|Levant, Fertile Crescent, Eastern Arabia|
|ISO 639-2 and 639-5:||arc|
Aramaic is a language that is at least 3100 years old. It has been used for writing for that long, and has an unknown longer history of being used for speaking. It is part of the Northwest Semitic group of languages. Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew. The Aramaic alphabet was widely adopted for other languages and is ancestral to the Hebrew, Syriac and Arabic alphabets.
Words are made up from the 22 characters of the Aramaic alphabet. It is part of a group of languages called the Semitic languages. This group has Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic and many other languages in it. Some old kingdoms used Aramaic language for business. Some religions use Aramaic for their meetings. Aramaic is the language of big parts of the two Bible books of Daniel and Ezra. It is the language of the Jewish Talmud. Aramaic was the language of Jesus Christ. Aramaic is spoken today by small groups of people, particularly by Assyrians.
Aramaic speakers[change | change source]
In the 12th century BC, the first speakers of Aramaic started to make their homes in today's countries of Syria, Iraq and east Turkey. As the bureaucratic language of the Achaemenid Empire, it became the most important language in the Middle East. Jewish speakers of Aramaic took the language with them to north Africa and Europe. Christian speakers of Aramaic took the language with them to Persia, India and even China.
In the 7th century AD, Aramaic stopped being the most important language in the Middle East. The Arabic language became the new important language. Aramaic is still spoken by scattered communities of Jews, Mandaeans and some Christians. Small groups of people still speak Aramaic in different parts of the Middle East. The wars of the last two centuries made many Aramaic speakers leave their homes and go to live in different places around the world. Today, between 500.000 and 850.000 people speak Aramaic languages.
Types of Aramaic[change | change source]
Aramaic is not one language without any changes. Because many different people over many centuries spoke and wrote it, there are many different kinds of Aramaic languages. These different types are called dialects, but some of them are so different that they are like different languages.
The different dialects make two groups: an Eastern group and a Western group. The division between them is around the line of the river Euphrates. We also divide up the dialects by their place in time. Old Aramaic is the name of the oldest dialects. Only special teachers learn Old Aramaic. Middle Aramaic is the group of dialects that people do not speak every day, but they use them for special things like writing and religion. Modern Aramaic is the group of dialects that people use every day. They are living languages and are spoken by Assyrians.
References[change | change source]
- 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 (Beyer, Klaus 1986. The Aramaic language: its distribution and subdivisions. Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. ISBN 3-525-53573-2). Heinrichs (1990: x) uses the less controversial date of the 9th century, for which there is clear and widespread attestation. (Heinrichs, Wolfhart, ed. 1990. Studies in Neo-Aramaic. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press. ISBN 1-55540-430-8)
- Royal Aramaic inscriptions from the Aramean city-states date from 10th century BC, making Aramaic one of the world's oldest recorded living languages. Richard, Suzanne 2003. Near Eastern Archaeology: a reader. Eisenbrauns, p. 69. ISBN 978-1-57506-083-5
- Languages from the World of the Bible, ed. Holger Gzella (Berlin; Boston: Walter de De Gruyter, Inc., 2011), p. 131
- Sam Adams (25 January 2013). "Race to save the language of Jesus: Aramaic in danger of becoming extinct as number of speakers of ancient tongue plummets". Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers, Inc. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
- Jean Sibille (2011). "Modern Aramaic languages". SOROSORO. Retrieved 15 July 2016.