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Hebrew Language Reforms - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
June 21st, 2004
02:27 pm

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Hebrew Language Reforms

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From:emblemparade
Date:June 21st, 2004 01:45 pm (UTC)
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(The previous commentors have focused on phonetics and have ignored the more serious issue of grammar. Phonemic writing reforms are not a phenomenon of modernity, and have happened countless times in many powerful states, usually successfully. The problems only happen when a language has many dialects, and the reformed orthography prefers one dialect. In many cases, however, this is the main reason for reform! It's about political supremacy, not necessarily ease of learning.)

Ijon, I appreciate your appreciation of the subtleties of classical Hebrew, but why the pessimism? Language sophistication can express itself less in grammar, and more in content. That certain forms are lost is no big deal. In fact, certain forms may pop up in the future, as borrowing from other languages. This is healthy, and doesn't necessarily sever living people from the literature of previous generations. After all, English readers can read Shakespeare without too much difficulty. Hebrew speakers have it much better off, as we can read a work as ancient as the Bible. (Modern Chinese readers can also read classical Chinese without too many problems.)

As for solving the problem, I think it is already solving itself. A de facto change is happening in Hebrew literature. (In China, this had to take a more formal reform, in the case of "bai2hua4", the White Speech, or writing vernacular Mandarin classical forms, which required the invention of an entirely new literate grammar.) Are pidjins so bad? So awful? Some of the most beautiful languages we know today evolved as creoles. (All languages have something of this process at some point in their past.) There's much work in America these days at showing that Spanglish is a complete and wonderful langauge. Don't worry Ijon, be happy (or give me a better reason to be worried if you can).
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From:iod
Date:June 22nd, 2004 06:18 pm (UTC)

reading ancient works

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are you kidding? any contemporary mediocre hebrew speaker will have a hard time reading stuff that was written in the 50s, let alone stuff that was written in the turn of the century. the bible, in that sense, is the exception, not the rule.
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From:emblemparade
Date:June 23rd, 2004 09:19 am (UTC)

Re: reading ancient works

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What? You're really exaggerating. Some word usages may seem overly formal from today's point of view, but it's really no big deal as far as understanding. Are you serious?!
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