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Why not borrow from Assyrian?

Reader comment on item: On New York's "Khalil Gibran International Academy"
in response to reader comment: Use of Arabic

Submitted by Arrchimedes2 (Canada), Mar 16, 2007 at 01:59

Hebrew was revived less than a hundred years ago as an everyday language. Obviously after more than 2,000 years of exclusive use as the Jewish language of prayer and Torah, it lacked modern words and idioms. This has been rectified through the use of many Arabic (and English) words, or derivatives.


That's an interesting point--a difficulty I had not really thought about. But, surely there are other languages closer to the historical roots of Judaism that would be as suitable, or more, than Arabic?

I have a friend who is Assyrian, and tells me that the language is virtually identical to Aramaic, as spoken in first Century Palestine (by the jews of the day...). Remember the hollywood attempts to inject "period correct" Aramaic into The Passion of the Christ? I haven't seen the movie and don't speak the language and so have no opinion myself, but he says his Assyrian friends who have gone tell him that the dialogue is quite understandable to them, although badly pronounced and heavily accented. (Maybe the producers got lazy and hired Assyrians, I don't know...)

Anyway, there are still a good number of Assyrians, mostly Christian, in Iraq, some in Iran, and scattered around. (They are heavily persecuted by muslims and slowly dying out due to religious and racial violence, but some have come to the west.) They are quite concerned about preserving their language and what remains of their culture -- you can find sites devoted to this on the Web. They might have some contributions to make to the reconstruction of Hebrew idioms, or at least first century Aramaic ones (or earlier -- I believe Assyrian is roughly 3,000 years old and relatively unchanged, if these folks are to be believed. How much the grassroots usage has evolved and how much structure has is another question, though.)

There are surely other ancient language groups in tiny cloisters around the area who would hold pieces of 2000-year old Hebrew, or at least share word forms and roots with that language. I'm sure with some statistical magic and gumshoe work a fair amount of useful idiomatic early Hebrew could be inferred.

Just my 2 shekels....

Submitting....

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