Aramaic (Classical Syriac: ܐܪܡܝܐ Arāmāyā; Old Aramaic 𐤀𐤓𐤌𐤉𐤀; Imperial Aramaic 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡀; Jewish Babylonian Aramaic אֲרָמִית) is a Semitic language that originated among the Arameans in the ancient region of Syria. For over three thousand years, Aramaic served as a language of public life and administration of ancient kingdoms and empires and also as a language of divine worship and religious study. Several dialects are still spoken in the 21st century: the Neo-Aramaic languages.
|ܐܪܡܝܐ / ארמיא / 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡀|
|Mesopotamia, Levant, Fertile Crescent, Northern Arabia|
|ISO 639-2 / 5||arc|
The Aramaic language belongs to the Northwest group of the Semitic language family, which also includes the Canaanite languages such as Hebrew, Edomite, Moabite, and Phoenician, as well as Amorite and Ugaritic. Aramaic languages are written in the Aramaic alphabet, a descendant of the Phoenician alphabet, and the most prominent alphabet variant is the Syriac alphabet. The Aramaic alphabet also 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.
The Aramaic languages are now considered endangered, since several dialects are used mainly by the older generations. However, researchers are working to record and analyze all of the remaining dialects of Neo-Aramaic languages before they cease to be spoken languages.
Early Aramaic inscriptions date from 10th century BC, placing it among the earliest languages to be written down. Aramaicist Holger Gzella notes, "The linguistic history of Aramaic prior to the appearance of the first textual sources in the ninth century BC remains unknown."