In the 12th century BCE, Hebrew, which earlier may have been almost identical with Phoenician, developed into an independent language. Hebrew was spoken by the Patriarchs during the Biblical period. In the last century BCE, the alphabet of Hebrew, which is still used today, was developed. The Bible was written in Hebrew. In the post-Biblical period, Aramaic gradually replaced Hebrew as the spoken language, but Hebrew was still used as the language of ritual, prayer, literature, and written communication for centuries. Rabbinical Hebrew, used in the Mishnah, developed around 200 CE. By the 9th century, the use of Hebrew declined, and the language was being used only for religious purposes.
In the late 19th century, modern Hebrew was developed along with the rise of Zionism. In 1913, Hebrew became the language of instruction in Jewish schools in Palestine. In 1948, Hebrew became the official language of the newly established State of Israel. Eliezer ben Yehudah devoted his life to and deserves the credit for the successful revival of Hebrew in the 19th century.
Hebrew is written from right to left. The Hebrew alphabet of twenty-two letters (five of which have a different form when they appear at the end of a word) consists entirely of consonants. Thus the word shabbat (sabbath) appears as the Hebrew equivalents of "sh", "b", and "t" - written from right to left. The lack of vowels meant it was hard to know how to pronounce a word by seeing how it was written. About the 8th century a system developed for indicating vowels through the use of small dots and dashes placed above and below the consonants. Vowels are used today in school books and prayer books, but they are not used in newspapers, magazines, or general books. Tropes are symbols that indicate the notes to be used when the Torah portions are chanted in the synagogue. English words of Hebrew origin include amen, hallelujah, sabbath, rabbi, cherub, seraph, Satan, kosher, manna, shibboleth, behemoth, kibbutz and sabra.