The Aramaic language, belonging to a variety of Semitic, about two thousand years ago was generally accepted in the Middle East.
In general, the Arameans in ancient times referred to a group of West Semitic tribes, leading a nomadic life in the territory corresponding to modern Syria. And although the arameans did not form a single state, their language extended to an ever larger and larger area. It was on him that the people of Persia, Mesopotamia and Judea spoke, wrote and traded.
Jesus' contemporaries read sermons, prayers, including "Our Father", in the Aramaic language. After Alexander the Great was destroyed, the Persian Empire, despite the continued widespread use of the status of official Aramaic, was lost. During this period, it was divided into western and eastern dialects.
According to the chronology, there are three periods of development of the Aramaic languages:
- Staroarameysky (XII century BC - II century AD).
- Middle Aramaic (II century AD - 1200).
- New Aramaic (since 1200).
Old Aramaic period
The first to the Old Aramaic period is the ancient Aramaic language, which remained on the monuments of the 9th-7th centuries BC. e. In the VII-VI centuries BC. e. this language already had the status of a lingua franca in the New Babylonian and New Assyrian powers, at the same time the Old Aramaic writing, which arose on the basis of the Phoenician letter, was formed. In the VI-IV centuries BC. e. The official language in the Persian Empire is called "imperial Aramaic." Monuments with him are found throughout the Middle East from Afghanistan to Egypt, in particular, some of them are contained in a papyrus archive from Elephantine.
The further development of the language has already been called biblical: it is on it that the chapters "Daniel" and "Ezra" of the Old Testament are written.
Middle Aramean period
II century. n. e. is marked by the birth of new literary Middle Aramean languages, based on modern then existing colloquial. Their flowering occurs in the period of the 1st-7th centuries, after which, in connection with the Arab conquest, the Aramaic languages were extensively ousted by the Arabs. At this time, the division of languages that had arisen in the Old Aramean period to the eastern and western groups was intensifying.
The most famous of the eastern group were the Aramaic languages common in Mesopotamia and Syria, namely:
- classical Syrian;
- the Hebrew-Judean-Aramaic, on which the Babylonian "Talmud" was written, and the Old Testament was translated into the Targums;
- a classic Mandean, where members of the Mandaean community spoke and conducted liturgical worship services.
The Western group of Aramaic languages was used primarily in the Levant. It included:
- jewish Aramaic, popular in the early Byzantine era;
- christian, conditioned by the existence of translations of Christian literature of the early Byzantine period from the Greek language;
- samaritan, he wrote religious books of the Samaritan community.
The alphabet of all Middle Aramean languages has 22 signs. In Babylonian Judeo-Aramaic, the so-called square font, originated from the Old Aramaic italics, was used. The Syrian and Mandaean used their graphic signs. The Christian Aramaic used the West-letter letter, and the Samaritan Aramaic used Palaeo-Hebrew italics.
The invasion of the Arabs breeds the decline of the Aramaic language, but nevertheless during the entire Middle Ages it remains in use in many territories of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
New Aramaic languages
Just like the Middle Aramaic, the New Aramaic languages are usually distinguished according to linguistic criteria for the western and eastern groups.
Representatives of the Western group are the three dialects of one language (Western New Aramaic), available in three Syrian villages (Maalula, Bach and Jubbadin), which, however, are often considered to be three separate languages.
The eastern group includes many languages, the exact number of which is not established. They are divided into subgroups:
- language turoyo and dialect mlahso (southeast of Turkey);
- the New-Mandelian language, in which the Mandaeans communicate (the south of Iraq and Ahvaz);
- northeastern New Aramaic languages, which include about a dozen languages, and often there is no mutual understanding between their speakers;
- jewish-Aramaic languages-Kurdish Jews (Lahlukhs) spoke to them.
Today, according to existing estimates, the number of native speakers using it in everyday life does not exceed 200 thousand people. This is a small number of residents of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Armenia and Georgia. Also in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon there are Christian communities conducting worship services and praying in Aramaic. In particular, rabbinical literature in the Hebrew dialect of the Aramaic language, which since the Middle Ages already represents an extensive collection, continues to be published right up to the present day. For example, halakhic works are predominantly created in this language. And since this literature is addressed to a relatively small number of people who have the appropriate education, the Aramaic language has a fairly high social status in orthodox Jewish communities.