The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

“Picking up the Pieces of the Holy Tongue for the Scattered Nation”: Shlomo ibn Gabirol on the Revival of Hebrew Language in his Grammatical Poem

The paper will deliberate on the remaining fragments of Ibn Gabirol’s sole grammatical work the ‘Anaq, as well as on its form and language – especially the significance of the very fact of composing the theoretical linguistic work in Hebrew poetic verse. I will also be looking at the correspondence of its content with the content of Sa’adia Gaon’s introduction to his Hebrew dictionary, the Egron.
By taking a closer look at the works of Ibn Gabirol and some of his contemporaries I will try to define to what extant the Hebrew authors of the “Jewish Golden Age” in Al-Andalus were able to bring to life the postulates of reviving the Hebrew language – an idea crucial for both Ibn Gabirol’s and Sa’adia’s works.
That question will be analyzed also in respect to the speculated emergence of the Medieval Hebrew as a spoken language, which idea might have been encouraged at the time by the popularization of the Tiberian vocalization – as demonstrated by Yehuda ha-Lewi’s phonological remarks on the Hebrew language (presented in his theoretical treaties, the Kuzari) – which shall also be quoted.
Finally, to comment on the practical manifestations of the above mentioned postulates, I will take a closer look also at some of the poetical works of other authors – especially Shmuel ha-Nagid’s (Ibn Gaboirol’s patron) – whose analysis will hopefully let me illustrate, to what extend did the authors manage to “bring the language to life” and let it function also as a tool of communication, outside of its fixed, written literary and liturgical manifestation.