Triglossia and literacy in Jewish Palestine of the first century

Bernard Spolsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-110
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number42
StatePublished - 1983

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Some of the research reported in this paper was carried out during a sabbatical leave from the University of New Mexico and a Lady Davis Visiting Professorship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It was also supported in part by a grant (NIE G-79-0179) to the University of NewMexicofrom the National Institute of Education. I am grateful to Joshua Fishman, Daniel Wagner, Ellen Spolsky, and Ezri Uval for comments on an earlier form of this paper. 'Hebrew remained the language of scholars... like Latin in the Middle Ages', writes Pfeiffer (1949: 399). In II Kings 18: 26, the courtiers of the King of Judah ask the visiting Assyrian emissaries to speak Aramaic rather than Hebrew ('the language of Judah9) which the common people will understand. From this, we see not just that Hebrew was the language of the people, but that Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires, was known to Judean officials by then. Weinreich (1980) makes an interesting case for calling the resulting Jewish version of Aramaic by a special name: he suggests Targumic. In Nehemiah 8:8, there is a passage attributing to Ezra the institution of the public reading of the Law. The rabbis of the Talmud interpret the sentence as meaning that the reading was accompanied by a translation into Aramaic, a view consistent with the belief that they had already lost the ability to understand Hebrew. Such a style was the choice of the Dead Sea Sects, whose Hebrew, though mainly

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