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The Syriac alphabet ( ) is a
writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communic ...
primarily used to write the
Syriac language 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 (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that ...

Syriac language
since the 1st century AD. It is one of the
Semitic Semitic most commonly refers to the Semitic languages, a name used since the 1770s to refer to the language family currently present in West Asia, North and East Africa, and Malta. Semitic may also refer to: Religions * Abrahamic religions ** ...

Semitic
abjad An abjad () is a type of 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 th ...

abjad
s descending from the
Aramaic alphabet 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 ...

Aramaic alphabet
through the
Palmyrene alphabet The Palmyrene alphabet was a historical Semitic alphabet used to write Palmyrene Aramaic Palmyrene Aramaic was a Western Aramaic The Western Aramaic languages represent a specific group of Aramaic languages, once spoken widely throughout the an ...
, and shares similarities with the
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 ...

Phoenician
,
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...

Hebrew
,
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
and
Sogdian
Sogdian
, the precursor and a direct ancestor of the traditional
Mongolian script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" o ...
s. Syriac is written from right to left in horizontal lines. It is a
cursive Cursive (also known as script, among other names) is any style of penmanship Penmanship is the technique of writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. Writi ...

cursive
script where most—but not all—letters connect within a word. There is no
letter case Letter case is the distinction between the letters Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or ...
distinction between upper and lower case letters, though some letters change their form depending on their position within a word. Spaces separate individual words. All 22 letters are consonants, although there are optional diacritic marks to indicate vowels and other features. In addition to the sounds of the language, the letters of the Syriac alphabet can be used to represent numbers in a system similar to
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...
and
Greek numerals Greek numerals, also known as Ionic, Ionian, Milesian, or Alexandrian numerals, are a system of writing numbers using the letters of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or ear ...
. Apart from Classical Syriac Aramaic, the alphabet has been used to write other dialects and languages. Several Christian Neo-Aramaic languages from
Turoyo Turoyo (''Ṭūroyo''), also referred to as modern Surayt (''Sūrayṯ''), or modern Suryoyo (''Sūryōyō''), is a Central Neo-Aramaic Central Neo-Aramaic languages represent a specific group of Neo-Aramaic languages, that is designated as ''C ...
to the
Northeastern Neo-Aramaic Northeastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA) is a grouping of related dialects of Neo-Aramaic spoken before World War I as a vernacular language by Jews and Christians between the Tigris and Lake Urmia, stretching north to Lake Van and southwards to Mosul and ...
dialect of Suret, once
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language, normally Spoken language, spoken informally rath ...
s, primarily began to be written in the 19th century. The variant specifically has recently been adapted to write
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 ...
, traditionally written in a square Aramaic script closely related to the Hebrew alphabet. Besides Aramaic, when
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
began to be the dominant spoken language in the
Fertile Crescent The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region in 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 establishe ...

Fertile Crescent
after the
Islamic conquest The spread of Islam spans about 1,400 years. Muslim conquests following Muhammad's death led to the creation of the caliphates, occupying a vast geographical area; conversion to Islam was boosted by Arab Muslim forces conquering vast territories ...
, texts were often written in Arabic using the Syriac script as knowledge of the Arabic alphabet was not yet widespread; such writings are usually called ''Karshuni'' or ''
GarshuniGarshuni or Karshuni (Syriac alphabet: , Arabic alphabet: ) are Arabic writings using the Syriac alphabet. The word "Garshuni" was used by George Kiraz to coin the term "garshunography", denoting the writing of one language in the script of another. ...
'' (). In addition to
Semitic languages The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family A language is a structured system of communication u ...

Semitic languages
, Sogdian was also written with Syriac script, as well as
Malayalam Malayalam (; , ) is a Dravidian language Dravidian languages (or sometimes Dravidic languages) are a family of languages In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recogni ...

Malayalam
, which form was called
Suriyani Malayalam Suriyani Malayalam (സുറിയാനി മലയാളം, ܣܘܪܝܢܝ ܡܠܝܠܡ), also known as Karshoni, Syro-Malabarica or Syriac Malayalam, is a dialect of Malayalam Malayalam (; , ) is a Dravidian language Dravidian language ...
.


Alphabet forms

There are three major variants of the Syriac alphabet: , and .


Classical

The oldest and classical form of the alphabet is (). The name of the script is thought to derive from the
Greek#REDIRECT 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 million as of ...
adjective ''strongýlē'' (, 'rounded'), though it has also been suggested to derive from (, 'gospel character'). Although ʾEsṭrangēlā is no longer used as the main script for writing Syriac, it has received some revival since the 10th century. It is often used in scholarly publications (such as the
Leiden University Leiden University (abbreviated as ''LEI''; nl, Universiteit Leiden) is a Public university, public research university in Leiden, Netherlands. Founded in 1575 by William the Silent, William, Prince of Orange as a reward to the city of Leiden for ...
version of the
Peshitta The Peshitta ( syc, ܦܫܺܝܛܬܳܐ ''or'' ') is the standard version of the Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, He ...

Peshitta
), in titles, and in inscriptions. In some older
manuscript A manuscript (abbreviated MS for singular and MSS for plural) was, traditionally, any document written by hand – or, once practical typewriter A typewriter is a or machine for characters. Typically, a typewriter has an array ...

manuscript
s and inscriptions, it is possible for any letter to join to the left, and older Aramaic letter forms (especially of

and the
lunate Lunate is a crescent or moon-shaped microlith A microlith is a small Rock (geology), stone tool usually made of flint or chert and typically a centimetre or so in length and half a centimetre wide. They were made by humans from around 35,000 to ...
Mem, ) are found. Vowel marks are usually not used with , being the oldest form of the script and arising before the development of specialized diacritics.


East Syriac

The East Syriac dialect is usually written in the (, 'Eastern') form of the alphabet. Other names for the script include (, 'conversational' or 'vernacular', often translated as 'contemporary', reflecting its use in writing modern Neo-Aramaic), (, 'Assyrian', not to be confused with the traditional name for the Hebrew alphabet), (, 'Chaldean'), and, inaccurately, "Nestorianism, Nestorian" (a term that was originally used to refer to the Church of the East in the Sasanian Empire). The Eastern script resembles ʾEsṭrangēlā somewhat more closely than the Western script.


Vowels

The Eastern script uses a system of dots above and/or below letters, based on an older system, to indicate vowel sounds not found in the script: * A dot above and a dot below a letter represent , transliterated as ''a'' or ''ă'' (called , ), * Two diagonally-placed dots above a letter represent , transliterated as ''ā'' or ''â'' or ''å'' (called , ), * Two horizontally-placed dots below a letter represent , transliterated as ''e'' or ''ĕ'' (called , or , ; often pronounced and transliterated as ''i'' in the East Syriac dialect), * Two diagonally-placed dots below a letter represent , transliterated as ''ē'' (called , or , ), * The letter ''waw'' with a dot below it represents , transliterated as ''ū'' or ''u'' (called , or , ), * The letter with a dot above it represents , transliterated as ''ō'' or ''o'' (called , or , ), * The letter ''yōḏ'' with a dot beneath it represents , transliterated as ''ī'' or ''i'' (called , ), * A combination of (usually) followed by a letter ''yōḏ'' represents (possibly * in Proto-Syriac), transliterated as ''ē'' or ''ê'' (called , ). It is thought that the Eastern method for representing vowels influenced the development of the ''niqqud'' markings used for writing Hebrew. In addition to the above vowel marks, transliteration of Syriac sometimes includes ''ə'', ''e̊'' or superscript ''e'' (or often nothing at all) to represent an original Aramaic schwa that became lost later on at some point in the development of Syriac. Some transliteration schemes find its inclusion necessary for showing spirantization or for historical reasons. Whether because its distribution is mostly predictable (usually inside a syllable-initial two-consonant cluster) or because its pronunciation was lost, both the East and the West variants of the alphabet traditionally have no sign to represent the schwa.


West Syriac

The West Syriac dialect is usually written in the or (, 'line') form of the alphabet, also known as the (, 'simple'), 'Maronite' or the 'Jacobite' script (although the term ''Jacobite'' is considered derogatory). Most of the letters are clearly derived from ʾEsṭrangēlā, but are simplified, flowing lines. A cursive chancery hand is evidenced in the earliest Syriac manuscripts, but important works were written in ʾEsṭrangēlā. From the 8th century, the simpler Serṭā style came into fashion, perhaps because of its more economical use of parchment.


Vowels

The Western script is usually vowel-pointed, with miniature Greek vowel letters above or below the letter which they follow: * () Capital alpha () represents , transliterated as ''a'' or ''ă'' (, ), * () Lowercase alpha () represents , transliterated as ''ā'' or ''â'' or ''å'' (, ; pronounced as and transliterated as ''o'' in the West Syriac dialect), * () Lowercase epsilon () represents both , transliterated as ''e'' or ''ĕ'', and , transliterated as ''ē'' (, ), * () Capital eta () represents , transliterated as ''ī'' (, ), * () A combined symbol of capital upsilon () and lowercase omicron () represents , transliterated as ''ū'' or ''u'' (, ), * Lowercase omega (), used only in the vocative interjection (, 'O!').


Summary table

The Syriac alphabet consists of the following letters, shown in their isolated (non-connected) forms. When isolated, the letters , , and are usually shown with their initial form connected to their final form (see #Contextual forms of letters, below). The letters , , , , , , and (and, in early ʾEsṭrangēlā manuscripts, the letter ) do not connect to a following letter within a word; these are marked with an asterisk (*).


Contextual forms of letters


Ligatures


Letter alterations


''Matres lectionis''

Three letters act as ''Mater lectionis, matres lectionis'': rather than being a consonant, they indicate a vowel. Aleph (letter), (), the first letter, represents a glottal stop, but it can also indicate a vowel, especially at the beginning or the end of a word. The letter ''Waw (letter), waw'' () is the consonant ''w'', but can also represent the vowels ''o'' and ''u''. Likewise, the letter represents the consonant ''y'', but it also stands for the vowels ''i'' and ''e''.


In modern usage, some alterations can be made to represent phonemes not represented in Syriac language#Phonology, classical phonology. A mark similar in appearance to a tilde (~), called ''majlīyānā'' (), is placed above or below a letter in the ''Maḏnḥāyā'' variant of the alphabet to change its phonetic value (see also: ''Geresh''): * Added below : to (voiced palato-alveolar affricate) * Added below : to (voiceless palato-alveolar affricate) * Added above or below : to (voiced palato-alveolar sibilant) * Added above : to


and

In addition to foreign sounds, a marking system is used to distinguish (, 'hard' letters) from (, 'soft' letters). The letters , , , , , and , all stop consonants ('hard') are able to be 'spirantized' (lenition, lenited) into fricative consonants ('soft'). The system involves placing a single dot underneath the letter to give its 'soft' variant and a dot above the letter to give its 'hard' variant (though, in modern usage, no mark at all is usually used to indicate the 'hard' value): The mnemonic () is often used to remember the six letters that are able to be spirantized (see also: ''Begadkefat, Begadkepat''). In the East Syriac variant of the alphabet, spirantization marks are usually omitted when they interfere with vowel marks. The degree to which letters can be spirantized varies from dialect to dialect as some dialects have lost the ability for certain letters to be spirantized. For native words, spirantization depends on the letter's position within a word or syllable, location relative to other consonants and vowels, gemination, etymology, and other factors. Foreign words do not always follow the rules for spirantization.


Syriac uses two (usually) horizontal dots above a letter within a word, similar in appearance to diaeresis (diacritic), diaeresis, called (, literally 'placings', also known in some grammars by the Hebrew name [], 'plural'), to indicate that the word is plural. These dots, having no sound value in themselves, arose before both eastern and western vowel systems as it became necessary to mark plural forms of words, which are indistinguishable from their singular counterparts in regularly-inflected nouns. For instance, the word (, 'king') is consonantally identical to its plural (, 'kings'); the above the word () clarifies its grammatical number and pronunciation. Irregular plurals also receive even though their forms are clearly plural: e.g. (, 'house') and its irregular plural (, 'houses'). Because of redundancy, some modern usage forgoes points when vowel markings are present. There are no firm rules for which letter receives ; the writer has full discretion to place them over any letter. Typically, if a word has at least one , then are placed over the that is nearest the end of a word (and also replace the single dot above it: ). Other letters that often receive are low-rising letters—such as and —or letters that appear near the middle or end of a word. Besides plural nouns, are also placed on: * plural adjectives, including participles (except masculine plural adjectives/participles in the absolute state); * the cardinal numbers 'two' and the feminine forms of 11-19, though inconsistently; * and certain feminine plural verbs: the 3rd person feminine plural perfect and the 2nd and 3rd person feminine plural imperfect.


Syriac uses a line, called (, literally 'concealer', also known by the Latin term ''linea occultans'' in some grammars), to indicate a silent letter that can occur at the beginning or middle of a word. In Eastern Syriac, this line is diagonal and only occurs above the silent letter (e.g. , 'city', pronounced , not *, with the over the , Assimilation (phonology), assimilating with the ). The line can only occur above a letter , , , , , , , or (which comprise the mnemonic , 'the works of light'). In Western Syriac, this line is horizontal and can be placed above or below the letter (e.g. , 'city', pronounced , not *). Classically, was not used for silent letters that occurred at the end of a word (e.g. , '[my] lord'). In modern
Turoyo Turoyo (''Ṭūroyo''), also referred to as modern Surayt (''Sūrayṯ''), or modern Suryoyo (''Sūryōyō''), is a Central Neo-Aramaic Central Neo-Aramaic languages represent a specific group of Neo-Aramaic languages, that is designated as ''C ...
, however, this is not always the case (e.g. , '[my] lord').


Latin alphabet and romanization

In the 1930s, following the state policy for minority languages of the Soviet Union, a Latin alphabet for Syriac was romanization, developed with some material promulgated. Although it did not supplant the Syriac script, the usage of the Latin script in the Syriac community has still become widespread because most of the Assyrian diaspora is in Europe and the Anglosphere, where the Latin alphabet is predominant. In Syriac romanization, some letters are altered and would feature diacritics and macrons to indicate long vowels, schwas and diphthongs. The letters with diacritics and macrons are mostly upheld in educational or formal writing. The Latin letters below are commonly used when it comes to transliteration from the Syriac script to Latin script, Latin:Syriac Romanization Table
/ref> * Ā is used to denote a long "a" sound or [ɑː] as heard in "car". * Ḏ is used to represent a voiced dental fricative [ð], the "th" sound as heard in "that". * Ē is used to denote an "ee" sound or [eː]. * Ĕ is to represent an "eh" sound or [ɛ], as heard in ''Nineveh, Ninwĕ'' or "mare". * Ḥ represents a voiceless pharyngeal fricative ([ħ]), only upheld by Turoyo and Chaldean speakers. * Ō represents a long "o" sound or [ɔː]. * Š is a voiceless postalveolar fricative ([ʃ]), the English digraph "sh". * Ṣ denotes an emphatic consonant, emphatic "s" or "thick s", [sˤ]. * Ṭ is an emphatic "t", [tˤ], as heard in the word ''ṭla'' ("three"). * Ū is used to represent an "oo" sound or the close back rounded vowel [uː]. Sometimes additional letters may be used and they tend to be: * Ḇ may be used in the transliteration of biblical Aramaic to show the voiced bilabial fricative allophone value ("v") of the letter ''Bēṯ''. * Ī denotes a schwa sound, usually when transliterating biblical Aramaic. * Ḵ is utilized for the voiceless velar fricative, [x], or the "kh" sound. * Ṯ is used to denote the "th" sound or the voiceless dental fricative, [θ].


Unicode

The Syriac alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in September, 1999 with the release of version 3.0. Additional letters for Suriyani Malayalam were added in June, 2017 with the release of version 10.0.


Blocks

The Unicode block for Syriac is U+0700–U+074F: The Syriac Abbreviation (a type of overline) can be represented with a special control character called the Syriac Abbreviation Mark (U+070F). The Unicode block for Suriyani Malayalam specific letters is called the Syriac Supplement block and is U+0860–U+086F:


HTML code table

Note: Character encodings in HTML#HTML character references, HTML numeric character references can be in decimal format (&#''DDDD'';) or hexadecimal format (&#x''HHHH'';). For example, ܕ and ܕ (1813 in decimal) both represent U+0715 SYRIAC LETTER DALATH.



Vowels and unique characters


See also

* Abjad * Alphabet *
Aramaic alphabet 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 ...

Aramaic alphabet
* Aramaic language * Mandaic language *
Mongolian script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" o ...
* Sogdian alphabet *
Syriac language 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 (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that ...

Syriac language
* Suriyani Malayalam, Syriac Malayalam * Old Uyghur alphabet * History of the alphabet * List of writing systems


Notes


References


Sources

* Coakley, J. F. (2002). ''Robinson's Paradigms and Exercises in Syriac Grammar'' (5th ed.). Oxford University Press. . * William Hatch (theologian), Hatch, William (1946). ''An Album of Dated Syriac Manuscripts''. Boston: The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, reprinted in 2002 by Gorgias Press. . * George Kiraz, Kiraz, George (2015). ''The Syriac Dot: a Short History''. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press. . * Michaelis, Ioannis Davidis (1784). ''Grammatica Syriaca''. * Eberhard Nestle, Nestle, Eberhard (1888). ''Syrische Grammatik mit Litteratur, Chrestomathie und Glossar''. Berlin: H. Reuther's Verlagsbuchhandlung. [translated to English as ''Syriac grammar with bibliography, chrestomathy and glossary'', by R. S. Kennedy. London: Williams & Norgate 1889]. * Theodor Nöldeke, Nöldeke, Theodor and Julius Euting (1880). ''Kurzgefasste syrische Grammatik''. Leipzig: T.O. Weigel. [translated to English as ''Compendious Syriac Grammar'', by James A. Crichton. London: Williams & Norgate 1904. 2003 edition: ]. * Phillips, George (1866). ''A Syriac Grammar''. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, & Co.; London: Bell & Daldy. * Robinson, Theodore Henry (1915). ''Paradigms and Exercises in Syriac Grammar''. Oxford University Press. . * Rudder, Joshua. ''Learn to Write Aramaic: A Step-by-Step Approach to the Historical & Modern Scripts''. n.p.: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011. 220 pp. Includes the Estrangela (pp. 59–113), Madnhaya (pp. 191–206), and the Western Serto (pp. 173–190) scripts. * Judah Segal, Segal, J. B. (1953). ''The Diacritical Point and the Accents in Syriac.'' Oxford University Press, reprinted in 2003 by Gorgias Press. . * Wheeler Thackston, Thackston, Wheeler M. (1999). ''Introduction to Syriac''. Bethesda, MD: Ibex Publishers, Inc. .


External links


The Syriac alphabet
a
Omniglot.com


a




Meltho Fonts for Syriac

How to write Aramaic – learn the Syriac cursive scripts


(classical)
Learn Assyrian (Syriac-Aramaic) OnLine
(eastern)
GNU FreeFont
Unicode font family with Syriac range in its sans-serif face.
Learn Syriac Latin Alphabet
on Wikiversity {{DEFAULTSORT:Syriac Alphabet Syriac alphabet, Tur Abdin Right-to-left writing systems