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I often wonder what language Adam, Seth, Noah and Abraham (may peace and blessings be upon them) used to speak. What was their native tongue? Was it classical Hebrew? If yes, then would it be right to claim that Hebrew is the mother of all languages spoken today including Arabic that happens to be the closest language to Hebrew.

Could someone also relate this discussion to the "Tower of Babel"?

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I know someone that is working on a book on this topic (or at least something very similar). –  Hacham Gabriel Mar 25 '12 at 18:59
    
Closely related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/9036. –  msh210 Mar 25 '12 at 19:16
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If this question is about whether Hebrew or Arabic is the 'root of all languages', the question is based on a false premise. Assuming that there is a common root to all languages (I don't believe that this is backed by any serious linguistic scholars), and that the narrative sections of the bible are meant literally, both of those languages have further ancestry in the semitic language family. Cf. this article. If, however, this question is about how the literalist sources would view this matter, then it should be revised to say so. –  Yaakov Kuperman Mar 25 '12 at 20:19
    
Aramaic is very similar to both. I personally think of it as almost a bridge between the two, semantically, if not developmentally. –  Seth J Mar 25 '12 at 21:07
    
Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/29851. –  msh210 Jul 10 '13 at 16:04
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4 Answers 4

It seems that according to scholars of history it isn't, though, on a theological level, Hebrew represents the primary language with which Hakadosh Barukh Hu (God) communicates. Perhaps we can say that Hebrew is therefore the spiritual root of all languages.

Hebrew belongs to the Canaanite group of languages. In turn the Canaanite languages are a branch of the Northwest Semitic family of languages.[4] Hebrew flourished as a spoken language in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah during the 10th to 7th centuries BCE. Scholars debate the degree to which Hebrew was a spoken vernacular in ancient times following the Babylonian exile, when the predominant language in the region was Old Aramaic. Hebrew was nearly extinct as a spoken language by Late Antiquity, but it continued to be used as a literary language and as the liturgical language of Judaism, evolving various dialects of literary Medieval Hebrew, until its revival as a spoken language in the late 19th century.

Wikipedia

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Why was this downvoted? –  Seth J Mar 25 '12 at 20:54
    
But what is really the assurance or guarantee that Hebrew language spoken today is the same Hebrew Abraham (may peace and blessings be upon him) used to speak? Also how much of Yiddish is classical Hebrew? Thanks for the information. :) –  Maxood Mar 28 '12 at 12:05
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We can be sure that hebrew today is different than ancient hebrew. There is biblical hebrew, rabbinic hebrew and there are different letter shapes for each one. The basics of the language are the same much like if you read Shakespeare you would understand most of it and technically the language he wrote in would be correct today. None the less it is a bit different. A second point is that the Hebrew wasnt always a spoken language for many years the vernacular was aramaic, or judao arabic, or ladino, or yiddish hebrew has recently become a spoken language again. –  Eytan Yammer Mar 28 '12 at 16:26
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@Eytan Yammer The difference between the Shakesperean age and the modern English age is hardly 500 years. But if you talk about the Hebrew of Torah, or the language that Abraham, Yitzhak, Yishmael and Yaakov(may peace and blessing be upon all of them) used to speak then the time difference is so huge. That really makes me feel to doubt if the modern Hebrew or Yiddish is close enough to convey the full meaning of what message the scriptures would convey. Also what is Judeo Arabic or Ladino? Thankyou for adding so much to my information. –  Maxood Apr 3 '12 at 11:21
    
I will start with the easy stuff: Judeo-Arabic is the language that was spoken and written in by the likes of Maimonides in fact most of his great philosophical/theological works were written in Judeo-Arabic. "Most of Maimonides's works were written in Judeo-Arabic. However, the Mishneh Torah was written in Hebrew? j.mp/I286fH Ladino is is the spanish equivalent to Yiddish in the eastern European countries. It is a conglomeration of Spanish, hebrew and other dialects which were spoken by the local Jewish population see j.mp/I28D1h. –  Eytan Yammer Apr 4 '12 at 20:42
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Rashi (to Bereishis 2:23) notes that the world was created in Hebrew. And in parshas Noach (11:1) Rashi notes that the one original language was Hebrew. The question then came about how to explain the statement in the gemara in Sanhedrin 38b that Adam spoke in Aramaic.

Two answers are offered in the two tshuvos cited below: 1) that Adam spoke Aramaic after the sin, but not before. But this doesn't seem to answer the question from parshas Noach. 2) Aramaic is a corrupted form of Hebrew, in which case still Hebrew was the only language, but Aramaic was the corrupted form spoken for secular purposes.

שו"ת דברי יציב חלק יורה דעה סימן נב ויש להעיר מסנהדרין ל"ח ע"ב אמר ר' יהודה אמר רב אדם הראשון בלשון ארמי סיפר, ותירצתי לי שזה אחר החטא וירד ממעלתו לדבר גם כן דברים של חול, ע"כ בלשון ארמי סיפר. ושמחתי שמצאתי ביפה תואר שם שהקשה כן, ובנזר הקודש שם כתב ויתכן שזה גרם לו החטא כי נודע ליו"ח דלשון ארמי הוא מקליפת נוגה וכו' עיי"ש, ועיין ביפה תואר שם ודו"ק

שו"ת משנה הלכות חלק יג סימן קמז וקצת אמרתי בזה לפרש הא דאמרו (סנהדרין ל"ח) אדם הראשון בלשון ארמי סיפר שנאמר ולי מה יקרו רעיך אל, ולפום ריהטא לפלא שהרי העולם נברא בלשה"ק ואכתי לא הי' להם שאר לשונות בכלל עד דור הפלגה וכל העולם בלשון הקודש דבר וגם אדם הראשון קרא שמות בלשון הקודש (עיין בראשית ב' כ"ג) לזאת יקרא אשה כי מאיש לקחה זאת, וברש"י לשון נופל על לשון מכאן שנברא העולם בלה"ק (ב"ר) ובפ' נח (י"א א') ויהי כל הארץ שפה אחת ודברים אחדים ופרש"י שפה אחת בלשון הקודש ובת"י ב"ע ובת' ירושלמי והוה כל ארעא לישן חד וממלל חד ועיטא חדא בלישן קודשא הוה ממללין דאיתבריא ביה עלמא מן שרויא. וא"כ אדם הראשון דבר בלה"ק ואכתי לא הי' לשון ארמי כלל רק לאחר דור הפלגה, אבל אם נימא דארמית הוא לשה"ק משובש אתי שפיר שאמר ולי מה יקרו רעיך אל ששיבש הלשון קודש במקצת, והיה זה מטעם שלא רצה להשתמש בלשון הקודש לדברי חול וכמו שמצינו בדורות אחרונים שתקנו כתב רש"י וכן הספרדים העלו לעצמן לאדינא שלא ישתמשו בלשון הקודש וגם לא לשון עמים.

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Can you please translate the Hebrew text here in English please? –  Maxood Apr 3 '12 at 11:43
    
Another possible answer (what I would say is the easiest) is that Rav happens to disagree with that statement found in midrash Tanchuma. This is certainly not the only time that midrashim disagree. –  josh waxman Apr 6 '12 at 11:56
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According to Sanhedrin 38a:

Rab Judah also said in Rab's name: The first man spoke Aramaic,18 for it is written, How weighty are thy thoughts unto me, God.19 And that is what Resh Lakish meant when he said: What is the meaning of the verse, 'This is the book of the generations of Adam?20 It is to intimate that the Holy One, blessed be He, showed him [Adam] every generation and its thinkers,21 every generation and its sages. When he came to the generation of Rabbi Akiba, he [Adam] rejoiced at his learning but was grieved at his death,22 and said: How weighty23 are Thy friends24 to me, O God.19

which perhaps would make Aramaic the mother of all languages spoken today in the world.

(To explain this gemara, there is a statement in Tehillim 139:17:

וְלִי--מַה-יָּקְרוּ רֵעֶיךָ אֵל; מֶה עָצְמוּ, רָאשֵׁיהֶם. How weighty also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!

and the midrash puts this spin on that statement, that Adam Harishon said it in this context. The statement contains Aramaisms.

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Can you please provide an authentic source or justfication of the above claim? –  Maxood Apr 3 '12 at 11:49
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what do you mean? it is an explicit gemara, which I cited, that the first man (meaning Adam HaRishon) spoke Aramaic. (is a gemara not an authentic source? why not?) And this was before the tower of Bavel, so all people spoke on language. –  josh waxman Apr 6 '12 at 11:51
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Hebrew is a member of the Semitic language family. According to scholars, all Semitic languages evolved from "Proto-Semitic", an unknown language that has traits common to all of the various languages of the family tree.

One could argue that the language spoken by G-d, Adam, and the angels was this language, and even that Hebrew in its unadulterated form is this mother language (though serious scholars would likely scoff at that).

However, and especially since you mentioned the Tower of Babel, it's important from the perspective of Jewish tradition to remember that G-d mixed up all the people's languages so they couldn't communicate when attempting to build the Tower. As such, even if Hebrew were the mother language of the Semitic family, all other language families are completely unrelated to Hebrew or to each other.

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