Issues in the Linguistic Analysis of a Dead Language, with Particular Reference to Ancient Hebrew

  • Robert Holmstedt


With the increasing maturation of the linguistic analysis of ancient Hebrew, it becomes increasingly important that we keep in mind the inherent challenges of analyzing no-longer-spoken languages, like ancient Hebrew. In this article I address a number of such issues in the hopes of provoking some fruitful discussion. First, I address the distinction between linguistic analysis and philological analysis. Then I address some of the major methodological and theoretical challenges facing those who bring modern linguistic theories to bear upon a ‘dead’ language such as ancient Hebrew, including the lack of native speakers, the limited corpus, and the relationship of ancient Hebrew to modern Israeli Hebrew.