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I've heard that Aramaic and Hebrew are similar languages in vocabulary, syntax, and structure. There is, however, some debate about which is the older, or original, base language. After a bit of searching, it looks like both languages came into use at around 1200 BCE. Do Jewish texts or rabbinic sources provide any further information about which of these languages is older and, perhaps, the original?

  • @MonicaCellio While on topic (assuming the body is edited to match the title) I think it should be rejected as invalidating the current answer. – Double AA Aug 19 '14 at 19:21
  • @DoubleAA, echad: I made a further edit to clarify that you're looking for Jewish sources (text or otherwise), to avoid invalidating the existing answer, and reopened. – Monica Cellio Aug 19 '14 at 19:35
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From the Ohr Somayach "Ask the Rabbi" site:

We see evidence that Adam spoke Hebrew because he gave Eve two names, each of which makes sense only in Hebrew. He called her isha (woman) because "she was taken from ish (man)," and he called her Chava (Eve) because "she was to be Mother of all chai (life)." The very name Adam is from the Hebrew word adamah (earth), referring to the fact that G-d created Adam from the earth. From the time of Adam and Eve until the generation of the Tower of Babel, everyone spoke Hebrew.

We do find that the Talmud in Sanhedrin 38b says that Adam spoke Aramaic. How does that reconcile with the above ? user @Curiouser based on sources offers the possible explanations:

1)That Adam spoke Aramaic after the sin, but not before.

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.

So it seems that Hebrew came before Aramaic.

I encourage you to look at other MY discussions similar to your question.

Is Hebrew the mother of all languages spoken today in the world?

לשון הקדש: the oldest language?

Sources:

http://www.ohr.edu/ask_db/ask_main.php/199/Q2/

Bereshet 2:23, 3:20

Midrash Bereshet Rabbah 38

  • I'm wary of the 'proof' from Adam's names for Eve; after all, the Bible (Exodus 14:10) states that the daughter of Pharaoh gave Moses the name משה, based on the (according to most interpretations) Hebrew word משיתהו. Unless you'll say she used Hebrew since that was the child's language (the bible relates that she recognized that he was from the Hebrews). – intuit Aug 21 '14 at 2:04
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    I was always under the impression (have to look for source) that Hebrew, לשון הקודש, was reserved for holy or sacred purposes such as the liturgy and Torah study etc. whereas Aramaic was the vernacular used for everyday life. – intuit Aug 21 '14 at 2:08
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    We can see simply by Bereishis 1 that the first language was Hebrew, because that is the language in which Hashem creates light and all the other things on earth. – ezra May 9 '16 at 19:52
  • Thank you for a well-researched answer. Please, do not be offended but I don't think it is acceptable. You are using religious stories rather than real research texts. Sorry again for any grief caused by my comment. – DraxDomax Oct 20 '16 at 9:12
  • The book Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew (Mosaica Press, 2018) by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein discusses what language Adam spoke. In the first chapter of the book, it offers seven different ways of reconciling the Midrashic assertion that he spoke Hebrew with the Talmudic claim that he spoke Aramaic. – Reb Chaim HaQoton Apr 16 at 10:00
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Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi (Kuzari, 2:67-68) writes that Abraham spoke both Aramaic and Hebrew, using the latter for holy purposes and the former for everything else. On the other hand, Elias Levita (known as Rabbi Eliyahu HaBachur) writes that Aramaic was a late corruption of Hebrew which began after the death of Noah's son Shem. Some authorities like Ibn Ezra, Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Katzenellenbogen, and others seem to say that Hebrew and Aramaic should actually be considered one langauge, not separate language. I would say that this leads us into the question that linguists have never really answered: What is the difference between a dialect and a language? What is the cut-off between the two?

SOURCE: Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew (Mosaica Press, 2014) by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein pages: 28-30; 71-73; 175-186.

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