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Aramaic (Classical Syriac: ܐܪܡܝܐ, romanized: Ārāmāyā; Old Aramaic: 𐤀𐤓𐤌𐤉𐤀; Imperial Aramaic: 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡀; Jewish Babylonian Aramaic: אֲרָמִית; Western Neo-Aramaic Maaloula_square_alef.svgMaaloula_square_yod.svgMaaloula_square_mem.svgMaaloula_square_resh.svgMaaloula_square_alef.svg) is a Northwest Semitic language that originated in the ancient region of Syria, and quickly spread to Mesopotamia and eastern Anatolia where it has been continually written and spoken, in different varieties,[1] for over three thousand years.[2][3][4][5] Aramaic served as a language of public life and administration of ancient kingdoms and empires, and also as a language of divine worship and religious study. Several modern varieties, the Neo-Aramaic languages, are still spoken by Assyrians, and some Mandeans and Mizrahi Jews.[6][7][8][9][10]

Quick facts: Aramaic, Region, Language family, Early forms...
ܐܪܡܝܐ / ארמיא / 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡀 / Maaloula_square_alef.svgMaaloula_square_yod.svgMaaloula_square_mem.svgMaaloula_square_resh.svgMaaloula_square_alef.svg
RegionMesopotamia, Levant, Fertile Crescent, Northern Arabia
Early forms
Standard forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Ārāmāyā in Syriac Esṭrangelā script
Syriac-Aramaic alphabet

Aramaic belongs to the Northwest group of the Semitic language family, which also includes the Canaanite languages such as Hebrew, Edomite, Moabite, and Phoenician, as well as Amorite and Ugaritic.[11][12] Aramaic languages are written in the Aramaic alphabet, a descendant of the Phoenician alphabet, and the most prominent alphabet variant is the Syriac alphabet.[13] The Aramaic alphabet also became a base for the creation and adaptation of specific writing systems in some other Semitic languages, such as the Hebrew alphabet and the Arabic alphabet.[14]

The Aramaic languages are now considered endangered, since several varieties are used mainly by the older generations.[15] Researchers are working to record and analyze all of the remaining varieties of Neo-Aramaic languages before they become extinct.[16][17] Aramaic dialects today form the mother tongues of the Assyrians and Mandaeans, as well as some Mizrahi Jews.

Early Aramaic inscriptions date from 11th century BC, placing it among the earliest languages to be written down.[1] Aramaicist Holger Gzella notes, "The linguistic history of Aramaic prior to the appearance of the first textual sources in the ninth century BC remains unknown."[18]