they're just informal codes that are used to communicate between different language communities. Literary standards on the other hand have a stricter lexical base and more stable grammar rules. Creoles also tend to be analytic, whereas Israeli Hebrew is more synthetic (look at the complex system of verbal inflection). I'd accept the hypothesis that claims that Israeli Hebrew is a kind of mixed language, but creoles are not the only kind of mixed language.

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby GothicSp » 2014-07-13, 22:59

Saim wrote:The substrate influence is more Germanic (Yiddish) than Slavic. The pronunciation of ר (i.e. as an uvular trill) is just one of the most obvious examples of this. Most actual Slavic influence would also be filtered through Yiddish (e.g. the slang word nudnik), as Yiddish was historically in close contact with Slavic languages.

Also, keep in mind that substrate influence is not the same as the creation of a creole. In a creole you must first have a pidgin that is turned into a mother tongue, where in the case of Israeli Hebrew we have a literary standard (written Hebrew) turned into a mother tongue. The process is similar in that the new language has to develop more styles and registers, but you should keep in mind that pidgins are much simpler and more chaotic than literary standards, they're just informal codes that are used to communicate between different language communities. Literary standards on the other hand have a stricter lexical base and more stable grammar rules. Creoles also tend to be analytic, whereas Israeli Hebrew is more synthetic (look at the complex system of verbal inflection). I'd accept the hypothesis that claims that Israeli Hebrew is a kind of mixed language, but creoles are not the only kind of mixed language.


I 'm not sure, I found at wordreference (http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1356851&langid=13)
this paper of the head of the Section of Semitic Linguistics, Department of Hebrew culture studies of Tel Aviv, Shlomo Izre'el: http://www.tau.ac.il/humanities/semitic/emergence.pdf

He is against the mainstream opinion but he argues that the process of the creation of modern Hebrew was one of creolization, also, when Elizer Ben Yehuda went to Israel he could already communicate in Hebrew with locals, which means that there already was a mix of languages including Hebrew.

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2014-07-14, 0:53

GothicSp wrote:If I call the language I speak Greenlandic it doesn't mean that I speak a language which also has to do with Greenlandic.
That's nice, but you didn't answer my question. Again: How much Aramaic and Assyrian is there in Modern Hebrew compared to English and other European languages?
According to Israeli linguists modern Hebrew has a Slavic substrata so it can't be really regarded as a direct development from medieval Hebrew and is rather a creole of different languages. He proposed to call the modern language of Israel 'Israeli' instead of Hebrew. I already said the name of him.
To be perfectly blunt I don't think you know what exactly a creole is. Luckily, Saim just explained it very well (thanks, Saim!). Furthermore, I already said not to rely too much on the opinions of certain linguists whose views are on the fringes within academia. Oh, and one more thing: is English a creole because it has a Celtic substratum?

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby linguoboy » 2014-07-14, 14:47

mōdgethanc wrote:Oh, and one more thing: is English a creole because it has a Celtic substratum?

English has a Celtic substratum?

The Slavic influence on Yiddish goes well beyond borrowings like nudnik. The system of Aktionsart, for instance, has been heavily modeled on that of neighbouring Slavic languages, but I've yet to see any evidence that this influence has made its way into Modern Israeli Hebrew.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2014-07-14, 19:50

linguoboy wrote:English has a Celtic substratum?
Exactly my point.
The Slavic influence on Yiddish goes well beyond borrowings like nudnik.
It sure does, but if there's any Slavic influence in Hebrew, I would guess it comes more from Russian than Yiddish. (Likewise, if there's any influence from other Semitic tongues, I'd think it would come more from Arabic than Assyrian, whatever that means.)

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Babelfish » 2014-07-18, 20:27

eien wrote:That's actually kind of interesting. It's not really continuous in as far as it's transmitted through people who live a certain lifespan. But the discrete parts are sufficiently small that it becomes unintuitive and kind of perverse to think about it that way.
Still, each transmission is transformative and some information is lost and some information is created. After an arbitrary sufficient threshold of lost information, it is considered an analogous situation to languages whose transmission was terminated entirely.

Come to think of it, this is very much like evolution - we can say that certain species are extinct today (or at any specific point in time), but they may have evolved continually into other species which still do exist. Still, you probably wouldn't call a bird a dinosaur.

On another matter: there are also efforts to revive Sanskrit, and apparently it does have native speakers today. The revived language is still Classical Sanskrit if I understand correctly, not one to be claimed as mixed language like Hebrew :wink:
Speaking of which, Hebrew has changed quite a lot since its revival, mainly in vocabulary but also in style; I've read a few older texts, they're much more reminiscent of Biblical and Medieval Hebrew than colloquial Modern Hebrew, I think.

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby linguoboy » 2014-07-18, 20:36

Babelfish wrote:On another matter: there are also efforts to revive Sanskrit, and apparently it does have native speakers today. The revived language is still Classical Sanskrit if I understand correctly, not one to be claimed as mixed language like Hebrew.

For some value of "native". As I understand it, this is not the mother tongue of these speakers but they are taught to speak it from a very young age. (All the residents of Mattur, for instance, learn Kannada before Sanskrit.)
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby GothicSp » 2014-07-24, 14:00

mōdgethanc wrote:
GothicSp wrote:If I call the language I speak Greenlandic it doesn't mean that I speak a language which also has to do with Greenlandic.
That's nice, but you didn't answer my question. Again: How much Aramaic and Assyrian is there in Modern Hebrew compared to English and other European languages?


Other people have started with discussing the Celtic substratum, so I will only answer this as nobody answers it.

There is interesting information about this:

Due to the current climate of globalization and Americanization, steps have been taken to keep Hebrew the primary language of use, and to prevent large-scale incorporation of English words into Hebrew vocabulary. The Academy of the Hebrew Language of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem currently invents about 2,000 new Hebrew words each year for modern words by finding an original Hebrew word that captures the meaning, as an alternative to incorporating more English words into Hebrew vocabulary. The Haifa municipality has banned officials from using English words in official documents, and is fighting to stop businesses from using only English signs to market their services.[55] In 2012, a Knesset bill for the preservation of the Hebrew language was proposed, which includes the stipulation that all signage in Israel must first and foremost be in Hebrew, as with all speeches by Israeli officials abroad. The bill's author, MK Akram Hasson, stated that the bill was proposed as a response to Hebrew "losing its prestige", and children incorporating more English words into their vocabulary.[56] Hebrew is also an official national minority language in Poland, since 6 January 2005.[5]


According to this text, the Aramaic and Assyrian influence is much bigger than the English one.
I think that it's also smart that Elizer Ben-Yehuda has choosen Aramaic words, as the Aramaic language is the closest you can get to old Hebrew I think. The modern Prussian revivers are doing the same by using Lithuanian to revive Old Prussian, so they basically do the same as Elizer Ben-Yehuda, although they have less texts to rely on then Ben-Yehuda.

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby linguoboy » 2014-07-24, 20:39

GothicSp wrote:There is interesting information about this:
Due to the current climate of globalization and Americanization, steps have been taken to keep Hebrew the primary language of use, and to prevent large-scale incorporation of English words into Hebrew vocabulary. The Academy of the Hebrew Language of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem currently invents about 2,000 new Hebrew words each year for modern words by finding an original Hebrew word that captures the meaning, as an alternative to incorporating more English words into Hebrew vocabulary. The Haifa municipality has banned officials from using English words in official documents, and is fighting to stop businesses from using only English signs to market their services.[55] In 2012, a Knesset bill for the preservation of the Hebrew language was proposed, which includes the stipulation that all signage in Israel must first and foremost be in Hebrew, as with all speeches by Israeli officials abroad. The bill's author, MK Akram Hasson, stated that the bill was proposed as a response to Hebrew "losing its prestige", and children incorporating more English words into their vocabulary.[56] Hebrew is also an official national minority language in Poland, since 6 January 2005.[5]
According to this text, the Aramaic and Assyrian influence is much bigger than the English one.

According to what text? Because the passage you quote above doesn't mention Aramaic or "Assyrian" (again, whatever that means) at all.
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