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The Expansion of Our Language (Hebrew) and the Arabic Language
In Hebrew, we did not now come to create something new. Our language has existed incessantly, grew and developed over a long time in the way of all languages. Subsequently, its natural development and its full and systematic growth were stopped. Now our conditions of life and our renaissance demand that we return to our language and express our thinking in it according to the needs of these times.
We want to teach in Hebrew all the new and additional studies and sciences: will we move backwards to that point where our language stood or will we develop and grow along with it? Will we wait for new idioms and expressions to be created by themselves? Ours is not a primitive language which does not willingly agree to expand. It is comparable to a scientific language like that of other peoples which is expanded by scholars and writers who renovate, each in his own way or in mutual agreement.

A Sister Language

I am surprised at the view that, as we have to broaden our language, meanwhile writers should use familiar European words. Will the settlers in the Holy Land speak half-Hebrew and half-jargon for the next 20 or 30 years? This is like a man fleeing from the rain into the sea. We are told for the time being to fill Hebrew with different languages, so that settlers will speak and learn French and imbibe its literature and spirit.
Ours is the remains of a language preserved for us in holy writings which are partial and mutilated, not always very clear. Apart from the great need to renew and to add, we badly need to search for and clarify the character of our language and its principles.
We must gather from Talmudic literature (the Talmud is the main source of Jewish religion next to the Bible and was codified from oral tradition in 500 AD - Ed.) everything that was in use in Hebrew, and it is wrong to think that this came from foreign languages just because it was not in the Holy Books. We must gather those words which did really come from related Semitic languages which are not alien to ours, and which have been woven into the Hebrew language. Such words should be clarified and used in light of our needs.
Such expansion demands joining the past and present of our language. The means for this are only to be found in a language close to, similar to and suited to our own language, one which began its development along with ours, which from time to time was enlarged but which remained up to this day as a complete entity. Its natural development was not stopped; as the tongue of its people, it is alive as a spoken language, creating and expanding in its own character in a spirit appropriate to it and to similar languages. That language is the Arabic language.

The Languages Separate

These two languages, Hebrew and Arabic, are two branches emanating from one trunk, from one prior language, from which they inherited their characteristics. The two did not grow and expand to the same extent. One surpassed the other, Arabic spreading widely and branching out so that it belongs to many peoples, developing uninterruptedly and continuing to advance and improve according to the needs of the times and the people. The development of Hebrew was stopped and afterwards its growth was meager.
These two branches were at first similar in their traits, qualities and styles, and most of the words and idioms were also similar. Afterwards, when the two peoples (or families) began to change in accordance with their life conditions and countries - and according to the natural inclination for change inherent in all living organisms - the languages also began to separate, and distance themselves from each other. Arabic became the property of many peoples living to the east and to the south of Eretz Yisrael/Palestine - these were the families and tribes called Kedemites or Easterners - and continued to spread out southward along with these tribes, and filled all the Arab countries.
Concepts began to change according to the development of the spirit of the people. Many words were added and also changed in each language. Yet Arabic better preserved those characteristics which it inherited from the early language, while Hebrew abandoned many of them and we now only have traces of them. These rudiments which are found in our language will prove the affinity and the unity of origin of Hebrew and Arabic.

Arabic and Hebrew - New Contact

In the eighteenth century, there was a renaissance of Arabic and there arose a strong movement in Syria and Egypt. Trade expanded, Arab people made contact with European peoples, there arose a longing for the sciences, schools and colleges were established, and scholars and scientists came from Western countries and paid attention to expanding the Arabic language in its own spirit and form. They took from ancient books all that was good and correct and introduced, as was imperative, words from the general sciences which had been disseminated all over the world. The language is still in a stage of development and expansion.
At that time, when a literary movement like this was arising and intensifying among the Arabs, our people began to return to their land, with their heart full of hope for reviving their people and its language. The Hebrew language began to expand very slowly and to occupy a worthy place in studies and in the sciences. In the country and abroad, there is daily growth both of the will and the need to broaden the language and clarify what is unclear in it.
And now, once again we come into contact with the Arabic language, our sister language. We find a great vocabulary including many of the words in our language and we want to know how existing words branched out and constituted other words for concepts which we also need - in short, we are using Arabic as a means of reviving our language. We don't have enough people who know Arabic fully, its literary development and its affinity to Hebrew, where it suits our language and where it is opposed, though we should be careful in using Arabic as an aid.
It should be understood that I have no reservations over introducing into our language words from the general sciences which have been accepted into all literature, and recognized words which have entered every language, and for which we have no substitute. However, this requires great caution, good taste and sensitivity, so that each person shouldn't act as he thinks fit, or since he doesn't know anything like it in our language, or because he likes the European word better. Why should we not be careful over the style of our language? Is everything permissible with the European languages? Are they closer to the spirit of our language than Arabic?

These extracts were selected by the editors and on their responsibility.

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