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This is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family, and a member of the Canaanite group. It is therefore closely related to Aramaic and more distantly related to Arabic. There are an estimate 7 to 15 million speakers of Hebrew in Israel and numerous Jewish communities throughout the world. It is one of two official languages in Israel (the other being Arabic), and is the de facto language of the Israeli state and people.
After the 2nd century CE when the Jewish people were expelled by the Romans, Hebrew ceased to be a spoken language, although it remained a major literary language. It was revived as a modern spoken and written language near the end of the 19th century, replacing a number of other languages commonly spoken by the Jewish diaspora at that time, including Arabic, Ladino, Yiddish, and Russian.
Hebrew was made an official language of British-rule Palestine (along with Arabic and English) in 1921. Although there were many people who opposed to use of Hebrew, believed by some to be appropriate only in a liturgical context and not for discussing every day matters, it was realized that a common language for the Jewish people of the Palestine Mandate was needed.
Because of its disuse for so many centuries, Hebrew lacked many modern words. Many were adapted as neologisms from the Hebrew Bible or borrowed from Yiddish and other languages. Standard Hebrew is based on Mishnaic spelling and Sephardi Hebrew pronunciation. The two main dialects of Hebrew are "Standard" (General Israeli, Europeanized form) and "Oriental" (Arabized Hebrew, Yemenite Hebrew).
Modern Hebrew is written from right to left using the Hebrew alphabet. Modern scripts are based on the "square" letter form, developed from the Aramaic script. In its written form, Hebrew generally uses only consonants and spaces (no vowels).
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