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Canaanite language

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Title: Canaanite language  
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Subject: Alphabet, Hebrew language, Jericho, Philistines, Arthur Evans, Canaan, Semitic people, Phoenician alphabet, Moab, Philistia
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Canaanite language

Canaanite
Geographic
distribution:
Levant
Linguistic classification: Afro-Asiatic
Subdivisions:

The Canaanite languages are a subfamily of the Semitic languages, which were spoken by the ancient peoples of the Canaan region, including Canaanites, Israelites, Phoenicians, Amorites, Edomites and Moabites. All of them seem to have become extinct as native languages by the early 1st millennium CE (although it is uncertain how long Punic survived), although Hebrew remained in continuous literary and religious use among Jews, and was revived as an everyday spoken language in the 19th and 20th centuries in an effort spearheaded by Eliezer Ben Yehuda. The Phoenician and Carthaginian expansion spread the Phoenician language and its Punic dialect to the Western Mediterranean for a time, but there too it died out, although it seems to have survived slightly longer than in Phoenicia itself.

The main sources for study of Canaanite languages are the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), and inscriptions such as:

The Deir Alla Inscription is written in a dialect with Aramaic and South Canaanite characteristics, which is classified as Canaanite in Hetzron.

The extra-biblical Canaanite inscriptions are gathered along with Aramaic inscriptions in editions of the book "Kanaanäische und Aramäische Inschriften", from which they may be referenced as KAI n (for a number n); for example, the Mesha Stele is "KAI 181".

Distinctive features

The Canaanite languages, together with the Aramaic languages and Ugaritic, form the Northwest Semitic subgroup. Some distinctive features of Canaanite in relation to Aramaic are:

  • The prefix 'h-' used as the definite article (whereas Aramaic has a postfixed -a). This seems to be an innovation of Canaanite.
  • The first person pronoun being 'ʼnk' (אנכ – anok(i), versus Aramaic – ʼnʼ/ʼny) – which is similar to Akkadian, Ancient Egyptian and Berber.
  • The *ā > ō vowel shift (Canaanite shift).

References

  • The Semitic Languages. Routledge Language Family Descriptions. Edited by Robert Hetzron. New York: Routledge, 1997.

External links

  • Some West Semitic Inscriptions
  • How the Alphabet Was Born from Hieroglyphs Biblical Archaeology Review
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