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Language in Time of Revolution$
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Benjamin Harshav

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780520079588

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520079588.001.0001

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The Life of “Dead” Hebrew

The Life of “Dead” Hebrew

(p.115) Twenty-Four The Life of “Dead” Hebrew
Language in Time of Revolution

Benjamin Harshav

University of California Press

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

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