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Aramaic (
Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ...
: ''Arāmāyā'';
Old Aramaic Old Aramaic refers to the earliest stage of the Aramaic language Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Aramaic alphabet, Imperial Aramaic: ; Hebrew alphabet, square script ) is a language that originated among the Aram ...
: ;
Imperial Aramaic Imperial Aramaic is a linguistic term, coined by modern Aramaic studies, scholars in order to designate a specific historical Variety (linguistics), variety of Aramaic language. The term is polysemic, with two distinctive meanings, wider (sociolin ...

Imperial Aramaic
: ;
square script
square script
) is a language that originated among the
Arameans The Arameans (Old Aramaic Old Aramaic refers to the earliest stage of the Aramaic language Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Aramaic alphabet, Imperial Aramaic: ; Hebrew alphabet, square script ) is a language t ...
in the ancient
region of Syria The region of Syria ( ar, ٱلشَّام, '; Hieroglyphic Luwian: ''Sura/i''; gr, Συρία), known in modern literature as Greater Syria (, '), "Syria-Palestine", or the Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical ...
, at the end of the
2nd millennium BC The 2nd millennium BC spanned the years 2000 through 1001 BC. In the Ancient Near East The ancient Near East was the home of early civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban de ...
, and later became one of the most prominent languages of the
ancient Near East The ancient Near East was the home of early civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratification, a form of government, and symbol A symbol is a mark ...
. During its three thousand years long history, Aramaic went through several stages of development. It has served as a language of public life and administration of ancient kingdoms and empires, and also as a language of divine worship and religious study. It subsequently branched into several
Neo-Aramaic The Neo-Aramaic or Modern Aramaic languages are varieties Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety, the set of solutions of a system of polynomial equations * Variety (universal algebra), classes of algebrai ...
languages that are still spoken in modern times. Aramaic language belongs to the Northwest group of the
Semitic language family
Semitic language family
, which also includes the
Canaanite languages The Canaanite languages, or Canaanite dialects, are one of the three subgroups of the Northwest Semitic languages Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic languages The Semitic languages ...
, such as
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
,
Edomite Edom (; Edomite language, Edomite: ; he, Wiktionary:אדום, אֱדוֹם , lit.: "red"; Akkadian language, Akkadian: , ; Egyptian language, Ancient Egyptian: ) was an ancient kingdom in Transjordan (region), Transjordan located between Mo ...
, Moabite, and
Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also

* Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language an ...
, as well as
Amorite The Amorites (; Sumerian language, Sumerian 𒈥𒌅 ''MAR.TU''; Akkadian language, Akkadian ''Amurrūm'' or ''Tidnum''; Egyptian language, Egyptian ''Amar''; he, אמורי ''ʼĔmōrī''; grc, Ἀμορραῖοι) were an ancient Semitic lan ...
and
Ugaritic Ugaritic () is an extinct , classified by some as a of the and so the only known Amorite dialect preserved in writing. It is known through the discovered by French in 1929 at , including several major literary texts, notably the . It has be ...
. Aramaic languages are written in
Aramaic alphabet Aramaic (Syriac alphabet, Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic language, Old Aramaic: ; Aramaic alphabet, Imperial Aramaic: ; Hebrew alphabet, square script ) is a language that originated among the Arameans in the ancient Syria (re ...

Aramaic alphabet
, that was derived from
Phoenician alphabet The Phoenician alphabet is an alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes t ...

Phoenician alphabet
. One of the most prominent variants of Aramaic alphabet, still used in modern times, is
Syriac alphabet The Syriac alphabet ( ) is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to ...
. Aramaic alphabet also became a base for the creation and adaptation of specific writing systems in some other Semitic languages, thus becoming the precursor of
Hebrew alphabet The Hebrew alphabet ( he, wikt:אלפבית, אָלֶף־בֵּית עִבְרִי, ), known variously by scholars as the Ktav Ashuri, Jewish script, square script and block script, is an abjad script used in the writing of the Hebrew language ...

Hebrew alphabet
and
Arabic alphabet The Arabic alphabet ( ar, الْأَبْجَدِيَّة الْعَرَبِيَّة, ' or , ', ), or Arabic abjad, is the as it is codified for writing . It is written from right to left in a style and includes 28 letters. Most letters hav ...

Arabic alphabet
. Historically and originally, Aramaic was the language of the
Arameans The Arameans (Old Aramaic Old Aramaic refers to the earliest stage of the Aramaic language Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Aramaic alphabet, Imperial Aramaic: ; Hebrew alphabet, square script ) is a language t ...
, a Semitic-speaking people of the region between the northern
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
and the northern
Tigris The Tigris () is the easternmost of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of the Armenian Highlands through the Syrian Desert, Syrian and Arabian Deserts, and empti ...

Tigris
valley. By around 1000 BC, the Arameans had a string of kingdoms in what is now part of
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
,
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part ...

Lebanon
,
Jordan Jordan ( ar, الأردن; tr. ' ), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,; tr. ') is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part of the Greater Middle East. It in ...

Jordan
, and the fringes of southern
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in th ...

Mesopotamia
and
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
. Aramaic rose to prominence under the
Neo-Assyrian Empire The Neo-Assyrian Empire (Assyrian cuneiform Assyrian may refer to: * Assyria, a major Mesopotamian kingdom and empire * Assyrian people, an ethnic group indigenous to the Middle East * Assyrian Church (disambiguation) * Assyrian language (disam ...

Neo-Assyrian Empire
(911–605 BC), under whose influence Aramaic became a prestige language after being adopted as a
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'disco ...
of the empire, and its use spread throughout
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in th ...

Mesopotamia
, the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
and parts of
Asia Minor Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from 'almost' and 'island') is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of ...

Asia Minor
. At its height, Aramaic, having gradually replaced earlier Semitic languages, was spoken in several variants all over what is today
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
,
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
,
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part ...

Lebanon
,
Palestine Palestine ( or ) most often refers to: * State of Palestine, a ''de jure'' sovereign state in the Middle East * Palestine (region), a geographical and historical region in the Middle East Palestine may also refer to: * Palestinian National Aut ...
,
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
,
Jordan Jordan ( ar, الأردن; tr. ' ), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,; tr. ') is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part of the Greater Middle East. It in ...

Jordan
,
Kuwait Kuwait (; ar, الكويت ', or ), officially the State of Kuwait ( ar, دولة الكويت '), is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regi ...

Kuwait
,
Eastern Arabia Eastern Arabia was historically known as ''Al-Bahrain'' ( ar, اَلْبَحْرَيْنِ) until the 18th century. This region stretched from the south of Basra along the Persian Gulf The Persian Gulf ( fa, خلیج فارس, translit=Xa ...
,
Bahrain Bahrain ( ; ar, البحرين, al-Baḥrayn, , locally ), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain ( ar, مملكة البحرين, links=no '), is a country in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Persian Gulf. The Island country, island nation c ...

Bahrain
,
Sinai
Sinai
, parts of southeast and south central
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
, and parts of northwest
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
. Aramaic was the
language of Jesus Jesus Jesus; he, יֵשׁוּעַ, '' Yēšū́aʿ''; ar, عيسى, ʿĪsā ( 4 BC AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli ...
, who spoke the
Galilean dialect The Galilean dialect was the form of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic spoken by people in Galilee during the late Second Temple period, for example at the time of Apostolic Age, Jesus and the disciples, as distinct from a Judean dialect spoken in Jerusal ...
during his public ministry, as well as the language of several sections of the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites ...

Hebrew Bible
, including books of
Daniel Daniel is a masculine Masculinity (also called manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling ...
and
Ezra Ezra (; he, עֶזְרָא, '; fl. 480–440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (, ') and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scripture ...
, and also the language of the
Targum A targum ( arc, תרגום 'interpretation, translation, version') was an originally spoken translation of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic la ...

Targum
, Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible. The scribes of the Neo-Assyrian bureaucracy had also used Aramaic, and this practice was subsequently inherited by the succeeding
Neo-Babylonian Empire The Neo-Babylonian Empire, also known as the Second Babylonian Empire and historically known as the Chaldean Empire, was the last of the Mesopotamian empires to be ruled by monarchs native to Mesopotamia. Beginning with Nabopolassar's coronation as ...

Neo-Babylonian Empire
(605–539 BC), and later by the
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and offi ...

Achaemenid Empire
(539–330 BC). Mediated by scribes that had been trained in the language, highly standardized ''written'' Aramaic (named by scholars as
Imperial Aramaic Imperial Aramaic is a linguistic term, coined by modern Aramaic studies, scholars in order to designate a specific historical Variety (linguistics), variety of Aramaic language. The term is polysemic, with two distinctive meanings, wider (sociolin ...
) progressively also become the ''
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'disco ...
'' of public life, trade and commerce throughout the Achaemenid territories. Wide use of ''written'' Aramaic subsequently led to the adoption of the
Aramaic alphabet Aramaic (Syriac alphabet, Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic language, Old Aramaic: ; Aramaic alphabet, Imperial Aramaic: ; Hebrew alphabet, square script ) is a language that originated among the Arameans in the ancient Syria (re ...

Aramaic alphabet
and (as
logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign lang ...
s) some Aramaic vocabulary in the
Pahlavi scripts Pahlavi is a particular, exclusively written form of various Iranian languages, Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are: *the use of a specific Aramaic script, Aramaic-derived script; *the incidence of Aramaic langua ...
, which were used by several
Middle Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family that are spoken natively by the Iranian peoples. The Iranian languages are grouped in three stages: Old Ir ...
(including Parthian,
Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire. For some time after the Sasan ...
, Sogdian, and Khwarazmian). Aramaic's long history and diverse and widespread use has led to the development of many divergent varieties, which are sometimes considered
dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , 'discourse', from , 'through' and , 'I speak') can refer to either of two distinctly different types of Linguistics, linguistic phenomena: * One usage refers to a variety (linguis ...
s, though they have become distinct enough over time that they are now sometimes considered separate
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

language
s. Therefore, there is not one singular, static Aramaic language; each time and place rather has had its own variation. The more widely spoken
Eastern Aramaic The Eastern Aramaic languages have developed from the varieties of Aramaic Aramaic (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that originated among the in the ancient , at the end of the , and later became one of the most prominent lang ...
and Mandaic forms are today largely restricted to Assyrian Christian and Mandean gnostic communities in
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
, northeastern
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
, northwestern
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
and southeastern
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
, whilst the severely endangered
Western Neo-Aramaic Western Neo-Aramaic (), more commonly referred to as Siryon (), is a modern Western Aramaic language. Today, it is only spoken in three villages in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains of western Syria. Western Neo-Aramaic is the only modern language, livi ...
is spoken by small communities of
Arameans The Arameans (Old Aramaic Old Aramaic refers to the earliest stage of the Aramaic language Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Aramaic alphabet, Imperial Aramaic: ; Hebrew alphabet, square script ) is a language t ...
in western
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
, and persisted in
Mount Lebanon Mount Lebanon ( ar, جَبَل لُبْنَان, ''jabal lubnān'', ; syr, ܛܘܪ ܠܒܢܢ, ', , french: Mont Liban) is a mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain syste ...
until as late as the 17th century. Some variants of Aramaic are also retained as
sacred languages A sacred language, "holy language" (in religious context) or liturgical language is any language that is cultivated and used primarily in Church service, religious service or for other religion, religious reasons by people who speak another, prim ...
by certain religious communities. Most notable among them is
Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ...
, the liturgical language of
Syriac Christianity Syriac Christianity ( syr, ܡܫܝܚܝܘܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ / ''Mšiḥāyuṯā Suryāyṯā''; ar, مسيحية سريانية, ''masīḥiyyat suryāniyya'') represents a distinctive branch of Eastern Christianity Eastern Christianity compris ...

Syriac Christianity
. It is used by several communities, including the
Assyrian Church of the East The Assyrian Church of the East ( syc, ܥܕܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ܕܐܬܘܖ̈ܝܐ, ʿĒḏtā ḏ-Maḏnḥā ḏ-ʾĀṯūrāyē, ar, كنيسة المشرق الآشورية), officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East ( sy ...
, the
Ancient Church of the East The Ancient Church of the East ( syr, ܥܕܬܐ ܥܬܝܩܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ''ʿĒdtā ʿAttiqtā ḏMaḏnḥā''; ar, كنيسة المشرق القديمة, ''Kanīsat al-Mašriq al-Qadīma''), officially the Ancient Holy Apostolic Catholic Chur ...

Ancient Church of the East
, the
Chaldean Catholic Church , native_name_lang = syc , image = , imagewidth = , alt = , caption = , abbreviation = , type = , main_classification = Eastern Catholic , orientation ...
, the
Syriac Orthodox Church , native_name_lang = syc , image = Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate 2k18.jpg , imagewidth = , alt = Cathedral of Saint George , caption = Cathedral of Saint George, Damascus, Syria ...
, the
Syriac Catholic Church The Syriac Catholic Church ( syc, ܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܩܬܘܠܝܩܝܬܐ, ʿĪṯo Suryayṯo Qaṯolīqayṯo, ar, الكنيسة السريانية الكاثوليكية), also known as Syriac Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, is an Eas ...
, the
Maronite Church The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic '' sui iuris'' particular church in full communion Full communion is a communion or relationship of full understanding among different Christian denomination A Christian denomination is a disti ...
, and also the
Saint Thomas Christian denominations The Saint Thomas Christian denominations are traditional Eastern Christianity, Christian denominations from Kerala, India, who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, ...

India
. One of Aramaic liturgical dialects was Mandaic, which besides becoming a vernacular (
Neo-Mandaic Neo-Mandaic, sometimes called the "''ratna''" ( ar, رطنة ''raṭna'' "jargon"), is the modern reflex of the Mandaic language Mandaic ( ar, ٱلْمَنْدَائِيَّة, ') is a southeastern Aramaic dialect type in use by the Mandaean ...
) also remained the liturgical language of
Mandaeism Mandaeism or Mandaeanism ( myz, ࡌࡀࡍࡃࡀࡉࡉࡀ, mandaiia; ar, مَنْدَائِيَّة, '), also known as Sabianism ( ar, صَابِئِيَّة, '), is a Gnostic Gnosticism (from grc, γνωστικός, gnōstikós, , 'havi ...
. Syriac was also the liturgical language of several now-extinct
gnostic Gnosticism (from grc, γνωστικός, gnōstikós, , 'having knowledge') is a collection of religious ideas and systems which coalesced in the late 1st century AD among Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The I ...
faiths, such as
Manichaeism Manichaeism (; in New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the final stage of the Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to ...
.
Neo-Aramaic languages The Neo-Aramaic or Modern Aramaic languages are varieties of Aramaic Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Imperial Aramaic: ; square script ) is a language that originated among the Arameans The Arameans (Old Aram ...
are still spoken today as a
first language A first language, native tongue, native language, or mother/father/parent tongue (also known as arterial language or L1) is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) ...
by many communities of Syriac Christians,
Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), ...

Jews
(in particular, the Jews of Kurdistan), and
Mandaeans Mandaeans ( ar, ٱلصَّابِئَة ٱلْمَنْدَائِيُّون, aṣ-Ṣābiʾah al-Mandāʾiyūn) are an ethnoreligious group An ethnoreligious group (or ethno-religious group) is an ethnic group whose members are also unified by ...
of the
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental ...
, most numerously by Christian Syriacs (Syriac-speakers: ethnic Arameans, Assyrians and Chaldeans), and with numbers of fluent speakers ranging approximately from 1 million to 2 million, with the main languages among Assyrians being
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic Assyrian Neo-Aramaic or simply Assyrian ( or ''Sūreṯ''), also known as Syriac, Eastern Syriac, Neo-Syriac and Modern Syriac, is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / '), also kn ...
(590,000 speakers),
Chaldean Neo-Aramaic Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, or simply Chaldean, is a Northeastern Neo-Aramaic language spoken throughout a large region stretching from the Nineveh plains, in northern Iraq, together with parts of southeastern Turkey. Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is mutual inte ...
(240,000 speakers) and
Turoyo Turoyo (''Ṭūroyo''), also referred to as modern Surayt (''Sūrayṯ''), or modern Suryoyo (''Sūryōyō''), is a Central Neo-Aramaic language, and represents the only remaining living language among western variants of Syriac language The ...
(100,000 speakers); in addition to
Western Neo-Aramaic Western Neo-Aramaic (), more commonly referred to as Siryon (), is a modern Western Aramaic language. Today, it is only spoken in three villages in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains of western Syria. Western Neo-Aramaic is the only modern language, livi ...
(21,700) which persists in only three villages in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains region in western
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
. They have retained use of the once dominant lingua franca despite subsequent
language shift Language shift, also known as language transfer or language replacement or language assimilation, is the process whereby a speech community Arnold Lakhovsky, ''The Conversation'' (circa 1935) A speech community is a group of people who share a s ...
s experienced throughout the
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task whi ...

Middle East
. However, the Aramaic languages are now considered
endangered An endangered species is a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group ...
, since several dialects are used mainly by the older generations, and therefore could go extinct in the near future. However, researchers are working to record and analyze all of the remaining dialects of Neo-Aramaic languages before they are extinguished as spoken languages. Royal Aramaic inscriptions from the Aramean city-states date from 10th century BC, making Aramaic one of the world's oldest recorded living languages.


Name

In historical sources, Aramaic language is designated by two distinctive groups of terms, first of them represented by
endonymic An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 milli ...
(native) names, and the other one represented by various
exonymic An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is a common, internal name A name is a term used for identification by an external observer. They can identify a class or category of things, or a single thing, either unique ...
(foreign in origin) names. Native (endonymic) terms for Aramaic language were derived from the same
word root A root (or root word) is the core of a word that is irreducible into more meaningful elements. In morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or f ...
as the name of its original speakers, the ancient
Arameans The Arameans (Old Aramaic Old Aramaic refers to the earliest stage of the Aramaic language Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Aramaic alphabet, Imperial Aramaic: ; Hebrew alphabet, square script ) is a language t ...
. Endonymic forms were also adopted in some other languages, like ancient
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
. In the
Torah The Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") includes the first five books of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Heb ...

Torah
(Hebrew Bible), "Aram" is used as a proper name of several people including descendants of Shem, Nahor, and Jacob. Unlike in Hebrew, designations for Aramaic language in some other ancient languages were mostly exonymic. In
ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
, Aramaic language was most commonly known as the “Syrian language”,Nöldeke, 1871, p.115: “Die Griechen haben den Namen „Aramäer" nie eigentlich gekannt; ausser Posidonius (dem Strabo folgt) nennt ihn uns nur noch ein andrer Orientale, Josephus (Ant. 1, 6, 4). Dass Homer bei den 'Ερεμβοι oder in den Worten eiv 'Αρίμοις an sie dächte, ist sehr unwahrscheinlich. Die Griechen nannten das Volk „Syrer"”. in relation to the native (non-Greek) inhabitants of the historical
region of Syria The region of Syria ( ar, ٱلشَّام, '; Hieroglyphic Luwian: ''Sura/i''; gr, Συρία), known in modern literature as Greater Syria (, '), "Syria-Palestine", or the Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical ...
. Since the
name of Syria The name ''Syria'' is latinized Latinisation or Latinization can refer to: * Latinisation of names, the practice of rendering a non-Latin name in a Latin style * Latinisation in the Soviet Union, the campaign in the USSR during the 1920s and 1930s ...
itself emerged as a variant of Assyria, the biblical Ashur, and Akkadian Ashuru, a complex set of
semantic Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another o ...
phenomena was created, becoming a subject of interest both among ancient writers and modern scholars.
Josephus Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος, ; 37 – 100) was a first-century and military leader, best known for ', who was born in —then part of —to a father of descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry. He initially fought a ...

Josephus
and
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object. The eye that is focused on an object can alternate. The condition may be pre ...

Strabo
(the latter citing
Posidonius Posidonius (; grc-gre, Ποσειδώνιος , "of Poseidon Poseidon (; grc-gre, Ποσειδῶν, ) was one of the Twelve Olympians upright=1.8, Fragment of a relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted eleme ...
) both stated that the “Syrians” called themselves “Arameans”. The
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals Roman numerals are a that originated in and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe wel ...
, the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, used the terms ''Syria'' and ''Syrian'' where the
Masoretic Text The Masoretic Text (MT or 𝕸; he, נוסח המסורה, Nusakh Ham'mas'sora) is the authoritative Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language ...
, the earliest extant Hebrew copy of the Bible, uses the terms ''Aramean'' and ''Aramaic''; numerous later bibles followed the Septuagint's usage, including the
King James Version The King James Version (KJV), also the King James Bible (KJB) and the Authorized Version, is an of the Christian for the , which was commissioned in 1604 and published in 1611, by sponsorship of King . The include the 39 books of the , a ...

King James Version
. The connection between Chaldean, Syriac, and Samaritan as "Aramaic" was first identified in 1679 by German theologian Johann Wilhelm Hilliger. The connection between the names Syrian and Aramaic was made in 1835 by Étienne Marc Quatremère. Ancient Aram, bordering northern Israel and what is now called Syria, is considered the linguistic center of Aramaic, the language of the Arameans who settled the area during the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age sys ...
circa 3500 BC. The language is often mistakenly considered to have originated within Assyria (Iraq). In fact, Arameans carried their language and writing into Mesopotamia by voluntary migration, by forced exile of conquering armies, and by nomadic
Chaldea Chaldea () was a small country that existed between the late 10th or early 9th and mid-6th centuries BCE, after which the country and its people were absorbed and assimilated into the indigenous population Babylonia. Semitic language, Semitic-s ...
n invasions of Babylonia during the period from 1200 to 1000 BC. The Christian
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...

New Testament
uses the
Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Greek language, Greek spoken and written d ...
phrase ''Hebraïstí'' to denote "Aramaic", as Aramaic was at that time the language commonly spoken by the
Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), ...

Jews
. The Hellenized Jewish community of Alexandria instead translated "Aramaic" to "the Syrian tongue".


Geographic distribution

During the
Neo-Assyrian The Neo-Assyrian Empire (Assyrian cuneiform: ''mat Aš-šur KI'', "Country of the Assur, city of Ashur (god), god Aššur"; also phonetically ''mat Aš-šur'') was an Iron Age Mesopotamian empire, in existence between 911 and 609 BC, and becam ...

Neo-Assyrian
and
Neo-Babylonian Empire The Neo-Babylonian Empire, also known as the Second Babylonian Empire and historically known as the Chaldean Empire, was the last of the Mesopotamian empires to be ruled by monarchs native to Mesopotamia. Beginning with Nabopolassar's coronation as ...

Neo-Babylonian Empire
s,
Arameans The Arameans (Old Aramaic Old Aramaic refers to the earliest stage of the Aramaic language Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Aramaic alphabet, Imperial Aramaic: ; Hebrew alphabet, square script ) is a language t ...
, the native speakers of Aramaic, began to settle in greater numbers, at first in
Babylonia Babylonia () was an and based in central-southern which was part of Ancient Persia (present-day and ). A small -ruled state emerged in 1894 BCE, which contained the minor administrative town of . It was merely a small provincial town dur ...
, and later in
Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of We ...

Assyria
(
Upper Mesopotamia Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain In geography, a plain is a flat expanse of land that generally does not change much in elevation. Plains occur as lowlands along valleys or on the doorsteps of mountai ...
, modern-day northern
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
, northeast
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
, northwest
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
, and south eastern
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
(what was Armenia at the time). The influx eventually resulted in the
Neo-Assyrian Empire The Neo-Assyrian Empire (Assyrian cuneiform Assyrian may refer to: * Assyria, a major Mesopotamian kingdom and empire * Assyrian people, an ethnic group indigenous to the Middle East * Assyrian Church (disambiguation) * Assyrian language (disam ...

Neo-Assyrian Empire
(911–605 BC) adopting an
AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages' ...

Akkadian
-influenced
Imperial Aramaic Imperial Aramaic is a linguistic term, coined by modern Aramaic studies, scholars in order to designate a specific historical Variety (linguistics), variety of Aramaic language. The term is polysemic, with two distinctive meanings, wider (sociolin ...
as the ''
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'disco ...
'' of its empire. This policy was continued by the short-lived
Neo-Babylonian Empire The Neo-Babylonian Empire, also known as the Second Babylonian Empire and historically known as the Chaldean Empire, was the last of the Mesopotamian empires to be ruled by monarchs native to Mesopotamia. Beginning with Nabopolassar's coronation as ...

Neo-Babylonian Empire
and
Medes The Medes ( peo, 𐎶𐎠𐎭 ; akk, , ; grc, Μῆδοι ) were an Iranian peoples, ancient Iranian people who spoke the Median language and who inhabited an area known as Media (region), Media between western Iran, western and nor ...
, and all three empires became operationally bilingual in written sources, with Aramaic used alongside Akkadian. The
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and offi ...

Achaemenid Empire
(539–323 BC) continued this tradition, and the extensive influence of these empires led to Aramaic gradually becoming the
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'disco ...
of most of western Asia, the
Arabian Peninsula The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At , the ...
,
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
, the
Caucasus The Caucasus (), or Caucasia (), is a region spanning Europe and Asia. It is situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and mainly occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia (country), Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. It is home to ...
, and
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
. Beginning with the rise of the
Rashidun Caliphate The Rashidun Caliphate ( ar, اَلْخِلَافَةُ ٱلرَّاشِدَةُ, al-Khilāfah ar-Rāšidah) was the first of the four major caliphate A caliphate ( ar, خِلَافَة, ) is an Islamic state under the leadership of an ...
in the late 7th century, Arabic gradually replaced Aramaic as the
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'disco ...
of the
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental ...
. However, Aramaic remains a spoken, literary, and liturgical language for local Christians and also some
Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), ...

Jews
. Aramaic also continues to be spoken by the Assyrians of Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and northwest Iran, with diaspora communities in
Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is ...

Armenia
,
Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country), a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia * Georgia (U.S. state), one of the states of the United States of America Georgia may also refer to: Historical states and entities * Democratic Republ ...
,
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...

Azerbaijan
and southern
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...

Russia
. The
Mandaeans Mandaeans ( ar, ٱلصَّابِئَة ٱلْمَنْدَائِيُّون, aṣ-Ṣābiʾah al-Mandāʾiyūn) are an ethnoreligious group An ethnoreligious group (or ethno-religious group) is an ethnic group whose members are also unified by ...
also continue to use Mandaic Aramaic as a liturgical language, although most now speak Arabic as their
first language A first language, native tongue, native language, or mother/father/parent tongue (also known as arterial language or L1) is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) ...
. There are still also a small number of first-language speakers of Western Aramaic varieties in isolated villages in western Syria. Being in contact with other regional languages, some Aramaic dialects were often engaged in mutual exchange of influences, particularly with Arabic, Iranian, and Kurdish. The turbulence of the last two centuries (particularly the
Assyrian genocide The ''Seyfo'' or ''Sayfo'' ( syr, ܣܝܦܐ ; see below), also known as the Assyrian genocide or the Syriac-Aramean Genocide, was the mass slaughter and deportation of Syriac Christians (mostly belonging to the Syriac Orthodox Church, Church o ...

Assyrian genocide
) has seen speakers of first-language and literary Aramaic dispersed throughout the world. However, there are a number of sizable Assyrian towns in northern Iraq such as
Alqosh Alqosh ( syr, ܐܲܠܩܘܿܫ, Judeo-Aramaic: אלקוש, ar, ألقوش, alternatively spelled Alkosh or Alqush) is a village in the Nineveh plains Nineveh Plains ( syc, ܦܩܥܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܐ, Pqaʿtā ḏ-Nīnwē, Modern syr, ܕܫܬܐ ܕܢ ...

Alqosh
,
Bakhdida Bakhdida ( syr, ܒܓ݂ܕܝܕܐ ar, بخديدا) , also known as Baghdeda, Qaraqosh, or Al-Hamdaniya, is an Assyrian city in northern Iraq Iraq ( ar, ٱلْعِرَاق, '; ku, عێراق '), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْه ...
,
Bartella Bartella (; ar, برطلّة) is a town that is located in the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq about east of Mosul. Bartella was liberated from ISIL control on 20 October 2016 by Iraqi Special Operations Forces and Nineveh Plain Protection Units ...
, Tesqopa, and Tel Keppe, and numerous small villages, where Aramaic is still the main spoken language, and many large cities in this region also have Assyrian Aramaic-speaking communities, particularly Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Dohuk, and al-Hasakah. In Modern Israel, the only native Aramaic speaking population are the Jews of Kurdistan, although the language is dying out. However, Aramaic is also experiencing a revival among Maronites in Israel in Jish.


Aramaic languages and dialects

Aramaic is often spoken of as a single language, but is in reality a group of related languages. Some Aramaic languages differ more from each other than the Romance languages do among themselves. Its long history, extensive literature, and use by different religious communities are all factors in the diversification of the language. Some Aramaic dialects are mutually intelligible, whereas others are not, not unlike the situation with modern varieties of Arabic. Some Aramaic languages are known under different names; for example, Syriac language, Syriac is particularly used to describe the Eastern Aramaic languages, Eastern Aramaic variety used in Christian ethnic communities in Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, and northwestern Iran, and Saint Thomas Christians in India. Most dialects can be described as either "Eastern" or "Western", the dividing line being roughly the Euphrates, or slightly west of it. It is also helpful to draw a distinction between those Aramaic languages that are modern living languages (often called "Neo-Aramaic"), those that are still in use as literary languages, and those that are extinct and are only of interest to scholars. Although there are some exceptions to this rule, this classification gives "Modern", "Middle", and "Old" periods, alongside "Eastern" and "Western" areas, to distinguish between the various languages and dialects that are Aramaic.


Writing system

The earliest Aramaic alphabet was based on the
Phoenician alphabet The Phoenician alphabet is an alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes t ...

Phoenician alphabet
. In time, Aramaic developed its distinctive "square" style. The ancient Israelites and other peoples of Canaan adopted this alphabet for writing their own languages. Thus, it is better known as the
Hebrew alphabet The Hebrew alphabet ( he, wikt:אלפבית, אָלֶף־בֵּית עִבְרִי, ), known variously by scholars as the Ktav Ashuri, Jewish script, square script and block script, is an abjad script used in the writing of the Hebrew language ...

Hebrew alphabet
today. This is the writing system used in Biblical Aramaic and other Jewish writing in Aramaic. The other main writing system used for Aramaic was developed by Christian communities: a cursive form known as the
Syriac alphabet The Syriac alphabet ( ) is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to ...
. A highly modified form of the Aramaic alphabet, the Mandaic alphabet, is used by the Mandaeism, Mandaeans. In addition to these writing systems, certain derivatives of the Aramaic alphabet were used in ancient times by particular groups: the Nabataean alphabet in Petra and the Palmyrene alphabet in Palmyra. In modern times,
Turoyo Turoyo (''Ṭūroyo''), also referred to as modern Surayt (''Sūrayṯ''), or modern Suryoyo (''Sūryōyō''), is a Central Neo-Aramaic language, and represents the only remaining living language among western variants of Syriac language The ...
(see #Modern Eastern Aramaic, below) has sometimes been written in a Latin script.


Periodization

Periodization of historical development of Aramaic language has been the subject of particular interest for scholars, who proposed several types of periodization, based on linguistic, chronological and territorial criteria. Overlapping terminology, used in different periodizations, led to the creation of several polysemic terms, that are used differently among scholars. Terms like: Old Aramaic, Ancient Aramaic, Early Aramaic, Middle Aramaic, Late Aramaic (and some others, like Paleo-Aramaic), were used in various meanings, thus referring (in scope or substance) to different stages in historical development of Aramaic language. Most commonly used types of periodization are those of Klaus Beyer and Joseph Fitzmyer. Periodization of Klaus Beyer (1929-2014): * Old Aramaic, from the earliest records, to 200 AD * Middle Aramaic, from 200 AD, to 1200 AD * Modern Aramaic, from 1200 AD, up to the modern times Periodization of Joseph Fitzmyer (1920–2016): * Old Aramaic, from the earliest records, to regional prominence 700 BC * Official Aramaic, from 700 BC, to 200 BC * Middle Aramaic, from 200 BC, to 200 AD * Late Aramaic, from 200 AD, to 700 AD * Modern Aramaic, from 700 AD, up to the modern times Recent periodization of Aaron Butts: * Old Aramaic, from the earliest records, to 538 BC * Achaemenid Aramaic, from 538 BC, to 333 BC * Middle Aramaic, from 333 BC, to 200 AD * Late Aramaic, from 200 AD, to 1200 AD *
Neo-Aramaic The Neo-Aramaic or Modern Aramaic languages are varieties Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety, the set of solutions of a system of polynomial equations * Variety (universal algebra), classes of algebrai ...
, from 1200 AD, up to the modern times


Old Aramaic

The term "Old Aramaic" is used to describe the varieties of the language from its first known use, until the point roughly marked by the rise of the Sasanian Empire (224 AD), dominating the influential, eastern dialect region. As such, the term covers over thirteen centuries of the development of Aramaic. This vast time span includes all Aramaic that is now effectively extinct. Regarding the earliest forms, Beyer suggests that written Aramaic probably dates from the 11th century BCE, as it is established by the 10th century, to which he dates the oldest inscriptions of northern Syria. Heinrichs uses the less controversial date of the 9th century, for which there is clear and widespread attestation. The central phase in the development of Old Aramaic was its official use by the
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and offi ...

Achaemenid Empire
(500–330 BC). The period before this, dubbed "Ancient Aramaic", saw the development of the language from being spoken in Aramaean city-states to become a major means of communication in diplomacy and trade throughout
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in th ...

Mesopotamia
, the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
and
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
. After the fall of the Achaemenid Empire, local vernaculars became increasingly prominent, fanning the divergence of an Aramaic dialect continuum and the development of differing written standards.


Ancient Aramaic

"Ancient Aramaic" refers to the earliest known period of the language, from its origin until it becomes the lingua franca of the Fertile Crescent. It was the language of the Aramean city-states of Damascus, Hamath and Arpad, Syria, Arpad. There are inscriptions that evidence the earliest use of the language, dating from the 10th century BC. These inscriptions are mostly diplomatic documents between Aramaean city-states. The alphabet of Aramaic at this early period seems to be based on the
Phoenician alphabet The Phoenician alphabet is an alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes t ...

Phoenician alphabet
, and there is a unity in the written language. It seems that, in time, a more refined alphabet, suited to the needs of the language, began to develop from this in the eastern regions of Aram. Due to increasing Aramean migration eastward, the Western periphery of Assyria became bilingual in Akkadian and Aramean at least as early as the mid-9th century BC. As the
Neo-Assyrian Empire The Neo-Assyrian Empire (Assyrian cuneiform Assyrian may refer to: * Assyria, a major Mesopotamian kingdom and empire * Assyrian people, an ethnic group indigenous to the Middle East * Assyrian Church (disambiguation) * Assyrian language (disam ...

Neo-Assyrian Empire
conquered Aramean lands west of the Euphrates, Tiglath-Pileser III made Aramaic the Empire's second official language, and it eventually supplanted Akkadian completely. From 700 BC, the language began to spread in all directions, but lost much of its unity. Different dialects emerged in Assyria, Babylonia, the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
and
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
. Around 600 BC, Adon, a Canaanite king, used Aramaic to write to an Egyptian Pharaoh.


Imperial Aramaic

Around 500 BC, following the Achaemenid (Persian) conquest of Mesopotamia under Darius I, Aramaic (as had been used in that region) was adopted by the conquerors as the "vehicle for written communication between the different regions of the vast empire with its different peoples and languages. The use of a single official language, which modern scholarship has dubbed Official Aramaic or
Imperial Aramaic Imperial Aramaic is a linguistic term, coined by modern Aramaic studies, scholars in order to designate a specific historical Variety (linguistics), variety of Aramaic language. The term is polysemic, with two distinctive meanings, wider (sociolin ...
, can be assumed to have greatly contributed to the astonishing success of the Achaemenids in holding their far-flung empire together for as long as they did". In 1955, Richard Frye questioned the classification of Imperial Aramaic as an "official language", noting that no surviving edict expressly and unambiguously accorded that status to any particular language. Frye reclassifies Imperial Aramaic as the lingua franca of the Achaemenid territories, suggesting then that the Achaemenid-era use of Aramaic was more pervasive than generally thought. Imperial Aramaic was highly standardised; its orthography was based more on historical roots than any spoken dialect, and the inevitable influence of Persian language, Persian gave the language a new clarity and robust flexibility. For centuries after the fall of the Achaemenid Empire (in 330 BC), Imperial Aramaic – or a version thereof near enough for it to be recognisable – would remain an influence on the various native Iranian languages. Aramaic script and – as ideograms – Aramaic vocabulary would survive as the essential characteristics of the
Pahlavi scripts Pahlavi is a particular, exclusively written form of various Iranian languages, Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are: *the use of a specific Aramaic script, Aramaic-derived script; *the incidence of Aramaic langua ...
. One of the largest collections of Imperial Aramaic texts is that of the Persepolis fortification tablets, which number about five hundred. Many of the extant documents witnessing to this form of Aramaic come from
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
, and Elephantine in particular (see Elephantine papyri). Of them, the best known is the ''Story of Ahikar'', a book of instructive aphorisms quite similar in style to the biblical Book of Proverbs. In addition, current consensus regards the Aramaic portion of the Biblical book of Daniel (i.e., 2:4b-7:28) as an example of Imperial (Official) Aramaic. Achaemenid Aramaic is sufficiently uniform that it is often difficult to know where any particular example of the language was written. Only careful examination reveals the occasional loan word from a local language. A group of thirty Aramaic documents from Bactria have been discovered, and an analysis was published in November 2006. The texts, which were rendered on leather, reflect the use of Aramaic in the 4th century BC Achaemenid administration of Bactria and Sogdia.


Biblical Aramaic

Biblical Aramaic is the Aramaic found in four discrete sections of the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites ...

Hebrew Bible
: *
Ezra Ezra (; he, עֶזְרָא, '; fl. 480–440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (, ') and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scripture ...
– documents from the Achaemenid period (5th century BC) concerning the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem. *
Daniel Daniel is a masculine Masculinity (also called manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling ...
– five subversive tales and an apocalyptic vision. * Jeremiah 10:11 – a single sentence in the middle of a Hebrew text denouncing idolatry. * Book of Genesis, Genesis – translation of a Hebrew place-name. Biblical Aramaic is a somewhat hybrid dialect. It is theorized that some Biblical Aramaic material originated in both Babylonia and Judaea before the fall of the Achaemenid dynasty. Biblical Aramaic presented various challenges for writers who were engaged in early Biblical studies. Since the time of Jerome of Stridon (d. 420), Aramaic of the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites ...

Hebrew Bible
was misnamed as "Chaldean" (Chaldaic, Chaldee). That label remained common in early Aramaic studies, and persisted up into the nineteenth century. The "''Chaldean language (misnomer), Chaldean misnomer''" was eventually abandoned, when modern scholarly analyses showed that Aramaic dialect used in Hebrew Bible was not related to ancient Chaldeans and their language.


Post-Achaemenid Aramaic

The fall of the
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and offi ...

Achaemenid Empire
( 334-330 BC), and its replacement with the newly created political order, imposed by Alexander the Great (d. 323 BC) and his Hellenistic period, Hellenistic successors, marked an important turning point in the history of Aramaic language. During the early stages of the post-Achaemenid era, public use of Aramaic language was continued, but shared with the newly introduced Greek language. By the year 300 BC, all of the main Aramaic-speaking regions came under political rule of the newly created Seleucid Empire that promoted Hellenistic culture, and favored Greek language as the main language of public life and administration. During the 3rd century BCE, Greek overtook Aramaic in many spheres of public communication, particularly in highly Hellenized cities throughout the Seleucid domains. However, Aramaic continued to be used, in its post-Achaemenid form, among upper and literate classes of native Aramaic-speaking communities, and also by local authorities (along with the newly introduced Greek). Post-Achaemenid Aramaic, that bears a relatively close resemblance to that of the Achaemenid period, continued to be used up to the 2nd century BCE. By the end of the 2nd century BC, several variants of Post-Achaemenid Aramaic emerged, bearing regional characteristics. One of them was Hasmonaean Aramaic, the official administrative language of Hasmonean, Hasmonaean Judaea (142–37 BC), alongside
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
which was the language preferred in religious and some other public uses (coinage). It influenced the Biblical Aramaic of the Qumran texts, and was the main language of non-biblical theological texts of that community. The major
Targum A targum ( arc, תרגום 'interpretation, translation, version') was an originally spoken translation of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic la ...

Targum
s, translations of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic, were originally composed in Hasmonaean Aramaic. It also appears in quotations in the Mishnah and Tosefta, although smoothed into its later context. It is written quite differently from Achaemenid Aramaic; there is an emphasis on writing as words are pronounced rather than using etymological forms. Babylonian
Targum A targum ( arc, תרגום 'interpretation, translation, version') was an originally spoken translation of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic la ...

Targum
ic is the later post-Achaemenid dialect found in the Targum Onkelos, Targum Onqelos and Targum Jonathan, the "official" targums. The original, Hasmonaean targums had reached Babylon sometime in the 2nd or 3rd century AD. They were then reworked according to the contemporary dialect of Babylon to create the language of the standard targums. This combination formed the basis of Babylonian Jewish literature for centuries to follow. Galilean Targumic is similar to Babylonian Targumic. It is the mixing of literary Hasmonaean with the dialect of Galilee. The Hasmonaean targums reached Galilee in the 2nd century AD, and were reworked into this Galilean dialect for local use. The Galilean Targum was not considered an authoritative work by other communities, and documentary evidence shows that its text was amended. From the 11th century AD onwards, once the Babylonian Targum had become normative, the Galilean version became heavily influenced by it. Babylonian Documentary Aramaic is a dialect in use from the 3rd century AD onwards. It is the dialect of Babylonian private documents, and, from the 12th century, all Jewish private documents are in Aramaic. It is based on Hasmonaean with very few changes. This was perhaps because many of the documents in BDA are legal documents, the language in them had to be sensible throughout the Jewish community from the start, and Hasmonaean was the old standard. Nabataean Aramaic was the written language of the Arab kingdom of Nabataea, whose capital was Petra. The kingdom (''c.'' 200 BC – 106 AD) controlled the region to the east of the Jordan River, the Negev, the Sinai Peninsula and the northern Hijaz, and supported a wide-ranging trade network. The Nabataeans used imperial Aramaic for written communications, rather than their native Arabic. Nabataean Aramaic developed from
Imperial Aramaic Imperial Aramaic is a linguistic term, coined by modern Aramaic studies, scholars in order to designate a specific historical Variety (linguistics), variety of Aramaic language. The term is polysemic, with two distinctive meanings, wider (sociolin ...
, with some influence from Arabic: "l" is often turned into "n", and there are some Arabic loanwords. Arabic influence on Nabataean Aramaic increased over time. Some Nabataean Aramaic inscriptions date from the early days of the kingdom, but most datable inscriptions are from the first four centuries AD. The language is written in a cursive script which was the precursor to the
Arabic alphabet The Arabic alphabet ( ar, الْأَبْجَدِيَّة الْعَرَبِيَّة, ' or , ', ), or Arabic abjad, is the as it is codified for writing . It is written from right to left in a style and includes 28 letters. Most letters hav ...

Arabic alphabet
. After annexation by the Romans in 106 AD, most of Nabataea was subsumed into the province of Arabia Petraea, the Nabataeans turned to Greek for written communications, and the use of Aramaic declined. Palmyrene Aramaic is the dialect that was in use in the Syriac Christians, Syriac city state of Palmyra in the Syrian Desert from 44 BC to 274 AD. It was written in a rounded script, which later gave way to cursive Syriac alphabet, Estrangela. Like Nabataean, Palmyrene was influenced by Arabic, but to a much lesser degree. The use of ''written'' Aramaic in the Achaemenid bureaucracy also precipitated the adoption of Aramaic(-derived) scripts to render a number of Middle Iranian languages. Moreover, many common words, including even pronouns, particles, numerals, and auxiliaries, continued to written as Aramaic "words" even when writing Middle Iranian languages. In time, in Iranian usage, these Aramaic "words" became disassociated from the Aramaic language and came to be understood as ''signs'' (i.e. logograms), much like the symbol '&' is read as "and" in English and the original Latin ''et'' is now no longer obvious. Under the early 3rd-century BC Arsacid Empire, Parthians Arsacids, whose government used Greek but whose native language was Parthian, the Parthian language and its Aramaic-derived writing system both gained prestige. This in turn also led to the adoption of the name 'Pahlavi scripts, pahlavi' (< ''parthawi'', "of the Parthians") for that writing system. The Sassanid empire, Persian Sassanids, who succeeded the Parthian Arsacids in the mid-3rd century AD, subsequently inherited/adopted the Parthian-mediated Aramaic-derived writing system for their own Middle Iranian ethnolect as well. That particular Middle Iranian dialect,
Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire. For some time after the Sasan ...
, i.e. the language of Persia proper, subsequently also became a prestige language. Following the conquest of the Sassanids by the Arabs in the 7th-century, the Aramaic-derived writing system was replaced by Arabic script in all but Middle Persian literature, Zoroastrian usage, which continued to use the name 'pahlavi' for the Aramaic-derived writing system and went on to create the bulk of all Middle Iranian literature in that writing system.


Other dialects of the Post-Achaemenid period

The dialects mentioned in the previous section were all descended from Achaemenid Aramaic. However, some other regional dialects also continued to exist alongside these, often as simple, spoken variants of Aramaic. Early evidence for these vernacular dialects is known only through their influence on words and names in a more standard dialect. However, some of those regional dialects became written languages by the 2nd century BC. These dialects reflect a stream of Aramaic that is not directly dependent on Achaemenid Aramaic, and they also show a clear linguistic diversity between eastern and western regions.


Eastern dialects of the Post-Achaemenid period

In the eastern regions (from Mesopotamia to Persia), dialects like Palmyrene Aramaic and Arsacid Aramaic gradually merged with the regional vernacular dialects, thus creating languages with a foot in Achaemenid and a foot in regional Aramaic. In the Kingdom of Osroene, founded in 132 BCE and centred in Edessa, Mesopotamia, Edessa (Urhay), the regional dialect became the official language: Edessan Aramaic (Urhaya), that later came to be known as
Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ...
. On the upper reaches of the
Tigris The Tigris () is the easternmost of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of the Armenian Highlands through the Syrian Desert, Syrian and Arabian Deserts, and empti ...

Tigris
, East Mesopotamian Aramaic flourished, with evidence from the regions of Hatra (Hatran Aramaic) and Assur (Assurian Aramaic). Tatian, the author of the gospel harmony the Diatessaron came from Assyria, and perhaps wrote his work (172 AD) in East Mesopotamian rather than Syriac or Greek. In Babylonia, the regional dialect was used by the Jewish community, Jewish Old Babylonian (from c. 70 AD). This everyday language increasingly came under the influence of Biblical Aramaic and Babylonian Targumic. The written form of Mandaic, the language of the Mandaeism, Mandaean religion, was descended from the Arsacid chancery script.


Western dialects of the Post-Achaemenid period

The western regional dialects of Aramaic followed a similar course to those of the east. They are quite distinct from the eastern dialects and Imperial Aramaic. Aramaic came to coexist with Canaanite dialects, eventually completely displacing
Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also

* Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language an ...
in the first century BC and Hebrew language#Displacement by Aramaic, Hebrew around the turn of the fourth century AD. The form of Late Old Western Aramaic used by the Jewish community is best attested, and is usually referred to as Jewish Old Palestinian. Its oldest form is Old East Jordanian, which probably comes from the region of Caesarea Philippi. This is the dialect of the oldest manuscript of the Book of Enoch (''c.'' 170 BC). The next distinct phase of the language is called Old Judaean lasting into the second century AD. Old Judean literature can be found in various inscriptions and personal letters, preserved quotations in the Talmud and receipts from Qumran.
Josephus Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος, ; 37 – 100) was a first-century and military leader, best known for ', who was born in —then part of —to a father of descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry. He initially fought a ...

Josephus
' first, non-extant edition of his ''The Jewish War'' was written in Old Judean. The Old East Jordanian dialect continued to be used into the first century AD by pagan communities living to the east of the Jordan. Their dialect is often then called Pagan Old Palestinian, and it was written in a cursive script somewhat similar to that used for Old Syriac. A Christian Old Palestinian dialect may have arisen from the pagan one, and this dialect may be behind some of the Western Aramaic tendencies found in the otherwise eastern Old Syriac gospels (see Peshitta).


Languages during Jesus' lifetime

It is generally believed by Christian scholars that in the first century, Jews in Judea (Roman province), Judea primarily spoke Aramaic with a decreasing number using
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
as their first language, though many learned Hebrew as a liturgical language. Additionally,
Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Greek language, Greek spoken and written d ...
was the lingua franca of the Near East in trade, among the Hellenized classes (much like French in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries in Europe), and in the Roman administration. Latin, the language of the Roman army and higher levels of administration, had almost no impact on the linguistic landscape. In addition to the formal, literary dialects of Aramaic based on Hasmonean dynasty, Hasmonean and Babylonian, there were a number of colloquial Aramaic dialects. Seven Western Aramaic varieties were spoken in the vicinity of Judea in Jesus' time. They were probably distinctive yet mutually intelligible. Old Judean was the prominent dialect of Jerusalem and Judaea. The region of Ein Gedi spoke the Southeast Judaean dialect. Samaria had its distinctive Samaritan Aramaic language, Samaritan Aramaic, where the consonants "he (letter), he", "" and "‘ayin" all became pronounced as "aleph". Galilean Aramaic, the dialect of Jesus' home region, is only known from a few place names, the influences on Galilean Targumic, some rabbinic literature and a few private letters. It seems to have a number of distinctive features: diphthongs are never simplified into monophthongs. East of the Jordan, the various dialects of East Jordanian were spoken. In the region of Damascus and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, Damascene Aramaic was spoken (deduced mostly from Modern Western Aramaic). Finally, as far north as Aleppo, the western dialect of Orontes Aramaic was spoken. The three languages, especially Hebrew and Aramaic, influenced one another through loanwords and semantic loans. Hebrew words entered Jewish Aramaic. Most were mostly technical religious words, but a few were everyday words like עץ ' "wood". Conversely, Aramaic words, such as ''māmmôn'' "wealth", were borrowed into Hebrew, and Hebrew words acquired additional senses from Aramaic. For instance, Hebrew ראוי ''rā’ûi'' "seen" borrowed the sense "worthy, seemly" from the Aramaic ' meaning "seen" and "worthy". The Greek of the
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...

New Testament
preserves some semiticisms, including transliterations of Semitic languages, Semitic words. Some are Aramaic, like ''talitha'' (ταλιθα), which represents the noun טליתא ', and others may be either Hebrew or Aramaic like רבוני ''Rabbounei'' (Ραββουνει), which means "my master/great one/teacher" in both languages. Other examples: * "Talitha kumi" (טליתא קומי) * "Ephphatha" (אתפתח) * "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" (אלי, אלי, למה שבקתני?) The 2004 film ''The Passion of the Christ'' used Aramaic for much of its dialogue, specially reconstructed by a scholar, William Fulco, S.J. Where the appropriate words (in first-century Aramaic) were no longer known, he used the Aramaic of Daniel and fourth-century Syriac and Hebrew as the basis for his work.


Middle Aramaic

The 3rd century AD is taken as the threshold between Old and Middle Aramaic. During that century, the nature of the various Aramaic languages and dialects began to change. The descendants of Imperial Aramaic ceased to be living languages, and the eastern and western regional languages began to develop vital new literatures. Unlike many of the dialects of Old Aramaic, much is known about the vocabulary and grammar of Middle Aramaic.


Eastern Middle Aramaic

Only two of the Old Eastern Aramaic languages continued into this period. In the north of the region, Old Syriac transitioned into Middle Syriac. In the south, Jewish Old Babylonian became Jewish Middle Babylonian. The post-Achaemenid, Arsacid dialect became the background of the new Mandaic language.


Syriac Aramaic

Syriac Aramaic (also "Classical Syriac") is the literary, liturgical and often spoken language of
Syriac Christianity Syriac Christianity ( syr, ܡܫܝܚܝܘܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ / ''Mšiḥāyuṯā Suryāyṯā''; ar, مسيحية سريانية, ''masīḥiyyat suryāniyya'') represents a distinctive branch of Eastern Christianity Eastern Christianity compris ...

Syriac Christianity
. It originated by the first century AD in the region of Osroene, centered in Edessa, but its golden age was the fourth to eight centuries. This period began with the translation of the Bible into the language: the Peshitta, and the masterful prose and poetry of Ephrem the Syrian. Classical Syriac became the language of the Church of the East, and the
Syriac Orthodox Church , native_name_lang = syc , image = Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate 2k18.jpg , imagewidth = , alt = Cathedral of Saint George , caption = Cathedral of Saint George, Damascus, Syria ...
. Missionary activity led to the spread of Syriac from Mesopotamia and Iran, Persia, into Central Asia, Indian subcontinent, India and China.


Jewish Babylonian Aramaic

Jewish Middle Babylonian is the language employed by Jewish writers in Babylonia between the fourth and the eleventh century. It is most commonly identified with the language of the Babylonian Talmud (which was completed in the seventh century) and of post-Talmudic Geonim, Geonic literature, which are the most important cultural products of Babylonian Judaism. The most important epigraphic sources for the dialect are the hundreds of incantation bowls written in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic.


Mandaic Aramaic

The Mandaic language, spoken by the
Mandaeans Mandaeans ( ar, ٱلصَّابِئَة ٱلْمَنْدَائِيُّون, aṣ-Ṣābiʾah al-Mandāʾiyūn) are an ethnoreligious group An ethnoreligious group (or ethno-religious group) is an ethnic group whose members are also unified by ...
of
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
, is a sister dialect to Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, though it is both linguistically and culturally distinct. Classical Mandaic is the language in which the Mandaeans'
gnostic Gnosticism (from grc, γνωστικός, gnōstikós, , 'having knowledge') is a collection of religious ideas and systems which coalesced in the late 1st century AD among Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The I ...
religious literature was composed. It is characterized by a highly phonetic orthography.


Western Middle Aramaic

The dialects of Old Western Aramaic continued with Jewish Middle Palestinian (in Hebrew alphabet, Hebrew "square script"), Samaritan Aramaic (in the Phoenician alphabet, old Hebrew script) and Christian Palestinian (in cursive Syriac alphabet, Syriac script). Of these three, only Jewish Middle Palestinian continued as a written language.


Samaritan Aramaic

The Samaritan Aramaic language, Samaritan Aramaic is earliest attested by the documentary tradition of the Samaritans that can be dated back to the fourth century. Its modern pronunciation is based on the form used in the tenth century.


Jewish Palestinian Aramaic

In 135, after the Bar Kokhba revolt, many Jewish leaders, expelled from Jerusalem, moved to Galilee. The Galilean dialect thus rose from obscurity to become the standard among Jews in the west. This dialect was spoken not only in Galilee, but also in the surrounding parts. It is the linguistic setting for the Jerusalem Talmud (completed in the 5th century), Palestinian targumim (Jewish Aramaic versions of scripture), and midrashim (biblical commentaries and teaching). The standard niqqud, vowel pointing for the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites ...

Hebrew Bible
, the Tiberian system (7th century), was developed by speakers of the Galilean dialect of Jewish Middle Palestinian. Classical Hebrew vocalisation, therefore, in representing the Hebrew of this period, probably reflects the contemporary pronunciation of this Aramaic dialect. Judaean Aramaic, Middle Judaean Aramaic, the descendant of Old Judaean Aramaic, was no longer the dominant dialect, and was used only in southern Judaea (the variant Engedi dialect continued throughout this period). Likewise, Middle East Jordanian Aramaic, Middle East Jordanian continued as a minor dialect from Old East Jordanian Aramaic, Old East Jordanian. The inscriptions in the synagogue at Dura-Europos are either in Middle East Jordanian or Middle Judaean.


Christian Palestinian Aramaic

This was the language of the Christian Melkite (Chalcedonian) community from the 5th to the 8th century. As a liturgical language, it was used up to the 13th century. It is also been called "Melkite Aramaic" and "Palestinian Syriac". The language itself comes from Old Christian Palestinian Aramaic, but its writing conventions were based on early Syriac language, Middle Syriac, and it was heavily influenced by Greek language, Greek. For example, the name Jesus, although ישוע ''Yešua’'' in Jewish Aramaic, and ''Išo'' in Syriac, is written ''Yesûs'' (a transliteration of the Greek form) in Christian Palestinian.


Modern Aramaic

As the Western Aramaic languages of the Levant and Lebanon have become nearly extinct in non-liturgical usage, the most prolific speakers of Aramaic dialects today are predominantly ethnic Assyrian Eastern Neo-Aramaic speakers, the most numerous being the Northeastern Neo-Aramaic speakers of Mesopotamia. This includes speakers of
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic Assyrian Neo-Aramaic or simply Assyrian ( or ''Sūreṯ''), also known as Syriac, Eastern Syriac, Neo-Syriac and Modern Syriac, is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / '), also kn ...
(235,000 speakers),
Chaldean Neo-Aramaic Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, or simply Chaldean, is a Northeastern Neo-Aramaic language spoken throughout a large region stretching from the Nineveh plains, in northern Iraq, together with parts of southeastern Turkey. Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is mutual inte ...
(216,000 speakers), and Turoyo language, Turoyo (Surayt) (112,000 to 450,000 speakers). Having largely lived in remote areas as insulated communities for over a millennium, the remaining speakers of modern Aramaic dialects, such as the Assyrians, and the
Arameans The Arameans (Old Aramaic Old Aramaic refers to the earliest stage of the Aramaic language Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Aramaic alphabet, Imperial Aramaic: ; Hebrew alphabet, square script ) is a language t ...
, escaped the linguistic pressures experienced by others during the large-scale
language shift Language shift, also known as language transfer or language replacement or language assimilation, is the process whereby a speech community Arnold Lakhovsky, ''The Conversation'' (circa 1935) A speech community is a group of people who share a s ...
s that saw the proliferation of other tongues among those who previously did not speak them, most recently the Arabization of the Middle East and North Africa by Arabs beginning with the early Muslim conquests of the seventh century.


Modern Eastern Aramaic

Modern Eastern Aramaic exists in a wide variety of dialects and languages. There is significant difference between the Aramaic spoken by Christians, Jews, and Mandaeans. The Christian varieties are often called Modern Syriac (or Neo-Syriac, particularly when referring to their literature), being deeply influenced by the old literary and liturgical language, the
Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ...
. However, they also have roots in numerous, previously unwritten, local Aramaic varieties, and are not purely the direct descendants of the language of Ephrem the Syrian. The varieties are not all mutually intelligible. The principal Christian varieties are
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic Assyrian Neo-Aramaic or simply Assyrian ( or ''Sūreṯ''), also known as Syriac, Eastern Syriac, Neo-Syriac and Modern Syriac, is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / '), also kn ...
and
Chaldean Neo-Aramaic Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, or simply Chaldean, is a Northeastern Neo-Aramaic language spoken throughout a large region stretching from the Nineveh plains, in northern Iraq, together with parts of southeastern Turkey. Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is mutual inte ...
, both belonging to the group of Northeastern Neo-Aramaic languages. The Judeo-Aramaic languages are now mostly spoken in
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
, and most are facing extinction. The Jewish varieties that have come from communities that once lived between Lake Urmia and Mosul are not all mutually intelligible. In some places, for example Urmia, Assyrian Christians and Jews speak mutually unintelligible varieties of Modern Eastern Aramaic in the same place. In others, the Nineveh plains around Mosul for example, the varieties of these two ethnic communities are similar enough to allow conversation. Modern Central Neo-Aramaic, being in between Western Neo-Aramaic and Eastern Neo-Aramaic) is generally represented by Turoyo, the language of the Assyrians of Tur Abdin. A related language, Mlahsô language, Mlahsô, has recently become extinct. Mandaeans living in the Khuzestan Province of Iran and scattered throughout Iraq, speak Modern Mandaic. It is quite distinct from any other Aramaic variety. Mandaic numbers some 50,000–75,000 people, but it is believed the Mandaic language may now be spoken fluently by as few as 5,000 people, with other Mandaeans having varying degrees of knowledge.


Modern Western Aramaic

Very little remains of Western Aramaic. Its only remaining vernacular is the
Western Neo-Aramaic Western Neo-Aramaic (), more commonly referred to as Siryon (), is a modern Western Aramaic language. Today, it is only spoken in three villages in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains of western Syria. Western Neo-Aramaic is the only modern language, livi ...
language, that is still spoken in the villages of Maaloula, al-Sarkha (Bakhah), and Jubb'adin on
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
's side of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, as well as by some people who migrated from these villages, to Damascus and other larger towns of Syria. All these speakers of Modern Western Aramaic are fluent in Arabic as well. Other Western Aramaic languages, like Jewish Palestinian Aramaic and Samaritan Aramaic, are preserved only in liturgical and literary usage.


Phonology

Each dialect of Aramaic has its own distinctive pronunciation, and it would not be feasible here to go into all these properties. Aramaic has a phonological palette of 25 to 40 distinct phonemes. Some modern Aramaic pronunciations lack the series of "emphatic" consonants, and some have borrowed from the inventories of surrounding languages, particularly Arabic language, Arabic, Azerbaijani language, Azerbaijani, Kurdish languages, Kurdish, Persian language, Persian and Turkish language, Turkish.


Vowels

As with most Semitic languages, Aramaic can be thought of as having three basic sets of vowels: * Open ''a''-vowels * Close front ''i''-vowels * Close back ''u''-vowels These vowel groups are relatively stable, but the exact articulation of any individual is most dependent on its consonantal setting. The open vowel is an open near-front unrounded vowel ("short" ''a'', somewhat like the first vowel in the English "batter", ). It usually has a back counterpart ("long" ''a'', like the ''a'' in "father", , or even tending to the vowel in "caught", ), and a front counterpart ("short" ''e'', like the vowel in "head", ). There is much correspondence between these vowels between dialects. There is some evidence that Middle Babylonian dialects did not distinguish between the short ''a'' and short ''e''. In West Syriac dialects, and possibly Middle Galilean, the long ''a'' became the ''o'' sound. The open ''e'' and back ''a'' are often indicated in writing by the use of the letters א "alaph" (a glottal stop) or ה "he" (like the English ''h''). The close front vowel is the "long" ''i'' (like the vowel in "need", ). It has a slightly more open counterpart, the "long" ''e'', as in the final vowel of "café" (). Both of these have shorter counterparts, which tend to be pronounced slightly more open. Thus, the short close ''e'' corresponds with the open ''e'' in some dialects. The close front vowels usually use the consonant י ''y'' as a mater lectionis. The close back vowel is the "long" ''u'' (like the vowel in "school", ). It has a more open counterpart, the "long" ''o'', like the vowel in "show" (). There are shorter, and thus more open, counterparts to each of these, with the short close ''o'' sometimes corresponding with the long open ''a''. The close back vowels often use the consonant ו ''w'' to indicate their quality. Two basic diphthongs exist: an open vowel followed by י ''y'' (''ay''), and an open vowel followed by ו ''w'' (''aw''). These were originally full diphthongs, but many dialects have converted them to ''e'' and ''o'' respectively. The so-called "emphatic" consonants (see the next section) cause all vowels to become mid-centralised.


Consonants

The various alphabets used for writing Aramaic languages have twenty-two letters (all of which are consonants). Some of these letters, though, can stand for two or three different sounds (usually a stop consonant, stop and a fricative consonant, fricative at the same point of articulation). Aramaic classically uses a series of lightly contrasted plosives and fricatives: * Labial set: פּ\פ ''p''/''f'' and בּ\ב ''b''/''v'', * Dental set: תּ\ת ''t''/''θ'' and דּ\ד ''d''/''ð'', * Velar set: כּ\כ ''k''/''x'' and גּ\ג ''g''/''ɣ''. Each member of a certain pair is written with the same letter of the alphabet in most writing systems (that is, ''p'' and ''f'' are written with the same letter), and are near allophones. A distinguishing feature of Aramaic phonology (and that of Semitic languages in general) is the presence of "emphatic" consonants. These are consonants that are pronounced with the root of the tongue retracted, with varying degrees of pharyngealization and Velar consonant, velarization. Using their alphabetic names, these emphatics are: * ח Ḥêṯ, a voiceless pharyngeal fricative, , * ט Ṭêṯ, a pharyngealized ''t'', , * ע ʽAyin (or ʽE in some dialects), a pharyngealized glottal stop (sometimes considered to be a Voiced pharyngeal fricative, voiced pharyngeal approximant), or , * צ Ṣāḏê, a pharyngealized ''s'', , * ק Qôp, a voiceless uvular stop, . Ancient Aramaic may have had a larger series of emphatics, and some Neo-Aramaic languages definitely do. Not all dialects of Aramaic give these consonants their historic values. Overlapping with the set of emphatics are the "guttural" consonants. They include ח Ḥêṯ and ע ʽAyn from the emphatic set, and add א ʼĀlap̄ (a glottal stop) and ה Hê (as the English "h"). Aramaic classically has a set of four sibilants (ancient Aramaic may have had six): * ס, שׂ (as in English "sea"), * ז (as in English "zero"), * שׁ (as in English "ship"), * צ (the emphatic Ṣāḏê listed above). In addition to these sets, Aramaic has the nasal consonants מ ''m'' and נ ''n'', and the approximant consonant, approximants ר ''r'' (usually an Dental, alveolar and postalveolar trills, alveolar trill), ל ''l'', י ''y'' and ו ''w''.


Historical sound changes

Six broad features of sound change can be seen as dialect differentials: * Vowel change occurs almost too frequently to document fully, but is a major distinctive feature of different dialects. * Plosive/fricative pair reduction. Originally, Aramaic, like Tiberian vocalization, Tiberian Hebrew, had fricatives as conditioned allophones for each plosive. In the wake of vowel changes, the distinction eventually became phonemic; still later, it was often lost in certain dialects. For example,
Turoyo Turoyo (''Ṭūroyo''), also referred to as modern Surayt (''Sūrayṯ''), or modern Suryoyo (''Sūryōyō''), is a Central Neo-Aramaic language, and represents the only remaining living language among western variants of Syriac language The ...
has mostly lost , using instead, like Arabic; other dialects (for instance, standard
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic Assyrian Neo-Aramaic or simply Assyrian ( or ''Sūreṯ''), also known as Syriac, Eastern Syriac, Neo-Syriac and Modern Syriac, is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / '), also kn ...
) have lost and and replaced them with and , as with Modern Hebrew. In most dialects of Modern Syriac, and are realized as after a vowel. * Loss of emphatics. Some dialects have replaced emphatic consonants with non-emphatic counterparts, while those spoken in the
Caucasus The Caucasus (), or Caucasia (), is a region spanning Europe and Asia. It is situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and mainly occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia (country), Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. It is home to ...
often have Ejective consonant, glottalized rather than pharyngealization, pharyngealized emphatics. * Guttural assimilation is the main distinctive feature of Samaritan pronunciation, also found in Samaritan Hebrew: all the gutturals are reduced to a simple glottal stop. Some Modern Aramaic dialects do not pronounce ''h'' in all words (the third person masculine pronoun ''hu'' becomes ''ow''). * Proto-Semitic */θ/ */ð/ are reflected in Aramaic as */t/, */d/, whereas they became sibilants in Hebrew (the number three is שלוש ''šālôš'' in Hebrew but תלת ''tlāṯ'' in Aramaic, the word gold is זהב zahav in Hebrew but דהב dehav in Aramaic). Dental/sibilant shifts are still happening in the modern dialects. * New phonetic inventory. Modern dialects have borrowed sounds from the dominant surrounding languages. The most frequent borrowings are (as the first consonant in "azure"), (as in "jam") and (as in "church"). The
Syriac alphabet The Syriac alphabet ( ) is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to ...
has been adapted for writing these new sounds.


Grammar

As with other Semitic languages, Aramaic morphology (linguistics), morphology (the way words are formed) is based on the consonantal Semitic root, root. The root generally consists of two or three consonants and has a basic meaning, for example, כת״ב ''k-t-b'' has the meaning of 'writing'. This is then modified by the addition of vowels and other consonants to create different nuances of the basic meaning: * כתבה ''kṯāḇâ'', handwriting, inscription, script, book. * כתבי ''kṯāḇê'', books, the Scriptures. * כתובה ''kāṯûḇâ'', secretary, scribe. * כתבת ''kiṯḇeṯ'', I wrote. * אכתב eḵtûḇ'', I shall write.


Nouns and adjectives

Aramaic nouns and adjectives are inflected to show ''gender'', ''number'' and ''state''. Aramaic has two grammatical genders: masculine and feminine. The feminine absolute singular is often marked by the ending ה- ''-â''. Nouns can be either singular or plural, but an additional "dual" number exists for nouns that usually come in pairs. The dual number gradually disappeared from Aramaic over time and has little influence in Middle and Modern Aramaic. Aramaic nouns and adjectives can exist in one of three states. To a certain extent, these states correspond to the role of articles and cases in the Indo-European languages: # The ''absolute'' state is the basic form of a noun. In early forms of Aramaic, the absolute state expresses indefiniteness, comparable to the English indefinite article a(n) (for example, כתבה ''kṯāḇâ'', "a handwriting"), and can be used in most syntactic roles. However, by the Middle Aramaic period, its use for nouns (but not adjectives) had been widely replaced by the emphatic state. # The ''Status constructus, construct'' state is a form of the noun used to make possessive constructions (for example, כתבת מלכתא ''kṯāḇat malkṯâ'', "the handwriting of the queen"). In the masculine singular the form of the construct is often the same as the absolute, but it may undergo vowel reduction in longer words. The feminine construct and masculine construct plural are marked by suffixes. Unlike a genitive case, which marks the possessor, the construct state is marked on the possessed. This is mainly due to Aramaic word order: possessed[const.] possessor[abs./emph.] are treated as a speech unit, with the first unit (possessed) employing the construct state to link it to the following word. In Middle Aramaic, the use of the construct state for all but stock phrases (like בר נשא ''bar nāšâ'', "son of man") begins to disappear. # The ''emphatic'' or ''determined'' state is an extended form of the noun that functions similarly to the Article (grammar), definite article. It is marked with a suffix (for example, כתבתא ''kṯāḇtâ'', "the handwriting"). Although its original grammatical function seems to have been to mark definiteness, it is used already in Imperial Aramaic to mark all important nouns, even if they should be considered technically indefinite. This practice developed to the extent that the absolute state became extraordinarily rare in later varieties of Aramaic. Whereas other Northwest Semitic languages, like Hebrew, have the absolute and construct states, the emphatic/determined state is a unique feature to Aramaic. Inflection, Case endings, as in Ugaritic grammar#Case, Ugaritic, probably existed in a very early stage of the language, and glimpses of them can be seen in a few compound proper names. However, as most of those cases were expressed by short final vowels, they were never written, and the few characteristic long vowels of the masculine plural accusative and genitive are not clearly evidenced in inscriptions. Often, the Object (grammar), direct object is marked by a prefixed -ל ''l-'' (the preposition and postposition, preposition "to") if it is definite. Adjectives agree with their nouns in number and gender but agree in state only if used attributively. Predicative adjectives are in the absolute state regardless of the state of their noun (a copula (linguistics), copula may or may not be written). Thus, an attributive adjective to an emphatic noun, as in the phrase "the good king", is written also in the emphatic state מלכא טבא ''malkâ ṭāḇâ''—king[emph.] good[emph.]. In comparison, the predicative adjective, as in the phrase "the king is good", is written in the absolute state מלכא טב ''malkâ ṭāḇ''—king[emph.] good[abs.]. The final א- ''-â'' in a number of these suffixes is written with the letter aleph. However, some Jewish Aramaic texts employ the letter he (letter), he for the feminine absolute singular. Likewise, some Jewish Aramaic texts employ the Hebrew masculine absolute singular suffix ים- ''-îm'' instead of ין- ''-în''. The masculine determined plural suffix, יא- ''-ayyâ'', has an alternative version, ''-ê''. The alternative is sometimes called the "gentilic plural" for its prominent use in ethnonyms (יהודיא ''yəhûḏāyê'', 'the Jews', for example). This alternative plural is written with the letter aleph, and came to be the only plural for nouns and adjectives of this type in Syriac and some other varieties of Aramaic. The masculine construct plural, ''-ê'', is written with yodh. In Syriac and some other variants this ending is diphthongized to ''-ai''. Possessive phrases in Aramaic can either be made with the construct state or by linking two nouns with the relative particle -[ד[י ''d[î]-''. As the use of the construct state almost disappears from the Middle Aramaic period on, the latter method became the main way of making possessive phrases. For example, the various forms of possessive phrases (for "the handwriting of the queen") are: # כתבת מלכתא kṯāḇaṯ malkṯâ – the oldest construction, also known as סמיכות səmîḵûṯ : the possessed object (כתבה kṯābâ, "handwriting") is in the construct state (כתבת kṯāḇaṯ); the possessor (מלכה malkâ, "queen") is in the emphatic state (מלכתא malkṯâ) # כתבתא דמלכתא kṯāḇtâ d(î)-malkṯâ – both words are in the emphatic state and the relative particle -[ד[י ''d[î]-'' is used to mark the relationship # כתבתה דמלכתא kṯāḇtāh d(î)-malkṯâ – both words are in the emphatic state, and the relative particle is used, but the possessed is given an anticipatory, pronominal ending (כתבתה kṯāḇtā-h, "handwriting-her"; literally, "her writing, that (of) the queen"). In Modern Aramaic, the last form is by far the most common. In Biblical Aramaic, the last form is virtually absent.


Verbs

The Aramaic verb has gradually evolved in time and place, varying between varieties of the language. Verb forms are marked for grammatical person, person (first, second or third), grammatical number, number (singular or plural), grammatical gender, gender (masculine or feminine), grammatical tense, tense (perfect or imperfect), grammatical mood, mood (indicative, imperative, jussive or infinitive) and voice (grammar), voice (active, reflexive or passive). Aramaic also employs a system of grammatical conjugation, conjugations, or verbal stems, to mark intensive and extensive developments in the lexical meaning of verbs.


Aspectual tense

Aramaic has two proper grammatical tense, tenses: perfective aspect, perfect and imperfective aspect, imperfect. These were originally grammatical aspect, aspectual, but developed into something more like a preterite and future tense, future. The perfect is Markedness, unmarked, while the imperfect uses various prefix, preformatives that vary according to person, number and gender. In both tenses the third-person singular masculine is the unmarked form from which others are derived by addition of Suffix, afformatives (and preformatives in the imperfect). In the chart below (on the root כת״ב K-T-B, meaning "to write"), the first form given is the usual form in Imperial Aramaic, while the second is Syriac language, Classical Syriac.


Conjugations or verbal stems

Like other Semitic languages, Aramaic employs a number of Derived stem, derived verb stems, to extend the lexical coverage of verbs. The basic form of the verb is called the ''ground stem'', or ''G-stem''. Following the tradition of mediaeval Arabic grammarians, it is more often called the Pə‘al פעל (also written Pe‘al), using the form of the Semitic root פע״ל P-‘-L, meaning "to do". This stem carries the basic lexical meaning of the verb. By doubling of the second radical, or root letter, the D-stem or פעל Pa‘‘el is formed. This is often an intensive development of the basic lexical meaning. For example, ''qəṭal'' means "he killed", whereas ''qaṭṭel'' means "he slew". The precise relationship in meaning between the two stems differs for every verb. A preformative, which can be -ה ''ha-'', -א ''a-'' or -ש ''ša-'', creates the C-stem or variously the Hap̄‘el, Ap̄‘el or Šap̄‘el (also spelt הפעל Haph‘el, אפעל Aph‘el and שפעל Shaph‘el). This is often an extensive or causative development of the basic lexical meaning. For example, טעה ''ṭə‘â'' means "he went astray", whereas אטעי ''aṭ‘î'' means "he deceived". The Šap̄‘el שפעל is the least common variant of the C-stem. Because this variant is standard in Akkadian, it is possible that its use in Aramaic represents loanwords from that language. The difference between the variants הפעל Hap̄‘el and אפעל Ap̄‘el appears to be the gradual dropping of the initial ה ''h'' sound in later Old Aramaic. This is noted by the respelling of the older he (letter), he preformative with א aleph. These three conjugations are supplemented with three further derived stems, produced by the preformative -הת ''hiṯ-'' or -את ''eṯ-''. The loss of the initial ה ''h'' sound occurs similarly to that in the form above. These three derived stems are the Gt-stem, התפעל Hiṯpə‘el or אתפעל Eṯpə‘el (also written Hithpe‘el or Ethpe‘el), the Dt-stem, התפעּל Hiṯpa‘‘al or אתפעּל Eṯpa‘‘al (also written Hithpa‘‘al or Ethpa‘‘al), and the Ct-stem, התהפעל Hiṯhap̄‘al, אתּפעל Ettap̄‘al, השתפעל Hištap̄‘al or אשתפעל Eštap̄‘al (also written Hithhaph‘al, Ettaph‘al, Hishtaph‘al or Eshtaph‘al). Their meaning is usually reflexive verb, reflexive, but later became passive voice, passive. However, as with other stems, actual meaning differs from verb to verb. Not all verbs use all of these conjugations, and, in some, the G-stem is not used. In the chart below (on the root כת״ב K-T-B, meaning "to write"), the first form given is the usual form in Imperial Aramaic, while the second is Syriac language, Classical Syriac. In Imperial Aramaic, the participle began to be used for a historical present. Perhaps under influence from other languages, Middle Aramaic developed a system of composite tenses (combinations of forms of the verb with pronouns or an auxiliary verb), allowing for narrative that is more vivid. The syntax of Aramaic (the way sentences are put together) usually follows the order verb–subject–object (VSO). Imperial (Persian) Aramaic, however, tended to follow a S-O-V pattern (similar to Akkadian), which was the result of Persian syntactic influence.


See also


References


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


Aramaic Dictionary
Search the online dictionary using English or Aramaic words.

Contains audio recordings of scripture.
Aramaic Designs
Website offering various designs based on historical Aramaic scripts.
Lishana Online Academy
The first online academy on Spanish network to learn Aramaic in several dialects. For Spanish and Portuguese speakers.

* [http://cal.huc.edu/aramaic_language.html Aramaic Language]: "Christians in Palestine eventually rendered portions of Christian Scripture into their dialect of Aramaic; these translations and related writings constitute 'Christian Palestinian Aramaic'. A much larger body of Christian Aramaic is known as Syriac. Indeed, Syriac writings surpass in quantity all other Aramaic combined."
The Aramaic Language and Its Classification – Efrem Yildiz, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies

Aramaic Peshitta Bible Repository
Many free Syriac Aramaic language research tools and the Syriac Peshitta Bible.
Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon
(including editions of
Targum A targum ( arc, תרגום 'interpretation, translation, version') was an originally spoken translation of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic la ...

Targum
s) at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati
Dictionary of Judeo-Aramaic



"An Introduction to Syriac Studies" by Sebastian Brock
Reproduced, with permission, from J. H. Eaton, ed., ''Horizons in Semitic Studies: Articles for the Student'' (Semitics Study Aids 8; Birmingham: Dept. of Theology, University of Birmingham, 1980), pp. 1–33.
Omniglot written Aramaic/Proto-Hebrew outline

Learn Aramaic for the absolute beginner
{{DEFAULTSORT:Aramaic Language Aramaic languages, Languages attested from the 10th century BC