B. Stade, Lehrb. der hebr. Gramm., Lpz. 1879, § 2 ff.; E. König, Hist.-krit. Lehrgeb. der hebr. Spr., i. Lpz. 1881, § 3; H. Strack, Einl. in das A.T., 6th ed., Munich, 1906, p. 231 ff. (a good bibliography of all the Semitic dialects); Th. Nöldeke, article 'Semitic Languages', in the 9th ed. of the Encycl. Brit. (Die semit. Sprachen, 2nd ed., Lpz. 1899), and Beitr. sur sem. Sprachwiss., Strassb., 1904; W. Wright, Lectures on the Comparative Grammar of the Semitic Languages, Cambr. 1890; H. Reckendorf, 'Zur Karakteristik der sem. Sprachen,' in the Actes du Xme Congrès internat. des Orientalistes (at Geneva in 1894), iii. 1 ff., Leiden, 1896; O. E. Lindberg, Vergl. Gramm. der sem. Sprachen, i A: Konsonantismus, Gothenburg, 1897; H. Zimmern, Vergl. Gramm. der sem. Sprachen, Berlin, 1898 ; E. König, Hebräisch und Semitisch: Prolegomena und Grundlinien einer Gesch. der sem. Sprachen, &c., Berlin, 1901; C. Brockelmann, Semitische Sprachwissenschaft, Lpz. 1906, Grundriss der vergl. Gramm. der sem. Sprachen, vol. i (Laut- und Formenlehre), parts 1-5, Berlin, 1907 f. and his Kurzgef. vergleichende Gramm. (Porta Ling. Or.) Berlin, 1908.—The material contained in inscriptions has been in process of collection since 1881 in the Paris Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum. To this the best introductions are M. Lidzbarski's Handbuch der Nordsem. Epigraphik, Weimar, 1898, in 2 parts (text and plates), and his Ephemeris zur sem. Epigraphik (5 parts published), Giessen, 1900 f. [G. A. Cooke, Handbook of North-Semitic Inscriptions, Oxford, 1903].
[1a] 1. The Hebrew language is one branch of a great family of languages in Western Asia which was indigenous in Palestine, Phoenicia, Syria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Assyria, and Arabia, that is to say, in the countries extending from the Mediterranean to the other side of the Euphrates and Tigris, and from the mountains of Armenia to the southern coast of Arabia. In early times, however, it spread from Arabia over Abyssinia, and by means of Phoenician colonies over many islands and sea-boards of the Mediterranean, as for instance to the Carthaginian coast. No comprehensive designation is found in early times for the languages and nations of this family; the name Semites or Semitic languages (based upon the fact that according to Gn 1021 ff. almost all nations speaking these languages are descended from Shem) is, however, now generally accepted, and has accordingly been retained here.
- First used by Schlözer in Eichhorn's Repertorium für bibl. u. morgenl. Literatur, 1781, p. 16 1.
- From Shem are derived (Gn 1021 ff.) the Aramaean and Arab families as well as the Hebrews, but not the Canaanites (Phoenicians), who are traced back to Ham (vv. 6.15 ff.), although their language belongs decidedly to what is now called Semitic. The language of the Babylonians and Assyrians also was long ago shown to be Semitic, just as Aššur (Gn 1022) is included among the sons of Shem.