Mishnaic Hebrew

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The Mishnaic Hebrew language or Rabbinic Hebrew language is arguably the ancient descendant of Biblical Hebrew as preserved by the Jews after the Babylonian captivity, and definitively recorded by Jewish sages in writing the Mishnah and other contemporary documents. It was not used by the Samaritans, who preserved their own dialect, Samaritan Hebrew.


Final /m/ is often confused with final /n/ in the Mishna (see Bava Kama 1:4, "מועדין"). Probably the final nasal consonant was not pronounced, and instead the vowel previous to it was nasalized.

Also, some surviving manuscripts of the Mishna confuse guttural consonants, especially (א) (a glottal stop) and 'ayin (ע) (a pharyngeal fricative). That could be a sign that they were pronounced the same in Mishnaic Hebrew.

Verb Tenses

The verb system in Mishnaic Hebrew is closer to Modern Hebrew than it is to Biblical Hebrew.

Past is expressed using the same form as in Modern Hebrew. For example (Avot 1:1): "משה קיבל תורה מסיניי".

Continous past is expressed using <to be> + <present form>. For example (Avot 1:2): "הוא היה אומר".

Present is expressed using the same form as in Modern Hebrew. For example (Avot 1:2): "על שלושה דברים העולם עומד".

Future is expressed using עתיד + infinitive. For example (Avot 3:1): "ולפני מי אתה עתיד ליתן דין וחשבון".

The imperative (order) is expressed using a form similar to future in modern Hebrew. For example, (Avot 1:3): "הוא היה אומר, אל תהיו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב".