The Syriac language (//; Classical Syriac: ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / Leššānā Sūryāyā, Leshono Suryoyo), also known as Syriac Aramaic (Syrian Aramaic, Syro-Aramaic) and Classical Syriac ܠܫܢܐ ܥܬܝܩܐ (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic dialect that emerged during the first century AD from a local Aramaic dialect that was spoken by Assyrians in the ancient region of Osroene, centered in the city of Edessa. During the Early Christian period, it became the main literary language of various Aramaic-speaking Christian communities in the historical region of Ancient Syria and throughout the Near East. As a liturgical language of Syriac Christianity, it gained a prominent role among Eastern Christian communities that used both Eastern Syriac and Western Syriac rites. Following the spread of Syriac Christianity, it also became a liturgical language of eastern Christian communities as far as India and China. It flourished from the 4th to the 8th century, and continued to have an important role during the next centuries, but by the end of the Middle Ages it was gradually reduced to liturgical use, since the role of vernacular language among its native speakers was overtaken by several emerging Neo-Aramaic dialects.
|ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ, Leššānā Suryāyā|
|Region||Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq), Kerala, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, Lebanon, Eastern Arabia, Fertile Crescent|
|Era||1st century AD; declined as a vernacular language after the 13th century, and developed into Northeastern Neo-Aramaic and Central Neo-Aramaic languages.|
Classical Syriac is written in the Syriac alphabet, a derivation of the Aramaic alphabet. The language is preserved in a large body of Syriac literature, that comprises roughly 90% of the extant Aramaic literature. Along with Greek and Latin, Syriac became one of the three most important languages of Early Christianity. Already from the first and second centuries AD, the inhabitants of the region of Osroene began to embrace Christianity, and by the third and fourth centuries, local Edessan Aramaic language became the vehicle of the specific Christian culture that came to be known as the Syriac Christianity. Because of theological differences, Syriac-speaking Christians diverged during the 5th century into the Church of the East that followed the East Syriac Rite under the Persian rule, and the Syriac Orthodox Church that followed the West Syriac Rite under the Byzantine rule.
As a liturgical language of Syriac Christianity, Classical Syriac language spread throughout Asia as far as the South Indian Malabar Coast, and Eastern China, and became the medium of communication and cultural dissemination for the later Arabs, and (to a lesser extent) the other peoples of Parthian and Sasanian empires. Primarily a Christian medium of expression, Syriac had a fundamental cultural and literary influence on the development of Arabic, which largely replaced it during the later medieval period.
Syriac remains the sacred language of Syriac Christianity to this day. It is used as liturgical language of several denominations, like those who follow the East Syriac Rite, including the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and the Assyrian Pentecostal Church, and also those who follow the West Syriac Rite, including: Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Maronite Catholic Church, the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. In its contemporary spoken forms, it is known as leshono kthobonoyo (lit. 'the written language') or kthobonoyo.