The Hebrew language ranges from classical, Biblical Hebrew to modern Hebrew, which is the official language of the state of Israel, and is spoken by around 7 million people. Although there are significant differences between them, they are both the same language. It is a Semitic language, and as such is similar to Arabic.
Originally, Hebrew was the language of the Jews when the majority of them still lived in the Middle East. Around 2300 years ago, Hebrew fell out of use as a spoken language and was replaced by Aramaic.
In the following centuries, the Jews of the Diaspora continued using Hebrew only for religious purposes. In everyday life, the Jews spoke the local languages or other Hebrew languages like Yiddish or Ladino, often written with the Hebrew alphabet.
After the birth of the Zionism, the idea of making Hebrew the everyday language of Jews immigrating to Palestine took root. This was put into practice by Eliezer Ben Yehuda, a Lithuanian Jew who emigrated to Palestine in 1881. He created new words for modern concepts, since they did not exist in classical Hebrew.
Orthodox Jews did not originally accept the secular use of the holy language, and even today some groups of orthodox Jews in Israel continue to use Yiddish for everyday purposes.
However, Hebrew rapidly spread among Jewish immigrants despite resistance to its use, and it became the official language of Israel in 1948, along with Arabic.
Today, Hebrew is used in every area of daily life, including the sciences, while maintaining its links with Biblical Hebrew. Other influences include Yiddish, Arabic, Russian, and English.
The Jewish communities of the Diaspora continue to speak other languages, but Jews moving to Israel must learn Hebrew if they are to integrate.
The Hebrew alphabet, like the Arabic one, does not include vowels except as small marks above or below the consonants, although these are not generally used. Vowels are important to the meaning of the words, however.
Words have a root, usually of three consonants, which is modified by prefixes, suffixes, insertions and vowels to take on different meanings.
Verbs take seven forms, usually with different meanings. The indicative takes the present (using a participle), past, future and imperative. There are no compound tenses.
The present participle distinguishes between masculine and feminine, as do some forms of the future and past.
As with the modern neo-Roman languages, nouns only inflect by number and gender. Along with the singular and plural, many words also take the dual.
Hebrew is written from right to left.
Can a file in Hebrew be read on both Macintosh and Windows platforms?
It can be read in the latest versions of Word (Office) on both Windows and Macintosh. Both platforms can manage bidirectional text once the corresponding language has been installed in the operating system.
Does Hebrew have upper and lower case characters?
No, there is no uppercase. If uppercase characters are used to make a word stand out from the rest of the text, other highlighting methods such as inverted commas or bold type can be used.
Does Hebrew use italic and bold typefaces?
Italic script is not normally used, but to provide affinity with a Roman alphabet layout, this style can be applied in the word processing program if the font supports it.
Is Hebrew only written from right to left, or are other options available?
Words are written and read exclusively from right to left, but if the text includes words in the Roman alphabet or numbers, they are written from left to right.
How do you write numbers in Hebrew?
Hebrew uses Arabic numerals, written normally from left to right. However, if the number is followed by ° to indicate degrees centigrade, the degree sign goes to the left of the number.
Are there rules in Hebrew for splitting words into syllables?
Yes, words can be split in Hebrew in the same way as in western European languages.
When translating into Hebrew, must proper nouns and abbreviations be transliterated?
In many cases it is best to transliterate proper nouns (e.g. personal names), i.e. reproduce the original sound of the name using the characters of the most appropriate alphabet. As for abbreviations and tradenames, it is best not to change them.