Page 76 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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his dictionary he avouched that the people had to “use it not only
in books, in sacred and scholarly matters alone . . . but especially
in speech; from the old to the young, women and children, boys
and girls, in all matters of life and at all hours of the day and
night, like all other peoples.” He felt furthermore that while the
return to the land was dependent upon external political forces,
the return to the language was a matter to be resolved by the
people itself.
Ben Yehuda had been responsible for the introduction of scores
of new words into Hebrew. Such common terms as
m illon
(die-
tionary),
itton
(newspaper),
sha’on
(watch),
rakevet
(train), and
misada
(restaurant), were among those which met the elementary
needs of his own family and the ever growing circle of Hebrew
speaking individuals. He combed the sources to find terms that
could be adapted to modern usage and utilized available roots
to create new forms. He was particularly convinced of the value
of Arabic for the creating of parallel terms in Hebrew, and many
of his successful coinages were drawn from this Semitic tongue.
Ben Yehuda had begun to dream of preparing a complete die-
tionary of the Hebrew language even before settling in Palestine.
His day by day experience in the development of spoken Hebrew
reinforced his belief in the need of such an instrument. The wide-
spread use of European loan words was not to his liking and he
believed in developing Hebrew equivalents for every foreign term.
He set himself the task of preparing a four-volume work that
would incorporate all the known Hebrew words with their mean-
ings and etymologies, together with supporting quotations from
the whole gamut of Hebrew literature. The voluminous amount
of material he gathered by combing the libraries of Europe and
America soon made it evident that his work could not be encom-
passed in four volumes as originally planned.
In defining the spectrum of his work, Ben Yehuda indicated
that most existing Hebrew dictionaries had confined themselves
to the ancient linguistic material and dealt for the most part with
biblical and talmudic Hebrew. Some scholars, like Dr. Jakob
Barth, maintained that the compiling of a dictionary of both
ancient and modem Hebrew was unfeasible. But it was precisely
this onerous task that Ben Yehuda felt had to be accomplished
if Hebrew was to become a viable tongue, and he set about un-
flaggingly to achieve his goal.
The Struggle to Publish the Dictionary
The best account of Ben Yehuda’s unrelenting struggle to com-
pile his
A Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew
is that of Hemda Ben Yehuda who, following the tragic death of