The Life of “Dead” Hebrew

Benjamin Harshav

in Language in Time of Revolution

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 1993 | ISBN: 9780520079588
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520912960 | DOI:
The Life of “Dead” Hebrew

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  • Social and Cultural Anthropology


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The revival of the language was seen primarily as the task of turning Hebrew into a spoken language. One can easily sense here the competition of Yiddish, which was the native language of all advocates of spoken Hebrew, as well as the general atmosphere of populism which assumed that the everyday speech of simple people is an indispensable base for any high culture. To this day, arguments are made as to whether Hebrew was “dead” or “alive,” and how much speech may constitute its revival. What one calls “language” is a rather complex cluster of social, mental, and linguistic aspects, and each may be active or passive to different degrees at a given time; and “active” may also mean different things: simply “in use” or expanding and innovating. The relations between Hebrew and Yiddish, however, were not limited to the difference between a written language and a spoken language—there were many crossover phenomena.

Keywords: revival; language; Hebrew; Yiddish; populism; speech

Chapter.  2087 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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