Aramaic is a family of languages (traditionally referred to as "dialects") belonging to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily, which also includes Canaanite languages such as Hebrew and Phoenician. Aramaic script was widely adopted for other languages and is ancestral to both the Arabic and modern Hebrew alphabets.
During its 3,000-year written history, Aramaic has served variously as a language of administration of empires and as a language of divine worship. It was the day-to-day language of Israel in the Second Temple period (539 BC – 70 AD), the language spoken by Jesus, the language of large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra, and is the main language of the Talmud. However, Jewish Aramaic was different from the other forms both in lettering and grammar. Parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are in Jewish Aramaic showing the unique Jewish lettering, related to the unique Hebrew script.
Aramaic's long history and diverse and widespread use has led to the development of many divergent varieties which are sometimes called dialects, though they are distinct enough that they are sometimes considered languages. Therefore, there is not one singular, static Aramaic language; each time and place rather has had its own variation. Aramaic is retained as a liturgical language by certain Eastern Christian churches, in the form of Syriac, the Aramaic variety by which Eastern Christianity was diffused, whether or not those communities once spoke it or another form of Aramaic as their vernacular, but have since shifted to another language as their primary community language.
Modern Aramaic is spoken today as a first language by many scattered, predominantly small, and largely isolated communities of differing Christian, Jewish, and Mandean ethnic groups of West Asia—most numerously by the Assyrians in the form of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic —that have all retained use of the once dominant lingua franca despite subsequent language shifts experienced throughout the Middle East. The Aramaic languages are considered to be endangered.
Famous quotes containing the word language:
“Philosophy is written in this grand bookI mean the universe
which stands continually open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and interpret the characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it.”
—Galileo Galilei (15641642)