samedi 14 avril 2001


As-Sharq Al-Awsat





Akhbar Al-Arab



Aramaic Language

Amongst all the prestigious languages that humans have developped during the course of their history, appeared the Aramaïc language.

First period

Arameans, who were semitic nomad, had settled at the thirteenth century before our era in Northern Mesopotami, then they spred in Syria and Lebanon, founding small kingdoms, as in Damascus. At the eighth century, they were subjected by the Assyrian king Teglath-Phalasar III and massively deported, and that contributed to the diffusion of their language.

Aramaïc, thanks also to Babylonian merchants, was propagated in Ancient Eastern and prevailed. This language of exchanges, diplomacy and culture became Lingua franca. From 1000 to 612 BC, the last period of the Assyrian empire, it was accepted by Assyrians as their second language after Akkadian, which it supplanted it little by little. The Aramaïc alphabet competed then ended to replace the cuneiform system.

The most ancient documents in Aramaïc writings are issued from Northern Syria, dated of the eighth century BC.

After Cyrus's conquests, Aramaïc became the official language of the Achemenid dynasty (539-330 avant J.-C.)

Second period

In Palestine, at the first century of our era, it constituted the language of people, Hebrew remained the liturgic language and the upper-classes' one. Jesus and his apostles spoke Aramaïc. In the Old Testament, some parts of the Books of Esdras, Daniel, the Talmuds of Babylon and Jerusalem were written in Aramaïc.

With the turning of Christian era, in Northern Syria, the Aramaïc language had a new impulse with its Syriac dialect . The Syriac writing appeared for the first time in rupestral inscriptions, in the city of Edessa (today Urfa, in the south-east of Turkey) and its region.

The Syriac writing was alphabetical, it included 22 signs represented consonants, it was written from the right to the left. It was developped at the third century, and took the shapes of the so-called « estranghelo » writing, (from Greek stroggulê, « round »).

Because of theological arguments, the Syriac community divided itself during the fifth century in Nestorians or Eastern-Syriacs, who lived in the Persian empire, and Jacobits(Monophysits) or Western-Syriacs, settled in Byzantine empire.

After the Arabic conquest, at the seventh century, and the arabization of the Middle-East, Syriac lost ground and influence.

Syriacs produced a great literature, comments of the Old and New Testaments, theology, philosophy, sciences, medecine. Let's quote amongst the great philosophers Bardesan (153-222), Sergius of Reshaïna (+536), Severe Sebokht (+667), Honayn Ibn Ishaq (808-873), Matta Ibn Younis (+940), Yayya Ibn Adi (+974) and Ibn al-Tayyeb (+1043) . Among the historians, Michael the Great (1126-1199), Elie of Nisibis (975-1046) and Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286) were especially famous.

From the third to the thirteenth century, the influence of Syriacs, their language, their religion, spred to Central Asia and China.

Third period

Nowadays, the Aramaïc language is still spoken by about 2 millions people. They are the Assyrians-Chaldeans and the orthodoxe and catholic Syriacs.

They still use the Syriac alphabet.

They are about half a million in Diaspora, settled in United-States, Canada, Australia, Europe. The center of their language remains in Upper Mesopotamia, where many cities and villages speak Aramaïc, scattered around the Lake of Urmia in Iran, in the region of Tur’Abdin at the south-west of Turkey, and in Syria, in the region of the river Habur.

In 1992, in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the Department of the National Education a special section was created for the teaching of the Syriac language. About thirty schools and a college follow this program, officially teaching by laïcs teachers.

About thirty newspapers are regularly printed.

Then the light of the Aramaïc language is still shining. But until when ?