Aramaic (אַרָמָיָא Arāmāyā, Classical Syriac:
ܐܪܡܝܐ, Arabic: آرامية) is a language or group of
languages belonging to the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic
language family. More specifically, it is part of the Northwest
Semitic group, which also includes the
Canaanite languages such as
Hebrew and Phoenician. The
Aramaic alphabet was widely adopted for
other languages and is ancestral to the Hebrew, Syriac and Arabic
During its approximately 3,100 years of written history, Aramaic
has served variously as a language of administration of empires and as
a language of divine worship, religious study and as the spoken tongue
of a number of Semitic peoples from the Near East.
Historically, Aramaic was the language of Aramean tribes, a Semitic
people of the region around between the
Levant and the northern
Euphrates valley. By around 1000 BC, the
Arameans had a string of
kingdoms in what is now part of western Syria. Aramaic rose to
prominence under the Neo-Assyrians (911–605 BC), under whose
influence Aramaic became a prestige language and its use spread
throughout most of
Mesopotamia and the Levant. At its height, variants
of Aramaic were spoken in all over what is today Iraq, Syria, Lebanon,
Israel, Jordan, Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Eastern Arabia,
Northern Arabia, and to a lesser extent parts of southeast and south
central Turkey, and parts of northwest Iran.. Aramaic was the
language of Jesus, who spoke the
Galilean dialect during his
public ministry, as well as the language of large sections of the
biblical books of Daniel and Ezra, and also one of the languages of
The scribes of the Neo-Assyrian bureaucracy had also used Aramaic, and
this practice—together with other administrative practices—was
subsequently inherited by the succeeding Neo-Babylonians (605–539
BC), and the Achaemenids (539–323 BC). Mediated by scribes that had
been trained in the language, highly standardized written Aramaic (in
its Achaemenid form called Imperial Aramaic) progressively also become
the lingua franca of trade and commerce throughout the Achaemenid
territories, which extended as far east as the Indus valley. (That use
of written Aramaic subsequently led to the adoption of Aramaic script
and — as logograms — some Aramaic vocabulary in the written forms
Middle Iranian languages, including those of Parthia,
Persia, Sogdiana, and Chorasmia.)
Aramaic's long history and diverse and widespread use has led to the
development of many divergent varieties, which are sometimes
considered dialects, though they have become distinct enough over time
that they are now sometimes considered as separate languages.
Therefore, there is not one singular, static Aramaic language; each
time and place rather has had its own variation. The more widely
Eastern Aramaic and Mandaic forms are today largely restricted
to northern Iraq, north east Syria, north west
Iran and south east
Turkey, whilst the severely endangered
Western Aramaic is spoken by
small communities in north western
Syria and Israel.
Certain dialects of Aramaic are also retained as a liturgical language
by certain religious communities. One of those liturgical dialects is
Mandaic, which besides being a living variant of Aramaic is also the
liturgical language of Mandaeism. Significantly more widespread is
Syriac, the liturgical language of Syriac Christianity, in particular
the Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the
Syriac Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Pentecostal Church, Assyrian
Evangelical Church, Ancient Church of the East, Syriac Catholic
Church, the Maronite Church, and the Indian Saint Thomas Christian
Churches. Syriac was also the liturgical language of several
now-extinct gnostic faiths, such as Manichaeism.
Neo-Aramaic languages are still spoken today as a first language by
many communities of Syriac Christians, Jews, and
Mandaeans of Western
Asia, most numerously by Assyrians with numbers of fluent speakers
Assyrian people ranging from approximately 575,000 to 1,000,000,
with the main languages being
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (235,000 speakers),
Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (216,000 speakers) and Surayt/
Turoyo (112,000 to
450,000 speakers), together with a number of smaller closely related
languages with no more than 5,000 to 10,000 speakers between them.
They have retained use of the once dominant lingua franca despite
subsequent language shifts experienced throughout the Middle East.
However, the Aramaic languages are now considered endangered. The
languages are used by the older generation, all beyond retirement age,
and so could go extinct within a generation. However, researchers are
working to record all the dialects of
Neo-Aramaic languages before
they go extinct.
2 Geographic distribution
2.1 Aramaic languages and dialects
3 Writing system
5 Old Aramaic
5.1 Ancient Aramaic
5.2 Imperial Aramaic
5.3 Post-Achaemenid Aramaic
5.4 Late Old Eastern Aramaic
5.5 Late Old Western Aramaic
5.5.1 Languages during Jesus' lifetime
6 Middle Aramaic
6.1 Eastern Middle Aramaic
6.1.2 Jewish Middle Babylonian Aramaic
6.2 Western Middle Aramaic
6.2.1 Jewish Middle Palestinian Aramaic
6.2.2 Samaritan Aramaic
6.2.3 Christian Palestinian Aramaic
7 Modern Aramaic
7.1 Modern Eastern Aramaic
7.2 Modern Central Aramaic
7.3 Modern Western Aramaic
8.3 Historical sound changes
9.1 Nouns and adjectives
9.2.1 Aspectual tense
9.2.2 Conjugations or verbal stems
10 Word processors
11 See also
14 External links
"Aram" is used as a proper name of several people in the
Bible) including descendants of Shem (Genesis 10:22), Nahor (Genesis
22:21), and Jacob (1 Chronicles 7:34).
Ancient Aram, bordering northern
Israel and now called Syria, is
considered the linguistic epicenter of Aramaic, the language of the
Arameans who settled the area during the Bronze Age circa 3500 BC. The
language is often mistakenly considered to have originated within
Assyria (Iraq). In fact,
Arameans carried their language and writing
Mesopotamia by voluntary migration, by forced exile of conquering
armies, and by nomadic Chaldean invasions of
Babylonia during the
period from 1200 to 1000 BC.
Interestingly, the Christian New Testament, written in Koine Greek,
uses the Greek word Ἑβραϊστί (Hebraïstí) to denote
"Aramaic", as Aramaic was at that time the language commonly spoken by
the Hebrew people. The Hellenized Jewish community of Alexandria
instead translated "Aramaic" to "the Syrian tongue".
Syriac inscription at the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church's Major
Archbishop's House in South India.
During the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires, Arameans, the
native speakers of Aramaic, began to settle in greater numbers, at
first in Babylonia, and later in
Assyria (Upper Mesopotamia,
modern-day northern Iraq, northeast Syria, northwest Iran, and south
Turkey (what was
Armenia at the time). The influx
eventually resulted in the
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC) adopting
Imperial Aramaic as the lingua franca of its
empire. This policy was continued by the short-lived
Neo-Babylonian Empire and Medes, and all three empires became
operationally bilingual in written sources, with Aramaic used
alongside Akkadian. The
Achaemenid Empire (539–323 BC) continued
this tradition, and the extensive influence of these empires led to
Aramaic gradually becoming the lingua franca of most of western Asia,
the Arabian Peninsula, Anatolia, the Caucasus, and Egypt.
Beginning with the rise of the
Rashidun Caliphate in the late 7th
Arabic gradually replaced Aramaic as the lingua franca of the
Middle East. However, Aramaic remains a spoken, literary, and
liturgical language for local Christians and also some Jews. Aramaic
also continues to be spoken by the Assyrians of Iraq, northeastern
Turkey and northwest Iran, with diaspora
communities in Armenia, Georgia,
Azerbaijan and southern Russia. The
Mandaeans also continue to use Mandaic Aramaic as a liturgical
language, although most now speak
Arabic as their first language.
There are still also a small number of first-language speakers of
Western Aramaic varieties in isolated villages in western Syria.
The turbulence of the last two centuries (particularly the 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, Bakhdida, Bartella,
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. Aramaic is also experiencing a
revival among Maronites in
Israel in Jish.
Aramaic languages and dialects
"Jesus" in Jewish Aramaic.
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 is particularly used to describe the 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.
Main article: Aramaic alphabet
Amen in East Syriac Aramaic
11th century book in Syriac Serto
Aramaic alphabet was based on the 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 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. A highly modified form of the
Aramaic alphabet, the Mandaic alphabet, is used by the 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
Turoyo (see below) has sometimes been written in a Latin
The history of Aramaic is broken down into three broad periods:
Old Aramaic (1100 BC–200 AD), including:
Biblical Aramaic of the Hebrew Bible.
The Aramaic of
Jesus (Jewish Palestinian Aramaic).
Middle Aramaic (200–1200), including:
The Aramaic of the Talmudim, Targumim, and Midrashim.
Modern Aramaic (1200–present), including:
Various modern vernaculars.
This classification is based on that used by Klaus Beyer.
Main article: Old Aramaic language
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.
The central phase in the development of Old Aramaic was its official
use by the
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, the
Levant and 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
"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.
Silver ingot of Bar-Rakib, son of Panammuwa II, King of Sam'al.
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, 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 conquered Aramean
lands west of the Euphrates,
Tiglath-Pileser III made Aramaic the
Empire's second official language, and it eventually supplanted
From 700 BC, the language began to spread in all directions, but lost
much of its unity. Different dialects emerged in Assyria, Babylonia,
Levant and Egypt. Around 600 BC, Adon, a Canaanite king, used
Aramaic to write to an Egyptian Pharaoh.
"Chaldee" or "Chaldean Aramaic" used to be common terms for the
Aramaic of the Chaldean dynasty of Babylonia. It was used to describe
Biblical Aramaic, which was, however, written in a later style. It is
not to be confused with the modern language Chaldean Neo-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, 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 gave the language a new clarity and robust
flexibility. For centuries after the fall of the
Achaemenid Empire (in
331 BC), Imperial Aramaic – or near enough for it to be
recognisable – would remain an influence on the various native
Aramaic script and – as ideograms –
Aramaic vocabulary would survive as the essential characteristics of
the Pahlavi scripts.
One of the largest collections of
Imperial Aramaic texts is that of
Persepolis fortification tablets, which number about five
hundred. Many of the extant documents witnessing to this form of
Aramaic come from 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. 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.
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great bearing an
Aramaic language inscription
Bilingual inscription (Greek and Aramaic) by the Indian king Ashoka,
3rd century BC at Kandahar, Afghanistan
11th century Hebrew
Bible with Targum
The conquest by
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great did not destroy the unity of
Aramaic language and literature immediately. Aramaic that bears a
relatively close resemblance to that of the 5th century BC can be
found right up to the early 2nd century BC. The Seleucids imposed
Greek in the administration of
Mesopotamia from the start of
their rule. In the 3rd century BC, Greek overtook Aramaic as the
common[clarification needed] language in
Egypt and Syria. However, a
post-Achaemenid Aramaic continued to flourish from Judaea, Assyria,
Mesopotamia, through the
Syrian Desert and into northern Arabia.
Biblical Aramaic is the Aramaic found in four discrete sections of the
Ezra 4:8–6:18 and 7:12–26 – documents from the Achaemenid
period (5th century BC) concerning the restoration of the temple in
Daniel 2:4b–7:28 – five subversive tales and an apocalyptic
Jeremiah 10:11 – a single sentence in the middle of a Hebrew
text denouncing idolatry.
Genesis 31:47 – translation of a Hebrew place-name.
Biblical Aramaic is a somewhat hybrid dialect. It is theorized that
Biblical Aramaic material originated in both
Babylonia and Judaea
before the fall of the Achaemenid dynasty. According to historical
criticism, defiant Jewish propaganda shaped Aramaic Daniel during
Seleucid rule. These stories might have existed as oral traditions at
their earliest stage. This might be one factor that led to differing
collections of Daniel in the Greek
Septuagint and the Masoretic Text,
which presents a lightly Hebrew-influenced Aramaic.
Under the category of post-Achaemenid is Hasmonaean Aramaic, the
official language of Hasmonaean Judaea (142–37 BC). It influenced
Biblical Aramaic of the
Qumran texts, and was the main language of
non-biblical theological texts of that community. The major Targums,
translations of the Hebrew
Bible into Aramaic, were originally
composed in Hasmonaean. Hasmonaean 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
Babylonian Targumic is the later post-Achaemenid dialect found in the
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
Galilee in the 2nd century AD, and were reworked into
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 is the language of the Arameo-Arab kingdom of Petra.
The kingdom (c. 200 BC–106 AD) covered the east bank of the Jordan
Sinai Peninsula and northern Arabia. Perhaps because of the
importance of the caravan trade, the Nabataeans began to use Aramaic
in preference to Old North Arabic. The dialect is based on Achaemenid
with a little influence from Arabic: "l" is often turned into "n", and
there are a few
Arabic loanwords. Some
Nabataean Aramaic inscriptions
exist from the early days of the kingdom, but most are from the first
four centuries AD The language is written in a cursive script that is
the precursor to the modern
Arabic alphabet. The number of Arabic
loanwords increases through the centuries, until, in the 4th century,
Nabataean merges seamlessly with Arabic.
Palmyrene Aramaic is the dialect that was in use in the Syriac city
Palmyra in the
Syrian Desert from 44 BC to 274 AD. It was
written in a rounded script, which later gave way to cursive
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
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 BCE 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'
(< parthawi, "of the Parthians") for that writing system. The
Persian Sassanids, who succeeded the Parthian Arsacids in the mid-3rd
century CE, 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,
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
Arabic script in all but 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.
Late Old Eastern Aramaic
Eastern Aramaic languages
Mandaic magical "demon trap"
The dialects mentioned in the last section were all descended from
Achaemenid Imperial Aramaic. However, the diverse regional dialects of
Late Ancient Aramaic continued alongside these, often as simple,
spoken languages. Early evidence for these spoken dialects is known
only through their influence on words and names in a more standard
dialect. However, these regional dialects became written languages in
the 2nd century BC. These dialects reflect a stream of Aramaic that is
not dependent on Imperial Aramaic, and shows a clear division between
the regions of Mesopotamia, Babylon and the east, and Judah, Syria,
and the west.
In the East, the dialects of Palmyrene and Arsacid Aramaic merged with
the regional languages to create languages with a foot in Imperial and
a foot in regional Aramaic. The written form of Mandaic, the language
of the Mandaean religion, was descended from the Arsacid chancery
In the kingdom of Osroene, centred on Edessa and founded in 132 BC,
the regional dialect became the official language: Old Syriac. On the
upper reaches of the Tigris, East Mesopotamian Aramaic flourished,
with evidence from Hatra,
Assur and the Tur Abdin. 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
Late Old Western Aramaic
Western Aramaic languages
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 in the first century BC
and 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
Book of Enoch (c. 170 BC). The next distinct phase
of the language is called Old Judaean 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' first, non-extant edition of his
The Jewish War
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
Languages during Jesus' lifetime
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Further information: language of Jesus
It is generally believed by Christian scholars that in the first
Jews in Judea primarily spoke Aramaic with a decreasing
number using Hebrew as their first language, though many learned
Hebrew as a liturgical language. Additionally,
Koine Greek was the
lingua franca of the
Middle 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 and Babylonian, there were a number of colloquial Aramaic
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
Judaea. The region of
Ein Gedi spoke the Southeast Judaean dialect.
Samaria had its distinctive Samaritan Aramaic, where the consonants
"he", "heth" 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 influenced one another, especially Hebrew and
Aramaic. Hebrew words entered Jewish Aramaic (mostly technical
religious words but also everyday words like עץ ʿēṣ "wood").
Conversely, Aramaic words entered Hebrew (not only Aramaic words like
māmmôn "wealth" but Aramaic ways of using words like making Hebrew
ראוי rā’ûi, "seen" mean "worthy" in the sense of "seemly",
which is a calque of Aramaic ḥzî meaning "seen" and "worthy").
The Greek of the
New Testament often preserves non-Greek semiticisms,
including transliterations of Semitic words:
Some are Aramaic, like talitha (ταλιθα), which represents the
noun טליתא ṭalyĕṯā (Mark 5:41).
Others can be either Hebrew or Aramaic like רבוני Rabbounei
(Ραββουνει), which stands for "my master/great one/teacher"
in both languages (John 20:16).
The 2004 film
The Passion of the Christ
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.
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.
Main article: Syriac language
9th century Syriac Estrangela manuscript of John Chrysostom's Homily
on the Gospel of John
The Lord's Prayer, Abun dbashmayo, sung in Syriac
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Syriac (also "Middle Syriac") is the classical, literary, liturgical
and often spoken language of
Syriac Christianity to this day,
particularly the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic
Church, Ancient Church of the East,
Syriac Orthodox Church
Syriac Orthodox Church and Saint
Thomas Christians. It originated in fifth century BC Achaemenid
Assyria, but its golden age was the fourth to sixth 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.
Middle Syriac became the language of those opposed to the Byzantine
leadership of the Church of the East. Missionary activity by Assyrian
and Nestorian Christians led to the spread of Syriac from Mesopotamia
and Persia, into Central Asia, India and China.
Jewish Middle Babylonian Aramaic
Main article: 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
was completed in the seventh century) and of post-Talmudic 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
Main article: Mandaic language
The Mandaic language, spoken by the
Mandaeans of 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 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 "square script"),
Samaritan Aramaic (in the old
Hebrew script) and Christian Palestinian (in cursive Syriac script).
Of these three, only Jewish Middle Palestinian continued as a written
Jewish Middle Palestinian Aramaic
Hebrew (left) and Aramaic (right) in parallel in a 1299 Hebrew Bible
held by the Bodleian Library
Main article: 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
Talmud (completed in the
5th century), Palestinian targumim (Jewish Aramaic versions of
scripture), and midrashim (biblical commentaries and teaching). The
standard vowel pointing for the 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.
Middle Judaean, the descendant of Old Judaean, 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 continued as a minor dialect from Old East Jordanian.
The inscriptions in the synagogue at
Dura-Europos are either in Middle
East Jordanian or Middle Judaean.
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
Christian Palestinian Aramaic
Sometimes referred to as "Melkite Aramaic", it is the language of
Western-Aramaic-speaking Christians. It is evidenced from the
5th–6th century, but probably existed two centuries earlier. The
language itself comes from Old Christian Palestinian Aramaic, but its
writing conventions were based on early Middle Syriac, and it was
heavily influenced by 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
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Main article: Neo-Aramaic languages
Western Aramaic languages of the
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 (235,000 speakers),
Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (216,000
Turoyo (Surayt) (112,000 to 450,000 speakers). Having
largely lived in remote areas as insulated communities for over a
millennium, the remaining modern Aramaic dialects, such as the
Assyrians, and the Arameans, escaped the linguistic pressures
experienced by others during the large-scale language shifts 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
Arabs beginning with the early Muslim conquests of the
Eastern Aramaic language, Neo-Mandaean, is spoken by the
Iraq and Iran. They number some 50,000–75,000 people,
but it is believed the
Mandaic language may now be spoken fluently by
as few as 6000 people, with other
Mandaeans having varying degrees of
Modern Eastern Aramaic
Northeastern Neo-Aramaic and Neo-Mandaic
Eastern Aramaic exists in a wide variety of dialects and
languages. There is significant difference between the Aramaic spoken
by Jews, Christians, and Mandaeans.
The Christian varieties are often called Modern Syriac (or Neo-Syriac,
particularly when referring to their literature), being deeply
influenced by the literary and liturgical language of Middle Syriac.
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 and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, both used by the ethnic
Assyrians of Iraq, southeast Turkey, Iran, and northeast Syria.
Judeo-Aramaic languages are now mostly spoken in 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
Jews speak mutually unintelligible varieties of Modern
Eastern Aramaic in the same place. In others, the Nineveh plains
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, 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.
Modern Central Aramaic
Main article: Central Neo-Aramaic
Central Neo-Aramaic consists of
Turoyo and the recently extinct
Modern Western Aramaic
Main article: Western Neo-Aramaic
Very little remains of Western Aramaic. It is still spoken in the
villages of Maaloula, al-Sarkha (Bakhah), and
Jubb'adin on 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.
Jewish Palestinian Aramaic and
Samaritan Aramaic are
preserved in liturgical and literary usage.
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, Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Persian and Turkish.
As with most Semitic languages, Aramaic can be thought of as having
three basic sets of 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", [a]). It
usually has a back counterpart ("long" a, like the a in "father",
[ɑ], or even tending to the vowel in "caught", [ɔ]), and a front
counterpart ("short" e, like the vowel in "head", [ɛ]). 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", [i]).
It has a slightly more open counterpart, the "long" e, as in the final
vowel of "café" ([e]). 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",
[u]). It has a more open counterpart, the "long" o, like the vowel in
"low" ([o]). 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
The so-called "emphatic" consonants (see the next section) cause all
vowels to become mid-centralised.
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 and a fricative at the same point of articulation). Aramaic
classically uses a series of lightly contrasted plosives and
Labial set: פּפ p/f and בּב b/v,
Dental set: תּת t/θ and דּד d/ð,
Velar set: כּכ k/x and גּג 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 velarization.
Using their alphabetic names, these emphatics are:
ח Ḥêṯ, a voiceless pharyngeal fricative, /ħ/,
ט Ṭêṯ, a pharyngealized t, /tˤ/,
Ayin (or ʽE in some dialects), a pharyngealized glottal stop
(sometimes considered to be a voiced pharyngeal approximant), [ʕ] or
צ Ṣāḏê, a pharyngealized s, /sˤ/,
ק Qôp, a voiceless uvular stop, /q/.
The emphatic consonants of Aramaic
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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 /s/ (as in English "sea"),
ז /z/ (as in English "zero"),
שׁ /ʃ/ (as in English "ship"),
צ /sˤ/ (the emphatic Ṣāḏê listed above).
In addition to these sets, Aramaic has the nasal consonants מ m and
נ n, and the approximants ר r (usually an alveolar trill), ל l, י
y and ו w.
Historical sound changes
Six broad features of sound change can be seen as dialect
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
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 has mostly lost /p/, using /f/ instead, like Arabic; other
dialects (for instance, standard Assyrian Neo-Aramaic) have lost /θ/
and /ð/ and replaced them with /t/ and /d/, as with Modern Hebrew. In
most dialects of Modern Syriac, /f/ and /v/ are realized as [w] after
Loss of emphatics. Some dialects have replaced emphatic consonants
with non-emphatic counterparts, while those spoken in the Caucasus
often have glottalized rather than 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
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). 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 [ʒ]
(as the first consonant in "azure"), [d͡ʒ] (as in "jam") and [t͡ʃ]
(as in "church"). The
Syriac alphabet has been adapted for writing
these new sounds.
Aramaic words based on the triliteral
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As with other Semitic languages, Aramaic morphology (the way words are
formed) is based on the consonantal 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
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 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 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. Case endings, as in 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 direct object is marked by a prefixed -ל l- (the
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 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
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.
Different variations of the possessive construction in Aramaic
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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)
In Modern Aramaic, the last form is by far the most common. In
Biblical Aramaic, the last form is virtually absent.
The Aramaic verb has gradually evolved in time and place, varying
between varieties of the language. Verb forms are marked for person
(first, second or third), number (singular or plural), gender
(masculine or feminine), tense (perfect or imperfect), mood
(indicative, imperative, jussive or infinitive) and voice (active,
reflexive or passive). Aramaic also employs a system of conjugations,
or verbal stems, to mark intensive and extensive developments in the
lexical meaning of verbs.
Aramaic has two proper tenses: perfect and imperfect. These were
originally aspectual, but developed into something more like a
preterite and future. The perfect is unmarked, while the imperfect
uses various 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
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 Classical
Person & gender
כתב kəṯaḇ ↔ kəṯaḇ
כתבו ↔ כתב(ו)כתבון kəṯaḇû ↔
יכתוב ↔ נכתוב yiḵtuḇ ↔ neḵtoḇ
יכתבון ↔ נכתבון yiḵtəḇûn ↔ neḵtəḇûn
כתבת kiṯbaṯ ↔ keṯbaṯ
כתבת ↔ כתב(י)כתבן kəṯaḇâ ↔
תכתב tiḵtuḇ ↔ teḵtoḇ
יכתבן ↔ נכתבן yiḵtəḇān ↔ neḵtəḇān
כתבת kəṯaḇt ↔ kəṯaḇt
כתבתון kəṯaḇtûn ↔ kəṯaḇton
תכתב tiḵtuḇ ↔ teḵtoḇ
תכתבון tiḵtəḇûn ↔ teḵtəḇûn
(כתבתי ↔ כתבת(י kəṯaḇtî ↔ kəṯaḇt(y)
כתבתן kəṯaḇtēn ↔ kəṯaḇtên
תכתבין tiḵtuḇîn ↔ teḵtuḇîn
תכתבן tiḵtəḇān ↔ teḵtəḇān
כתבת kiṯḇēṯ ↔ keṯḇeṯ
כתבנא ↔ כתבן kəṯaḇnâ ↔ kəṯaḇn
אכתב eḵtuḇ ↔ eḵtoḇ
נכתב niḵtuḇ ↔ neḵtoḇ
Conjugations or verbal stems
Like other Semitic languages, Aramaic employs a number of 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
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
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, but later became 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 Classical Syriac.
פעל Pə‘al (G-stem)
כתב kəṯaḇ ↔ kəṯaḇ
יכתב ↔ נכתב yiḵtuḇ ↔ neḵtoḇ
התפעלאתפעל Hiṯpə‘ēl/Eṯpə‘el (Gt-stem)
התכתב ↔ אתכתב hiṯkəṯēḇ ↔ eṯkəṯeḇ
יתכתב ↔ נתכתב yiṯkəṯēḇ ↔ neṯkəṯeḇ
פעּל Pa‘‘ēl/Pa‘‘el (D-stem)
כתּב kattēḇ ↔ katteḇ
יכתּב ↔ נכתּב yəḵattēḇ ↔ nəkatteḇ
התפעלאתפעל Hiṯpa‘‘al/Eṯpa‘‘al (Dt-stem)
התכתּב ↔ אתכתּב hiṯkəṯēḇ ↔ eṯkəṯeḇ
יתכתּב ↔ נתכתּב yiṯkəṯēḇ ↔ neṯkəṯeḇ
הפעלאפעל Hap̄‘ēl/Ap̄‘el (C-stem)
הכתב ↔ אכתב haḵtēḇ ↔ aḵteḇ
יהכתב↔ נכתב yəhaḵtēḇ ↔ naḵteḇ
התהפעלאתּפעל Hiṯhap̄‘al/Ettap̄‘al (Ct-stem)
התהכתב ↔ אתּכתב hiṯhaḵtaḇ ↔ ettaḵtaḇ
יתהכתב ↔ נתּכתב yiṯhaḵtaḇ ↔ nettaḵtaḇ
Aramaic also has two proper tenses: the perfect and the imperfect. 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
The World's first
Aramaic language word processing software was
developed in 1986–1987 in
Kuwait by information technology
professional Sunil Sivanand (1953– ), who is now Managing Director
and Chief Technology Architect at Acette. Sunil Sivanand did most of
the character generation and programming work on a first generation,
twin disk drive IBM Personal Computer. The project was sponsored by
Daniel Benjamin, who was a patron of a group of individuals working
worldwide to preserve and revive the Aramaic language.
Syriac Christianity portal
Aramaic of Hatra
Ephrem the Syrian
Gospel of Matthew
List of loanwords in modern Aramaic
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute
for the Science of Human History.
^ Stuart Creason (2008). "Aramaic" (PDF). In Roger D. Woodard. The
Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia. Cambridge University
Press. ISBN 978-0521684989.
^ Beyer (1986: 11) suggests that written Aramaic probably dates from
the 11th century BC, as it is established by the 10th century, to
which he dates the oldest inscriptions of northern Syria. Heinrichs
(1990: x) uses the less controversial date of the 9th century, for
which there is clear and widespread attestation.
^ Kilpatrick, Hilary (1996). "Modernity in a Classical
Work, the Kitāb al-Aghānī". In Smart, J. R. Tradition and Modernity
Language And Literature. Curzon Press. p. 253.
^ Allen C. Myers, ed. (1987). "Aramaic". The Eerdmans Bible
Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans. p. 72.
ISBN 0-8028-2402-1. It is generally agreed that Aramaic was the
common language of
Israel in the first century AD.
Jesus and his
disciples spoke the Galilean dialect, which was distinguished from
Jerusalem (Matt. 26:73).
^ "Aramaic language". Encyclopædia Britannica.
Jesus Speak?". Markdroberts.com. Retrieved
^ Chyet, Michael L. (1997). Afsaruddin, Asma; Krotkoff, Georg;
Zahniser, A. H. Mathias, eds. Humanism, Culture, and
Language in the
Near East: Studies in Honor of Georg Krotkoff. Eisenbrauns.
p. 284. ISBN 978-1-57506-020-0. In the
Middle Iranian period
(Parthian and Sassanid Empires), Aramaic was the medium of everyday
writing, and it provided scripts for writing Middle Persian, Parthian,
Sogdian, and Khwarezmian.
^ Green 1992, p. 45
^ Beyer 1986: 38–43; Casey 1998: 83–6, 88, 89–93; Eerdmans 1975:
^ "City Youth Learn Dying Language, Preserve It". The New Indian
Express. May 9, 2016. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
^ Heinrichs 1990: xi–xv; Beyer 1986: 53.
^ Naby, Eden. "From Lingua Franca to Endangered Language". Assyrian
International News Agency.
^ Shaviv, Miriam (July 14, 2013). "The last of the Aramaic speakers".
The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
^ a b "Aram meaning". Abarim Publications.
^ "Hittites, Assyrians and Aramaeans". fsmitha.com.
^ a b Richard, 2003, p. 69.
^ George V. Yana, Ancient and Modern Assyrians: A Scientific Analysis,
^ "Aramaic Israelis seek to revive endangered language of Jesus". The
Jerusalem Post. 9 November 2014. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
^ "Panammuwa II and Bar-Rakib: Two Structural Analyses, K. Lawson
Younger, Jr., University of Sheffield" (PDF). Archived from the
original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2014-03-20.
^ Klaus Beyer, The Aramaic Language, Its Distribution and
Subdivisions, (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Gottingen, 1986), 14.
^ Shaked, Saul (1987). "Aramaic". Encyclopædia Iranica. 2. New York:
Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 250–261. p. 251
^ Frye, Richard N.; Driver, G. R. (1955). "Review of G. R. Driver's
'Aramaic Documents of the Fifth Century B. C.'". Harvard Journal of
Asiatic Studies. 18 (3/4): 456–461. doi:10.2307/2718444.
JSTOR 2718444. p. 457.
^ Geiger, Wilhelm; Kuhn, Ernst (2002). "Grundriss der iranischen
Philologie: Band I. Abteilung 1". Boston: Adamant: 249ff.
^ Stolper, John A. Matthew (2007). "What are the Persepolis
Fortification Tablets?". The Oriental Studies News & Notes
(winter): 6–9. Archived from the original on 14 February 2007.
^ Naveh, Joseph; Shaked, Shaul (2006). Joseph Naveh, ed. Ancient
Aramaic Documents from Bactria. Studies in the Khalili Collection.
Oxford: Khalili Collections. ISBN 1-874780-74-9.
^ Beyer. p. 28 n. 27; Wiesehöfer, Josef; Azodi, Azizeh. Ancient
Persia. pp. 118–20.
^ "Iranian Scripts for Aramaic Languages," in the Bulletin of the
American Schools of Oriental Research 341 (2006), pp. 53–62.
^ Darling, Cary (February 25, 2004). "What's up with Aramaic? - Thanks
to 'The Passion of the Christ,' a near-dead, 2,500-year-old - language
will reach the ears of millions". Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
access-date= requires url= (help)
Turoyo at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
^ Khan 2008, pp. 6
^ Modern Mandaic at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
Beyer, Klaus (1986). The Aramaic language: its distribution and
subdivisions. Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. ISBN 3-525-53573-2.
Casey, Maurice (1998). Aramaic sources of Mark's Gospel. Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 0-521-63314-1.
"Aramaic". The Eerdmans
Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA:
William B Eerdmans. 1975. ISBN 0-8028-2402-1.
Frank, Yitzchak (2003). Grammar for Gemara &
((expanded edition) ed.). Feldheim Publishers / Ariel Institute.
Heinrichs, Wolfhart, ed. (1990). Studies in Neo-Aramaic. Atlanta,
Georgia: Scholars Press. ISBN 1-55540-430-8.
Nöldeke, Theodor (2001). Compendious Syriac Grammar. Winona Lake:
Eisenbrauns. ISBN 1-57506-050-7.
Richard, Suzanne (2003). Near Eastern Archaeology: A Reader
(Illustrated ed.). EISENBRAUNS. ISBN 978-1-57506-083-5.
Rosenthal, Franz (1995). A Grammar of
Biblical Aramaic (6th, revised
ed.). Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden. ISBN 3-447-03590-0.
Sabar, Yona (2002). A Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dictionary. Harrassowitz.
Sokoloff, Michael (2002). A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic.
Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan UP; Johns Hopkins UP.
Sokoloff, Michael (2002). A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic
(2nd ed.). Bar-Ilan UP; Johns Hopkins UP.
Stevenson, William B. (1962). Grammar of Palestinian Jewish Aramaic
(2nd ed.). Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-815419-4.
Waltisberg, Michael (2016). Syntax des Ṭuroyo (= Semitica Viva 55).
Otto Harrassowitz Verlag: Wiesbaden. ISBN 978-3-447-10731-0.
Aramaic edition of, the free encyclopedia
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic test of at Wikimedia Incubator
Turoyo test of at Wikimedia Incubator
Jewish Babylonian Aramaic test of at Wikimedia Incubator
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aramaic language.
Ancient Aramaic Audio Files: 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
Aramaic Dictionary – search the online dictionary using English or
Aramaic words, including many other options.
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
Language and Its Classification – Efrem Yildiz, Journal
of Assyrian Academic Studies
Bible Repository – Many free Syriac Aramaic
language research tools and the Syriac
Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon (including editions of Targums) –
at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati
Dictionary of Judeo-Aramaic
Language Research Website: Jewish 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
Modern Aramaic languages
Koy Sanjaq Surat
Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic
Betanure Jewish Neo-Aramaic
East Semitic languages
West Semitic and Central Semitic languages
Jewish Babylonian Aramaic
Koy Sanjaq Surat
Eastern Egyptian and Peninsular Bedawi
South Semitic languages
Silt'e (Wolane, Ulbareg, Inneqor)
Modern South Arabian
Pre- / Protohistory
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA)
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB)
Timeline of the Assyrian Empire
Culture / Society
Destruction by ISIL
BNF: cb11945295z (d