What did ancient Hebrew sound like?

When I say “Ancient Hebrew” here, I am referring to Hebrew as it was spoken about 2,000 years ago.  By then, various changes had taken place due to the Babylonian exile, the influence of Aramaic and Greek and natural linguistic drift.

Certain aspects of Ancient Hebrew are, unfortunately, impossible to reconstruct.  The exact pronunciations of some letters probably varied from place to place and lilt would also have varied.  My own reading of Hebrew is more or less of the Yemeni variety.  This is especially noticeable with certain vowels.  Nevertheless, this sample is certainly a reasonably good approximation of what you would hear if you were transported back 2,000 years ago to ancient Judea and were fortunate enough to hear Hebrew being spoken, rather than the (more common by then) Aramaic.

I strove for perfection, in recording this sample.  Therefore, even though I did not actually reach perfection, the reading sounds somewhat unnatural.  This is hard to avoid.   For this sample, I used the first seven verses of the book of Judges:

Judges verses 1-7

To listen to it, you must click on the link and download after selecting a media program.

About jewamongyou

I am a paleolibertarian Jew who is also a race-realist. My opinions are often out of the mainstream and often considered "odd" but are they incorrect? Feel free to set me right if you believe so!
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5 Responses to What did ancient Hebrew sound like?

  1. Ryan says:

    In one of my university books I read that a language changes on average about 14% every thousand years. Take that as you will, because it’s hard to comprehend how much or how little that actually amounts to.

    Could I go back to England in 1010 and be understood, or understand them? I do not know, but as they say humans and chimpanzees are genetically 97% the same.

    I guess it is all food for thought.

    • jewamongyou says:

      It’s been my impression that European languages change much faster than Semitic ones. Confronted with a Hebrew speaker of 2000 years ago, I’d be able (with some difficulty) to communicate with him. But I doubt we would be able to communicate with an “English” speaker from just 1000 years ago. Of course Hebrew wasn’t actually spoken for most of that time so it’s not a fair comparison. But I’d venture to say that educated Arabs of today would be able to communicate with Arabs of 2000 years ago even though Arabic has been spoken continuously for that entire time.

  2. George says:

    Currently a grad student. Love this. Are your interpretations of the consonants the result of an amalgam of different sources you have researched or is are they based generally on one particular school of thought? Thanks.

    • jewamongyou says:

      They’re based on years of research from a variety of sources including ancient Greek transliterations, modern Hebrew dialects, related languages, Jewish tradition and grammar and other historical sources.

      • imnobody00 says:

        This is beautiful. For the untrained ear, it sounds like Arabic and very different from modern Hebrew pronunciation. Thank you for sharing.

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