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Canaanite languages: Map


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The Canaanite languages or Hebraic languages are a subfamily of the Semitic languages, which were spoken by the ancient peoples of the Canaan region, including Canaanites, Israelites and Phoeniciansmarker. All of them became extinct as native languages in the early 1st millennium CE, although Hebrew remained in continuous literary and religious use among Jews, and was revived as a spoken, everyday language in the 19th century by Eliezer Ben Yehuda. The Phoenician (and especially Carthaginianmarker) expansion spread their Canaanite language to the Western Mediterranean for a time, but there too it died out, although it seems to have survived slightly longer than in Phoeniciamarker itself.

The main sources for study of Canaanite languages are the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), and inscriptions such as:

The extra-biblical Canaanite inscriptions are gathered along with Aramaic inscriptions in editions of the book "Kanaanäische und Aramäische Inschriften", from which they may be referenced as KAI n (for a number n); for example, the Mesha Stele is "KAI 181'".

Distinctive features

The Canaanite languages, together with the Aramaic languages and Ugaritic, form the Northwest Semitic subgroup. Some distinctive features of Canaanite in relation to Aramaic are:


  • The Semitic Languages. Routledge Language Family Descriptions. Edited by Robert Hetzron. New York: Routledge, 1997.

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