The Re-Creation of Hebrew:
A “Dead Language” Lives Again
In a sense the most amazing feat of Zionism has been the revival of Hebrew, even more remarkable, perhaps, than such more frequently cited achievements as the transformation of the sand dunes near Jaffa into that bustling modem city, Tel Aviv. It is a linguistic miracle. For apart from Hebrew, we have no example of a “dead” language which ceased to be spoken and was again restored to life.
If a linguistic expert had been asked whether Hebrew could be revived, he probably would have replied that it was highly unlikely. From what we know about the history of language it is evident that once a language ceases to be spoken as an everyday language it either disappears completely or else continues solely as a written language. In popular terms, it “dies.” In some cases dead languages have continued to be used in religious services: we have quite a few liturgical languages, such as Latin in the Catholic Church, Old Bulgarian in the Russian Orthodox Church, Aramaic in portions of the Jewish liturgy, and Geez in the Ethiopic Church. There are also a few cases in which a dead language has been maintained as a spoken language by a small group: an example is the use of Latin by many Catholic priests.
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