Canaanite languages

Levant, Carthage
Linguistic classificationAfroasiatic

The Canaanite languages, sometimes referred to as Canaanite dialects,[1] are one of three subgroups of the Northwest Semitic languages, the others being Aramaic and Amorite. These closely related languages originate in the Levant and Mesopotamia, and were spoken by the ancient Semitic-speaking peoples of an area encompassing what is today, Israel, Jordan, the Sinai Peninsula, Lebanon, Syria, as well as some areas of southwestern Turkey (Anatolia), western and southern Iraq (Mesopotamia) and the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia.

The Canaanites are broadly defined to include the Hebrews (including Israelites, Judeans and Samaritans), Amalekites, Ammonites, Amorites, Edomites, Ekronites, Hyksos, Phoenicians (including the Carthaginians), Moabites, Suteans and sometimes the Ugarites.

The Canaanite languages continued to be everyday spoken languages until at least the 2nd century AD. Hebrew is the only living Canaanite language today. It remained in continuous use by many Jews well into the Middle Ages and up to the present day as both a liturgical and literary language and was used for commerce between disparate diasporic Jewish communities. It has also remained a liturgical language among Samaritans. Hebrew as a secular language in daily use was revived by Jewish political and cultural activists, particularly through the revitalization and cultivation efforts of Zionists throughout Europe and in Palestine, as an everyday spoken language in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By the mid-20th century, Modern Hebrew had become the primary language of the Jews of Palestine and was later made the official language of the State of Israel.

  1. ^ Rendsburg 1997, p. 65.

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