Israeli sociolinguistics

From Hebrew hegemony to Israeli plurilingualism

Authored by: Zhanna Burstein-Feldman, , Alek D. Epstein, , Nina Kheimets, , Shulamith Kopeliovich, , Dafna Yitzhaki , Joel Walters

The Routledge Handbook of Sociolinguistics Around the World

Print publication date:  November  2009
Online publication date:  December  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415422789
eBook ISBN: 9780203869659
Adobe ISBN: 9781135261054


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Israel’s geographical position as a land bridge connecting Europe, Asia and Africa, its history of repeated conquest, and its centrality for three major religions have assured a long tradition of multilingualism. Two thousand years ago triglossia reigned, with Hebrew, Judeo-Aramaic and Greek playing meaningful roles. Multilingualism was the norm for the Jewish people during most of the Dispersion, with separate functions: Hebrew and Talmudic Aramaic for religious and literacy purposes, Jewish languages like Yiddish, Ladino or Judeo-Arabic for community and home functions (Rabin 1981), and one or more “co-territorial vernaculars” for communication with Gentiles.

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