Aramaic () is a language spoken in Israel, Syria, and Mesopotamia from perhaps 500 BC until now. Today it is spoken in two Lebanese villages (Ma'aloula) and in Kurdistan and even in the USA by immigrants from this area. It is a member of the Semitic languages group. Aramaic is used in many Jewish holy texts. Some of the later parts of the Hebrew Bible, most of the Gemara section of the Talmud, and the Zohar are written in Aramaic.

Aramaic is divided into two groups: Western and Eastern.

  • Western - this group is almost extinct and included Nabatean (extinct, spoken in parts of Arabia), Palmyran (extinct, spoken in Palmyra and adjoining regions), and Palestinian-Christian and Judeo-Aramean. A Western Aramaic dialect was the spoken language in Roman Judea in Jesus' time. A few religious groups such as the monks of Mar Sarkis and some isolated followers of the Assyrian Church still speak languages of this group.

  • Eastern - this group includes Syriac, Mandean, and Neo-Assyrian (not Akkadian Assyrian) dialects/languages. Some of these are still spoken in a few villages in Syria, notably Ma'aloula, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Georgia and Armenia. Some Jewish speakers of Aramaic have immigrated to Israel and Los Angeles. There is an annual convention of native Aramaic speakers in Los Angeles. The Aramaic version of the Christian Bible is in the Syriac dialect, and a sample can be found in the article on the Lord's Prayer.

A professor at the University of California, Los Angeles is currently working on a dictionary of modern spoken Aramaic.

See also Aramaic alphabet.

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