I 'm confused. Aramaic, Amharic,Armenian.

Is Aramaic Amharic or Armenian?

Of course not. They are all separate languages.

There is quite a lot of people out there that mistake Amharic or Armenian for Aramaic just because their name has three same letters 'Arm' and it sounds more or less the similar to them.

Semitic languages.

Aramaic and Amharic

Aramaic and Amharic are distant relatives both belonging to the Semitic language family. They belong to different branches of the family. 

Semitic languages were/are Hebrew, Phoenician,Arabic,Tigrinya and Maltese.

Aramaic is an Eastern Semitic language first spoken in Upper Mesopotamia while Amharic is a south Semitic language which first appeared in the area of modern day Ethiopia.

Amharic is called አማርኛ Amarenna, sounding like Aramaic.


Aramaic originated in what is nowadays northern Iraq, Northwestern Syria and Southeastern Turkey. It became a major language and spread all over the so-called Fertile Crescent and the native for many peoples like the Jews besides the Arameans who first spoke it.

Read also When did the Jews shift to Aramaic?

A dialect of Aramaic, Galilean Aramaic is believed to have been the native language of Jesus Christ.

Aramaic is still spoken to this day in pockets in the Middle East in various countries and in the West by the diaspora. These are the Neo-Aramaic languages like Assyrian Neo-Aramaic which has the biggest number of Speakers their estimate ranging from half to one million.


All Semitic languages share a common ancestor and a similar common shared vocabulary. And that is as close as Aramaic and Amharic get.

Semitic languages belong to a bigger language family called Afro-asiatic. Ancient Egyptian and its' descendant Coptic were Afro-asiatic languages.


Armenian and Aramaic

Armenian has no connection to Aramaic whatsoever. It originated in the Caucasus and it is an Indo-european language as opposed to Aramaic which is a Semitic one.

The only similarity they have between them is that their name sounds similar in English.

Medieval Armenia.

So,no Aramaic is not Armenian nor Amharic. They are all different.

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Is Syriac and Aramaic the same?

In short, the answer is yes but sometimes no.


Syriac is Aramaic.

Syriac is just a phase in the long history of Aramaic languages.

Arameans are thought to first have appeared in the region between northern Levant and the Tigris river at about 1200 BC. 

There they formed various Aramaic speaking kingdoms like the kingdom of Aram.

The first written Aramaic is dated to about 1000BC. This was is called Old Aramaic or Ancient Aramaic and was written in the Phoenician alphabet.

From Phoenician sprung the Aramaic alphabet.

At about 200AD new regional dialects of Aramaic rose to prominence.

These were Syriac Aramaic dialects. The alphabet for Syriac was different from earlier Aramaic. It was more cursive and probably styled upon Byzantine Greek minuscule.

So,yes Syriac is Aramaic. It is to what some dialects of Old Aramaic evolved to.

Syriac and Aramaic.

Sometimes the term Aramaic is used separately to refer only to Old Aramaic not including the Syriac phase. 

And this why you will sometimes see reference to the Aramaic language and Syriac language as separate.

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When did Jews shift to Aramaic?



The Egyptians fearing the expansion of the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar moved their armies north to Assyria. They faced their enemies at Carchemish were they were defeated in 605BC.

Nebuchadnezzar
נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר‎

After their victory the Babylonians  besieged Jerusalem which resulted in Jehoiakim-king of Judah paying tribute to the Neo-Babylonian empire and young nobility of the kingdom of Judah (Bēyt Dāwīḏ in Aramaic) being transferred and kept hostages in Babylon.

Battle of Carchemish.

But in 603BC Nebuchadnezzar's army was defeated by the Egyptians ruled by Nechu II and as a result Jehoiakim revolted against his Babylonian overlords refusing to pay tribute.


Nebuchadnezzar waisted no time and moved against Jerusalem again which was captured and utterly destroyed.

The Jewish nobility and many others were forcibly exiled to Babylon. There they were forced to learn Aramaic the common language of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

Destruction of Jerusalem.
Exile to Babylon.


In 539BC the Achaemenid Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great invaded Babylonia turning it into a satrapy and subsequently giving rise to the so-called Imperial Aramaic.

A ziggurat temple.

After the fall of Babylon Cyrus allowed the exiled Jews to return to Judah. Many of them never returned settling in Lebanon, Syria and Upper Mesopotamia areas where Aramaic was the dominant language.

Others went back to Judah and rebuilt Jerusalem and the Second Temple.

Return to Zion.

The exile to Babylon and  the settlement of the Jews in Aramaic speaking areas resulted in Hebrew gradually falling out of use in favour of Aramaic.

Hebrew ceased to be a spoken language between the 2nd and 4th century C.E. after the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire.

Mered Bar Kokhba
 מֶרֶד בַּר כּוֹכְבָא

Nevertheless it continued to be used as a liturgical language.

From this time on, a  Bible interpreter -the meturgeman (translator) translated orally the Bible from Hebrew to the vernacular Aramaic. This practice lead to the targumim  (translations).



The exile of Babylon in the Bible.

Ezra 1:1-4

Cyrus Helps the Exiles to Return 
 1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: 2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. 
4 And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’



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Why you cannot learn the language of Jesus Christ.

In a few words ,because it is an obscure dialect, very poorly attested.

There are articles,posts,videos all over the internet with pompous titles about 'the language of Jesus Christ' ,the 'Lord's Prayer in Galilean Aramaic'- the dialect Jesus spoke-,'Jesus Christ's Aramaic lives on'  and many other titles of the like.

But such claims are an overstatement out of place and out of time. I will try to explain some facts about the Aramaic language, Jesus's native Galilean Aramaic dialect.

Aramaic -not one but hundreds of dialects.

First off Aramaic in not one monolithic language unchanged through time. Every language undergoes many  changes from the moment it appears. In time it changes in vocabulary,grammar, pronunciation ,it breaks up into dialects and so forth.

The same goes for Aramaic. It has changed a lot since it first appeared in the ancient kingdom of Aram around the city of Edessa. It broke up in two major dialectal branches ,Eastern and Western from which in turn broke off many dialects/languages.

You cannot expect that Aramaic has remained one and the same from the 11nth century BCE since it is thought to first appear among the Arameans til modern days. 

So,when you hear about Aramaic you need to ask yourself what Aramaic? what dialect? what time?

What language did Jesus speak?

It is agreed by linguists and historians that Yeshua Mshiha, Jesus Christ spoke Aramaic as his mother tongue.

His dialect was Galilean Aramaic spoken in the region of Galilea.

Galilean Aramaic was different from the dialect spoken in Jerusalem.

It belonged to the Western Aramaic branch while Jerusalem Aramaic belonged to the Eastern Aramaic branch.

Galilean had many differences from Jerusalem Aramaic.

It was heavily influenced by Greek -a language of prestige at the time- to the point that even  its phonology had changed having Greek like features like the loss of of guttural and ejective sounds unlike its Jerusalem relative. That indicates that speakers of Galilean Aramaic were bilingual in Aramaic and Greek. A Galilean speaker would stick out in Jerusalem. His accent would immediately give him away.

The original Lord's Prayer in Aramaic.

There is no such thing as the Lord's Prayer in Galilean Aramaic.

The 'original' Lord's Prayer in Aramaic most of the time is in Syriac Aramaic. There is no such thing as the Lord's Prayer in Galilean. Not in it's original form anyway. Even the Syriac version is not the original since it's a translation from Greek.

There are though reconstructions of the Lord's Prayer in Galilean Aramaic but these are subject to future modifications since they are a reconstruction.

Why you cannot learn the language of Jesus Christ.

Because Galilean is an obscure, very poorly attested dialect. It is in the process of being reconstructed by linguists during the last 50 years by comparison with changes in other Aramaic dialects, living or dead.

It's closest living relative is the Aramaic of the Syrian village of Maaloula.But there is a huge time span since Galilean Aramaic was spoken and the language of Maaloula in modern-day Syria.

These two have distant similarity both belonging to the Western branch. Maalula Aramaic is a rare specimen of a surviving member of the Western Branch.

Nevertheless studying the Maalula dialect, comparing it with Galilean can help linguists see which changes occurred in phonology, grammar, vocabulary and reconstruct some attributes of Galilean.


Furthermore...


Jesus did not speak Syriac Aramaic. 
Syriac belongs to the Eastern branch and it became the vehicle of Syriac Christianity in the Middle East.

Most Modern Aramaic languages like Assyrian Neo-Aramaic or Turoyo the mountain Aramaic,the two most widely spoken Neo-Aramaic languages, are descendants of Syriac.

So,which Aramaic should one learn?
That depends. Maybe you want to go for a modern spoken dialect of Aramaic. There is a huge variety of Neo-Aramaic languages differing from region to region ,from city to city,from village to village.
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is the most spoken modern Aramaic dialect with about 1 million speakers.

If you choose an ancient dialect it would be wise to go for a well-documented one like the Imperial Aramaic of the Persian Empire or Classical Syriac to get a thorough grounding in an Aramaic language. Once you got one of these well under your belt you can branch off to obscure dialects
like Galilean Aramaic.

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Assyrian Neo-Aramaic.

Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is the most spoken modern Aramaic dialect with about 9 hundred thousand speakers.It's most prestigious dialect is the Urmian dialect.

It is traditionally spoken in Upper Mesopotamia, Northern Iraq, North-northeast Iran , Azerbaijan, North-northeast Turkey and Northern Syria. But due to continuous wars in the region and persecution from the 20th century and onwards the bulk of its speakers have immigrated abroad.

Nowadays it is considered endangered because the second generation does not fully acquire the language being adapted in the language of the country they are living in.

Akkadian

Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is not to be confused with Assyrian , a dialect of the Ancient Akkadian ,another Semitic language,the language of the ancient Assyrians.

The Akkadian at one time adopted Aramaic as their second official language along with Akkadian. Bilingualism was widespread and due to the fact that Aramaic and Akkadian had similar grammar and vocabulary,both being Semitic, Aramaic eventually completely supplanted Akkadian.


Script

Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is written in the Eastern Madnkhaya version of the Syriac script.

Syriac Eastern script (Madnkhaya).


Chaldean

Chaldean is considered a sister dialect of it by some but that is a matter of debate more like political than linguistic..


Modern Assyrians

Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Turoyo make up the bulk of the modern Assyrian speakers.


Assyrian Neo-Aramaic phrases

Hello (lit. Peace be upon you).

Shmlam'alokh (singular male)

Shlam'alakh (singular female)

Shlam'alokhun (plural)

ܫܠܡ ܐܠܗܘܢ




How are you?

Dakheet(sg)?

Dakheet(oon)? (pl.)


External links

Learnassyrian.com

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Hebrew Niqqud vowels for Aramaic.

Hebrew script for Aramaic.

As I have explained many times the Hebrew alphabet known as ktav ashuri is often used to write Aramaic , Imperial Aramaic, Biblical Aramaic and Judeo-Aramaic dialects mainly.

So,it would be necessary to learn the Hebrew alphabet.


Fff

Development of the Niqqud vowels.

In late Antiquity ,early Medieval Age systems of diacritic dots were devised to denote vowels and teach the correct pronunciation, the so called Niqqud (נִקּוּד) -'diacritics' or Nikud for religious texts in Old Hebrew ,mainly for the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

Due to phonological changes in Modern Hebrew  young Hebrews do not distinguish between the subtle differences that the various diacritics mark.

Here is a table of the Niqqud vowels.



Niqqud schools.

Various dotting systems appeared during Late Antiquity with the most popular being the Tiberian dotting system from the school of Tiberias devised for the Masoretic texts to denote correct vocalization and accent. 

Jewish scholars from the city of Tiberias in Israel under Arab rule came up with a system of diacritics for the correct reading of the Tanakh.

Other notable diacritics systems are the Babylonian Niqqud and Palestinian Niqqud.

Hebrew scribes were obviously inspired by the East Syriac dotting system (Sassanid Syriac) and came up with a similar system of their own for ancient Hebrew texts.

Basic diacritics

niqqud with אאַאֶאֵאִאָאֹאֻאוּ
namepatahseg
ōl
tzerehiriqqamatzholamqubutzshuruq
value/a//ɛ//e//i//ɔ//o//u/


diacriticnamedescriptionhow to read
ַpatahhorizontal line under letterа
ָqamatza «т»  under letterа
ֵtseretwo dots under letters horizontallyэ
ֶsegōlthree dots under letters like a triangleэ
ִhiriqdot under letterи
י ִhiriq with yoddot under letter followed by yof
ֹholam haserdot over letterо
וֹholam marethe 'waw' letter with a dot aboveо
ָqamatz qatanthe «т» symbol under letter like qumutz, под буквой о
ֻqubbutzthree diagonal dots over lettersу
וּshurukletter 'waw' with a dot on the leftу

Examples

Let's take for example the word 'melek', king in Aramaic.


Here we got three dots, segols,/ɛ/, under the M and L and two dots ,a shewa under the K.


The letter Alef with a segōl underneath.


Read also

Syriac vowels

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Write 'our Father in Heaven' in Galilean.

 


'Our father in Heaven' in Galilean Aramaic is:

Hebrew letters

אבנן דבשמייא

transcription 
?bnn dbshmyy?

phonetic
ʔabənan dəvəšᵘmaya


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