Wednesday, 17 April 2013
The Hebrew alfabet , is used in the writing of the Hebrew language, as well as other Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic. There have been two script forms in use. The original old Hebrew script is known as the paleo-Hebrew script (which has been largely preserved, in an altered form, in the Samaritan script), while the present "square" form of the Hebrew alphabet is a stylized form of the Aramaic script. Various "styles" (in current terms, "fonts") of representation of the letters exist. There is also a cursive Hebrew script, which has also varied over time and place.
The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters, of which five have different forms when used at the end of a word. Hebrew is written from right to left. Originally, the alphabet was an abjad consisting only of consonants. Like other abjads, such as the Arabic alphabet, means were later devised to indicate vowels by separate vowel points, known in Hebrew as niqqud. In rabbinic Hebrew, the letters א ה ו י are also used as matres lectionis to represent vowels. When used to write Yiddish, the writing system is a true alphabet (except for borrowed Hebrew words). In modern usage of the alphabet, as in the case of Yiddish (except that ע replaces ה) and to some extent modern Israeli Hebrew, vowels may be indicated. Today, the trend is toward full spelling with these letters acting as true vowels.
Before the adoption of the present script, Hebrew was written by the ancient Israelites, both Jews and Samaritans, using the paleo-Hebrew alphabet. During the 3rd century BC, Jews began to use a stylized form of the Aramaic alphabet,while the Samaritans continued to use a form of the paleo-Hebrew script, called the Samaritan script. The present "square script" Hebrew alphabet is a stylized version of the Aramaic alphabet which was adopted from that used by the Persian Empire (which in turn was adopted from the Arameans). After the fall of the Persian Empire, Jews used both scripts before settling on the Aramaic form. For a limited time thereafter, the use of the paleo-Hebrew script among Jews was retained only to write the Tetragrammaton, but soon that custom was also abandoned.