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The Samaritans (Hebrew: שומרונים Shomronim), (Arabic: السامريون‎) known in the Talmud as Kuthim (Hebrew: כותים‎), are an ethnoreligious group of the Levant. Ancestrally, they claim descent from a group of Israelite inhabitants who have connections to ancient Samaria from the beginning of the Babylonian Exile up to the beginning of the Common Era. The Samaritans, however, derive their name not from this geographical designation, but rather from the term שַמֶרִים (šāmĕrı̂m), "keeper [of the Law]".[3] Religiously, they are the adherents to Samaritanism, a branch of Judaism separate from the historically mainstream form of Judaism. Based on the Samaritan Pentateuch, Samaritans claim that their worship is the true religion of the ancient Israelites, predating the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

As of November 1, 2007, there were 712[1] Samaritans according to their tally, living almost exclusively in Kiryat Luza on Mount Gerizim near the city of Nablus/Shechem in Samaria (now a part of the West Bank) and in the city of Holon in Israel.[4] There are, however, converts of various religious backgrounds who follow the Samaritan traditions outside of Israel, especially in the United States.

The Samaritans now speak either Modern Hebrew (in Holon) or sometimes Arabic (in Nablus/Shechem) as their mother language. For liturgical purposes, Samaritan Hebrew, also known as ancient Hebrew, and Samaritan Aramaic are used. These languages were in use by Jews of Judea prior to the Roman exile, and beyond.



[edit] Early history according to Samaritan sources

The Samaritans assert that Mount Gerizim was the original Holy Place of Israel from the time that Joshua ben Nun conquered Israel and the twelve tribes of Israel settled the land. According to the Torah, the story of Mount Gerizim takes us back to the story of the time when Moses ordered Joshua to take the Twelve Tribes of Israel to the mountains by Shechem and place half of the tribes, six in number, on the top of Mount Gerizim, the Mount of the Blessing, and the other half in Mount Ebal, the Mount of the Curse. The two mountains were used to symbolize the significance of the commandments and serve as a warning to whoever disobeyed them.

The Samaritans have insisted that they are direct descendants of the Northern Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, who survived the destruction of the Northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The inscription of Sargon II records the deportation of a relatively small proportion of the Israelites (27,290, according to the annals), so it is quite possible that a sizable population remained that could identify themselves as Israelites, the term that the Samaritans prefer for themselves.

Samaritan historiography would place the basic schism from the remaining part of Israel after the twelve tribes conquered and returned to the land of Canaan, led by Joshua. After Joshua's death, Eli the priest left the tabernacle which Moses erected in the desert and established on Mount Gerizim, and built another one under his own rule in the hills of Shiloh (1 Sam 1:1-3; 2:12-17). Thus, he established both an illegitimate priesthood and an illegitimate place of worship.

Abu l-Fath, who in the fourteenth century CE wrote a major work of Samaritan history, comments on Samaritan origins as follows:[5]

A terrible civil war broke out between Eli son of Yafni, of the line of Ithamar, and the sons of Pincus (Phineas), because Eli son of Yafni resolved to usurp the High Priesthood from the descendants of Pincus.

Hebrew (עִבְרִית, ‘Ivrit) is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family with strong roots in both Chaldean, the language of Chaldea and Biblical Aramaic. Modern Hebrew is spoken by more than seven million people in Israel and used for prayer or study in Jewish communities around the world. It is the official language of Israel, though English and Arabic are also used there.[1] Hebrew is also spoken as a mother tongue by the Samaritans, though today fewer than a thousand Samaritans remain. As a foreign language it is studied mostly by Jews and students of Judaism and Israel, archaeologists and linguists specializing in the Middle East and its civilizations and by theologians.

The modern word "Hebrew" is derived from the word "ivriy" which in turn may be based upon the root "`avar" (עבר) meaning "to cross over". The related name Ever occurs in Genesis 10:21 and possibly means "the one who traverses". In the Bible "Hebrew" is called Yehudith (יהודית) because Judah (Yehuda) was the surviving kingdom at the time of the quotation, late 8th century (Is 36, 2 Kings 18).

The core of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) is written in Classical Hebrew, and much of its present form is specifically the dialect of Biblical Hebrew that scholars believe flourished around the 6th century BCE, around the time of the Babylonian exile. For this reason, Hebrew has been referred to by Jews as Leshon HaKodesh (לשון הקודש), "The Holy Language", since ancient times.



[edit] History

As a language, Hebrew belongs to the Canaanite group of languages. Hebrew (Israel) and Moabite (Jordan) are Southern Canaanite while Phoenician (Lebanon) is Northern Canaanite. Canaanite is closely related to Aramaic and to a lesser extent South-Central Arabic. Whereas other Canaanite languages and dialects have become extinct, Hebrew has survived. Hebrew flourished as a spoken language in Canaan from the 10th century BCE until the Babylonian exile.

Around the 6th century BCE, the Neo-Babylonian Empire conquered the ancient Kingdom of Judah, destroying much of Jerusalem and exiling its population far to the East in Babylon. During the Babylonian captivity, many Israelites were enslaved within the Babylonian Empire and learned the Aramaic language of their captors. The Babylonians had taken mainly the governing classes of Israel while leaving behind in Israel presumably more-compliant farmers and laborers to work the land. Thus for a significant period, the Jewish elite became influenced by Aramaic. [2] (see below, Aramaic spoken among Israelites).

The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 467 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. They constitute a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, the only branch of that family to be spoken not only in Africa but also in Asia.

The most widely spoken Semitic language today is Arabic[1] (322 million native speakers, approx 422 million total speakers)[2][3]. It is followed by Amharic (27 million),[4][5] Tigrinya (about 6.7 million),[6] and Hebrew (about 5 million).[7]

Semitic languages are attested in written form from a very early date, with texts in Eblaite and Akkadian appearing from around the middle of the third millennium BC, written in a script adapted from Sumerian cuneiform. The other scripts used to write Semitic languages are alphabetic. Among them are the Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, South Arabian, and Ge'ez alphabets. Maltese is the only Semitic language to be written in the Latin alphabet. It is also the only official Semitic language within the European Union.

The term "Semitic" for these languages, after Shem, the son of Noah in the Bible, is etymologically a misnomer in some ways (see Semitic), but is nonetheless in standard use.



[edit] History

[edit] Origins

Main article: Proto-Semitic
11th century manuscript of the Hebrew Bible with Targum
Page from a 15th century Bible in Ge'ez (Ethiopia)

The Semitic family is a member of the larger Afro-Asiatic family, all the other five or more branches of which are based in Africa. Largely for this reason, the ancestors of Proto-Semitic speakers are now widely believed to have first arrived in the Middle East from Africa, possibly as part of the operation of the Saharan pump, around the late Neolithic.[8][9] Diakonoff sees Semitic originating between the Nile Delta and Palestine as the northernmost branch of Afro-Asiatic. Blench even wonders whether the highly divergent Gurage indicate an origin in Ethiopia (with the rest of Ethiopic Semitic a later back migration). However, an opposing theory is that Afro-Asiatic originated in the Middle East, and that Semitic is the only branch to have stayed put; this view is supported by apparent Sumerian and Caucasian loanwords in the African branches of Afro-Asiatic.[10]

In any event, Proto-Semitic itself is assumed to have reached the Arabian Peninsula by approximately the 4th millennium BC(E), from which Semitic daughter languages continued to spread outwards. When written records began in the mid 3rd millennium BC(E), the Semitic-speaking Akkadians and Amorites were entering Mesopotamia from the deserts to the west, and were probably already present in places such as Ebla in Syria.

[edit] 2nd millennium BC(E)

By the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC(E), East Semitic languages dominated in Mesopotamia, while West Semitic languages were probably spoken from Syria to Yemen, although Old South Arabian is considered by most to be South Semitic and data are sparse. Akkadian had become the dominant literary language of the Fertile Crescent, using the cuneiform script they adapted from the Sumerians, while the sparsely attested Eblaite disappeared with the city, and Amorite is attested only from proper names.

A language is a dynamic set of sensory symbols of communication and the elements used to manipulate them. Language can also refer to the use of such systems as a general phenomenon. Strictly speaking, language is considered to be an exclusively human mode of communication. Although other animals make use of quite sophisticated communicative systems, sometimes casually referred to as animal language, none of these are known to make use of all of the properties that linguists use to define language.

In Western Philosophy, language has long been closely associated with reason, which is also a uniquely human way of using symbols. In Ancient Greek philosophical terminology, the same word, logos, was used as a term for both language or speech and reason, and the philosopher Thomas Hobbes used the English word "speech" so that it similarly could refer to reason, as will be discussed below. More commonly though, the English word "language", derived ultimately from lingua, Latin for tongue, typically refers only to expressions of reason which can be understood by other people, most obviously by speaking.



[edit] Properties of language

A set of commonly accepted symbols is only one feature of language; all languages must define the structural relationships between these symbols in a system of grammar. Rules of grammar are one of the characteristics sometimes said to distinguish language from other forms of communication. They allow a finite set of symbols to be manipulated to create a potentially infinite number of grammatical utterances.

Another property of language is that its symbols are arbitrary. Any concept or grammatical rule can be mapped onto a symbol. In other words, most languages make use of sound, but the combinations of sounds used do not have any necessary and inherent meaning – they are merely an agreed-upon convention to represent a certain thing by users of that language. For instance, there is nothing about the Spanish word nada itself that forces Spanish speakers to convey the idea of "nothing". Another set of sounds (for example, the English word nothing) could equally be used to represent the same concept, but all Spanish speakers have acquired or learned to correlate this meaning for this particular sound pattern. For Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian or Bosnian speakers on the other hand, nada means something else; it means "hope".

This arbitrariness even applies to words with an onomatopoetic dimension (i.e. words that to some extent simulate the sound of the token referred to). For example, several animal names (e.g. cuckoo, whip-poor-will, katydid) are derived from sounds the respective animal makes, but these forms did not have to be chosen for these meanings. Non-onomatopoetic words can stand just as easily for the same meaning.


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A Dictionary of Samaritan Aramaic:


Studies In Semitic Languages And Linguistics, Late Samaritan Hebrew: Alinguistic Analysis Of Its Different Types


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