Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What is Aramaic?

Aramaic is a Semitic language related to Arabic,Hebrew,Amharic,Tigrinia and Akkadian the oldest Semitic language we know,more closely related to Hebrew.During its' existence it has gone through many phases.It was never a uniform language but had many dialects.Aramaic is still spoken today in small Aramaic speaking enclaves in the Middle East.These people speak the so-called Neo-Aramaic languages.

It originally was the native tongue of the Arameans-a Semitic people native to northern Syria.The Arameans lived divided in small kingdoms which disappeared rather early in history.

In contrast,their language had a different fate.Aramaic became the language of trade and culture all over the Middle East  reaching Greece and even India.It was adopted by many other non-Aramean Semitic peoples,like the Akkadians (Assyrians and Banylonians),the Jews and the Chaldeans.Two great empires used it as their second major  language-first the Akkadian Empire adopted it as an official language along with Akkadian which was subsequently completely supplanted by Aramaic.Then the Persian Achaemenid Empire followed suit.Thus Aramaic became the lingua franca of the so-called Fertile Crescent.Jesus Christ himself spoke Aramaic as a first language.

Its legacy ended with the rise of Arabic and the expansion of Islam in the region.
Aramaic in the Fertile Crescent
Aramaic-1 A.D (orange)
Syriac-1000 A.D.(yellow)
Syriac Neo-Aramaic dialects today (green)

 It can be rougly divided into these  periods:
  • early Aramaic
  • imperial Aramaic
  • biblical Aramaic
  • Syriac 
  • Neo-aramaic languages

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