Definitions

Medieval_Hebrew

Medieval Hebrew

Medieval Hebrew has many features that distinguish it from older forms of Hebrew. These affect grammar, syntax, sentence structure, and also include a wide variety of new lexical items, which are usually based on older forms.

In the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain important work was done by grammarians in explaining the grammar and vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew; much of this was based on the work of the grammarians of Classical Arabic. Important Hebrew grammarians were Judah ben David Hayyuj and Jonah ibn Janah. A great deal of poetry was written, by poets such as Dunash ben Labrat, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Judah ha-Levi and the two Ibn Ezras, in a "purified" Hebrew based on the work of these grammarians, and in Arabic quantitative metres (see piyyut). This literary Hebrew was later used by Italian Jewish poets.

The need to express scientific and philosophical concepts from Classical Greek and Medieval Arabic motivated Medieval Hebrew to borrow terminology and grammar from these other languages, or to coin equivalent terms from existing Hebrew roots, giving rise to a distinct style of philosophical Hebrew. Many have direct parallels in medieval Arabic. The Ibn Tibbon family, and especially Samuel ben Judah ibn Tibbon were personally responsible for the creation of much of this form of Hebrew, which they employed in their translations of scientific materials from the Arabic. At that time, original Jewish philosophical works were usually written in Arabic, but as time went on, this form of Hebrew was used for many original compositions as well.

Another important influence was Maimonides, who developed a simple style based on Mishnaic Hebrew for use in his law code, the Mishneh Torah. Subsequent rabbinic literature is written in a blend between this style and the Aramaized Rabbinic Hebrew of the Talmud.

Hebrew was also used as a language of communication among Jews from different countries, particularly for the purpose of international trade.

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