Languages 101

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jewish languages quizInterestingly, the--arguably--second most important Jewish language wasn’t Jewish at all. Aramaic, the language of the biblical Book of Daniel, the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, and the mystical masterpiece the Zohar was actually spoken by Semitic people throughout the ancient Near East. Nonetheless, as the language spoken by most Jews during the influential rabbinic period (the several centuries following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.), it became an essential component of future forms of Hebrew, as well as other Jewish languages.

Indeed, Hebrew and Aramaic, together, served as the basis for all Jewish hybrid languages--languages such as Judeo-Greek, Judeo-Italian, and of course, Ladino and Yiddish. These hybrid languages generally retained the linguistic structures of their non-Jewish parents (e.g. Spanish for Ladino, German for Yiddish), while using Hebrew script and integrating Hebrew and Aramaic words. Though Hebrew remained the primary religious and scholarly language of the various Diaspora Jewish communities, many Jews were unable to understand Hebrew, and the hybrid languages were their primary tongues. Today, however, most of these Jewish hybrid languages are extinct, with the exception of Ladino and Yiddish.

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