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Encyclopedia > Tiberian Hebrew

Tiberian Hebrew is an oral tradition of pronunciation for ancient forms of Hebrew, especially the Hebrew of the Bible, that was given written form by masoretic scholars in the Jewish community at Tiberias in the early middle ages, beginning in the 8th century. This written form employed symbols added to the Hebrew letters; the symbols are called niqqudot (for vowels) and cantillation signs. Though the written symbols came into use in the early Middle Ages, the oral tradition they reflect is apparently much older, with ancient roots.


The Tiberian system of vocalisation for the Hebrew Bible represented its own local tradition. Two other local traditions that created written systems during the same period are referred to geographically as the vocalisations of "The Land of Israel" (not identical to Tiberias) and "Babylon". The former system had little or no historical influence, but the Babylonian system was dominant in some areas for many centuries, and even survives to this day. Unlike the Tiberian system, which mostly places vowel points under the Hebrew letters, the Babylonian system mostly places them above the letters, and is thus called the "supralinear" vowelisation.


As mentioned above, the Tiberian points were designed to reflect a specific oral tradition for reading the biblical text. But later they were applied to other texts (one of the earliest being the Mishnah), and used widely by Jews in other places with different oral traditions for how to read Hebrew. Thus the Tiberian vowel points and cantillation signs became a common part of Hebrew writing.


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Hebrew_language information. LANGUAGE SCHOOL EXPLORER (7173 words)
Mishnaic Hebrew from the 1st to the 3rd or 4th century CE, corresponding to the Roman Period after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and represented by the bulk of the Mishnah and Tosefta within the Talmud and by the Dead Sea Scrolls, notably the Bar Kokhba Letters and the Copper Scroll.
This Tiberian Hebrew from the 7th to 10th century CE is sometimes called "Biblical Hebrew" because it is used to pronounce the Hebrew Bible; however properly it should be distinguished from the historical Biblical Hebrew of the 6th century BCE, whose original pronunciation must be reconstructed.
Hebrew functioned as the local mother tongue, Aramaic functioned as the international language with the rest of the Mideast, and eventually Greek functioned as another international language with the eastern areas of the Roman Empire.
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Hebrew is also the language of most of the Hebrew Bible, which survives in manuscripts from the 3rd century BCE and later.
Hebrew was the language of the inhabitants of ancient Judea and Israel.
Vocalizations of Hebrew words are known initially only from transcriptions, the most important of which are isolated words, mostly names, in the Septuagint, composed originally during the 3rd century BCE and later, and the preserved parts of the second column of the Hexapla, composed during the 3rd century CE.
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