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Connections between Arabic and Hebrew

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Connections between Arabic and Hebrew

For decades, non-linguists thought Arabic and Hebrew were nearly the same. Especially Arabic speakers, who pronounce Hebrew as (Ebry) and Arabic as (Araby) with the same letters but in a different order.

This blog will cover some comparisons and differences between Arabic and Hebrew.

Arabic Quick Look

Arabic is a Central Semitic language, closely related to Aramaic, Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician. Modern Standard Arabic is a distinct form and more conservative than all of its current spoken varieties and is the only official Arabic language. It’s the language of the Quran and the native language for more than 290 million people.

Hebrew Quick Look

Hebrew is a West Semitic language of the Afro-asiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible.) The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Today, Hebrew is spoken by nine million people worldwide.

gpi-arabic and hebrew-1

Similarities

Because both languages belong to the Semitic language family, they are similar. As an Arabic speaker, you’ll easily notice the strong similarities between both languages if you listen to a Hebrew conversation. You will also start connecting pronunciation and the sounds to figure out how similar they are and wonder “is that true that an Arabic speaker can easily learn Hebrew, or vice versa, as most people think?”

Another similarity is the shared vocabulary structure, Binyanim. Which dictates how verbs are conjugated.

The best way to answer that it is to present some examples from the two languages to show how they are connected.

Examples of similar words between the two languages:

English Hebrew Pronunciation Arabic Pronunciation
Boy Yeled Walad
Girl Bat Bent
Sun Shemsh Shams
Peace Shallom Salam
Day Yom Yom
Pronunciation

Arabic and Hebrew speakers with Middle Eastern backgrounds easily notice the strong pronunciation similarities they share. Both Arabic and Hebrew pronunciation systems have more flexibility to pronounce several vowels and some of tricky letters which most European speakers cannot easily pronounce, e.g. ح (pronounced as Ha’) & ع (pronounced as Ein). As for the Hebrew pronunciation, it’s divided into two main forms/dialects: Sephardic and Ashkenazi. This causes several pronunciation issues easily noticed when visiting Israel.

gpi-arabic and hebrew-2

Differences

Hebrew and Arabic are different languages, so even though there are many similarities, there are also many differences.

  • The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters.
  • The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters.
  • Arabic letters are written in cursive, Hebrew letters can’t be joined.
  • Modern Hebrew is influenced by the Romance, Slavic and Germanic languages.
  • Hebrew has two main dialects: Ashkenazic dialect, used by European Jews and their descendants and Sephardic dialect, used by Jews from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern areas.
  • There are numerous Arabic dialects, including: Levantine Arabic, Mesopotamian Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, Gulf Arabic and Central Asian Arabic.
Summary

 

Arabic and Hebrew both belong to the Semitic language family making them similar languages. The structure, pronunciations and words resemble one another.  However, they are separate languages. A native Hebrew speaker typically won’t easily understand a native Arabic speaker without learning the language structure and vocabulary, and vice versa