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Ancient Jewish History: Aramaic

ARAMAIC, an ancient northwestern *Semitic language spoken (to some extent) to this day. The entry is arranged according to the following outline:

    Syria and Its Neighboring Countries
    Iraq and Iran
    Biblical Aramaic
    The Aramaic of the Elephantine Documents
    The Aramaic of the Driver Documents
    Aramaic Texts of the Sect
    The Aramaic Bar Kokhbar Letters
    Galilean Aramaic
    Palestinian Christian Aramaic
    Samaritan Aramaic
    Babylonian Aramaic

Aramaic is divided into several dialects which historically fall into five main groups:

Ancient Aramaic

Ancient Aramaic is the language of the ancient Aramaic inscriptions up to 700 B.C.E. (from Upper Mesopotamia, northern Syria, and northern Israel).

Official Aramaic

Official Aramaic was in use from 700 to 300 B.C.E. It includes inscriptions from the Syria-Iraq area; biblical Aramaic (though opinions vary as to its origin in the different biblical passages, see below Ancient and Official Aramaic, and the Origin of the Aramaic Portions in Ezra and Daniel); the *Elephantine documents; the Driver documents; and the Hermopolis documents. This particular Aramaic dialect served not only as the official language of Persia but also as the lingua franca of the Near East.

Middle Aramaic

Middle Aramaic was used from 300 B.C.E. to the early centuries C.E. Included are documents, in somewhat corrupt Aramaic, from Persia, India, Afghanistan, and the Caucasus. The Aramaic inscriptions of Jerusalem, Aramaic words found in the New Testament, the Nabatean Aramaic, the Palmyrean Aramaic, that of Hatra, of Dura-Europos, and (partly) the Aramaic ideograms of Middle Persian are all in Middle Aramaic. The Onkelos translation of the Bible (see *Targum ) also seems to belong to this period, as does the language of most of those scrolls from the *Dead Sea Scrolls written in Aramaic. The Uruk document which dates from this period is the only Aramaic document written in cuneiform. While the common denominator of all these dialects is their effort to imitate Official Aramaic, they also contain elements of Late Aramaic. Most of these versions were apparently not spoken.

Late Aramaic

Late Aramaic may be divided into two dialectal groups: Western Aramaic – including Galilean Aramaic, Palestinian-Christian Aramaic, and Samaritan Aramaic; and Eastern Aramaic – consisting of three dialects: Syriac, the language of the Babylonian Talmud, and Mandaic.

Modern Aramaic

Regarding Modern Aramaic see *Neo-Aramaic .



1) The Aramaic parts of the Bible: Genesis 31:47 (two words); Jeremiah 10:11; Daniel 2:4–7:28; and Ezra 4:8–6:8; and 7:12–26.

(2) Aramaic epigraphical material, spread over an area which extended north to Sardes in Asia Minor; south to the oasis Tēmā in the north of the Arabian Peninsula; southwest to southern Egypt (the Elephantine documents); and east to Persia (The Driver documents). The documents, some of them carved on stone, written on leather, papyrus, ostraca, clay, etc., include memorial inscriptions, contracts, bills, letters, official documents, seals, and legends written on weights, and as "dockets" in Akkadian legal documents, etc. All, except the Uruk document (see Middle Aramaic ), are written in an Aramaic alphabet which is a branch of the Canaanite alphabet (see *Alphabet , North-West Semitic – The Rise of Aramaic Script).

Documents were found in the following regions:

Syria and Its Neighboring Countries

The inscriptions from the reigns of kings: PNMW, HAD-YITHʿI, BIR-RKWB, ZKR, and BIRHADAD (HOD), which were all found in northern Syria, a very long inscription discovered in Sefīre, an Assyrian-Aramaic bilingual from Tell Fekherye, an inscription from Tell Dan, and two in Asia Minor.

Iraq and Iran

Most of the inscriptions found are short "dockets" written in Akkadian documents; there is, however, one fairly extensive letter (the Assur). There is a document from Bukan in Iranian Azerbaijan.


Aramaic papyri as well as a number of ostraca Aramaic papyri were discovered on the isle of Elephantine near Syene (Aswan). The papyri are comprised of bills, letters, official documents (among them parts of a translation of a Behistun inscription), and parts of the Book of *Aḥikar (see *Elephantine ). A number of recently published documents also originated in Elephantine. Other Aramaic papyri discovered in Egypt come from Hermopolis; their language, more than that of any of the other material, resembles the language prevalent in Syria during that period. More than a dozen letters, and parts of letters, which were sent from the eastern part of Persia, probably from Shushan and Babylonia to Egypt, were also found in Egypt (see below; most of this material is from the fifth century B.C.E.).


Biblical Aramaic

To stress the main characteristics of Official and Ancient Aramaic as they manifested themselves through the history of the language and in the countries in which they were current, a comparative study of some aspects of Aramaic, Hebrew, and Arabic is necessary.


The consonantal phonemes of Hebrew and Aramaic are identical (though not historically, see below). This is apparently due to the influence which caused Official Aramaic to lose the four additional consonantal phonemes still existing in Ancient Aramaic (see Ancient Aramaic below). In biblical Aramaic, the pronunciation of the phonemes ב׳ג׳ד׳ כ׳פ׳ת׳ (bgd kpt) are governed practically by the same rules as in Hebrew. Traces of this double pronunciation can be detected in the modern dialects. It remains however to be determined which language influenced which.


The Hebrew ז, which equals the Arabic ذ (dh), corresponds to the Aramaic ד – in Hebrew זהב, in Arabic ذﻫﺐ (dhahab), and in Aramaic דְהַב ("gold"); the Hebrew צ, which parallels the Arabic ض (), corresponds to the Aramaic ע – in Hebrew אֶרֶץ, in Arabic ارض (arḍ), in Aramaic אֲרַע ("land"); the Hebrew צ which parallels the Arabic ظ (), corresponds to the Aramaic ט – in Hebrew עֵצָה, in Arabic ﻋﻈﺔ (ʿiẓa), in Aramaic עֵטָא ("counsel"); the Hebrew ש, which equals the Arabic ث (th), corresponds to the Aramaic ת – in Hebrew שָׁלֹשׁ, in Arabic ﻼﺗث (thalāth), in Aramaic תְּלַת ("three"); the א has become weakened in Aramaic to such an extent that when beside the letter ה it also serves as a mater lectionis.


The Hebrew o which parallels the Arabic ā, is also ā in Aramaic – Aramaic שְׁלָם, Hebrew שָׁלוֹם, Arabic ﺳﻼم salām ("peace"). In Aramaic as in Hebrew, the accent may fall either on the penultimate or on the final syllable; the effect in Aramaic however is different from that in Hebrew: a short Proto-Semitic vowel cannot appear in an open non-accented syllable (as opposed to Hebrew where under certain conditions it may be lengthened – cf. the Arabic ﺳﻼم (salām), Aramaic שְׁלָם, Hebrew שָׁלוֹם. It is mainly these characteristics which distinguish Aramaic from Hebrew and from the other Semitic languages.

Examples of the Aramaic script. (1) Exodus fragment; (2) Bar Kokhba letter; (3) Bet Mashko letter; (3a) Signatures of witnesses to no. 3; (4) Signatures of witnesses on no. Examples of the Aramaic script. (1) Exodus fragment; (2) Bar Kokhba letter; (3) Bet Mashko letter; (3a) Signatures of witnesses to no. 3; (4) Signatures of witnesses on no. 4; (5) Dura-europos fragment; (6, 7) Bet She'arim tomb inscriptions (1–4a from Wadi Murabba'āt, i.e., before 135 C.E.; 5–7 of the third century C.E.).


Aramaic has no niphʿal. The conjugations puʿal and hophʿal have practically disappeared, except for the participles. In biblical Aramaic, a few remnants of the internal passive of paʿal (qal) have survived. Aramaic has the additional conjugation of hi/ʾitpәʿel which serves as a passive and a reflexive of paʿal. The Aramaic conjugations ʿal, paʿel, and haphʿel correspond to the Hebrew qal, piʿel, and hiphʿil, but they differ in form.

Some archaic forms in biblical Hebrew may be similar to or even identical with forms in Aramaic, e.g., kәtāvā "they

The Paradigm of the Strong Verb (Qal): The Paradigm of the Strong Verb (Qal):

Masculine Masc./Fem. Feminine
Singular (כְּתַבְתּ/תָּ(ה not attested
כְּתַב כִּתְבַת
Plural כְּתַבִתוּן not attested
כְּתַבוּ (כְתַבָה (כתבו
Masculine Masc./Fem. Feminine
Singular תִּכְתֻּב not attested
יִכְתֻּב תִּכְתֻּב
Plural תִּכְתְּבוּן not attested
יִכְתְּבוּן יִכְתְּבָן
Participle Active
Masculine Masc./Fem. Feminine
S. כָּתֵב כָּתְבָה
P. כָּתְבִין כָּתְבָן
Past Passive
Masculine Masc./Fem. Feminine
S. כְּתּיב כְּתִיבָה
P. כְּתּיבִין כְּתִיבָן
Masculine Masc./Fem. Feminine
S. כְּתֻב כְּתֻבִי
P. כְּתֻבוּ not attested
S. מִכְתַּב

(fem.) wrote" (cf. Heb. עֵינָיו קָמָה, I Sam. 4:15); כִּתְבַת "she wrote" (compare: אָזְלַת Deut. 32:36; Hebrew יִכְתְּבוּ, תִּכְתְּבוּ =Aramaic יִכְתְּבוּן, תִּכְתְּבוּן), such forms with final n ("ן") occasionally appear in the Bible, cf. יֶחֱצוּן (Ex. 21:35) Hebrew תִּכְתֹּבְנָה = Aramaic יִכְתְּבָן but compare וַיֵּחַמְנָה (Gen. 30:38).

The Aramaic passive participle of ʾal is קְטִיל while its infinitive is formed with the prefix מ, e.g., לְמִקְטַל. Instead of a geminated consonant, we quite often find נ + a simple consonant (dissimilation, e.g., תִּתֵּן = תִּנְתֵּן), and even תִּנְדַּע (from the root י׳ד׳ע׳) instead of תִּנְדַּע ‡. (The double dagger indicates a reconstructed form.) (See Table: Paradigm of Strong Verb.)


In the pronoun there is the tendency to exchange the final ם for ן (cf. Hebrew אַתֶּם = Aramaic אַנְתּוּן). The demonstrative pronoun of proximity is דְּנָא (masc.), דּא (fem.), אֵלֵּ(י)ן, אֵלֶּה, אֵל (plur.). The objective pronouns are attached to the imperfect by inserting a מ or a נ. The definite article has the suffix א; "the king" = מַלְכָּא; "the queen" = מַלְכְּתָא; the plural מַלְכִין "kings" becomes מַלְכַיָּא "the kings" (with a geminated י); "queens" מַלְכָן appears determined as מַלְכָתָא (in the construct state מַלְכָת). The relative pronoun דִּי ("which" and "who") is also employed as a genetive particle. The phrase בֵּית מַלְכָּא ("the king's house") is therefore also found as בֵּיתָא דִּי מַלְכָּא ("the house of the king") and also in the prolepsis form: בֵּיתֵהּ דִּי מַלְכָּא (literally: "his house, of the king").


Biblical Aramaic is rather free as regards word order (as opposed to Arabic and Hebrew), e.g., מַלְכָּא חֶלְמָא יֵאמַר ("the king the dream will (shall) tell" – Dan. 2:7). (See Table: Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic.)


The Aramaic vocabulary resembles the Hebrew more than that of any of the other Semitic languages. This is due to the fact that they are cognate languages (North-Semitic), and to the mutual influence of Canaanite Hebrew and Aramaic on each other. On the other hand, for centuries Aramaic and Akkadian coexisted and vied for dominance in the region known today as Iraq, Aramaic finally gaining ascendancy. The symbiosis led to the mutual influence of the two languages. Official Aramaic, which became the lingua franca throughout the Persian Empire (first half of the sixth century B.C.E.), and Eastern Aramaic borrowed many words from Akkadian, e.g., אִגַּרְתָּא ("the letter"), כָּרְסָא ("a chair"), פֶּחָה ("a high official"). Aramaic also absorbed grammatical elements from Akkadian; it seems that the free word order is also the outcome of Akkadian influence. Since Aramaic was also the official language in Persia, it is not surprising that it comprises some Persian words, e.g., פִּתְגָּם ("word").

The Aramaic of the Elephantine Documents

The Aramaic of the Elephantine documents, except for slight differences, resembles biblical Aramaic. The variation in the Aramaic spelling in these documents seems to indicate a more archaic language, but not differences in pronunciation, e.g., instead of ד (d) which corresponds to Hebrew ז (z) and Arabic dh, there is found sometimes זי (דִּי in biblical Aramaic); instead of ʿ which corresponds to the Hebrew צ () and Arabic , there is sometimes found ק (q) (compare אַרְעָא = אַרְקָא "earth" Jer. 10:11); instead of ת (t) that corresponds to Hebrew שׁ (š) and Arabic th, there is sometimes found שׁ (שֶׁקֶל sheqel). The

A Comparative Table of Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic Conjugation A Comparative Table of Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic Conjugation

Biblical Hebrew Qal PƏʿal passive Niphalʿ Piʿel Puʿal Hitpaʿel Hiphʿil Hophʿal
Biblical Aramaic PƏʿal PƏʿil HitpƏʿel Itpaʿel Paʿel only participle in mƏphaʿal Hitpaʿal Haphʿel 'Aphʿel Hophʿal Shaphʿel Hishtaphʿel

lack of vocalization (except in biblical Aramaic) and defective spelling (with sparse use of ו and י as matres lectionis) make it difficult to establish the definite structure of this Aramaic dialect. The plural suffix of the masculine noun and participle is usually spelled defectively without the י, e.g., מַלְכִין = מַלְכָן "kings." The rather free word order of biblical Aramaic obtains also in Elephantine Aramaic; however in Elephantine deeds it tends to be: predicate, subject, object. The same is true of Ancient Aramaic.

The Aramaic of the Driver Documents

These documents come from the eastern parts of the Persian Empire and exhibit some traits typical of Late Aramaic dialects which originated and flourished in the very same regions centuries later. The characteristics common to the Driver documents and to Late Eastern Aramaic dialects are (1) free word order (see above Biblical Aramaic and Elephantine); (2) many borrowings from the Persian; (3) the appearance for the first time of the construction שְׁמִיעַ לִי ("I have heard"), the passive participle + ל + possessive suffix (due to Persian influence) eventually led to an entirely different verbal system in Eastern Aramaic which is in use in Neo-Aramaic still today. The construction was discovered later in other texts as well.


There are differences between the various documents, particularly in the HDD and PNMW inscriptions, which represent an earlier dialect. In the old inscriptions (cf. Elephantine) an original d is substituted by a אחד–(אחז) ז in Aramaic, אחז "to grasp" in Hebrew; an original t̞ is transcribed by a קיטא–(כיצא) צ in Aramaic, הקיץ ("the summer") in Hebrew; an original d̞ is transcribed by a ע = ק in Aramaic, e.g., ארקא; an original ṯ is transcribed as ת = ש in Aramaic, e.g., אתור = אשור ("Assyria"). Despite these spelling variations, it cannot be said that the Proto-Semitic consonants ḏ, t̞, d̞, ṯ changed into ש, ק, צ, ז, but, in the absence of other more suitable consonants, they served to indicate these ancient phonemes. It seems that in the HDD and in the PNMW documents (as in literary Arabic in the singular) the case endings were retained in the plural. It should be noted that in parts of the Sefīre documents, the independent infinitive was found to have a similar usage to that of the Hebrew (for emphasis). This is unknown in the Aramaic dialects (except for that of the Onkelos translation). In the Tell Fekherye inscription is represented by ο and the infinitive of Peal is מקטל (cf. קטל in Sefīre).


When Aramaic documents began to be discovered in Asia Minor, Egypt, etc. (i.e., in countries that had never been inhabited by Arameans), it became clear that Aramaic had been an official language in the Persian Empire and that to some extent it had been a lingua franca. Aramaic apparently was also the lingua franca of the Assyrian Empire. Thus King Hezekiah's ambassadors implore the Assyrian commander Rab-Shakeh, "Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Aramean language" (i.e., rather than in Hebrew or in Assyrian; Isa. 36:11; II Kings 18:26). This status of Aramaic is also reflected by the fact that the Nabateans, and the Palmyreans, who were Arabs and therefore not likely to use Aramaic as a spoken language, nevertheless wrote their inscriptions (mainly from the first century C.E.) in an Aramaic still based on Official Aramaic (see Middle Aramaic ). This also explains why Pahlavi (Middle Persian), which was the official tongue in Persia during the Sassanian dynasty, destroyed by the Arab conquest, employed Aramaic in written ideograms (the words were written in Aramaic, but read as Persian; cf. the English "e.g.," which stands for the Latin exempla gratia but reads "for instance"). Some of these ideograms go back to Official Aramaic of the days of the first Persian kings. Forms that originated in Official Aramaic can also be found in Jewish legal deeds that go back to the time of the Talmud and the *geonim.


S.R. Driver was the first to maintain that Aramaic portions of Ezra and Daniel were written neither in the Aramaic of the fifth and sixth centuries B.C.E. nor in Eastern Aramaic (where they were purported to have come from). Accordingly, he claims that these documents in Ezra must be forgeries. On a basis of comparison with (mainly) the Elephantine texts, the same conclusion was arrived at regarding the Aramaic chapters in Daniel. H.H. Schaeder, however, established that the differences between the Elephantine Aramaic and biblical Aramaic are mainly in the spelling and that in Jerusalem a "modernization" in the spelling of biblical Aramaic had occurred. This modernization accounts for the differences; consequently there is no basis for the assumption of a forgery. Furthermore, it was clarified that at that period many of the characteristics that distinguish Western Aramaic and Eastern Aramaic, dialects of a later period, were not yet in existence. Therefore, neither the date nor the origin of these chapters can be determined. But the free word order possibly points to an Eastern origin.


This influence is mainly prevalent in the vocabulary, morphology, and possibly in the syntax of biblical Hebrew. However, both the dating and the extent of this influence have not yet been sufficiently determined. In the early biblical books, certain roots and grammatical forms which deviate from the standard are not to be regarded as Aramaisms, but rather as representing a common heritage which in Hebrew had survived mainly in poetry and in Aramaic in the everyday (spoken) language. Among these words are אֲתָה "came" (Deut. 33:2), (אָזְלַת (יד (Deut. 32:36; instead of the standard Hebrew אָזְלָה). However, וְשָׁבַת (instead of וְשָׁבַה in Ezekiel 46:17, a book replete with Aramaisms) goes back to Aramaic. It is therefore possible that a certain word or form appearing in an early biblical book, where it is archaic Hebrew, may disappear for a time and reappear in a later biblical book as a result of Aramaic influence. Other Aramaic roots and forms, not to be considered Aramaisms, are to be found in those biblical passages where the author deliberately gives an Aramaic texture to his words – when, for example, he wants to emphasize the "foreignness" of a gentile speaker; e.g., different archaic forms of the verb אתה, which is mainly Aramaic, given as התיו, אתיו as well as the forms בְּעָיוּ, תִּבְעָיוּן ("demand") which look like pure Aramaic (Isa. 21:11–14; the reference is to the Edomites).

It seems that Aramaic in the Bible was used as a poetic form, e.g., in Deborah's song (Judg. 5:26) there are the words מחק and תנה (ibid. 11) – both Aramaic forms: מחק being the presumed Ancient Aramaic parallel of the Hebrew מחץ ("deal a severe blow"; compare Ancient Aramaic), while תנה ("to repeat") is the Aramaic cognate of the Hebrew שנה. The same is true of the Book of Proverbs where the Aramaic בר ("son") appears three times (31:2).

The ordinary Jerusalemite of Isaiah's time did not know Aramaic and only the kings' counselors and ministers understood it (see above). Nevertheless, we find in the Book of Isaiah the Aramaic noun pattern haqṭālā: (הַכָּרַת (פניהם "the show" (of their countenance; 3:9), and הֲנָפָה "to sift" (30:28); it is possible that the same is true concerning the noun pattern qәtāl. The existence of an Aramaic element per se in the Bible cannot (as has been shown here) always serve as proof of the late origin of a book. The books in which the Aramaic influence is most obvious are Ezekiel and certain chapters in Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Books of Chronicles. The influence is recognizable (1) in the usage of certain Aramaic roots, e.g., מחא (Ezek. 25:6), the cognate Hebrew is מחץ ("dealt a severe blow"); טלל (Neh. 3:15), the cognate Hebrew is צלל ("to roof "); שהד (Job 16:19), in Hebrew עד ("witness"); (2) in idioms translated into Hebrew (a loan translation): אֲשֶׁר לָמָּה (Dan 1:10) meaning "why," in Aramaic זָכָר; דִּי לְמָא ("male sheep") instead of the standard Hebrew אַיִל, because of the Aramaic דִּכְרָא which means both "male" and the "male of the sheep"; (3) in an Aramaic noun pattern: e.g., הַשְׁמָעוּת (Ezek. 14:26); and (4) in syntax: perhaps in the regression of the conversive ו in the Books of Chronicles and in Ezra, etc.; and in its final disappearance from mishnaic Hebrew. Other syntactical forms in these books which deviate from standard biblical Hebrew may also be due to the influence of Aramaic.



Found mainly in Afghanistan (the edicts of King Aśoka), in Turkmenistan, and in Caucasus (Russia), the language of these inscriptions cannot be considered pure Aramaic; it does contribute however to our knowledge of Aramaic of the period, e.g., in one of the Aśoka inscriptions the first person of the (later) ittaphʿal (here spelled thpʿyl!), and the ending (w)n in the perfect plural masculine, are found. The ostraca of Nisá (Turkmenistan) are written in (faulty) Aramaic. Some scholars believe that these had been written in Persian with Aramaic logograms; their assumption is, however, without serious substantiation.


Apparently at this period the Aramaic Onkelos translation of the Pentateuch and Targum Jonathan of the Books of the Prophets came into being in more or less the form in which they are known today. The place of origin of Middle Aramaic seems to have been Palestine (according to Dalman, Noeldeke, and Kutscher, as opposed to Kahle), but it was transmitted and vocalized (with the Babylonian vocalization) in Babylonia. Until the discovery of reliable manuscripts from Yemen (other texts are corrupt), no real study of its grammar could be made. Its vocalization apparently reflects some Eastern Aramaic dialect; thus the perfect was reshaped on the basis of the third person singular, e.g., the feminine third person singular "she transmitted" is mәsarat (as apparently in the Aramaic of the Babylonian Talmud, see below) and not misrat as, e.g., in biblical Aramaic. There are other features which it shares with the Eastern Aramaic dialect, e.g., the fact that the determined form which originally was employed apparently correctly (as in the dialects of Western Aramaic) does not function properly any more. Sometimes the Eastern ē plural ending (instead of -ayyā) is employed. Peculiar to the dialect of the two Targums is the form of the first person singular of the perfect qal of the ל״י verbs, e.g., קְרֵיתִי ("I called," instead of קְרֵית); as well as the verbal ending -an (instead of -ayin, -en, etc., in the other dialects), e.g., קָרַן "the call," תִּקְרַן "you (fem.) will (shall) call" (instead of קָרַיִן – biblical Aramaic; (קָרַי (ן – Galilean Aramaic; קָרֶן – Syriac).


Among the Dead Sea Scrolls which have been discovered since 1947, there are scrolls, and fragments of scrolls, in Aramaic. These texts are of two types: (1) those which belong to the sect (or its library – texts not written by them), dating from the end of the Second Temple period; and (2) Aramaic letters from the days of Simeon bar Kokhba (the century following the destruction of the Temple); the language is different from the Aramaic of the texts of the sect.


These texts, written in biblical Aramaic, include a fragment containing the prayer of the Babylonian king Nabonidus, fragments of various Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (e.g., Tobias, the Book of Enoch, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, etc.), and part of a translation of the Book of Job. The language of the last resembles, to some extent, Eastern Aramaic. The longest Aramaic passages from these texts, published to date, are those of the Genesis Apocryphon. The language is indicative of a transitional stage between biblical Aramaic and the later Aramaic dialects. At the same time, many traces of Palestinian Aramaic can be detected, as well as a few of Eastern Aramaic. The Genesis Apocryphon scroll made it possible to establish that Onkelos originated in Palestine, since the Aramaic of the scroll and Palestinian Christian Aramaic closely resemble that of Onkelos. There is also a strong Aramaic influence in the Hebrew of the Dead Sea scrolls, which is evidenced especially in the spelling and in the morphology, e.g., מהסיר in Hebrew מֵסִיר ("takes away"), Isaiah 3:1; and in the vocabulary, e.g., דוכו ("his cleaning"), in Hebrew טהרתו; found in the Manual of Discipline.


These documents are of major linguistic importance for, without a doubt, they represent the spoken Palestinian Aramaic possibly of Judea. A close resemblance was discovered between this Aramaic and Targum Onkelos, another proof that the latter originated in Palestine. Documents written in Nabatean were also discovered among the scrolls of the sect.


The few short Aramaic inscriptions dating from before the destruction of the Second Temple, e.g., the one dealing with transferring King Uzziah's bones, are written in Official Aramaic. The language, however, is already influenced by Late Aramaic.


Among the few Aramaic words in the New Testament, rabbūni reflects the form רבּוּני, found in the Cairo *Genizah fragments of the Palestinian Targum (see below).


This text (second century B.C.E.) found in Iraq and written in cuneiform, gives a glimpse into the "vocalization" of Aramaic of that time (cuneiform writing can clearly indicate several vowel qualities and quantities). Early traits seem to be preserved, e.g., ś – spelled as š: šamlat = שמלה ("garment"), but late forms also appear, e.g., the ending for the masculine determined plural, e.g., rabrabe רברביא ("elders").


The *Nabatean inscriptions, mainly on tombs (dating from about 100 B.C.E. to approximately the second century C.E.) are for the most part in Official Aramaic. However, they already contain elements of a Late Aramaic on the one hand, and of Arabic on the other (on the evidence of their names, it is assumed that the Nabateans were Arabs). The use of ית, the accusative particle, which is rare in Official Aramaic, points to a later language, whereas the word עיר, Arabic ghaira ("different"), and certain syntactic characteristics, points to Arabic influence.


The Palmyrene inscriptions were also written (end of the first century B.C.E.–third century C.E.) in an Aramaic which was based on Official Aramaic. Traces of Arabic, which was the language of the writers, who according to their names are assumed to have been Arabs, are also detected in these inscriptions. The Palmyrean language was also influenced by an Eastern Aramaic dialect, e.g., the plural תגרא "merchants" instead of תגריא (as in the Uruk text).


These texts, found in Iraq (second century C.E.), show the influence of Eastern Aramaic: ל (instead of י) is prefixed to the third person in the imperfect.


The Aramaic of these inscriptions (Syria, third century C.E.) was also influenced by Later Aramaic, as evidenced by, e.g., דנא = הדן "this," in Official Aramaic.


Under the influence of Official Aramaic, many Aramaic ideograms (i.e., words written in Aramaic but read in Persian, e.g., ברה "his son" in Aramaic is pus "son" in Persian) were absorbed into the Middle Persian dialects. While they are mostly derived from Official Aramaic, some of them indicate changes, due both to the influence of Late Eastern dialects and to errors made by the Persian scribes who no longer knew the Aramaic language.


The two dialectal groups of Late Aramaic – Western Aramaic and Eastern Aramaic – have several common characteristics: (1) דנא "this" (masc.) is replaced by other forms; (2) the prefix ה (+ vowel) of haphʿel (and other conjugations) is replaced by א (+ vowel); (3) all the dialects seem to possess the new conjugation ittaphʿal – passive of ʾaphʿel (see Middle Aramaic ); (4) the original form of the relative pronoun has almost entirely disappeared; instead the proclitic ד׳ is employed; (5) the internal passives of qal and hophʿal (see The Main Characteristics of Ancient and Official Aramaic – Differences in the Verb) have disappeared; (6) in all dialects the passive participle קטיל seems to be employed with certain verbs in the active voice (rare in Middle Aramaic), e.g., טעין ("carrying"); (7) in all the dialects, the participle has more or less (in some entirely) replaced the imperfect as the future tense, the imperfect being employed as a subjunctive (after the relative pronoun), a cohortative, and a jussive; (8) the prolepsis form is also found with the verb, e.g., עבדה למלתא literally "he did it the thing," when the object is determined; (9) many borrowings from Greek (less from Latin) are to be found in the dialects of Late Aramaic.


It was a spoken language until the Arab conquest and even for a time after. (For differences between it, Eastern Aramaic, and Official Aramaic see above.) Differences between Western and Official Aramaic that do not occur in Eastern Aramaic, or only in some of its dialects, are (1) the third person plural feminine has in all the Western Aramaic dialects the form (קְטַלִי (ן (see below), as opposed to קְטַלָה in Official Aramaic (according to the qre – the way it is read), and קְטַלוּ (according to ketib – the way it is spelled); (2) the adverbial construction מִן קָטֵל, e.g., מן קָיֵים ‡ "standing" is common to all of Western Aramaic dialects; (3) tenses (see above): beside עתיד, ל־ + infinitive may serve as future tense; (4) vocabulary: e.g., the verb (אגיב (גוב "replied" is used (and not אתיב, תוב); instead (or besides) חזה ("he saw") we have חמה; (5) freedom in the word order, so prevalent in Official Aramaic, seems to be absent here.

Galilean Aramaic

(Only this dialect will be dealt with extensively here.) This is the dialect of the Aramaic parts of the Jerusalem Talmud, of the aggadic Midrashim, the Palestinian deeds, the Aramaic documents of the geonic period (found in the Cairo *Genizah ), and synagogue inscriptions discovered in Ereẓ Israel. The Palestinian Targum and the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan of the Pentateuch are written in a dialect which, for all practical purposes (except for a few details), is that of Galilean Aramaic.


Galilean Aramaic covers a period from the first amoraim of the Jerusalem Talmud (third century C.E.) to the last geonim (beginning of the second millennium C.E.). It seems (on the evidence of manuscripts), that the Aramaic of the Mishnah also very closely resembles (or is identical to) Galilean Aramaic.


Galilean Aramaic was regarded as an appropriate name because most of the known texts in this dialect originate in the Galilee. The Bar Kokhba letters, originating in Judea, are linguistically closer to the Onkelos Targum, while the Aramaic of synagogue inscriptions, e.g., from Jericho and Noʿaran in Judea, is identical to the language of those of Galilee (cf. the ending of the perfect third pers. plur., which in good texts and in the above inscriptions always appears with a קטלון – in the printed versions this form was "corrected" to קטלו). The קטלו form is employed in the Palestinian Targum fragments published by Kahle. The language of these fragments is yet uncorrected, but since the ל״י verbs even there have a final ־ן (in contrast to the printed "corrected" versions of the Palestinian Targum), it seems clear that the Palestinian Targum fragments represent a dialect which is slightly different from Galilean Aramaic. To date, only two inscriptions were found which do not have ן: one at Um-el-ʿAmed, in the north of Galilee, and the other at Maon (near Nir Yiẓḥak), in the south of the country; they, therefore, apparently do not represent the main dialect. This assumption is supported by the fact that the Um-el-ʿAmed inscription has additional linguistic forms alien to Galilean Aramaic, e.g., "the gate" is given as תרעא =) תרא without the ע); "the sky" as שומיא (and not שמיא). Both forms are typical of Samaritan Aramaic where laryngeals have almost completely disappeared and are therefore liable to be dropped in writing altogether. On the basis of most of the inscriptions found outside Galilee, it is possible to assume that at the time when the Jerusalem Talmud was compiled (third–fifth century C.E.) there was one common standard language in almost all of (Jewish) Palestine. However, this cannot be clearly proven since the material is scanty – the name Galilean Aramaic has, therefore, remained, though many today prefer the name Jewish Palestinian Aramaic.


Dictionaries. S. Lieberman's works – including his studies on tannaitic texts (e.g., Tosefta ki-Feshutah) – have improved this aspect of the research. See now Sokoloff 's dictionary on Jewish Palestinian Aramaic.


Dalman's grammar is outdated, Stevenson's work is of little significance, while in Odeberg's work only the chapters dealing with the syntax of Genesis Rabbah are useful. Fassberg's grammar deals with the Palestinian Targum Fragments, and Sokoloff 's work describes the language of the Genizah fragments of *Genesis Rabbah .


Dalman's study is based on the corrupt printed version of the Jerusalem Talmud and Midrash, and is thus unreliable. Copyists and printers, unfamiliar with the Aramaic of the Jerusalem Talmud, had emended it according to the Aramaic of the Babylonian Talmud (and that of Onkelos) – the main source studied by European Jewry. Discoveries in the last few decades have helped to clarify certain points in the research of this dialect. In fragments of the Jerusalem Talmud and of the Midrashim (mainly from the Cairo Genizah), the vulgar type vocalization, which substitutes ָ forַ andֵ forֶ (and vice versa) is sometimes found. Fragments of the Palestinian Targum also have this vocalization, which is practically identical with that of Galilean Aramaic (see above קטלו). These texts come from the east and therefore cannot be suspected of having been emended by European copyists. A comparison between their language and that of Aramaic inscriptions of Palestine (see Middle Aramaic Jerusalem Inscriptions) and between the other two Palestinian Aramaic dialects (see below) also proves their reliability. In the following tentative survey, which is mainly based on manuscripts, only those forms whose vocalization is attested to in the sources are vocalized:


Spelling. One of the signs of good Galilean Aramaic manuscripts is the fact that ā, at the end of a word, was ordinarily indicated by ה (the same applies to the inscriptions). Spelling tends to be plene, especially in the case of ו (vav) which indicates even the short vowel ו׳, and sometimes י which also indicates a short vowel; in manuscripts, the א indicates ā in the middle of a word. Consonantal ו and י might be spelled יי, וו.


(1) Consonants. Contrary to common opinion, only a few examples in the manuscripts hint at the weakening of the laryngeals and pharyngeals. There is however one remarkable shift – the ח may become an ע. The Midrash states clearly: "In Galilee they call a snake (עִוְיָא (חִוְיָא. That is why Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi referred to Rabbi Ḥiyya as ".בעִיּיָא (without the dagesh) merged with ו (cf., e.g., the spelling of חַבְרָן with חַוְרָן, the name of a country, and the reverse יַבְנֶה = יַוְונֵי (Yavneh), a place name). The final ם (mem), may appear as ן, e.g., חכים = חכין ("clever"). An open syllable at the end of a word may be closed with a ן, e.g., כְּמָן (instead of כְּמָה "how many"). (2) Vowels. The vocalization found occasionally in fragments indicates that the short i and the short u have disappeared almost completely. Instead we find e and o, e.g., מִן =) מֶן, "from") and גֻבָּא =) גוֹבּא, "pit"). The e also appears as a variant of a; e.g., יַמָּא =) יֶמָא, "sea"). These phenomena remind us of the Greek transliteration of the Septuagint and of the Hexapla as well as of the Latin transliteration of Jerome from the Hebrew. (There may be remnants of this pronunciation in various manuscripts of Mishnaic Hebrew.) The labials and the ר in a closed preceding syllable tend to turn a into o, e.g., שׁוּבָה ‡ (= "Sabbath"); שׁוֹרִי ‡ (paʿel perfect of < ‡ šarrī "he began"). (3) Diphthongs. The diphthong ay was preserved rather widely, e.g., בַיתֵה "his house." There also appears the diphthong aw, e.g., טַוְרָה, "the mountain" (= טוּרא in the other dialects).


(1) Pronouns. (a) The Independent Pronoun. Besides את "you" (fem. sing.), אתי also survived. The other forms are (?) אַתּוּן, אתין "you" (masc. plur.); אֲנַן "we" (masc. plur.); הִ(י)נוּן, אֶ(י)נוּן, אִ(י)נּוּן "they" (masc. plur.); הינין, אינין "they" (fem. plur.). With various prepositions (prefixes) these pronouns (and others) may undergo change, e.g., ונן "and we." (b) The Objective Pronouns. There is also a third person plural (as opposed to biblical Aramaic and other Aramaic dialects). (c) The Independent Possessive Pronoun. It is formed from the base דִּיד ‡ + the possessive suffix דִּידִּי "mine," etc. (d) The Demonstrative Pronoun. The demonstrative pronoun of proximity is הָדֵ(י)ן, דֵין (masc. sing.); הָדָה, הָדָא (fem. sing.); אֵלֵּין, אֶלֵּיִן, הָאֶלַּין (masc. and fem. plur.), etc. Forms without the ד in the masculine are: אָהֵין, הָהֵ(י)ן, etc.; demonstrative pronouns of distance: masculine ההוא, feminine ההיא. The form אֶלַּין, etc., is unique in Aramaic; in biblical Aramaic it appears as אִלֵּ(י)ן, in Aramaic inscriptions as אלן. (e) The Interrogative used attributively. The forms of "which" are היידן (sing. masc.), הָיְידָה (sing. fem.), הָיְלֵין (masc. and fem. plur.). (f) The relative pronouns. The form ד׳ (rare) and דַּ, דְּ (cf. Syriac) – also written plene: דאיתמין ("of orphans"). The presentative is הָא.

(2) The Verbs. (a) The Perfect and Imperfect of qal. The perfect of qal (mainly of the strong verb) has only two types: פְּעַל, פְּעֵל e.g., תְּקֵף כְּתַב. In the imperfect the vowel o spreads at the expense of a, e.g., יִזְבֵּן יֶתְקֹף ("he will buy") is a survival of the third type (which has an i > e). The vocalic structure of the verb resembles, but is not identical with, biblical Aramaic, and is totally different from the Onkelos Targum, e.g., instead of כְתַבִית (perfect first per. sing. in Onkelos), we find כַּתְּבֵת. These forms even look more archaic than those of biblical Aramaic: כִּתְבֵת which seems to go back to כַתְבֵת.

The third person feminine plural ending is thus identical (except the ־ן) to the suffix of Samaritan and Christian Aramaic (and to Syriac). (See Table: Aramaic 1 and Table: Paradigm of Qal.)

The Paradigm of Qal  in the Perfect The Paradigm of Qal – in the Perfect

Masculine Masc./Fem. Feminine
כְּתַבְתְּ כתבת
כְּתַב,סְלֵק כַּתְבַת
(!) כְּתַבְתּוֹן כְּתַבְתוּן כתבתין
כתבון, כְּתַבוּ כְּתָבֵין

The Paradigm of Qal  in the Imperfect The Paradigm of Qal – in the Imperfect

Masculine Masc./Fem. Feminine
אֶכְתוב, נֶיכְתוֹב
תֶּכְתוֹב תכתבין
יֶכְתוֹב תֶּכְתוֹב
תֶּכְתְּבוּן תּכתבן
יֶכְתְּבוּן יֶכְתְּבָן

From the present participle a new "tense" has evolved in Galilean Aramaic by prefixing the independent pronoun (as found in maʿalula): e.g., אתּאָזֵל = "you walk" and ואֲנָה אָמַר = ונמר, etc. In Eastern Aramaic the pronoun is enclitic (see below Eastern Aramaic, par. 1).

(b) The imperative (O verbs in the imperfect). The forms are כְּתוב (masc.), כותבין (masc. plur.). The -n is missing in the Palestinian Targum fragments (except for ל״י verbs). The original o in other words has been preserved in the first syllable (cf. the Syriac and Mandaic imperative with the pronominal object).

(c) Infinitive. The second vowel is apparently always identical with that of the imperfect, e.g., מעבֵיד, משמַע, מֶכְתּוֹב.

(d) Other Conjugations. The infinitive always has the prefix m + vowel, as in the Book of Aḥikar (cf. Syriac, i.e., paʿel מְכַתָּבָה instead of כַּתָּבָה etc.). Note the following forms of ל״י verbs: in the participle we find the form י alongside the form יִן– (as in biblical Aramaic), e.g., בָּנַיי, בָּנַיִן. The same applies to the imperfect second person feminine singular תבניי, תבנין.

(3) The Declension. As in other Western Aramaic dialects, Galilean Aramaic has preserved the differentiation between the definite and the indefinite forms in gender and in number. (See Table: Noun Declension Wall.)

Note especially the forms שׁוּרֵינַן, שורֵיהּ, שוּרֵיךְ, שׁוּרַן, which differ from biblical Aramaic. The nouns אב, אח appearas -אֲבוּ- אֲהוּ when they are declined and take the plural suffixes, e.g., אֲבוךְ, אֲבוהִי, אֲחוּךְ, etc. (but in first person: אֶבָּא, אֲחִי(!)).

(4) Prepositions. Prepositions worth mentioning are: כְוָת ("like") גב, גבי, לגב, לגבי ;ליד all = ("to"); קמי, קומי ("before," "in front of ") from the root קדם, with the ד apparently assimilated; חורי ("behind," "after"); בְּגֵין ("because").

The Noun Declension (Wall) The Noun Declension ("Wall")

Masculine Masc./Fem. Feminine
שוּרָךְ שוּרִיךְ
שוּרֵ(י)הּ שוּרַהּ
שוּרכוֹן שוּרון
שוּרה(וֹ)ן שוּרהֵ(י)ן
שוּרֵיךְ שוריך
שוּרוֹהִי, שׁוּרוֹי, שורוה שוּרֵיה
שוּריה(וֹ)ן שוּרֵיהֵ(י)ן

(5) Adverbs. Worthy of note are כַּדּוּן ("now"), תובן ("again"), יומדֵין ("today"), הָכֵן ("so"), הָן, אָן ("where"), and מנן ("from where").

(6) Conjunctions. Conjunctions to be noted are -כיון ד ("since," "because"), -בְּזִיל ד-, בִּגֵין ד ("because"), אוף ("also"), ברם ("but"), and הֶן-אֶן ("if").


As in biblical Aramaic, there is, alongside the regular construct, also a construct + ד used often with a proleptic suffix. Before a proper noun, a demonstrative pronoun may appear: הדא טבריה = Tiberias.


(See above first paragraph of Late Aramaic.) The participle + conjugated הוה is used in the past and in the future to indicate repetition, durativity, etc. When the direct object is a determined noun (noun with a definite article) ל is added and when a pronoun ית is added, the latter may fuse with the verb and form one word, i.e., חמה יתה = חמתיה ("he saw him"). A proleptic suffix may precede both the direct and the indirect object, e.g., נסתיה לשליחה ("he took the messenger"). A verb may take as an object ם and infinitive: בעי ממרוד ("he wants to rebel"), also an imperfect plus בעי דיזעוף ("he wanted to rebuke"), or a participle שורי בכי ("he started to weep").


There are borrowings from Akkadian; from Greek, which since the conquests of Alexander the Great became the dominant tongue in the whole Near East especially among the educated ruling classes; from Latin, as a result of the Roman conquest; and from Hebrew. Borrowings from Akkadian are אריסה ("the tenant farmer"), צמת ("to gather"), etc. There are a great number of borrowings from Greek, e.g., אוירה ("the air"), זוגא ("the pair"), טימי ("price"), ליסטם ("robber," misread as לסטים!). Some have given rise to verbs, i.e., ספג ("to dry oneself "). According to Lieberman, Greek was widely employed, even among the sages. Not only single words, but whole sentences in Greek may appear in our sources. Borrowings from Latin mainly belong to the governmental and military spheres, e.g., לגיון ("legion"), איסרטה ("road, way"), מונטה ("coin"), ארנונה (a certain "tax"). It is assumed that these borrowings came into Aramaic from Latin via Greek. The Hebrew influence on Galilean Aramaic is very small (it is felt more in the Palestinian Christian Aramaic, see below), e.g., עצה ("advice") and אציק ("felt sorry") are from the Hebrew. Galilean Aramaic vocabulary resembles that of the other two Western dialects and differs markedly from that of Babylonian Aramaic. Even the very same noun may appear in a different form in these dialects, e.g., (דמ(א, in Babylonian Aramaic אדם ("blood"); זעור ("small"); compare Rabbi זעורה in the Jerusalem Talmud as opposed to Rabbi זירא in the Babylonian Talmud. Roots found only in Galilean Aramaic besides חמה ("saw"), are, e.g., אגיב ("answered"), ארתק ("knocked"), גזה ("repaid").

Palestinian Christian Aramaic

This dialect, probably spoken by converted Jews living in Judea, employs one of the Syriac scripts. Texts in this dialect were first discovered in the nineteenth century. The language is attested in texts translated from Greek and in some inscriptions.


In contrast to its sister dialects, final ā is always indicated by א (influence of the Syriac script!). Plene spelling with או״י (not with ה!) are to be found both for long and short vowels, and apparently even for half-vowels (שוא נע), e.g., רַב =) ראב ‡ "great"), אֶלָּא =) אילא ‡ "only"), כֹּל =) כּול ‡ "all," "every"), טְלַיִן =) טאלין ‡ "boys"), and יָכְלִין =) יכילין ‡ "are able"). The texts are unvocalized, except for dots to indicate the different pronunciations of בג״ד כפ״ת, also to mark the Greek II and to differentiate between homographic grammatical forms; they may indicate different colors of vowels (e.g., of the i, e type, as against a type).

The following grammatical sketch does not follow in every case the grammar of Schulthess (which is not always reliable and is now outdated).


The pharyngeals and laryngeals are generally well preserved. Labials tend to color neighboring vowels toward o (or u), e.g., שַׁבָּא =) שובא ‡ "Sabbath"), as in Galilean Aramaic. As sometimes in Galilean Aramaic, a in a closed syllable tended apparently to become a kind of e, e.g., ניפשה (= נִפְשֵׁה ‡ "his soul"). Prosthetic vowels appear (cf. אדרקונא = Greek drākon, "dragon").


(1) Pronouns. Personal – Note plural אנין etc., and אנח>) אנה "we"). Suffix pronouns – the plural ־נן, etc., also ־נה>) – ־נח "our"; see above the independent pronoun). The independent possessive pronoun is based upon דיל־ ‡, e.g., דִילִי ("mine").

(2) Noun. This is the only Aramaic dialect which has a qutul pattern (= qotel in Hebrew), e.g.; חוטור ("stick," also חוטר, etc., cf. Hebrew חֹטֶר, and the transliteration of the Hebrew מֹלֶךin the Septuagint = Moloch).

(3) Verb. Due to lack of vocalization, it cannot be ascertained how, e.g., the perfect of peʿal has to be vocalized (cf. biblical Aramaic as against Galilean Aramaic). The third person masculine and feminine plural of the perfect is קטלי, קטלו (rarely + n). The imperfect אקטול is very often spelled יקטול. The imperfect frequently has forms that apparently are identical to Hebrew pausal forms, e.g., יִכְּלוּן =) יכולון ‡ "they will be able"), apparently influenced by Mishnaic Hebrew. Very rarely are suffixed objective pronouns employed; instead we find ל־ or ית־ (e.g., יתה, לה "him"). The infinitive of the peʿal has sometimes the form קטל (obviously= קְטָל ‡), as in Ancient Aramaic (above); in the paʿel the form is the same as in Syriac in apʿel = Syriac, but also without the prefixed m. The infinitive of all the conjugations in Christian Palestinian Aramaic has the prefix m- (always in the peʿal and the paʿel, and sometimes in the aphaʿel and the suffix u (except in the peʿal)).


Besides borrowings from Greek and Latin, those from Hebrew, e.g., עבר ("to be about"; from mishnaic Hebrew) and from Syriac, e.g., את]חמת] ("he became angry") should be mentioned.

Samaritan Aramaic

Spoken by Samaritans till about the tenth century C.E. (?), this dialect also did not develop a full vocalization system. The studies of Ben-Ḥayyim (who edited texts with transliteration, according to the Samaritan reading tradition), however, have made it possible to reconstruct a grammar of this dialect.


It is not very plene: final ā is indicated only by ה (never by א).


The original pronunciations of the different pharyngeals and laryngeals has nearly disappeared; they are therefore constantly mixed up in writing or omitted altogether. ב׳ג׳ד׳ כ׳פ׳ת׳ have (today) survived only with one pronunciation except for פ, which appears as b when geminated and mainly as f elsewhere. The n appears assimilated only in "old" roots and forms (e.g., אפק "he brought out" from the root נפק), but not in "late" roots and forms. The short u has disappeared; the half vowel (שוא נע), where it survives, appears as a full vowel. The old phonemes (ō-ū, ē-ī) have merged, and their quality and quantity is conditioned by stress and syllable (open or closed), e.g., rábbon ("lord"), but rabbuni "my lord." The stress is penultimate.

The Verb

Ben-Ḥayyim's work does not yield enough material to establish beyond any doubt the "vocalization" of certain basic verb forms (e.g., perfect first pers. sing., whether it is קַטְלֵת, as in Galilean Aramaic; קִטְלֵת as in biblical Aramaic; or קְטַלִית as in the Onkelos Aramaic). This dialect seems to have been influenced (after it died out as a spoken language?) very much by Hebrew.


Eastern Aramaic dialects were spoken by Christians, Jews, and Mandeans (a religious sect in southern Iraq) in what today is mainly Iraq. Syriac however was also a literary language used outside this region. Eastern Aramaic dialects were apparently still spoken several hundred years after the Arab conquest. In contrast to Western Aramaic, the differences between Eastern Aramaic and Official Aramaic are quite conspicuous. The main differences are (1) l- or n- served as the prefix of the third person imperfect; (2) -e for common Aramaic -ayya, as the ending of the masculine plural determinate (appears already in the Book of Aḥikar); (3) the loss of the determinative force of -a; (4) the elimination of n bearing pronominal suffixes of the imperfect (H.L. Ginsberg); (5) unaccented open syllables at the end of a word tend to disappear, e.g., רַב <רַבּי; (6) the negation לאוis very common (mainly before nouns); (7) the construction qәtil (passive participle) + l- + the suffix pronoun is employed quite often to express the perfect, e.g., שמיע לי "I have heard" (see The Aramaic of the Driver Documents); (8) the indeterminate active and passive participle may coalesce with an enclitic pronoun of the first and second person singular and plural (rare in Western Aramaic); (9) the word order seems to be much freer than in Western Aramaic; (10) the relative clauses are very conspicuous; (11) all Eastern Aramaic dialects abound in words borrowed from the Akkadian, the language spoken in that territory before the Arameans, and from the Persian, the language of the rulers of most of this area at that time. (Only the dialect of the Jews will be treated extensively here.)


Syriac is comprised of two dialects: Western Syriac, current in Syria (as a literary vehicle only?), and Eastern Syriac. The main differences are: the Eastern Syriac vowels ē, ā, ō = the Western Syriac vowels ī, ō, ū, ח = in Eastern Syriac, but in Western Syriac. They use different (but very similar) scripts and different vocalization systems (which indicate semi-vowels or the vowel zero (as שוא in Hebrew)).

Since Syriac is the only Late Aramaic dialect to have a standardized vocalization (there are two systems, see above), its importance for Aramaic in general, and Eastern Aramaic in particular is very great.

Spelling and Phonology

Long final vowels that disappeared in speech are in certain cases nearly always preserved in writing (ē, ā, ō), e.g., רביֿ pronounced רב "my teacher" (also see verb below). Even the short u is spelled plene, while the short i is on the whole spelled defectively.


(1) Pronouns. Note the forms ,אַנֿתֵּין אַנֿתּי, אַנֿתּי, אַנֿתּוּן ("you" in the masc., the fem., the sing. and, the plur.), all to be read at, etc. (without n). The possessive (and objective) suffixes clearly distinguish between masculine and feminine, singular and plural except for the second person plural with the suffix of the singular (the spelling is different). (See following table.)

(2) Verb. The verbal suffixes of Syriac are closer to earlier Aramaic than those of the sister dialects.

Note: קְטַלְתּוּן in Western Syriac. Final vowels in the third person plural could be preserved by adding n. The final n stays in the imperfect (dropped in Babylonian Aramaic). The infinitive of all the conjugations in Syriac have the prefix m – and, except in the peʿal, also the suffix u.

 (judgment) with Possessive Suffixes דִּין ("judgment") with Possessive Suffixes

Feminine Masc./Fem. Masculine
דִּיני (read דִּין)
דִּינֶכִי (read דִּינֶך) דִּינָך
דִּינָהּ דִּינֵה
דִּינְכֵין דִּינְכוֹן
דִּינְהֵין דִּינְהוֹן
דִּינַיכי (read דִּינַיכ) דִּינַיך (read דִּינַיכִּ)
דִּינֶיהּ דִּינַוה (read דִּינַוְ)
דִּינַיכֵּין דִּינַיכּוֹן
דִּינַיהֵין דִּינַיהּוֹן

Syriac has created a past perfect by combining the perfect and the postpositive auxiliary verb הֿוא ("was"), e.g., דֶאמְתֶית הֿוֵית לכוֹן ("which I had said to you"). This combination as well as that of the imperfect + הֿוא is also employed in other, sometimes not clearly definable, uses. The word order is quite free: relative sentences abound. The Syriac found in inscriptions has preserved some earlier traits, e.g., the letter ś (sin = ש) which disappeared nearly entirely from Late Aramaic and the imperfect prefix י (yod), instead of the standard n-. (See Table: Eastern Syriac.)

Eastern Syriac Eastern Syria

Masculine Masc./Fem. Feminine
תֶּקטלִין תֶּקטוֹל
תֶּקטוֹל נֶקטוֹל
תֶּקטלָן תֶּקטלוּן
נֶקטלָן נֶקטלוּן
קַטַלתִיֿ קטַלתּ
קֶטלַת קטַל
קטַלן, קטַלנַן
קטַלְתֵּין קטַלתּוֹן
קטַל (קטַ לִיֿ) קטַלֵין קטַלוֿ, קטַלוּן

This dialect is close to Babylonian Aramaic.


Mandaic has developed plene spellings more than any other Aramaic dialect; it uses the letters אהוי״ע both alone and in combination as matres lectionis. They indicate long, short, and even semi-vowels (שוא נע), e.g., שַׁכֵב = שאכיב ("lying"), נאכול = נעכול ("he eats"), לי = ליא ("to me"), שְׁמָא = שומא ("name"). Mandaic is the only Aramaic dialect to have preserved (apparently only as (archaic) spellings) ז for d (Ar. dh), e.g., דַהֲבָא = זאהבא ("gold"), and ק for (+ emphatic), e.g., אַרְעָה = ארקא ("earth" see above).


The situation is practically identical with that of Babylonian Aramaic, except for the fact that (1) if there are two emphatics in a word, one tends to lose the emphasis, e.g., קוּשטא = כושטא ‡ ("truth"); (2) instead of a geminate consonant in certain cases we find dissimilation by n or m, as in Official Aramaic (see above The Main Characteristics of Official and Ancient Aramaic. Differences in the Verb), e.g., מַדָּע = מאנדא ‡("knowledge"), קובָּא = קומבא ‡ ("vault"), both features go back to the Akkadian substrate. (3) Quite often we find anaptyctic vowels, e.g., אתְנְסֵב = עתינסיב ‡ ("he was taken"), apparently more often than in Babylonian Aramaic. Prosthetic vowels appear quite often, e.g., בְּרָא = אברא ‡ ("son").


(1) Pronouns. אנאת ("you") singular, אנאתוּן ("you") plural. It distinguishes better between masculine and feminine, and singular and plural of the pronominal suffixes than does Babylonian Aramaic. Note that here also רַב =) ראב<רַבִּי ‡). The demonstrative pronoun: האזין masculine, האזא feminine ("this"); האנאתהֿ masculine feminine ("that"), masculine האנאתון, feminine האנאתין ("those"). (These forms are as yet unexplained.)

(2) Verb. Due to the apocope of the last (unaccented) vowel, many forms have merged, e.g., נפאק "he-they went out" (masc., fem.). For the last two forms there are to be found (only in Mandaic) the ending יון (masc.), יאן (fem.).


The language of the incantation texts of the magical bowls that were found in Iraq and Persia is more or less identical with those of the other texts. Note the ending ־ון of the perfect third person plural masculine.

Babylonian Aramaic

This is the dialect of the Aramaic parts of the Babylonian Talmud, the geonic texts, and the writings of Anan, the founder of the Karaite sect. The language of the incantation texts of Nippur (and other places) is very close (but not quite identical) to it.


It dates back at least to the days of the first amoraim, Rav and Samuel (third century B.C.E.), and goes up to the end of the geonic period (11th century C.E.).


Considering its duration, it is not surprising to find earlier forms alongside later ones. It is difficult to ascertain why the language (reflecting an earlier stage) of the tractates Nedarim, Nazir, Me'ilah, Keritot, and Tamid differs from the other tractates; and the language of the geonim deviates in certain parts from the language of the Talmud.


(see bibliography). There are very few grammars and dictionaries.


The earliest surviving complete dictionary is the Arukh of R. Nathan of Rome (11th century C.E.; fragments of Kitab al-Hāwī, an earlier important dictionary compiled by R. Hai Gaon in the tenth century were discovered in the Cairo Genizah, part of them were published by A. Maman, Tarbiz 2000). It is important even today both because its material, to a large extent, goes back to geonic sources and because of the good readings preserved in it. The entry system has been followed by all lexicographers up to modern times: i.e., the mishnaic, talmudic, and midrashic vocabulary is all concentrated in one volume, though the material represents at least four different dialects: (1) Mishnaic Hebrew; (2) Galilean Aramaic; (3) Babylonian Aramaic; (4) The Aramaic of the Onkelos (and other) translation. The Arukh is a comparative dictionary. Besides Aramaic with its different dialects, it also adduces Arabic, Greek, Latin, and Persian as comparisons with its material. The first modern dictionary is by J. Levy, and it is still of some use today. Arranged according to Hebrew and Aramaic entries, Arabic and Syriac are presented as the main Semitic linguistic parallels; Persian, Greek, and Latin are adduced to interpret borrowings from these languages. The addenda and corrigenda of H.L. Fleischer are still important but often antiquated. The Arukh ha-Shalem of A. Kohut, intended as a scholarly edition of the Arukh with additions by B. Musafiah (17th century C.E.), and an up-to-date scholarly dictionary, is rich in material but not well organized. Hebrew and Aramaic entries are not separate. Kohut's tendency to look for Persian etymology, even for words found only in Palestinian sources (from a time when there was no Persian rule there) is exaggerated. This tendency was sharply criticized by W. Bacher. In M. Jastrow's dictionary, the material is arranged according to Hebrew and Aramaic entries, but he tries to find Hebrew etymologies for words which obviously are of Greek, Persian, or Latin origin. The first volume of Krauss's work, dealing with the grammar of Greek and Latin loan words, was sharply criticized by S. Fraenkel, a Semitic linguist and expert in Aramaic. The second volume (a dictionary) has however retained its importance to this day due mainly to the addenda and corrigenda by I. Loew, who read the proofs of this volume. The most up-to-date scholarly dictionary is that of M. Sokoloff. Akkadian was deciphered in the 19th century and it has been established (see Zimmern and more recently Kaufman) that there are many Akkadian borrowings, especially in Babylonian Aramaic (see above). To bring the Arukh ha-Shalem up to date, the Tosefet Arukh ha-Shalem was edited by S. Krauss who was supposed to include the new material discovered since the Arukh ha-Shalem was published, especially that of the Cairo Genizah. However, this new work was criticized by S. Lieberman in his review (see bibl.), as it did not account for all the new material. Its importance lies in the contribution of an eminent Iranist, B. Geiger, who corrected many of Kohut's "etymologies" and filled in, to a large extent, the cognate material from Akkadian, Arabic, and Mandaic. B.M. Levin's Oẓar ha-Ge'onim and Kassovski's Concordance of the Babylonian Talmud, both as yet unfinished, are also important to the study of Babylonian Aramaic. Only Loew's work in the field of flora is a full and up-to-date scholarly study (of both Hebrew and Aramaic) – Loew also published many other important articles in the field of realia. There is, however, a great need for a scholarly comparative semantic-historical dictionary, which will comprise all the material, and categorize it – Hebrew and Aramaic (Babylonian Aramaic, Galilean Aramaic, the Targum of Onkelos, and others). S. Fraenkel's study of Aramaic borrowings from Arabic and C. Brockelmann's Syriac dictionary are still very important. Nowadays, however, one must consult Drower-Macuch's Mandaic dictionary (see below).


Th. Noeldeke's Mandaic Grammar contains many observations which are important for the understanding of Babylonian Aramaic grammar. The unreliability of C. Levias' works (in English and in Hebrew) were shown by the reviews of S. Fraenkel and C. Brockelmann. Margolis' Grammar comprises little material and does not give the sources. J.N. Epstein's posthumous book has also been criticized both because of its method and the incompleteness of the material. (For above, see bibl.). On the Yemenite tradition of Babylonian Aramaic see S. Morag on the verb and Morag and Y. Kara on the noun.


The above grammars are defective mainly for two reasons: (1) Not all the authors were linguists; (2) they did not base their studies on good manuscripts, and sometimes used them only in a by-the-way fashion. The printed versions are all corrupt and even manuscripts of European origin are not entirely reliable; there is reason to believe that they (including the Munich Ms.) were, to some extent, "corrected." The only trustworthy manuscripts apparently are those which originated in the east, but their linguistic nature (with the help of certain criteria) needs first to be determined. In an article published in Leshonenu, Kutscher identified four new forms in the paradigm of the first (qal) conjugation on the basis of these manuscripts. A comparison with Syriac and Mandaic has confirmed these findings. The problem of the grammar of Babylonian Aramaic will only be solved by a series of monographs based upon reliable manuscripts. A thorough study of the Babylonian Aramaic vocalized texts, as begun by Sh. Morag, is highly desirable. Of great importance is the clarification of various contemporary reading traditions, especially that of the Yemenites (dealt with by Morag). However, as long as there is no proof to what extent these reading traditions have preserved their original characteristics, and to what extent they represent internal changes of a later period (mentioned by Morag), their use is as yet problematic.


The following tentative survey is based on manuscripts. The main deviating forms of the above tractates and the language of the geonim will be noted here, while the standard language of the Talmud will be described in the actual survey.

The salient features of that language are (1) the preservation of the n in the suffixes, e.g., להון (instead of להו "to them"); (2) the demonstrative and personal pronouns appear in their earlier form, e.g., הדין (as opposed to האי "this"); (3) certain differences in the vocabulary, e.g., נהמא=) לחמא "bread").


Consonantal ו and י are also spelled יי, וו.


(1) The laryngeals א, ה and the pharyngeals ח, ע have weakened, as in Mandaic. (To some extent, the conservative spelling does not reveal this phenomenon, mentioned explicitly by the geonim.) These letters are therefore mixed up, e.g., עטמא>) אטמא ‡ = "bone"), חדר>) הדר = "returned"), or dropped altogether: תחותי>) תותי ‡ = "under"), שעותא) שותא ‡= "conversation"). (2) The consonants ר, נ, מ, ד, ב, ל tend to disappear as word finals, e.g., in תוב>) תו "again"), נעבד>) ניבי "we shall make"), אזל>) אזא "went away"), תיקום>) תיקו "it shall stand") אמר>) אמא "he said"). This phenomenon לכון>) לכו "to you," plur.), is especially prominent concerning the n of the pronouns, e.g., להון>) להו "to them") and in the verbal suffixes, e.g., תכתבון >) תכתבו "you shall write"). (3) ב (without the dagesh) may appear as וו) ו), e.g., אבד >) אווד "got lost"). (4) The accent, it seems, was rather strong; its position was apparently different from the one known to us in biblical Aramaic (see above רַבִּי>רַב first par. Eastern Aramaic).


(See following table.) (1) Pronouns. (a) Personal Pronouns. (b) The Copula. Special forms serve as copula: ניהו (masc.), ניהי (fem.), נינהו (masc. plur.), נינהי (fem. plur.). (c) The Demonstrative Pronouns (ordinary): of proximity – האי (masc.), הא (fem.), הני (plur.); of distance – האיך (masc.), הך (fem.), הנך (plur.); ההוא (masc.), ההיא (fem.) הנהו (plur.); אידך (masc. and fem.), אינך (plur.). (d) The relative pronoun is ד־. (e) The interrogative pronoun is מן ("who"), מאי ("what"). (f) The Possessive Pronoun. The base is דיד־, דיל־ plus suffixes, e.g., דידי, דילי ("mine").


Masculine Masc/Fem. Feminine
את את
הוא, איהו היא, איהי
(אנו(ו ?
אינהו אינהי

(2) The Verb. Lately, some new forms were discovered in the basic paradigm (they will be noted with °, see above the Problem of Babylonian Aramaic). (a) It would also seem that the vocalization (of the perfect) is identical to that of the Onkelos tradition which differs from the other Aramaic dialects. In the past of qal we found the three types שכיב, ‡ כתב ‡, and יָכֹל, חָפֵץ, כָּתַב =) ‡ חרוֹב in Hebrew). (The paradigm below is only hypothetically vocalized and accentuated.)


Masculine Masc/Fem. Feminine
(כתבִי (ת
כְּתַבְתְּ כְּתַבְתְּ
כְּתַב כְּתַ֫בת, כְּתַ֫בָא, כּתַב
(?) כְּתַבז, כְּתַבִינַז, כְּתַבְנַז
(כְּתַבְתּו(ן)? כְּתַבִיתוּ(ן
(?) כְּתַ֫בוּ, כְּתוּב, כְתַב כְּתַ֫בָן, כְּתַב

In the imperfect of qal we find mainly the pattern אֶשְׁמׁר, אֶשְׁכַּב =) ‡ אִיקְטַל, ‡ אִיקטוֹל in Hebrew) and only a few verbs of the pattern אַעֲבֵיד (= the pattern of אֶתֵּן in Hebrew).


Masculine Masc/Fem. Feminine
תִּכְתּוֹב תִּכְתְּבִי
לִ/נִכְתּוֹב תִּכתּוֹב
(תִּכְתְּבוּ (ן
(לִ/נִכְתְּבוּ (ן לִ/נִכְתְּבָן

(b) Imperative, כְּתוֹב (masc. sing.), כְּתוֹבִי (fem. sing.), כְתוֹבוּ (masc. plur.), כתוב° and (?) כְּתוֹבִין (fem.). (c) Infinitive. מִכְתַּב (and מכְתְּבָא?). (d) Present and Past Participle. (כִּתִיבָ(ן (masc. plur.), (כָּתְבָ(א/ן (fem. plur.) (passive fem. (כִּתִיבָ(א/ן). The forms כתיבא, כָתְבָא (fem. plur.) are new (the same in Mandaic). As to the other conjugations, the following ought to be noted: The infinitive is formed on the model of כַתּוֹבֵי in paʿel, אַכְתוֹבֵי in af ʿel, etc. (The same is true of Mandaic and Palmyrean and the new modern eastern dialects). (e) The weak conjugations. Verbs whose second radical is א are sometimes conjugated like those of ו, e.g., שייל (participle of שאל, "asks"). The ע״ו verbs pattern in paʿel as strong roots (the second radical is geminated) and some forms of the ע״ע (geminate) verbs also pattern like that class, e.g., עלל > =) עייל, "he enters"). The aphʿel of ע״ו sometimes patterns like that of פי״ו, e.g., אוקים (root קום, "he erected").

(3) The Noun. Few noun patterns (and these are rare) have been added, as those with the derivational suffix ־יסא, ־יזא, e.g., גונדריסא "a small fence" and שופריזא "a small ram's horn."

(4) The Declension. The noun with pronominal suffixes. In a number of persons the plural suffixes are used for the singular as well (and apparently vice versa). This is especially noticeable in the first person singular where חֵיל > חֵילִי (see רַב < רַבִּי above), and therefore the form חילאי was taken over from the plural.


Masculine Masc/Fem. Feminine
חילי, חיל, חילאי
חילך, חיליך, אבוך חיליך, אבוך
חיליה, כולי, אבוה חילה, אבוה
חילין, אבון
חילכו ?
חילהו חילהי
חילך, חיליך חיליך
חיליה חילה, חילהא
חילייכו חילייכי
חילייהו חילייהי

(5) Particles. (a) Prepositions. (The vocalization is mainly hypothetical) -על >) א, "upon," etc.), קַמֵּי ("before"), בַהֲדִי ("with"), בֵי ("between"), אַטוּ, אִמְטוּ ל־, אַמְטוּל ("because"), כי ("like"), אַיְדא ("because of," "through").

(b) Adverbs and Conjunctions. לְאַלתַר ("immediately"), מִימִּלָא ("at any rate," "from itself "), אַדְּרַבָּא ("on the contrary"), אַכַּתִּי ("still"), כְּלַפֵּי לַיּיָא ("with regard to what"), מִי (introducing a question), אוֹ, אִי ("if"), הָילְכָך, הולכך ("therefore"), איכו, כו ("well, then"), איזי, אֵיזוּ ("well, then"), אלמא ("consequently"), מיה, מיהו, מיהת ("at any rate"), נמי ("also"), נְהִי ("even if").


The perfect appears also in the wish form, e.g., ליה מאריהשְׁרָא ("may his master forgive him"). To denote a continuous and a habitual action in the present, the participle is used plus קָא ("he says" = קָא אָמַר). Note the following use of the infinitive: לְמֵיזל לָא מִבֶּעִי לָך לְמֵיזַל ("as for going – you need not go") employed when the verb is the logical subject. The direct and indirect objects are denoted by a prolepsis, that is, besides עַבְדָה לְמִיּלְתָא ("he did the thing") one finds also עַבְדָה לַה לְמִיּלְתָא ("he did it – the thing"). In a nominal sentence, instead of the copula we may find the construction… אֲנַן (e.g., אַטוּ אֲנַן קָטְלֵי קָנֵי בְאַגְמָא אֲנָן "are we stalk destroyers in a lake, are we?") Relative clauses serve to emphasize the logical subject, as הא) רבא הוא דאמר) ("it is Raba who said"). The relative sentence is very much in use even in cases like עָלְמָא דְאָתֵי ("the world to come" – "the next world"), etc. The verb is negated by לָא, other negations are usually accompanied by לָאו.


Borrowings from (1) Akkadian (and Sumerian): These are mostly in the fields of building, agriculture, and commerce, etc., e.g., אלפא ("ship"), אַרְדֵיכְלָא ("architect"), בָּבָא ("gate"), בִּידְקָא ("gap, flood"), גִּיטָא (originally "bill," "legal document," but mainly "bill of divorce"), זוּזָא ("a kind of coin"), מָתָא ("city"), נדונְיָא ("dowry"), קתא ("handle"), תַרביצָא ("yard"), שְׁלַדָּא ("skeleton"), תרנגלא ("chicken"). (2) Persian, e.g., גוֹשְׁפַנְקָא ("ring"), אפרין ("thanks"), דנקא ("a kind of coin"). (3) Latin, e.g., מִילָא ("mile").

The original vocabulary is, of course, close to that of Mandaic and that of Syriac, e.g., דְבָבָא ("fly"), Targum Onkelos, but דידבא in Babylonian Aramaic and in Mandaic. On the other hand, this dialect has words which are lacking in Galilean Aramaic, e.g., זוטרא, זוטא ("small"), גזם ("to exaggerate").


Mishnaic Hebrew

The Hebrew language continued to absorb Aramaic elements during that period as well.


(1) Pronouns, e.g., דְבָרָךְ ("your word," masc. sing.), דְבָרִיךְ ("your word," fem. sing.), אַתְּ ("you," masc. sing.), these suffixes come from Aramaic. (2) Verbs, e.g., אֵרַע ("happened"). (3) Nouns, e.g., סִיעָה ("traveling company," "followers"). (4) Particles, e.g., מִשּׁוּם ("because," Hebrew שם = Aramaic שום).

Changing of Meaning Under Aramaic Influence

Sometimes, under the influence of Aramaic, a cognate Hebrew word might have acquired a different meaning: זָכָר mainly "male" in biblical Hebrew = דְכַר "male," "ram" in Aramaic; therefore the Hebrew זָכָר "male," quite frequently found in mishnaic Hebrew, has also the meaning of ram (already to be found in biblical Hebrew).

Aramaic Noun Patterns in Hebrew

Nouns built according to Aramaic noun patterns appear more often in mishnaic Hebrew than in biblical Hebrew, e.g., כְּלָל ("general rule"). Syntactic traits such as שֶׁל הָעוֹלָם = רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁלָּעוֹלָם "Lord of the world," with the proleptic suffix of רִבּוֹנוֹ) וֹ) come from the Aramaic. It is possible that the whole mishnaic Hebrew tense system was shaped by Aramaic.

Classical Arabic

Aramaic elements were also absorbed into the vocabulary of classical Arabic. Aramaic words are already found in ancient Arabic poetry and in the Koran, e.g., in religious terms – the word ʾislām ("Islam," as well as "Moslem"); the verb sjd ("to worship") from which is derived masjid ("mosque"); ʿīd ("holiday"); masīḥ ("Messiah"); ṣalāt ("prayer"). Among them are words which Aramaic borrowed from other languages, e.g., maskīn ("poor") which comes from the Akkadian, zawdj ("pair") which is of Greek origin.

Aramaic Influence on Spoken Arabic Dialects

Aramaic influence on the different Arabic dialects persisted in Syria, Ereẓ Israel, and in Iraq even after the Arab conquest. The local population continued to speak their own language for some time, but at last Arabic superseded Aramaic, and the latter disappeared almost completely. Aramaic elements, however, were retained in the spoken Arabic dialects of these regions. So far, these Arabic dialects have not been thoroughly studied from this point of view (for an exception see Arnold and Behnstedt on Qalamun in Syria), but the influence in the field of vocabulary cannot be denied. In Ereẓ Israel and in Syria, this fact is also of great importance as regards Hebrew since Aramaic had absorbed Hebrew elements and passed them on to Arabic. An example possibly is בעל ("a field watered by rain and not by irrigation"). At times colloquial Arabic inherited from Aramaic a word of European origin, e.g., furn ("baking oven"), a word in colloquial Arabic which goes back to the Latin furnus ("oven" = "furnace" in English). Aramaic elements in colloquial Arabic have helped to identify especially plant names found in Jewish sources (as shown by I. Loew and G. Dalman).

Aramaic in European Languages

A few Aramaic words reached Europe through Christianity, e.g., אַבָּא ("father" > "monk"), Abt in German, abbot in English, etc. Arabic of the Middle Ages gave Europe a few Aramaic words, e.g., miskīn (= "poor" from the Akkadian), which passed through Arabic into Italian as meschino and into French as mesquin, etc. The Semitic root הלוך ("to go") had strange adventures. In Akkadian it is alāku, from which the noun ilku ("fief") was derived. From here it passed into Aramaic where it took on an Aramaic form: הֲלָך in biblical Aramaic. From Aramaic it passed into Persian where it changed its form and returned to the Aramaic of the Babylonian Talmud as כראגא ("head-tax"), passed into Arabic as harādj ("landtax"), from it into Turkish from where it was absorbed by the European languages spoken in the Turkish Empire. It acquired several meanings in Slavic: in Polish e.g., haracz ("tax," "tribute"). This is where the Hungarian word harácsolni ("to make (grab?) money by dishonest ways") comes from.

Aramaic in Contemporary Spoken Hebrew

Contemporary spoken Hebrew drew on Aramaic elements as the need arose. This refers both to Aramaic words in their original meaning, e.g., אדיש ("indifferent"), and to those whose original meaning has been extended or changed, e.g., אגיב ("he answered," of the Palestinian Aramaic) which is employed in the Hebrew as הֵגִיב ("reacted"); שדר ("to send") has been adapted to the needs of the broadcasting system: שדר ("to broadcast"). Generally, these new words have been morphologically Hebraized, e.g., Aramaic אולפן ("learning"), has become אֻלְפָּן ("center for study of Hebrew by new immigrants"). There are, however, elements, mostly those which passed through Yiddish, which kept their Aramaic form: e.g., הדדי ("reciprocal"). There are also those words and forms which in the beginning had kept their original Aramaic form in Hebrew, yet in time took on a Hebrew form: מִסְתְמָא ("probably"), today: מִן הַסְתָם; but אַבָּא ("father") and אִמָּא ("mother"), both already found in mishnaic Hebrew, are not showing any signs of Hebraizati


A. All the literature until the mid-1930s may be found in F. Rosenthal, Die aramaistische Forschung seit Th. Nöldeke's Veröffentlichungen (1939); review by H.L. Ginsberg, in JAOS, 62 (1942), 229–38 (only a few important titles listed in Rosenthal's work will be mentioned below). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J.A. Fitzmyer and S.A. Kaufman, An Aramaic Bibliography, Part I: Old, Official, and Biblical Aramaic (1992). B. 1. Old Aramaic. (a) Grammar: G. Garbini, L'aramaico antico (ANLM series VIII, vol. 7, fasc. 5, 1956), is now outdated. R. Degen, Altaramäische Grammatik (in Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, XXXVIII, 3, Wiesbaden 1969). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J.C. Greenfield, "The Dialects of Early Aramaic," in: JNES, 37 (1978), 93–99. For the position of Aramaic among North-Western Semitic languages see: W.R. Garr , Dialect Geography of Syria-Palestine, 1000–586 B.C.E. (1985). A very short survey of the scholarly literature may be found in the article by G. Garbini, "Semitico nord-occidentale e aramaico," in G. Levi Della Vida (ed.), Linguistica semitica: presente e futuro (1961), 59–60; F.M. Cross Jr. and D.N. Freedman, Early Hebrew Orthography (1952), 21–34; also see Fitzmyer (see below), 177–232. (b) Texts: The collections of Aramaic Inscriptions in M. Lidzbarski, Handbuch der nordsemitischen Epigraphik (1889) as well as in G.A. Cooke, A Text-Book of North Semitic Inscriptions (1903) are still valuable. The material since Rosenthal's volume: J.A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sefîre (1995); H. Donner and W. Röllig, Kanaanäische und aramäische Inschriften, 3 vols. (1966–69; vol. 1, rev. 2002); J.J. Koopmans, Aramäische Chrestomatie, 2 vols. (1962); F. Rosenthal (ed.), An Aramaic Handbook, 4 parts (1967, comprises texts from Old Aramaic to New Aramaic dialects). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: P.-E. Dion, La langue de Ya'udi (1974); J. Tropper, Die Inschriften von Zincirli (1993); J.C.L. Gibson, Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions, vol. 2: Aramaic Inscriptions (1975); A. Abou-Assaf et al., La statue de Tell Fekherye et son inscription bilingue assyro-aramiènne (1982); A. Biran and J. Naveh, "The Tel Dan Inscription: A New Fragment," in: IEJ, 45 (1995), 1–18; M. Sokoloff, "The Old Aramaic Inscription from Bukan," in: IEJ, 49 (1999), 105–115. (c) Dictionaries: J. Hoftijzer and K. Jongeling, Dictionary of the North-West Semitic Inscriptions (1995); I.N. Vinnikov, Slovar arameyskikh nadpisey ("A Dictionary of the Aramaic Inscriptions"), in Palestinsky Sbornik, 3 (1958); 4 (1959); 7 (1962), 9 (1962); 11 (1964); and 13 (1965). 2. Official Aramaic. (a) Grammar: P. Leander, Laut-und Formenlehre des Ägyptisch-Aramäischen (1928); H. Bauer and P. Leander, Grammatik des Biblisch-Aramäischen (1927); H.B. Rosén, "On the Use of the Tenses in the Aramaic of Daniel," in: JSS, 6 (1961), 183–203. W. Baumgartner, H.H. Schaeder and H.L. Ginsberg (Rosenthal above A, 66–70, 70 note 3) are still important. S. Morag, "Biblical Aramaic in Geonic Babylonia," in Studies in Egyptology and Linguistics in Honour of H.J. Polotsky, ed. by H.B. Rosén (1964), 117–31; Z. Ben-Ḥayyim, "The Third Person Plural Feminine in Old Aramaic," in Eretz-Israel, 1 (1951), 137–9 (Heb.). Also see F. Altheim and R. Stiehl, Die aramäische Sprache unter den Achaimeniden (1963). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: T. Muraoka and B. Porten, A Grammar of Egyptian Aramaic (20032); M.L. Folmer, The Aramaic Language in the Achaemenid Period (1995); V. Hug, Altaramaeische Grammatik der Texte des 7. und 6. JH.S.V. Chr. (1993); F. Rosenthal, A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic (19956); E. Qimron, Biblical Aramaic (20022); E.Y. Kutscher, "Aramaic," in: T. Sebeok (ed.), Current Trends in Linguistics (1971), vol. 6, 347–412. (b) Texts: A.E. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. (1923); E.G. Kraeling, The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri (1953); G.R. Driver, Aramaic Documents of the Fifth Century B.C. (1954), a second revised and abridged edition, Oxford 1957. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Porten and A. Yardeni, Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt (1986–99); B. Porten and J. Lund, Aramaic Documents from Egypt: a Keyword-in-Context Concordance (2002). (Also see above 1b). (c) Dictionaries: (see above 1c) and L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (2001), vol. 2, 1805–2010; (the Aramaic part compiled by Baumgartner). 3. Middle Aramaic. (a) Grammar. Dead Sea Scrolls: J.A. Fitzmyer, The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave I (19712); E.Y. Kutscher, The Language of the Genesis Apocryphon (1958), 173–206 (= Scripta Hierosolymitana, 4 (1958), 1–35). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: K. Beyer, Die aramaeischen Texte vom Toten Meer (1984; Ergaenzungsband 1004). Onqәlos type Targumim, see Dalman (below); P. Kahle, Masoreten des Ostens (1913), 203–32. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Tal, The Language of the Targum of the Former Prophets and its Position within the Aramaic Dialects (1975). Uruk: C.H. Gordon, "The Uruk incantation texts," in Archiv für Orientforschung, 12 (1938), 105–17, idem, in Orientalia, 9 (1940), 29–38. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M.J. Geller, "The Aramaic Incantation in Cuneiform Script (AO 6489-TCL 6,58)," JEOL, 35/36 (1997–2000), 127–46. Nabatean: J. Cantineau, Le nabatéen, 1 (1930); Palmyrean: J. Cantineau, Grammaire du palmyrénien épigraphique (1935); F. Rosenthal, Die Sprache der palmyrenischen Inschriften und ihre Stellung innerhalb des Aramäischen (1936). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D.R. Hillers and E. Cussini, Palmyrene Aramaic Texts (1996). Hatra: A. Caquot, in: Groupe linguistique d'études chamito-sémitiques, 9 (1960–63), 87–89; R. Degen, in: Orientalia, 36 (1967), 76–80. (b) Texts. Various inscriptions: above 1b; Donner-Röllig, Koopmans, Rosenthal. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Y. Yadin et al., The Documents from the Bar Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters (2002); A. Yardeni, Textbook of Aramaic, Hebrew and Nabataean Documentary Texts from the Judaean Desert (2000); S. Abdal-Rahman al-Theeb, Aramaic and Nabataean Inscriptions from North-West Saudi Arabia (1993). Onqәlos type Targumim: A. Sperber, The Bible in Aramaic, 3 vols. (1959–62; The Pentateuch, the Latter Prophets). Place of origin: Kutscher, The Language …, above (a). Dead Sea Scrolls: Fitzmyer, above (a), bibliography, ibid., p. 24, note 67; Nabatean: Cantineau, above (a) 2 (1932); Revue Biblique, 61 (1954), 161–81; IEJ, 12 (1962), 238–46. Palmyrene: Rosenthal, above (1b); various publications mainly in the periodicals Syria and Berytus and Inventaire des inscriptions de Palmyre, 11 fascicules, by various editors (1930– ). Hatra: Rosenthal, above (1b); Degen above (a), p. 76, note 1. Dura-Europos: Koopmans above (1b) 1 (1962), p. 219; E.L. Sukenik, The Synagogue of Dura-Europos and its Frescoes (Hebrew 1947). Nisa: I.M. Diakonov and V.A. Livshitz. Dokumenty iz Nisi ("Documents from Nīsa," Moscow 1960); M. Sznycer, in: Semitica, 12 (1962), pp. 105–26; Lešonénu, 34 (1969/70); Inscriptions of Jerusalem: M. Avi-Yonah (ed.), Sepher Yerushalayim 1 (1956), 349–57. Aramaic in the New Testament: H. Ott, in: Novum Testamentum, 9 (1967), 1–25 (Ger.; bibliography). Important are G. Dalman, Die Worte Jesu (19302) and H. Birkeland, The Language of Jesus (1954). (c) Dictionaries: Hoftijzer and Jongeling, above (1c); M. Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Judean Aramaic (2003). Dead Sea Scrolls: M.G. Abegg et al., The Dead Sea Scrolls Concordance (2003), vol. 2, 775–946. Targum: Levy's dictionary of the Targumim is outdated, but G.H. Dalman, Aramäisch-neuhebräisches Handwörterbuch (1922) is still important. J. Cantineau, Le nabatéen above (a) 2 (1932). Glossaries are to be found in various volumes listed above (a) and (b). 4. New Aramaic. I Western Branch. (a) Grammars. Galilean Aramaic: G. Dalman, Grammatik des jüdisch-palästinischen Aramäisch (Leipzig, 19052); W.B. Stevenson, Grammar of Palestinian Jewish Aramaic (Oxford, 19622; not important); H. Odeberg, The Aramaic Portions of Bereshit Rabba, part 2 Short Grammar of Galilaean Aramaic, in section 1, vol. 36; no. 4 (1940); E.Y. Kutscher, "Studies in Galilaean Aramaic" (Hebrew) in: Tarbiz, 21 (1950), 192–205; 22 (1951), 53–63, 185–192; 23 (1952), 36–60. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S.E. Fassberg, A Grammar of the Palestinian Targum Fragments (1990). Christian Aramaic of Palestine: F. Schulthess, Grammatik des christlich-palestinischen Aramäisch (1924). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Bar-Asher, Palestinian Syriac Studies (1977); C. Müller-Kessler, Grammatik des Christlich-Palaestinisch-Aramaeischen (1991); Samaritan Aramaic: No up-to-date grammar of Samaritan Aramaic exists. See E.Y. Kutscher 's short sketch in Tarbiz, 37 (1968), 399–403 (Hebrew); A.E. Cowley The Samaritan Liturgy2 (1909), XXXV–XLI is now outdated. (b) Texts: L. Ginzberg, Yerushalmi Fragments from the Genizah (Hebrew), 1 (1909). Other fragments were published mainly by J.N. Epstein in Tarbiz (Hebrew) vol. 3 (1932). Several scholarly editions of Midrash used Genizah material (Bereshit Rabbah, Va-Yikra Rabbah, Pesikta de Rav Kahana), see respective entries. A. Diez-Macho, Neophyti, 1 (1968–79). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M.L. Klein, Genizah Manuscripts of Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch (1986); M. Sokoloff and J. Yahalom, Jewish Palestinian Aramaic Poetry from Late Antiquity (1999); M. Sokoloff, The Geniza Fragments of Bereshit Rabba (1982). Documents (שטרוֹת) from the Genizah: mainly S. Assaf, in: Tarbiz, 9 (1938), 11–34. Inscriptions: J.B. Frey, Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaicarum, 2 (1952; many misprints); Sefer ha-Yishuv, 1, pt. 1 (1939), passim, and various Israel periodicals. As to the importance of most of the texts listed above see Kutscher , above (a). Christian Aramaic of Palestine: M. Black, A Christian-Palestinian Syriac Horologion (1954). Samaritan Aramaic: A. Tal, The Samaritan Targum of the Pentateuch (1980–83). Very important is Z. Ben-Ḥayyim, The Literary and Oral Tradition of Hebrew and Aramaic amongst the Samaritans, 3 pt. 2 (Hebrew, 1967), which contains texts transliterated according to the orally preserved reading tradition of the Samaritans, cf. my review in Tarbiz above (a); J. Macdonald, Memar Marqah, vol. 1 Text, vol. 2 Translation (1963) (without transliteration); cf. review by Z. Ben-Ḥayyim, in Bibliotheca Orientalis, 23 (1966), 185–91 (Eng.); Z. Ben-Ḥayyim, Tibat Marque: A Collection of Samaritan Midrashim (1988). Also see Z. Ben-Ḥayyim , Studies in the Traditions of the Hebrew Language (1954), 112–9 (with the transliteration and English notes). (c) Dictionaries: M. Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (1990); see also the works of Levy, Jastrow, Kohut, Dalman, and the Additamenta to Kohut. Review of the Additamenta: S. Lieberman, in Kirjath Sepher (Hebrew). Important remarks are to be found in various works of J.N. Epstein and S. Lieberman and Yalon. Bibliography: Tarbiz 20 (1949), 5–50 (Epstein); Hadoar (Heb.), 43 (1963), 381–4; (Lie berman, in: H. Yalon Jubilee Volume (1963), 1–14). Very important is I. Löw, Die Flora der Juden, 4 vols. (1924–34), see also Rosenthal above (1b), Part 1/2, Glossary. Problems of the lexicography see infra II (c) (Kutscher). Samaritan Aramaic: A. Tal, A Dictionary of Samaritan Aramaic (2000); important is the Hebrew-Arabic-Samaritan Aramaic glossary (HMLYS) published by Z. Ben-Ḥayyim, The Literary and Oral Tradition … (above b), vol. 2 (Jerusalem 1957), 439–616. Christian Aramaic of Palestine: Only F. Schult hess, Lexicon Syropalaestinum (1903), is available and the glossary in his Grammatik, above (a). II The Eastern Branch. (a) Grammar. Syriac. Th. Nöldeke's Kurzgefasste syrische Grammatik (18982) was reprinted by A. Schall (1966), with a few additions (from Nöldeke's copy); J.B. Segal, The Diacritical Point and the Accents in Syriac (1953); C. Brockelmann, Syrische Grammatik (19608); F. Rundgren, "Das altsyrische Verbalsystem" in: Sprakvetens kapliga Sallskapets i Uppsala Forhandliger (1958–60), 49–75. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: T. Muraoka, Classical Syriac (1997). Syriac inscriptions: K. Beyer, ZDMG, 116 (1966), 242–54. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: H.J.W. Drijvers and J.F. Healey, The Old Syriac Inscriptions of Edessa & Osrhoene (1999). Mandaic: R. Macuch, Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic (1965), but, Th. Nöldeke, Mandäische Grammatik (1875), is still very important. See also E.M. Yamauchi, Mandaic Incantation Texts (1967), 69–152. Aramaic of Talmud Bavli: J.N. Epstein, A Grammar of Babylonian Aramaic (Hebrew, 1960), cf. E.Y. Kutscher's review in: Lešonénu (Hebrew), 26 (1961/62), 149–83. M.L. Margolis, Lehrbuch der aramäischen Sprache des Babylonischen Talmuds (1910) is still useful. (There exists also an English edition.); M. Schlesinger, Satzlehre der aramäischen Sprache des Babylonischen Talmuds (1928). Also important are the reviews of Levias' both editions (see Rosenthal ) by S. Fraenkel, in: Zeitschrift für hebräische Bibliographie, 5 (1901), 92–94; C. Brockelmann, in: MGJW, 76 (1932), 173–8. B. Kienast, in: Münchner Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft, 10 (1957), 72–76. The Language of the Geonim and Anan: J.N. Epstein, in JQR, 5 (1914/15), 233–51; (1921/22), 299–390. Yemenite Tradition: S. Morag, in: Phonetica, 7 (1962), 217–39; Tarbiz, 30 (1961), 120–9 (Hebrew), English summary p. 11 of the issue; Henoch Yalon Jubilee Volume (1963), 182–220 (Hebrew); Lešonénu, 32 (1968), 67–88. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Babylonian Aramaic: The Yemenite Tradition (1988); Morag and Y. Kara, Babylonian Aramaic in the Yemenite Tradition: The Noun (2002). Incantation texts: W.H. Rossell, A Handbook of Aramaic Magical Texts (1953); Epstein in REJ, 73 (1921), 27–58; 74 (1922), 40–82. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Naveh and S. Shaked, Amulets and Magic Bowls (1985); idem, Magic Spells and Formulae (1993). (b) Texts. Syriac. Only inscriptions discovered mainly by J.B. Segal are worth mentioning; E. Jenni in: Theologische Zeitschrift, 21 (1965), 371–85 (bibliography pp. 371–7); Segal in BSOS, 30 (1967), 293–304; also see J.A. Goldstein , in: JNES, 25 (1966), 1–16. Mandaic: See the list of Abbreviations of Macuch, supra (a), pp. XXXVII–XLI. Aramaic of Talmud Bavli: S. Sassoon (ed.), Sefer Halakhot Pesukot (1950) (Gaonic Literature). As to the Talmud itself: Sh. Abramson has published a manuscript of Tractate ʿAvodah Zarah (1957); M.S. Feldblum, Dikdukei Soferim, Tractate Gittin (1966) continues the series. To Oẓar ha-Ge'onim, ed by B.M. Lewin, Berakhot-Bava Kamma 1943 (12 vols.) was added part of Bava Meẓi'ah (posthumously, no editor and other data are given), as well as Ch. T. Taubes, Sanhedrin (1966). (c) Dictionaries. Syriac: No new dictionary has appeared. C. Brockelmann, Lexicon Syriacum (19282) is the best lexicon of any Aramaic dialect. Mandaic: E.S. Drower and R. Macuch, A Mandaic Dictionary (1963). The Aramaic of Babylonian Talmud see above (Ic); M. Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (2002). Problems of a new dictionary of Jewish Aramaic (and Mishnaic Hebrew) dialects: E.Y. Kutscher, in: Hebräische Wertforschung ed. by B. Hartmann and others (1967), 158–75; Rosenthal (1b) part 1/2 (Glossary). Ḥ.J. Kassovski, Thesaurus Talmudis, Concordantiae Verborum, 18 vols. (1954– ). Foreign influences upon Aramaic. Akkadian: H. Zimmern, Akkadische Fremdwörter als Beweis für babylonischen Kultureinfluss (1917). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S.A. Kaufman, The Akkadian Influences on Aramaic (1974); see also the remarks of B. Geiger in the Additamenta ad Aruch Completum above (Ic). Persian: Geiger, ibid.; Widengreen Hebrew-Canaanite needs a monograph. Greek and Latin: S. Krauss, Griechische und lateinische Lehnwörter in Talmud…, 2 vols. (1898–99) is outdated, but cannot be dispensed with. Reviews: Fraenkel, in: ZDMG, 52 (1898), 290–300; 55 (1901), 353–5 with S. Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine (1950), as well as his Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1950), and many other books and articles, see his bibliography in Hadoar, 43 (1963), 381 ff. A. Schall, Studien über griechische Fremdwörter im Syrischen (1960). Aramaic influences upon other languages. Akkadian: W.V. Soden, Grundriss der akkadischen Grammatik (1952), 192, 193, 196; idem, in: Orientalia, 35 (1966), 1–20; 37 (1968), 261–71. Biblical Hebrew: G.R. Driver, "Hebrew Poetic Diction," in: Congress Volume, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, 1 (1953), 26–39. M. Wagner, Die lexikalischen und grammatikalischen Aramaismen im Alttestamentlichen Hebräisch (1966). Also see E. Kautzsch , Die Aramäismen im A.T. (1902). Canaanite-Punic: E.Y. Kutscher, in: Lešonénu, 33 (1969), 105–7; Dead Sea Scrolls: E.Y. Kutscher, The Language and Linguistic Background of the Isaiah Scroll (Hebrew, 1959), 8–13, 141–63. Mishnaic Hebrew: H. Albeck, Introduction to the Mishnah (Hebrew, 1959) lists (pp. 134–52) words parallel in both languages. Arabic: S. Fraenkel, Die aramäischen Fremdwörter im Arabischen (1886) is still very important. M.T. Feghali, Etude sur les emprunts syriaques dans les parlers arabes du Liban (1918); G. Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte im Palestina 7 vols. (1928–42) passim. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Arnold and P. Behnstedt, Arabisch-Aramaeische Sprachbeziehungen im Qalamūn (Syrien) (1993). European languages: K. Lokotsch, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der europäischen… Wörter orientalischen Ursprungs (1927), 241; W.B. Henning, in: Orientalia, 4 (1935), 291–3; E.Y. Kutscher, Words and their History (1961), 13–16. The influence of Aramaic on Modern Hebrew: I. Avinery, The Achievements of Modern Hebrew (1946), 72–80. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Bar-Asher, in: Evolution and Renewal: Trends in the Deveolpment of the Hebrew Language (1996), 14–76.

[Eduard Yecheskel Kutscher]

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