Friday, December 20, 2013

Angel Sanez-Badillos: A History of the Hebrew Language

Over twenty years since its publication, Angel Sanez-Badillos’ A History of the Hebrew Language is still the go to book for laymen and specialists alike.

And the book is comprehensive.  The authors explores the roots of the Hebrew language as a Northwest Semitic language, to the Biblical period and its various stages, to Rabbinical, Medieval, and Modern Hebrew.  It contains technical language, so the material in this book is for the more devoted and informed lover of Hebrew, and not for those just starting out.

Despite its comprehensiveness,  after twenty years this book is showing its age.  For one, when you look at Sanez-Badillos’ sources, most are from the 50s, 60s and 70s, and rarely from the 80s and 90s.  Thirty years of research has been ongoing, and it is not reflected in this work.

Also he also spends a great deal of time on Medieval Hebrew, and important bridge between Biblical and Rabbinical Hebrew to spoken, Israeli Hebrew.  But he only devotes a few pages to the living, modern language, making this a far less comprehensive volume.

Despite its evident strengths, a scholar of Hebrew needs to update or create a new work that accomplishes what this book does, but with updated data and research.  Thirty years may not seem like a long time for a three thousand year old language tradition, but for living, breathing Israeli Hebrew, that has been several lifetimes.

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