Canaanite languages

Linguistic classification:


Glottolog: cana1267[1]

The Canaanite languages or Canaanite dialects[2] are one of the two subgroups of the Northwest Semitic languages, the other being the Aramaic language. They were spoken by the ancient peoples of the Canaan region, the Canaanites, broadly defined to include the Israelites, Phoenicians, Amorites, Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites.

All of them seem to have become extinct as native languages by the early 1st millennium CE, although distinct forms of Hebrew remained in continuous literary and religious use among Jews and Samaritans, and Punic remained in use in the Mediterranean.

This family of languages has the distinction of being the first group of languages to use an alphabet, derived from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, to record their writings.

The primary reference for extra-biblical Canaanite inscriptions, together with Aramaic inscriptions, is the German-language book "Kanaanäische und Aramäische Inschriften", from which inscriptions are often referenced as KAI n (for a number n).[3]

Classification and sources

The Canaanite languages or dialects can be split into the following:[2][4]

North Canaan

South Canaan


Other possible Canaanite languages:

Comparison versus Aramaic

Some distinctive typological features of Canaanite in relation to Aramaic are:


Modern Hebrew as a spoken language is the result of a revival by Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries in an effort spearheaded by Eliezer Ben Yehuda. It is currently spoken as the colloquial language by the majority of the Israeli population.

Various liturgical Hebrew languages survived into the modern era:

The Phoenician and Carthaginian expansion spread the Phoenician language and its Punic dialect to the Western Mediterranean for a time, but there too it died out, although it seems to have survived slightly longer than in Phoenicia itself.

See also


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Canaanite". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. 1 2 Rendsburg 1997, p. 65.
  3. For example, the Mesha Stele is "KAI 181".
  4. Waltke & O'Connor (1990:8): "The extrabiblical linguistic material from the iron Age is primarily epigraphic, that is, texts written on hard materials (pottery, stones, walls, etc.). The epigraphic texts from Israelite territory are written in Hebrew in a form of the language which may be called Inscriptional Hebrew; this "dialect" is not strikingly different from the Hebrew preserved in the Masoretic text. Unfortunately, it is meagerly attested. Similarly limited are the epigraphic materials in the other South Canaanite dialects, Moabite and Ammonite; Edomite is so poorly attested that we are not sure that it is a South Canaanite dialect, though that seems likely. Of greater interest and bulk is the body of Central Canaanite inscriptions, those written in the Phoenician language of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos, and in the offshoot Punic and Neo-Punic tongues of the Phoenician colonies in North Africa. An especially problematic body of material is the Deir Alla wall inscriptions referring to a prophet Balaam (ca. 700 B.C.E.), these texts have both Canaanite and Aramaic features. W. R. Garr has recently proposed that all the Iron Age Canaanite dialects be regarded as forming a chain that actually includes the oldest forms of Aramaic as well."


External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/18/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.