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(ârəmā`ĭk), language belonging to the West Semitic subdivision of the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic family of languages (see Afroasiatic languagesAfroasiatic languages
, formerly Hamito-Semitic languages
, family of languages spoken by more than 250 million people in N Africa; much of the Sahara; parts of E, central, and W Africa; and W Asia (especially the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and
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). At some point during the second millenium B.C., the Aramaeans abandoned their desert existence and settled in Syria, bringing their language, Aramaic, with them. By the beginning of the 7th cent. B.C., Aramaic had spread throughout the Fertile Crescent as a lingua franca. Still later the Persians made Aramaic one of the official languages of their empire.

After the Jews were defeated by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., they began to speak Aramaic instead of Hebrew, although they retained Hebrew as the sacred language of their religion. Although Aramaic was displaced officially in the Middle East by Greek after the coming of Alexander the Great, it held its own under Greek domination and subsequent Roman rule. Aramaic was also the language of Jesus. Following the rise of Islam in the 7th cent. A.D., however, Aramaic began to yield to Arabic, by which eventually it was virtually replaced.

In the course of its long history the Aramaic language broke up into a number of dialects, one of the most important of which was SyriacSyriac
, late dialect of Aramaic, which is a West Semitic language (see Afroasiatic languages). The early Christians of Mesopotamia and Syria gave the Greek name Syriac to the Aramaic dialect they spoke when the term Aramaic
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. Parts of the books of Ezra and Daniel in the Bible were written in an Aramaic dialect, as were some notable Jewish prayers, such as the kaddish. Other important documents in Aramaic include portions of the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds and the Targum OnkelosOnkelos
, 2d cent. A.D., translator of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic, his work later being given the title Targum Onkelos (see Targum). A proselyte, he gained the respect of the leading Hebrew scholars of his day.
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, a commentary on the Pentateuch. Nabataean (the form of Aramaic current among the Nabataean Arabs), Samaritan, and Palmyrene were other significant ancient dialects of Aramaic. Modern forms of the language (including Syriac) are still spoken today, though not by more than a few hundred thousand people scattered in the Near and Middle East.

Grammatically, Aramaic is very close to HebrewHebrew language,
member of the Canaanite group of the West Semitic subdivision of the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic family of languages (see Afroasiatic languages).
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. The Aramaic alphabet is a North Semitic script that is first attested in the 9th cent. B.C. After c.500 B.C. its use became widespread in the Middle East. Descended from the Aramaic alphabet are the Square Hebrew alphabet, which is the ancestor of modern Hebrew writing; the Nabataean, Palmyrene, and Syriac scripts; and the Arabic alphabet, among others. It is believed that the alphabetic writing systems of India and Southeast Asia also have the Aramaic script as their source.


See F. Rosenthal, ed., An Aramaic Handbook (4 vol., 1967).



one of the Semitic languages.

The most ancient Aramaean settlements were in Syria and Mesopotamia; from there the Aramaic language spread throughout the Near East. The oldest Aramaic literary remains (from Samal, Damascus, Hamath, and other places) date from the ninth and eighth centuries B.C. During the period of the Assyrian and Persian empires, from the seventh to the fourth centuries B.C., Aramaic became the official language of these states and was the international language of the Near and Middle East. An archive of Aramaic documents from Elephantine (in Egypt) dates from the fifth century B.C. Aramaic was gradually replacing Hebrew, and there are sections of the Bible written in Aramaic (part of Ezra, fifth to fourth centuries B.C.; part of Daniel, second century B.C.) and one of the books of the Talmud (the so-called Gemara, from the second to the fifth centuries A.D.); other biblical texts were translated into Aramaic. The Palmyrenes and the Nabataeans also used Aramaic, as seen by inscriptions of the first and second centuries A.D. The Aramaic dialect of Edessa was the basis of the Syriac language; a rich Christian literature was created from the third to 14th centuries in Syriac. The religious books of the Mandaeans were written in the third through eighth centuries A.D. in Mandaic, an Aramaic dialect. Modern Aramaic dialects are divided into three groups: West (Malula), Central (Turayo), and East Aramaic (Assyrian or Neo-Syriac).

Characteristic elements of Aramaic are a shift of the proto-Semitic interdental consonants to stops, the emphatic status of nouns (status emphaticus), the use of reflexive forms for the passive voice, and the development of analytical constructions (especially in the modern dialects).


Vinnikov, I. N. “Slovar’ arameiskikh nadpisei.” Palestinskii sbornik, 1958, no. 3; 1959, no. 4; 1962, no. 7; 1964, no. 11; 1965, no. 13.
Tsereteli, G. V. Armazskaia bilingva. Tbilisi, 1941.
Tsereteli, K.G. Materialy po arameiskoidialektologii, vol. 1.Tbilisi, 1965.
Garbini, G. L’aramaico antico. Rome, 1956.
Altheim, F., and R. Stiehl. Die aramaäsche Sprache unter den Achaimeniden, vol. 1. Frankfurt am Main, 1963.
Rosenthal, F. A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic, 2nd ed. Wiesbaden, 1963.
Nöldeke, T. Kurzgefasste syrische Grammatik. Darmstadt, 1966.
Macuch, R. Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic. Berlin, 1965.
Spitaler, A. Grammatik des neuaramäischen Dialekts von Ma’lüla (Antilibanon). Leipzig, 1938.
Ritter, H., and A. Turoyo. Texte, vol. 1. Beirut, 1967.
Rosenthal, F., ed. An Aramaic Handbook [vols. 1–4]. Wiesbaden. 1967.



an ancient language of the Middle East, still spoken in parts of Syria and the Lebanon, belonging to the NW Semitic subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic family. Originally the speech of Aram, in the 5th century bc it spread to become the lingua franca of the Persian empire
References in periodicals archive ?
Accordingly, Rowley's concern with the linguistic issues of the Aramaic portions of the Book of Daniel was simply one feature of a wider interest in the book.
The Aramaic course is being offered on two levels and begins in May 2011; it is available to students 18 and above who know the Hebrew alphabet.
A number of scholarly voices have also made appeals to the Aramaic asseverative particles hlw (Old Aramaic, Jewish Aramaic [Tg Neof]) and >aluw (Biblical Aramaic) as further evidence against the traditional etymology of the Hebrew particle halo'.
While neither Ezra nor his translators produced a written targum accessible to the masses, the process of translating the Bible into Aramaic resulted, before long, in the availability of multiple written targumim, each with its own style and subjectivity.
The film, which was shot in Aramaic and Latin, is presented with English subtitles on VHS and English and Spanish subtitles on DVD.
The third (designated IV A) presents the Aramaic Targum version of the Old Testament books Chronicles, Ruth, Canticles, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther.
1) Theodore Kwasman and Christa Muller-Kessler (henceforth KMK) have redirected their attention to a Jewish Aramaic magic bowl that they published in 2000.
This festival dates back to the era of Queen Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, who then accompanied the Roman convoy in search of the Holy Cross," member of the Aramaic Language Committee at Damascus University Bashar Mos'ad said.
Abra kadabrah is not "textbook" ancient Jewish Aramaic (no written grammars or textbooks of any kind existed back then), but it conforms well to what we know of the somewhat mixed, somewhat improvised Aramaic used by Jews in the Middle Ages, and which we find in Kabbalistic texts and even the prayer book.
com)-- By researching the Quran in Arabic and the four Gospels of the Bible in Aramaic, a language common to most of the Middle East in the 7th century A.
impossible piglet, she scrawls in mud, in rodent Aramaic, something
Apart from the general introduction to the series, each volume has the Torah text in Hebrew, the Targum in Aramaic, an English translation of the Targum, a page-by-page commentary, an appendix with additional notes, a section of Onkelos highlights and discussion points, and the Hebrew text of the haftarot with a translation of their Aramaic Targumim.