Authored by: Na‘ama Pat-El

The Semitic Languages

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415731959
eBook ISBN: 9780429025563
Adobe ISBN:


 Download Chapter



Syriac is a dialect of Late Aramaic, and was spoken in parts of today’s Syria, Eastern Turkey, Mesopotamia and Kerala, India. Its position is debated; most scholars consider it an Eastern dialect, along with Jewish Babylonian Aramaic and Mandaic (Chapter 26), while others consider it a central dialect, neither Eastern nor Western. During Late Antiquity, it spread far and wide, both eastwards and westwards, from its core area around the city of Edessa in Turkey. Syriac became the language of the main non-Greek branch of Eastern Christianity, although it is likely that it was only used as a literary language in part of this area. In the 5th century, as a result of the first council of Ephesus, the church split into the Jacobite church in the west and the Nestorian church in the east, a fact that will have ramifications for the writing system of Syriac. The use of Syriac slowly declined after the Arab conquest of the Middle East in the 7th century, but the language was still used as a liturgical language and was spoken in large pockets, especially in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey (Map 25.1). It was the main vehicle of transferring Greek philosophy and science into Arabic through Syriac Christian translators, either through intermediary Syriac translations of the Greek texts or directly from the Greek original to Arabic by Syriac-Arabic bilingual translators.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.