Overview of Hebrew Language

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Overview of Hebrew Language

Hebrew Alphabet

  • Hebrew alphabet consists of 22 letters. Some of the letters may be pronounced in two different ways; also, instead of capital letters, 5 Hebrew characters have special final version.
  • 3 of modern Hebrew letters are allophonic, i.e. have two different ways of pronounciation.
  • Hebrew script goes from right to left. (Other Semitic languages are written in the same way, like Arabic or Aramaic.) Jewish Diaspora languages are usually written with Hebrew script.
  • You may find Hebrew letters in slightly different shapes:
    • Traditional letters commonly found in prayer books: שלום
    • Modern simplified letters (found everywhere): שלום
    • Even more simplified letter shapes (used mainly to teach minors)
    • Torah and Scrolls script (somewhat fancy variation of traditional letters.)
    • Rashi script used for some religious texts
    • Modern cursive/handwriting.
    • There is also ancient Hebrew script, which was in use somewhere in the First Temple Era; in rabbinical literature it's referred as כתב דעץ, and in the word of science it's called either Paleo-Hebrew or Phoenician.
  • The table on the next page shows the transcription used on our site, and numeric values of the letters (Numeric value.) Letters are widely used as numbers till today: numbering chapters in books, especially liturgy books and traditional Jewish literature,  days in Hebrew calendar are usually written with letters (א' ניסן - Nisan 1st), as well as years (ה' תשס"א - 5751, or omitting the 5000-part: תשס"א) Israeli school year goes according to Hebrew calendar (which is very convenient, since the Jewish year starts around September, e.g. 2000/2001 - תשס"א.)
  • Most Hebrew letters correspond to some letters in Latin alphabet (used in English and Western European languages.) Actually, Latin and Greek evolved from the ancient Hebrew (or Phoenician) script, which consists of the same exact letters like the Hebrew alphabet we use today.

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