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Aramaic Alphabet

aramaic

The Aramaic alphabet is an abjad, a consonantal alphabet, used for writing Aramaic.

 It is akin to the Phoenician alphabet, and became distinctive from it by the eighth century BCE. As with other abjads, the letters all represent consonants, some of which are matres lectionis, which also indicate long vowels.

The Aramaic alphabet is historically significant since virtually all modern Indian and Middle Eastern writing systems use a script that can be traced back to it, as do some East Asian and Southeast Asian writing systems. This is primarily due to the widespread usage of the Aramaic language as both a lingua franca and the official language of the Persian Empire, Babylonia, and Assyria. The holy texts of Judaism and Islam, as well as certain Christian and Buddhist texts are written in scripts which are known descendants of Aramaic. The Brahmic family of scripts, which is used in Hinduism, Sikhism, and some versions of Buddhism, holds a disputed link with Aramaic.

History

The earliest inscriptions in the Aramaic language use the Phoenician alphabet. Over time, the alphabet developed into the form shown below. Aramaic gradually became the lingua franca throughout the Middle East, with the script displacing cuneiform as the official writing system of the existing empires. Its widespread usage led to the gradual adoption of the Aramaic alphabet for writing the Hebrew language. Formerly, Hebrew had been written using an alphabet closer in form to that of Phoenician (the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet).

Legacy

The Hebrew and Nabataean alphabets are little changed in style from the Aramaic alphabet. The development of cursive versions of Aramaic led to the creation of the Syriac, Palmyrenean and Mandaic alphabets. These scripts formed the basis of the Arabic, Sogdian, Orkhon and Mongolian alphabets. Controversially, it is claimed that the Aramaic alphabet may be the forebear of the Indic alphabets on the basis of certain strong similarities between the Aramaic and Brāhmī script.

Today, Biblical Aramaic, Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialects and the Aramaic language of the Talmud are written in the Hebrew alphabet. Syriac and Christian Neo-Aramaic dialects are written in the Syriac alphabet. Mandaic is written in the Mandaic alphabet.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com


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