54 Facts About Aramaic


For over three thousand years, Aramaic varieties served as a language of public life and administration of ancient kingdoms and empires and as a language of divine worship and religious study.

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Aramaic languages belong to the Northwest group of the Semitic language family, which includes the Canaanite languages such as Hebrew, Edomite, Moabite, and Phoenician, as well as Amorite and Ugaritic.

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Aramaic languages are written in the Aramaic alphabet, a descendant of the Phoenician alphabet, and the most prominent alphabet variant is the Syriac alphabet.

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The Aramaic alphabet became a base for the creation and adaptation of specific writing systems in some other Semitic languages, such as the Hebrew alphabet and the Arabic alphabet.

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Aramaic languages are now considered endangered, since several varieties are used mainly by the older generations.

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Historically and originally, Aramaic was the language of the Arameans, a Semitic-speaking people of the region between the northern Levant and the northern Tigris valley.

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Aramaic rose to prominence under the Neo-Assyrian Empire, under whose influence Aramaic became a prestige language after being adopted as a lingua franca of the empire, and its use spread throughout Mesopotamia, the Levant and parts of Asia Minor.

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At its height, Aramaic, having gradually replaced earlier Semitic languages, was spoken in several variants all over historical territories of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Eastern Arabia, Bahrain, Sinai, parts of southeast and south central Turkey, and parts of northwest Iran.

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Aramaic was the language of Jesus, who spoke the Galilean dialect during his public ministry, as well as the language of several sections of the Hebrew Bible, including parts of the books of Daniel and Ezra, and the language of the Targum, the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible.

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Some variants of Aramaic are retained as sacred languages by certain religious communities.

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Connection between Chaldean, Syriac, and Samaritan as "Aramaic" was first identified in 1679 by German theologian Johann Wilhelm Hilliger.

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The Achaemenid Empire 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.

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However, Aramaic remains a spoken, literary, and liturgical language for local Christians and some Jews.

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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 have Assyrian Aramaic-speaking communities, particularly Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Dohuk, and al-Hasakah.

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In Modern Israel, the only native Aramaic speaking population are the Jews of Kurdistan, although the language is dying out.

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However, Aramaic is experiencing a revival among Maronites in Israel in Jish.

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Aramaic is often spoken of as a single language, but is in reality a group of related languages.

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Some Aramaic languages differ more from each other than the Romance languages do among themselves.

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Some Aramaic dialects are mutually intelligible, whereas others are not, not unlike the situation with modern varieties of Arabic.

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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.

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The other main writing system used for Aramaic was developed by Christian communities: a cursive form known as the Syriac alphabet.

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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.

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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, dominating the influential, eastern dialect region.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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One of the largest collections of Imperial Aramaic texts is that of the Persepolis Administrative Archives, found at Persepolis, which number about five hundred.

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Achaemenid Aramaic is sufficiently uniform that it is often difficult to know where any particular example of the language was written.

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Biblical Aramaic is the Aramaic found in four discrete sections of the Hebrew Bible:.

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Biblical Aramaic presented various challenges for writers who were engaged in early Biblical studies.

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The "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.

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However, Aramaic continued to be used, in its post-Achaemenid form, among upper and literate classes of native Aramaic-speaking communities, and by local authorities.

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Babylonian Documentary Aramaic is a dialect in use from the 3rd century AD onwards.

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Nabataean Aramaic was the written language of the Arab kingdom of Nabataea, whose capital was Petra.

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The Nabataeans used imperial Aramaic for written communications, rather than their native Arabic.

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Nabataean Aramaic developed from Imperial Aramaic, with some influence from Arabic: "l" is often turned into "n", and there are some Arabic loanwords.

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Palmyrene Aramaic is the dialect that was in use in the Syriac city state of Palmyra in the Syrian Desert from 44 BC to 274 AD.

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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.

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Form of Late Old Western Aramaic used by the Jewish community is best attested, and is usually referred to as Jewish Old Palestinian.

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Seven Western Aramaic varieties were spoken in the vicinity of Judea in Jesus' time.

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Three languages, especially Hebrew and Aramaic, influenced one another through loanwords and semantic loans.

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The descendants of Imperial Aramaic ceased to be living languages, and the eastern and western regional languages began to develop vital new literatures.

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Dialects of Old Eastern Aramaic continued in Armenia and Iran as a written language using the Estragela Edessa script.

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Syriac Aramaic is the literary, liturgical and often spoken language of Syriac Christianity.

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Dialects of Old Western Aramaic continued with Jewish Middle Palestinian, Samaritan Aramaic and Christian Palestinian.

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Samaritan Aramaic is earliest attested by the documentary tradition of the Samaritans that can be dated back to the fourth century.

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Likewise, Middle East Jordanian Aramaic continued as a minor dialect from Old East Jordanian Aramaic.

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Judeo-Aramaic languages are now mostly spoken in Israel, and most are facing extinction.

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Each dialect of Aramaic has its own distinctive pronunciation, and it would not be feasible here to go into all these properties.

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Aramaic has a phonological palette of 25 to 40 distinct phonemes.

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Aramaic classically uses a series of lightly contrasted plosives and fricatives:.

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Aramaic verb has gradually evolved in time and place, varying between varieties of the language.

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Aramaic employs a system of conjugations, or verbal stems, to mark intensive and extensive developments in the lexical meaning of verbs.

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Imperial Aramaic tended to follow a S-O-V pattern, which was the result of Persian syntactic influence.

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