Hebrew is categorized as a West Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Outside of Israel, the second-highest population of fluent Hebrew speakers is in the United States. As of 2013, there are about 9 million Hebrew speakers, 7 million who speak it fluently. About 5.3 million people have learned Hebrew as their first language, while a total of 7.4 million people in total have learned Hebrew as their first or second language.
Hebrew is one of two official languages of Israel. Modern Hebrew is written right to left via the Hebrew alphabet, a consonant-only alphabet with 22 letters. Modern scripts are based on the "square" letter form, while written script appears in cursive, a more circular-appearing form. Diacritic marks placed above or below letters are used to create vowel sounds, which displays a syllabic onset. Other ways to show use of vowels include the use of matres lectionis, which are consonantal letters used as vowels. Diacritic marks are also used to change the sound of consonants and in some uses, used to indicate punctuation, accentuation, and musical rendition of Biblical texts.