The Modern Hebrew language is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family. What makes it unique is that the original Hebrew Bible, the Torah, that Judaism teaches to have been recorded in the time of Moses 3,300 years ago, was written in (Biblical) Classical Hebrew. Jews have always called it the לשון הקודש Lashon haKodesh ("The Holy Tongue") as many of them believe that it was chosen to convey God's message to humanity. After the first Destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC, most scholars agree that Hebrew was replaced in daily use by Aramaic and became primarily a religious and literary language, used in prayer and study of the Mishnah (part of the Talmud). This opinion is not universal however, as a number of important scholars do not regard the reduced use of Hebrew as a recorded vernacular as equavalent with its replacement by the more prominently used Aramaic as the vernacular.
Hebrew was reborn as a spoken language during the late 19th and early 20th century as Modern Hebrew, replacing Arabic, Ladino, Yiddish, and other languages of the Jewish diaspora as the spoken language of the majority of the Jewish people living in Israel.
Modern Hebrew is the primary official language of the state of Israel, (Arabic also has official language status). The Hebrew name for the language is עברית, or Ivrit (pronounced "eev-REET", IPA: [ivɹit]).
While the term "Hebrew" as a nationality is customarily used to refer to the ancient Israelites, it has been postulated that the classical Hebrew language was essentially identical to the language spoken by their neighbors, the Phoenicians and Canaanites.
Hebrew strongly resembles Aramaic and to a lesser extent South-Central Arabic, sharing many linguistic features with them.
Hebrew is an Afro-Asiatic language. It is theorized that this language family probably originated in the Fertile crescent, and began to diverge around the 8th millennium BC, although there is much debate about the actual date. (The theory is espoused by most archeologists and linguists, but at odds with traditional reading of the Torah.) Speakers of Proto-Afro-Asiatic spread northeast, eventually reaching the Middle East.
At the end of the 3rd millennium BC the ancestral languages of Aramaic, Ugaritic, and other various Canaanite languages were spoken in the Levant alongside the influential dialects of Ebla and Akkad. As the Hebrew founders from northern Haran filtered south into and came under the influence of the Levant, like many sojourners into Canaan including the Philistines, they adopted Canaanite dialects. The first written evidence of distinctive Hebrew, the Gezer calendar, dates back to the 10th century BC, the traditional time of the reign of David and Solomon. It presents a list of seasons and related agricultural activities. The Gezer calendar (named after the city in whose proximity it was found) is written in an old Semitic script, akin to the Phoenician one that through the Greeks and Etruscans later became the Roman script used today in almost all European languages. The Gezer calendar is written without any vowels, and it does not use consonants to imply vowels even in the places where more modern spelling requires it (see below).
The Silwan or Siloam inscription, from the tomb of a royal steward, dates to the 7th century BC.
Numerous older tablets have been found in the region with similar scripts written in other Semitic languages, for example Protosinaitic. It is believed that the original shapes of the script go back to the hieroglyphs of the Egyptian writing, though the phonetic values are instead inspired by the acrophonic principle. The common ancestor of Hebrew and Phoenician is called Canaanite, and was the first to use a Semitic alphabet distinct from Egyptian. One ancient Canaanite document is the famous Moabite Stone; the Siloam Inscription, found near Jerusalem, is an early example of Hebrew. Less ancient samples of Old Hebrew include the ostraka found near Lachish which describe events preceding the final capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian captivity of 586 BC.
The most famous work originally written in Hebrew is the Hebrew Bible, though the time at which it was written is a matter of dispute. See dating the Bible for details. The earliest extant copies were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, written between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD.
The formal language of the Babylonian Empire was Aramaic (its name is either derived from "Aram Naharayim", Mesopotamia, or from "Aram," Canaanite for "highland," the ancient name for Syria). The Persian Empire, which had captured Babylonia a few decades later under Cyrus, adopted Aramaic as the official language. Aramaic is also a North-West Semitic language, quite similar to Hebrew. Aramaic has contributed many words and expressions to Hebrew, mainly as the language of commentary in the Talmud and other religious works.
In addition to numerous words and expressions, Hebrew also borrowed the Aramaic writing system. Although the original Aramaic letter forms were derived from the same Phoenician alphabet that was used in ancient Israel, they had changed significantly, both in the hands of the Mesopotamians and of the Jews, assuming the forms familiar to us today around the first century AD. Writings of that era (most notably, some of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Qumran) are written in a script very similar to the "square" one still used today.
The Jews living in the Persian Empire adopted Aramaic, and Hebrew quickly fell into disuse. It was preserved, however, as the literary language of the Bible. Aramaic became the vernacular language of the renewed Judaea for the following 700 years. Famous works written in Aramaic include the Targum, the Talmud and several of Flavius Josephus' books (several of the latter were not preserved, however, in the original.). Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in AD 70, the Jews gradually began to disperse from Judaea into foreign countries (this dispersion was hastened when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem (and turned it into a pagan city named Aelia Capitolina) in 135 AD/CE after putting down the Bar-Kochba Revolt (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/revolt1.html)). For many hundreds of years Aramaic remained the spoken language of Mesopotamian Jews, and Lishana Deni (http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=LSD), known also as Judeo-Aramaic, is a modern descendant that is still spoken by a few thousand Jews (and many non-Jews) from the area known as Kurdistan; however, it gradually gave way to Arabic, as it had given way to other local languages in the countries to which the Jews had gone.
Hebrew was not used as a spoken language for roughly 2300 years. However the Jews have always devoted much effort to maintaining high standards of literacy among themselves, the main purpose being to let any Jew read the Hebrew Bible and the accompanying religious works in the original (see rabbinic literature, Codes of Jewish law, The Jewish Bookshelf). It is interesting to note that the languages that the Jews adopted from their adopted nations, namely Ladino and Yiddish were not directly connected to Hebrew (the former being based on Spanish and Arabic borrowings, latter being a remote dialect of Middle High German), however, both were written from right to left using the Hebrew script. Hebrew was also used as a language of communication among Jews from different countries, particularly for the purpose of international trade.
The most important contribution to preserving traditional Hebrew pronunciation in this period was that of scholars called Masoretes (from Masoret 'tradition'), who from about the seventh to the tenth centuries AD devised detailed markings to indicate vowels, stress, and cantillation (recitation methods). The original Hebrew texts used only consonants, and later some consonants were used to indicate long vowels. By the time of the Masoretes this text was too sacred to be altered, so all their markings were in the form of pointing in and around the letters.
The revival of Hebrew as a mother tongue was initiated by the efforts of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (אליעזר בן־יהודה) (1858-1922). Ben-Yehuda, previously an ardent revolutionary in Tsarist Russia, had joined the Jewish national movement and emigrated to pre-State Israel in 1881. Motivated by the surrounding ideals of renovation and rejection of the diaspora lifestyle, Ben-Yehuda set out to develop a new language that the Jews could use for everyday communication.
While many saw his work as fanciful or even blasphemous (http://www.jewishmag.com/43mag/ben-yehuda/ben-yehuda.htm), many soon understood the need for a common language amongst Jews of pre-state Israel who at the turn of the previous century were arriving in large numbers from diverse countries with many different languages. A Committee of the Hebrew Language was established. Later it became the Academy of the Hebrew Language, an organization that exists today. The results of his work and the Committee's were published in a dictionary (The Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew). Ben-Yehuda's work fell on fertile ground, and by the beginning of the 20th century, Hebrew was well on its way to becoming the main language of the Jewish population of pre-State Israel.
Ben-Yehuda based Modern Hebrew on Biblical Hebrew. When the Committee set out to invent a new word for a certain concept, it searched through the Biblical word-indexes and foreign dictionaries, particularly Arabic. While Ben-Yehuda preferred Semitic roots to European ones, the abundance of European Hebrew speakers led to the introduction of numerous foreign words. Other changes which had taken place as Hebrew came back to life were the systematization of the grammar - the Biblical syntax was sometimes limited and ambiguous -- and the adoption of standard Western punctuation.
Russian influence is particularly evident in Hebrew. For example, the Russian suffix -acia is used in nouns where English has the suffix -ation. It is so both in direct borrowings from Russian, for example "industrializacia", industrialization, and in words that do not exist in Russian (thus, colloquial English "cannibalization" turns into Hebrew "canibalizatcia"). English influence is also very strong, perhaps due to the thirty years of British rule under the Mandate and the dense ties with the United States. Yiddish influence is also found, in some diminutives for instance. Finally, Arabic, being the language of numerous Mizrahic and Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Arab countries as well as of the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, has also had an important influence on Hebrew, especially in slang.
Modern Hebrew is printed with a script known as "square". It is the same script, ultimately derived from Aramaic, that was used for copying of Bible books in Hebrew for two thousand years. This script also has a cursive version, which is used for handwriting.
Modern Hebrew has a rich jargon, which is a direct result of the flourishing youth culture. The two main features of this jargon are the Arabic borrowings (for example, "sababa", "excellent", or "kus-emmek", an expression of strong dissatisfaction which is extremely obscene both in Arabic and in Modern Hebrew), and the obfuscated idioms.
Due to the relatively small size of the basic vocabulary, numerous foreign borrowings and simple inflexional rules, Hebrew is an easy language to learn. Foreign accents are usually treated with patience by Israeli Hebrew speakers.
Hebrew has been the language of numerous poets, which include Rachel, Hayim Nahman Bialik, Shaul Tchernihovsky, Lea Goldberg, Avraham Shlonsky and Natan Alterman. Hebrew was also the language of hundreds of authors, one of whom is the Nobel Prize laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon.
According to Ethnologue, dialects of Hebrew include Standard Hebrew (General Israeli, Europeanized Hebrew), Oriental Hebrew (Arabized Hebrew, Yemenite Hebrew).
In practice, there is also Ashkenazi Hebrew, still widely used in Ashkenazi Jewish services and studies in Israel and abroad. It was influenced by the Yiddish language.
Sephardi Hebrew is the basis of Standard Hebrew and not all that different from it, but traditionally it had a slightly bigger variety of pronunciation. It was influenced by the Ladino language.
Mizrahi (Oriental) Hebrew is actually a collection of dialects spoken liturgically by Jews in various parts of the Arab and Islamic world. It was influenced by the Arabic language.
Nearly every immigrant to Israel is encouraged to adopt Standard Hebrew and its nuances as their daily language. As a dialect, Standard Hebrew was originally based on Sephardi Hebrew, but has been further constrained to Ashkenazi phonology to form a unique modern dialect. For example, the "r" sound of Standard Hebrew resembles the guttural sound of German, Yiddish, and French, rather than the trilled consonant common in Semitic languages.
Languages strongly influenced by Hebrew
Yiddish, Ladino, Karaim, and Judeo-Arabic were all highly influenced by Hebrew. None are completely derived from Hebrew, but all are full of Hebrew loanwords. See  (http://www.jewish-languages.org/) for similar cases.
The Hebrew word for vowels is tnu'ot. The modern Israeli Hebrew language has 5 vowels:
- /a/ (As in "car")
- /e/ (As in "set")
- /i/ (As in "beak")
- /o/ (As in "horn")
- /u/ (As in "soup")
Each vowel has three forms: short, long and interrupted (hataf). There is no audible distinction between the three in modern Israeli Hebrew, and the type of a vowel is determined entirely by its position inside a word.
Ancient Hebrew did not have diphthongs. Although diphthongs do exist in modern spoken Hebrew, grammar rules discourage their use. Thus, the root Y-Kh-L, 2nd person singular, future should have been conjugated tuykhal, however the correct form is tukhal.
Hebrew phonetics include a special feature called schwa. There are two kinds of schwa: resting (nax) and moving (na' ). The resting schwa is pronounced as a brief stop of speech. The moving schwa sounds much like the English schwa.
Hebrew also has dagesh, a strengthening. There are two kinds of strengthenings: light (qal, known also as dagesh lene) and heavy (xazaq or dagesh fortis). There are two sub-categories of the heavy dagesh: structural heavy (xazaq tavniti) and complementing heavy (xazaq mashlim). The light affects the phonemes /v/ /g/ /d/ /kh/ /f/ /t/ in the beginning of a word, or after a resting schwa. Structural heavy emphases belong to certain vowel patterns (mishkalim and binyanim; see the section on grammar below). Complementing strengthening is added when vowel assimilation takes place. As mentioned before, the emphasis influences which of a pair of allophones is pronounced. Interestingly enough, historical evidence indicates that /g/, /d/ and /t/ used to have strengthened versions of their own, however they had disappeared from virtually all the spoken dialects of Hebrew. All other consonants except aspirates may receive an emphasis, but their sound will not change.
Hebrew has two kinds of stress (taa'm): on the last syllable (milra' ) and on the penultimate syllable (the one preceding the last, mile'l). The former is more frequent. Specific rules connect the location of the stress with the length of the vowels in the last syllable; however due to the fact that Modern Hebrew does not distinguish between long and short vowels, these rules are often ignored in everyday speech. Interestingly enough, the rules that specify the vowel length are different for verbs and nouns, which influences the stress; thus the mile'l-stressed ókhel (="food") and milra' -stressed okhèl (="eats", masculine) are written in the same way. Little ambiguity exists, however, due to nouns and verbs having incompatible roles in normal sentences. This is, however, also true in English, in, for example, the English word "conduct," in its nominal and verbal forms.
One-letter words are always attached to the following word. Such words include: the definite article h (="the"); prepositions b (="in"), m (="from"), l (="to"); conjunctions sh (="that"), k (="as", "like"), v (="and"). The vowel that follows the letter thus attached depends in general on the beginning of the next word and the presence of a definite article which may be swallowed by the one-letter word. The rules for the prepositions are as follows: in most cases they are followed by a moving schwa, and for that reason they are pronounced as be, me and le. If a preposition is put before a word which begins with a moving schwa, then the preposition takes the vowel /i/. For example, *be-khlal becomes bi-khlal (="in general"). If l or b are followed by the definite article ha, their vowel changes to /a/. Thus *be-ha-matos becomes ba-matos (="in the plane"). However it does not happen to m, therefore me-ha-matos is a valid form, which means "from the plane".
- * indicates that the given example is not grammatically correct
The Hebrew word for consonants is i'curim.
/a'/ was once pronounced as a voiceless pharyngeal fricative. Modern Ashkenazi (European, except Dutch) reading tradition ignores this; however Sephardic (North-African) Jews and Israeli Arabs accent these phonemes, in a fashion which resembles Arabic `ain ع. Georgian Jews pronounce it as a glottalized g. Western European Sephardim and Dutch Ashkenazim traditionally pronounce it as "ng" in "sing" — a pronunciation which can also be found in the Italki tradition and, historically, in south-west Germany.
Note 1: Postalveolar sounds (with the exception of /ʃ/) are not native to Hebrew, and only found in borrowings.
Note 2: The pairs (/b/, /v/), (/k/, /kʰ/), (/p/, /f/), written respectively by the letters bet (ב), kaf (כ) and pe (פ) have historically been allophonic. All three are still mutually exclusive (in words derived from Hebrew roots), however due to /w/ merging with /v/, /x/ merging with /kʰ/, and the introduction of initial /f/ through foreign borrowings, none remained strictly allophonic.
Notes on writing
- The phoneme /v/ is represented by two letters: vet (ב, unemphasized bet) and vav (ו). Although Modern Hebrew pronunciation does not differentiate between the two, the latter is historically weaker due to its being a semi-vowel (/w/).
- The phoneme /k/ is represented by two letters: kaf (כ) and quf (ק). Although Modern Hebrew pronunciation does not differentiate between the two, the latter was pronounced like an Arabic /q/.
- The phoneme /t/ is represented by two letters: tet (ט) and tau (ת, compare to the Greek theta θ and tau τ). As mentioned earlier, the former was once pronounced with emphasis. However, it seems that the letter tau (without dagesh) once represented a fricative phoneme /θ/. For example, what in Modern Hebrew sounds as "Beit Lexem" was transcribed (through Greek) into English from Old Hebrew as "Bethleem", also demonstrating note nr. 5. The traditional Ashkenazi pronunciation of tau without dagesh as "s" is believed to be a result of this.
- Similarly to Modern Arabic, Old Hebrew had the phonemes /ʦ/ and /t/ (written by the letter tet) emphasized. Currently, there is no community of Hebrew-speakers which expresses this in speech; however the emphasis led to several types of phonetic change that still exist. The exact nature of the emphatic feature is a matter of debate; the most commonly suggested possibilities are pharyngealization (as in Arabic) and glottalization (as in Ethiopic).
- The phoneme /x/ is represented by two letters: xet (ח) and khaf (כ, unemphasized kaf). Although Modern Hebrew speakers seldom differentiate between the two, apart from a few Sephardic speakers, the former was historically a voiceless pharyngeal fricative (like Arabic ح).
Historical sound changes
Greek transcriptions provide evidence that Biblical Hebrew maintained the proto-Semitic consonants gh, kh for longer than the writing system might suggest. Thus `Amorah is transcribed as Gomorrha in Greek, whereas `Eber is transcribed as Eber with no intrusive g; since comparative Semitic evidence shows that proto-Semitic *gh and *` both became `ayin in later Hebrew, this suggests that the distinction was still maintained in Classical times.
Hebrew grammar is mostly analytical, expressing such forms as dative, ablative, and accusative using prepositional particles rather than grammatical cases. However inflection does play an important role in the formation of the verbs, nouns and the genitive construct, which is called "smikhut". Words in smikhut are often combined with hyphens.
Hebrew has only a definite article, "ha-". It is a contraction of an earlier form, probably *hal, the assimilation of the /l/ being evident in the emphasis that normally follows the article. In smikhut, only the main noun (that is the noun to which the other nouns connect) can receive the article.
The two main parts of the Hebrew sentence ("mishpat") are the subject ("nose") and the predicate ("nasu"). They are adjusted to each other in gender and person. Thus, in a sentence "ani okhel", "I eat"/"I am eating", "ani", "I", is the subject, and "okhel", "eating" (singular masculine present of the root A-K-L in Pa`al) is the verb (Hebrew does not have a system of auxiliary verbs). The subject always receives the definite article, unless it is a pronoun or a name.
Other parts of the Hebrew sentence are the direct object ("musa"), and complements to any noun ("levai"). Unlike English, complements follow the noun, rather than precede it, and also like the verb they follow the subject's gender, person and article. Thus, "Ha-chatul ha-qatan akhal et ha-gvinah", "The small cat ate the cheese", the subject is "ha-chatul", "the cat", the complement is "ha-qatan", "the small", the predicate is "akhal", "ate" (3rd person masculine past of the root A-K-L in Pa`al), and "ha-gvinah", "the cheese" is the object. Note that both the words for "cat" and for "small" received the definite article.
The Hebrew grammar distinguishes between various kinds of indirect objects, according to what they specify. Thus, there is a division between objects for time ("tiur zman"), objects for place ("tiur makom"), objects for reason ("tiur sibah") and many others. Additionally, Hebrew distinguishes between various kinds of verbless fragments, also according to their use, such as "tmurah" for elaboration, "qriah" for exclamation, "pniyah" for approach and "hesger" for disclosing the opinion of a certain party using direct speech (e.g. "le-da'at ha-rofe, ha-i'shun mazik la-briut", "[according to] the opinion of the doctor, smoking is harmful to health").
A sentence may lack a subject. In this case it is called "stami", or "causual". If several parts of the sentence have the same function and are attached to the same word, they are called "kolel", "collective". Two or more sentences who do not share common parts and are separated by comma are called "mishpat mehubar", or "added". In many cases, the second sentence uses a pronoun that stands for the other's subject; they are generally interconnected.
A sentence in which one or more of the parts are replaced by a clause ("psukit") is called a compound sentence, or "mishpat murkav". Compound sentences use the preposition "she-", "that". For example, in the sentence "Yosi omer she-hu okhel", "Yosi says that he is eating", "Yosi omer" ("Yosi says") is the main sentence, followed by a direct subject clause "hu okhel" ("He is eating").
The Hebrew word for "verb" is po'al.
The Hebrew Language verbs are inflected by gender, person, number, mood, and tense. The base form for verbs is the 3rd person masculine singular past active indicative.
Person, number, and gender
There are three persons in the Hebrew language: the 1st person, also called "speaking"; the 2nd person, also called "present" (as in presence); and the 3rd person, also called "hidden" (in the present tense, all persons have identical forms, differing only by number and gender). For each person, there are both singular and plural forms. The archaic dual number present in the noun system (e.g. yom (="day"), yomayim (="two days"), yamim (="days") is not used in the verb system.
Usually the person affects the suffix of the verb. Thus lamadti means "I learned", lamadta means "You (masculine singular) learned", lamdu means "they learned". The stem lamd- remains constant.
The inflection by gender is full; that is, Hebrew distinguishes between lamadet (="you learned", feminine) and lamadta (="you learned", masculine).
There are three tenses in the indicative mood: hoveh (="present"), avar (="past") and a'tid (="future"). There is no perfect tense, but the perfect aspect can be derived from the context. To emphasize the imperfect/progressive aspect of an action, the auxiliary verb "to be" may be used, as in the English progressive tenses. However, unlike English, this form is only used for emphasis and distinction, and is not required to express an imperfect sense.
Mood and voice
Additionally, there is an imperative form called tsivui, used primarily with the 2nd person, although 3rd person imperative forms (largely obsolete) similar in form to the future tense exist—yavi-na (="let him bring"). An infinitive form exists as well. Generally speaking, the imperative of most verbs in Modern Hebrew is expressed by using the 2nd person future form.
Passive binyans (see below) have neither an imperative nor an infinitive form.
As in other Semitic languages, verbs (like nouns) are derived from a three-letter root (which signifies a certain general concept, such as K-T-V for writing) into numerous patterns through the use of intermediate vowels and prefixes. Hebrew grammarians usually classify the verb system into 7 basic groups (called the binyanim, plural of binyan), each of which conjugates in a certain way, which is usually apparent in the binyan 's name. Thus, the Nif'al binyan specifies the presence of the syllable "ni" in the beginning of the verb (either directly or as a residual emphasis on a different beginning). The Pa'al binyan is sometimes called Qal—perhaps because without diacritics (little dots that serve as vowels in written Hebrew) it could be confused with Pi'el.
In modern Hebrew, there are 3 active binyans (Pa'al, Pi'el, Hif'il), 3 passive ones (Nif'al, Pu'al, Huf'al) and 1 relexive binyan (Hitpa'el). Usually Pi'el verbs---e.g. tipel (="handled, took care of")—become passive in Pu'al—tupal, (="was handled, was taken care of"). Similarly, the active Hif'il corresponds to the passive Huf'al. Nif'al is often used as the passive of Pa'al—thus the Pa'al form sagar (="closed"), turns into the Nif'al form nisgar (="was closed"); however, ancient usage suggests that it was originally used as a reflexive structure, and modern Hebrew has many verbs in Nif'al that have an active sense, e.g. nixnas (="entered"). In modern Hebrew, hitpa'el carries the reflexive function. Passive forms (whether in 'Pu'al', 'Huf'al' or 'Nif'al) are rarely used in Modern Hebrew, sentences with no overt subject or with a third-person subject preferred instead.
In Modern Hebrew, 'Pi'el' is by far the most productive of the binyans, used almost exclusively for the introduction of new verbs. 'Pa'al' and 'Nif'al' are hardly ever used for coining new verbs. The selection of 'Hif'il' for new verbs is largely phonologically based (for verbs derived from monosyllabic nouns with word initial clusters).
The system of the binyan is relatively easy to understand and grasp; however it has numerous exceptions due to regular phonological effects like assimilation.
Participles and gerunds
English gerunds such as "my winning the prize was a surprise" are expressed by noun forms equivalent to the infinitive of the verb.
Participles may be formed from all verbs (using the indicative form) and used as nouns or adjectives. e.g. the Hebrew for "guard" (the profession) is the present participle "(he) guards" ("shomer"). Participles may also be used to describe state, and would then usually be accompanied by words such as "while" or "as", e.g. "as he is painting, time goes by". Prefixes may be used with participles to describe time, e.g. mishekamti (="once I stood up"); lixshetakum (="when you get up",future, masculine).
The Hebrew word for "noun" is shem etsem
Hebrew nouns are inflected by gender, number (and sometimes by possession) but not by case. Nouns are generally correlated to verbs (by shared roots), but their forming is not as systematic, often due to loanwords from foreign languages.
Hebrew distinguishes between masculine nouns—such as yeled (="boy, child")—and feminine nouns—such as yaldah (="girl"). There is no neuter gender. Generally, almost all nouns that end in "ah" are feminine. Sometimes, as in the example, a feminine form can be formed through adding a final "ah" to a masculine noun (written as the letter "he").
Generally, Hebrew distinguishes between singular and plural forms of a noun. Masculine plural forms usually end with the suffix "-im"; feminine singular "-ah" turns into "-ot". Thus we get the forms yeladim (="boys, children"), and "yeladot" (="girls"). Hebrew also has a dual number, but its modern use is restricted to particular nouns, such as shavua (="week"), which becomes shvu'ayim (="two weeks"). Body parts and things that come in pairs have duals, for example mishqafayim (="eyeglasses") and raglayim (="feet"). However for most nouns the dual form is discarded in favor of the plural. Thus, dirah (="apartment"), becomes shtei dirot (="two apartments"), rather than *diratayim.
Possession may be indicated by a possessive pronoun—sheli (="my, mine")—but ancient Hebrew used inflection, and such inflection is still in use in literary Hebrew, as well as in particular idioms in modern spoken Hebrew. The noun receives a suffix signifying the person to whom an object belongs. Thus, dirah (="apartment"), may change into dirati (="my apartment"