This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Nuts and Bolts: revitalisation.

You've had Christmas, you're as stuffed and torpid as yesterday's turkey, and now you need a bit of revitalisation.

There are stories everywhere of languages which are dying, but, hey, it's Christmas, let's celebrate with the story of a language which was dead as a mother tongue for nearly two thousand years and has now roared triumphantly back to life.

Hebrew died out as an everyday language in the first century AD. From then until about 1880 no one spoke it as a mother tongue.

The revival came from several sources, and happened for several reasons. Oddly, the revival of written and spoken Hebrew occurred in entirely different places; but, hey, it's the festive season so what we really want is a story.

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was passionate about establishing Hebrew as the language of Palestine, and he decided to bring up his son Ben-Zion entirely in Hebrew. Eliezer was careful never to let his son hear any other language. This wasn't easy, as the boy's mother was a speaker of Russian. 

One day, so the story goes, Eliezer caught his poor wife singing Ben-Zion a Russian lullaby; upon which Eliezer was thrown into such a terrible rage that the frightened child, who had never said a word before, burst out into lamentations... the Hebrew language.

And this it came to pass that little Ben-Zion Ben-Yehuda became the first modern native speaker of Hebrew.


Word To Use Today: Hebrew.This word The original word, 'ibhrī, means one from beyond [the river].

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