The Ancient Hebrew Language And Alphabet
This page is an introduction to the alphabet of Hebrew Scripture. Hebrew is a Semitic language. The word Semitic comes from the name Shem, named in Genesis as the son of Noah, whose descendants lived in the Middle East. They have similar characteristics, such as the presence of guttural letters formed in the pharynx or larynx; a consonantal system with three-letter word roots to connote meaning; and changes in the form or morphology of the word root through the addition of prefixes, infixes, and suffixes to determine the precise sense and function of the word. Hebrew was the original language of the Israelites.
Egyptian hieroglyphs 32 c. It is a variant of the Phoenician alphabet  abjad of 22 consonantal letters. P-H was coined by Solomon Birnbaum in ; writing, "To apply the term Phoenician to the script of the Hebrews is hardly suitable". The present Jewish " square-script " Hebrew aleph beit abjad evolved from the Aramaic. Samaritans population fewer than use a P-H abjad derivative, known as the Samaritan alphabet. The chart below compares the letters of the Phoenician script with those of the Paleo-Hebrew and the present Hebrew alphabet , with names traditionally used in English. According to contemporary scholars, the Paleo-Hebrew script developed alongside others in the region during the course of the late second and first millennia BCE.
Hebrew is the only Canaanite language still spoken, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language. Hebrew had ceased to be an everyday spoken language somewhere between and CE, declining since the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba revolt. With the rise of Zionism in the 19th century, it was revived as a spoken and literary language, becoming the main language of the Yishuv , and subsequently of the State of Israel. According to Ethnologue , in , Hebrew was the language of five million people worldwide. Modern Hebrew is the official language of the State of Israel, while premodern Hebrew is used for prayer or study in Jewish communities around the world today. The Samaritan dialect is also the liturgical tongue of the Samaritans , while modern Hebrew or Arabic is their vernacular.
The Hebrew and Yiddish languages use a different alphabet than English. The picture below illustrates the Hebrew alphabet, in Hebrew alphabetical order. Note that Hebrew is written from right to left, rather than left to right as in English, so Alef is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and Tav is the last. The Hebrew alphabet is often called the "alefbet," because of its first two letters. If this sounds like Greek to you, you're not far off!