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SEMITIC LANGUAGES:

Languages spoken by the Semitic peoples (comp. Semites). These peoples are the North-Arabians, the South-Arabians, the Abyssinians (ancient and modern), the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians, the various Aramean tribes, the Hebrews and their kindred (the Moabites and Edomites), the Canaanites, and the Phenicians and their colonies.

Not Related to the Aryan Tongues.

Like the Aryan languages, the various dialects of the Semitic group are inflectional. Both in the Aryan and in the Semitic tongues the agglutinative stage of development has passed, and words (such as verb-stems and pronouns) originally placed in juxtaposition have been worn down and welded into inflectional forms. Here the analogy ends; and the differences between the two groups are so striking that it is probable that they belong to two independent families of languages, each developed in a different part of the world quite apart from the other, and each representing an independent evolution of human speech.

The most fundamental characteristic of the Semitic languages is the triliteral form of their roots. With the exception of some biliterals, each root consists of three letters, as "ḳtl." A few have been worn down through use; but most of the words still exhibit the triliteral character. These roots consist entirely of consonants, vowels being only secondary; the substantial meaning resides in the former. When vowels are added the word is inflected, as "ḳatala"="he killed," "ḳâtilun" "="one who kills," and "ḳutila"="he was killed." The Aryan roots are totally different, as "i"="go," "sthâ"= "stand," and "vid"="know." The Semitic languages contain a system of guttural and palatal letters, some of which ("alef," "'ayin," and "ghayin") have no parallels in Aryan, and are nearly impossible for Aryan vocal organs. Moreover, the Aryan languages have an elaborate system of tenses; the peoples which originated them were careful to express when an action occurred. The Semites possess but two so-called tenses, neither of which primarily denotes time, but which simply represent an action as complete or incomplete: while little attention is paid to the time of an action or state, the manner of its occurrence is expressly noted; i.e., whether it was done simply or intensively, whether it was done reflexively or was caused by another, whether it was complete or incomplete, etc. Semitic modes of indicating these ideas, such as the doubling of the middle radical (thus, "ḳattala") to express the intensive, the prefixing of "'a," "ha," or "sha" to represent the causative idea, and the prefixing of "na" or prefixing or inserting of "t" to express the reflexive, are absolutely foreign to the genius of the Aryan tongues. In expressing the dependence of one noun upon another in the genitive relation Semites modify the first noun, producing what is known as the construct state, while theAryans modify the second or dependent noun. In short, the whole method of conceiving and expressing thought is different in the two groups of languages.

Relation to the Hamitic Tongues.

With reference to the languages sometimes called Hamitic the case is quite different. Here a degree of kinship is demonstrable. The Hamitic tongues are the ancient Egyptian, Coptic, Tameshek, Kaby'e, Bedza, Galla, Somali, Saho, Belin, Chamir, and Dankali, or 'Afar. The kinship of this group to the Semitic is indicated by the following facts: (1) The oldest known representative of the group, Egyptian, possesses the peculiar gutturals "alef" "'ayin." (2) The roots of ancient Egyptian, like those of the Semitic languages, were criginally triliteral (comp. Erman in "Sitzungsberichte der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin," 1900, p. 350); the same is probably true with regard to the primitive stock of the whole group. (3) The personal pronouns in the two groups are almost identical; and as pronouns are ordinarily the most individual of all the parts of speech, the similarities here are the more significant. (4) In both the Hamitic and the Semitic groups intensive stems are formed by doubling the second radical (comp. Erman, l.c. p. 321; F. Müller, "Grundriss der Sprachwissenschaft," iii., section ii., pp. 268 et seq.). (5) Both groups form reflexive or passive verb-stems by prefixing or infixing the letter "t." (6) In both groups a causative stem is formed by prefixing "s" or "sh," which in some of the Semitic dialects is thinned to "ha" and even to "'a." (7) Five of the numerals, viz., two, six, seven, eight, and nine, are expressed by the same roots in the two groups (comp. Barton, "Sketch of Semitic Origins," p. 9, note 2). (8) The two groups have also the same endings to denote the two genders: masculine, "u" or "w"; feminine, "t."

It can not, therefore, be doubted that the two groups of languages sprang from the same stock. The Semitic languages betray their relationship one to another not only by similarity of articulation and grammatical foundation, but by identity of roots and word-forms; while the Hamitic languages reveal their kinship merely by a similarity in morphology and of the forms of their roots, less often in the material of the roots (comp. Müller, l.c. p. 225; Barton, l.c. p. 11).

Classification of the Semitic Languages.

The linguistic differences of the various Semitic tongues (described below) lead most scholars to divide them into two groups, the South-Semitic and the North-Semitic. Hommel ("Aufsätze und Abhandlungen," pp. 92 et seq.) proposed to divide them into East-Semitic and West-Semitic, the former consisting of Babylonian-Assyrian, and the latter including the other languages. The older and more generally accepted classification is, however, far more satisfactory, as it groups the languages much more in accordance with their similarities and differences. These groups are subdivided as follows:

South-Semitic LanguagesNorth-Arabic dialects.
South-Arabic dialects.
Abyssinian dialects.
North-Semitic LanguagesBabylonian-Assyrian.
Canaanitish dialects (including Phenician and Hebrew).
Aramaic dialects.

The probability has been demonstrated in recent years that the Hamito-Semitic stock was a part of the Mediterranean race, that its primitive home was in North Africa, and that the Semites migrated to central Arabia, where in their sheltered existence their special linguistic characteristics were developed (comp. Semites, Critical View; Barton, l.c. ch. i.). The linguistic differences between the northern and southern Semites make it probable that the ancestors of the northern group migrated at an early time to the northeastern part of Arabia, whence they found their way in successive waves to the Mesopotamian valley and thence to the Syro-Palestinian coast. The following is a tentative genealogical chart of the ancestry of the Semitic languages:

The known dialects of these languages are as follows:

Known Dialects of Semitic. South-Semitic Languages.
  • (1) North-Arabic Dialects: Old classical Arabic; North-Arabic inscriptions (various dialects); the Safaïtic inscriptions; modern Arabic (embracing many dialects, as Syrian Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, Algerian Arabic, Maltese Arabic, 'Omani Arabic, etc; often each separate village has a dialect of its own).
  • (2) South-Arabic Dialects: Minæan and Sabean inscriptions; modern South-Arabic dialects (as Mehri and Socotri).
  • (3) Abyssinian Dialects: Old Ethiopic inscriptions; Ethiopic (Ge'ez); and the modern dialects Tigre, Tigriña, Amharic, Hararī, and Gurāgē.
North-Semitic Languages.
  • (1) Babylonian-Assyrian (including inscriptions from c. 4000 B.C. to c. 250 B.C.).
  • (2) Canaanitish Dialects: Canaanitish glosses in the El-Amarna tablets; Hebrew (including Biblical Hebrew and post-Biblical Hebrew); Moabitish (Moabite Stone); Phenician (including Punic).
  • (3) Aramaic Dialects: West-Aramaic, including: inscriptions of Zenjirli; Jewish Aramaic (embracing Biblical Aramaic, Jewish Palestinian Aramaic [Targ. Onḳ. and Targ. Jonathan], Galilean Aramaic [Jerusalem Talmud, Jerusalem Targumim, and Midrashim]); Christian Palestinian Aramaic (a version of the Gospels), closely related to the Galilean Aramaic; Samaritan; Palmyrene inscriptions; Nabatæan inscriptions; modern dialect of Ma'lula in the Lebanon. East-Aramaic, including: Babylonian Aramaic (dockets to cuneiform tablets and the Babylonian Talmud); Mandæan; Syrian (Edessan); Syriac inscriptions from north-central Syria (comp. Littmann, "Semitic Inscriptions"); modern dialects spoken at Tur 'Abdin and in Kurdistan, Assyria, and Urumia.
Consonants and Vowels.

The Semitic languages contain the following consonants: gutturals, "alef," "'ayin", "h," and "ḥ"; lower palatals, "ḳ," "kh," and "gh"; upper palatals, "k," "g," ("y"); sibilants, "s" (ם), "ç" (צ), "s" (ש), "sh," "z," "ẓ"; dentals, "t," "d," "ṭ," "th," "dh," "ḍ"; liquids, "l," "n," "r"; labials, "p," "ph" (f), "b," "m," and "w." Some of these characters ("ḍ" and "ẓ") are peculiar to the South-Semitic group.

A comparison of the Semitic languages reveals such facts of phonetic equivalence as the following:

  • (1) In passing from one language to another the gutturals frequently interchange: 'with "h," as Arabic "'aḳtala," Syriac "'aḳṭel," but Hebrew "hiḳil," Biblical Aramaic "haḳṭel," and Sabean "hḳtl"; also Arabic "humu," but Ethiopic "'emūntū." So, "ḥ" with', as Hebrew "ḥob," Syriac "'obba," Arabic "'ubb."
  • (2) "T" and "ṭ" are frequently interchanged, as Hebrew "ḳaṭal," Syriac "ḳṭal," but Arabic "ḳatala," and Ethiopic "ḳatal."
  • (3) Hebrew "z" is often equivalent to Aramaic "d" and Arabic "dh," e.g.: Hebrew "zahabh," Aramaic "dehabh," Arabic "dhahab"; Hebrew "zabaḥ," Ethiopic "zabḥa," Aramaic "debhaḥ," Arabic "dhabaḥ."
  • (4) Hebrew and Assyrian "sh" is frequently represented in Aramaic by "t" ("th"), in Arabic by "th," and in Ethiopic by "s," as: Hebrew "shor," Assyrian "shuru," but Aramaic "tora," Arabic "thaur," and Ethiopic "sōr"; Hebrew "yashabh," Assyrian "ashabu," but Aramaic "yetheb," Syriac "itheb," Arabic "wathaba."
  • (5)"Sh" or "s" is sometimes thinned to "h" and then to'; e.g., Assyrian "shu," Sabean "su," but Hebrew "hu'," Aramaic "hu," Arabic "hua." This appears in the causative of the verb: Assyrian has a "shaf'el" (e.g., "shukshud"), which in Hebrew and Sabean is a "hif'il" (e.g., Hebrew "hiḳṭil," Sabean "hḳtl"), and in Arabic and Ethiopic "'af'el" (e.g., Arabic "'aḳtala," Ethiopic "'angar"). Aramaic exhibits all three forms, since Biblical Aramaic has the hif'il or haf'el, while Syriac presents the shaf'el and 'af'el side by side. In Phenician a further change to "y" occurred, making a "yif'il" or "if'il" (e.g., "yṭn'th"="I caused to erect").
  • (6) Hebrew "ç" (צ) is often represented in Aramaic by', and in Arabic by "ḍ"; e.g., Hebrew "'ereç," Aramaic "'ar'a," Arabic "'arḍ." For fuller illustration of consonantal equivalence compare the literature cited below.

It is characteristic of all the Semitic languages that the peculiarities of the gutturals, the weakness of "w" and "y," and the tendency of a vowelless "n" to assimilate with the following letter, create "weak" or irregular verbs and cause anomalous noun-forms.

It is probable that in primitive Semitic, as in classical Arabic, there were but three vowels, "a," "i," and "u," of each of which there were a long and a short variety. Perhaps there was also the volatilized vowel "shewa" (e). In Assyrian an "e" was developed; and in the other dialects in which the vowels can be determined both an "e" and all "o" were developed. "W" and "y" in combination with "a" resulted in the diphthongs "au" and "ai."

The Verb.

The two Semitic verb-states mentioned above are the perfect and the imperfect. The former expresses a completed action; the latter, an uncompleted action. The perfect is formed in all the languages by affixing to the verb-stem certain particles which were once pronouns or fragments of pronouns. The third person singular masculine is an exception to this, as it is the verb-stem alone. The imperfect is formed by prefixing particles, likewise of pronominal origin, to the stem, and, in some forms, by adding affixes also. The stems are vocalized differently in the different languages.

The South-Semitic languages are characterized by a fuller and more symmetrical development of the verb-forms than are the North-Semitic, by a more complete system of characters for the expression of sounds, by the fact that they often make the plural of nouns by means of internal changes (as "waḥshun"="a beast," "wuḥūshun"="beasts"), and by many minor differences.

South-Semitic Languages. Arabic.

The Arabic language with its various dialects is used to-day by a much greater number of people than is any other Semitic tongue. This preeminence it owes to the influence of Islam. Although its literary monuments are much younger than those of several of the other Semitic languages, scholars recognize in the classical Arabic (of which the Koran is the chief example) the dialect which has retained most fully the forms of the primitive Semitic speech. These were preserved in Arabic owing to the isolated position of the Arabian people. Living in the desert fastnesses of central Arabia, they were not subjected to the disintegrating influences of foreign contact. In both verb-and noun-forms, accordingly, classical Arabic is much richer than the other Semitic languages. The development of its verb may be comprehended by a glance at the verb-stems. They are as follows:

I.II.III.IV.V.VI.
ḳatalaḳattalaḳātala'aḳtalataḳattalataḳātala
VII.VIII.IX.X.XI.XII.
inḳatalaiḳtatalaiḳtallaistaḳtalaiḳtāllaiḳtautala
XIII.XIV.XV.
iḳtawwalaiḳtanlalaiḳtanla(y).

Of these forms, I. denotes the simple action; II., the intensive of I.; III., an attempted or indirect action; IV., a causative action; V. is reflexive of II.; VI. is reflexive or reciprocal of III.; VII. and VIII. are reflexive or passive of I.; IX. and XI. areused to denote inherent qualities or bodily defects; X. is a reflexive of IV.; and XII.-XV., while rare and obscure, seem to indicate the doing of a deed, or the possession of a quality, in intensity. All the forms except IX. and XI.-XV. possess a passive as well as an active voice, whence it will be seen that the characteristic of the Semitic verb in contrast with the Aryan has here its fullest expression. In the imperfect of the verb, also, Arabic is more fully developed than the other languages, having the following modes in both the active and the passive voices:

  • Indicative.
  • Subjunctive.
  • Jussive.
  • First Energic.
  • Second Energic.

Moreover, in the richness of its development of infinitives or verbal nouns Arabic far surpasses the other Semitic tongues. This is not easily illustrated in a short article; but it has led grammarians to make the Arabic forms the standard by which to measure and explain all Semitic nouns. In the modern dialects of Arabic many of the refinements of form and syntax are neglected, and much phonetic decay is apparent.

Minæan and Sabean.

The grammatical development of the South-Arabic dialects seems to be less complete. In the older dialects, as known from the inscriptions (which are written in a distinctive South-Arabic alphabet), the verb-stems corresponding to the Arabic I., II., III., V., VI., VII., VIII., and X. are found. Instead of the Arabic IV. ('af'al), in Minæan the original "sh" of the Semitic causative is preserved in a saf'el (as "saḳnaḳa"), and in Sabean it is only thinned to a hif'il (as "haḥdatha"). In the modern dialects (Mehri and Socotri) considerable decay is noticeable.

Abyssinian Dialects.

The oldest inscriptions from Abyssinia are written in the Sabean script, but inscriptions of about 380 C.E. written in the Ge'ez character are met with. In the Ge'ez (or Ethiopic) a version of the Scriptures was soon made; and there exists in it a considerable Christian literature. It is still the sacred language of Abyssinia, bearing to the modern dialects much the same relation that Latin bears to the Romance languages. While Ethiopic has many features in common with the other South-Semitic dialects (such, for example, as "broken" or internal plurals), it has preserved some features in common with certain members of the North-Semitic group (such as the "k" of the first person perfect of the verb). Such characteristics are important philologically; for coincidences in languages far removed from one another in locality are strong evidence of the survival of primitive features. Ethiopic, moreover, has evolved the most symmetrical development of the Semitic verb. It has, first, the stems corresponding to the Arabic I., II., and III. Then it makes a causative not only of I., as in Arabic, by prefixing "'a," but also of II. and III. in like manner. Again, from the three stems first mentioned it makes three passive or reflexive stems by prefixing "ta." Then, lastly, from each of the three simple stems it forms a causative-reflexive stem by prefixing "'asta." Thus a very symmetrical system of twelve forms is secured. The modern Abyssinian dialects present considerable linguistic change from the Ethiopic. Of these the Tigre and Tigriña are closely related, while the Amharic, Hararī, and Gurāgē form another closely related group.

As noted above, the North-Semitic languages are not so closely related to one another as are the South-Semitic. It seems probable that from a common North-Semitic home in northeastern Arabia, where they had been but loosely held together, the ancestors of these tongues migrated in three great separate waves, all of which moved by way of the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Of course there were many minor, intermediate waves of migration, as well as much direct mixture from Arabia later; but these three main types were strong enough to impose their languages upon later comers.

North-Semitic Languages. Babylonian-Assyrian.

The Semitic ancestors of the Babylonians migrated into the Mesopotamian valley long before the dawn of history (comp. Semites, Critical View; Barton, l.c. pp. 196 et seq.). Their language, which was perpetuated by their colonists, the later Assyrians, in some respects differs from the Semitic prototype more than does any other Semitic tongue. This is no doubt owing to the fact that upon their settlement in Babylonia the Semites came into contact with the highly civilized Sumerians, among whom they settled, and whom they gradually absorbed. At first the Semites when they committed their thoughts to writing employed the Sumerian language; but Semitic idiom betrays itself in such inscriptions as early as 4000 B.C. The Sumerians had developed a system of picture-writing. This the Semites adapted to their own language partly as a syllabic method of writing and partly as an ideographic system. Semitic was written thus as early at least as the time of Manishtu-irba (c. 3900 B.C.), and continued to be so written as late at least as the time of the Seleucid king Antiochus I. (282-261 B.C.).

Some of the most striking of the peculiarities of this dialect are as follows: (1) All the gutturals, including the lower palatal "gh," are worn away. The presence of the stronger of them is indicated by the change of an original "a" or "i" to "e." (2) The form called "permansive," which corresponds to the perfect in the other Semitic languages, has lost its original significance and is used to express a state. The imperfect has been differentiated into two forms, the shorter of which is used to express completed action, and the longer uncompleted, and thus performs the functions of both the perfect and the imperfect. (3) The forms of verb-stems exhibit the following scheme: there are four stems, which correspond in meaning respectively to the Arabic stems I., II., IV., and VII. Three of these are formed analogously to the Arabic; but the causative is the original Semitic shaf'el. Grammarians indicate these as follows: I. 1 (simple stem); II. 1 (intensive); III. 1 (causative); and IV. 1 (reflexive). By inserting a "t" in stems I. 1, II. 1, and III. 1 after the first consonant a secondary series (I. 2, II. 2, III. 2), each of which was originally the reciprocalor reflexive of a corresponding form of the first series, is produced. One other form (I. 3) is obtained by inserting in the form I. 1 the syllable "tan" after the first radical. This system is somewhat analogous to the Ethiopic verb-system, but is not so complete.

(4) Babylonian-Assyrian exhibits several phonetic laws peculiar to itself. For example, a vowelless sibilant before a dental frequently, though not invariably, becomes "l"; as "lubultu" for "lubushtu" and "Kaldaai" for Hebrew .

The Canaanitish Group.

With the exception of a few inscriptions, of which that of Mesha (Moabite), that of Eshmunazer (Phenician), and the Marseilles inscription (Punic) are the longest, modern knowledge of the Canaanitish group is confined to Hebrew. As the Hebrews were partly, if not largely, of Aramcan stock, it follows that they adopted the language of the Canaanites among whom they settled (comp. Semites, Critical View). This Canaanitish language was spoken in Palestine and Phenicia as early as 1400 B.C.; for its idioms appear in the El-Amarna letters (comp. Tell el-Amarna). The Canaanites, who appear to have moved westward between 1700 and 1800 B.C., settled among the Amorites. The latter appear to have moved into Palestine about 2400 or 2500 B.C., at the time of the Semitic migration which brought to Babylonia the founders of the first Babylonian dynasty (comp. Paton, "Early History of Syria and Palestine," ch. iii.). It is possible that the Amorites fixed the type of the Canaanitish languages and that the Canaanites borrowed it from them, as the Hebrews did at a later time from the Canaanites. This is mere conjecture; but the divergence of Canaanitish from Aramaic would warrant one in supposing that those who developed the former were isolated from their kinsfolk at an early date. The chief distinguishing characteristic of the Canaanitish languages is the construction known as "waw consecutive," in which a peculiarly vocalized conjunction connecting two verbs in a narrative enables a discourse begun in the imperfect state to be continued in the perfect, and vice versa. This construction gives especial vividness to a narrative, enabling the reader to stand as a spectator of the original events and watch their development. It is found only in Biblical Hebrew and in the Mesha inscription on the Moabite Stone. From later Hebrew, from Phenician (no known inscription of which is earlier than 500 B.C.), and from Punic, it has disappeared.

The forms of the verb-stems known in (Canaanitish are: the "ḳal" (simple stem = Arabic I.), the "pi'el" and "pu'al" (active and passive of the intensive, Arabic II.), the "hif'il" (Phenician, "yif'il") and "hof'al" (active and passive of the causative, Arabic IV.), the "hitpa'el," formed by prefixing "hit" to the "pi'el" (reflexive of the latter, equivalent to Arabic V.), and the "nif'al" (equivalent in form and meaning to Arabic VII.). Compare Hebrew Language.

Aramaic.

The Arameans appear in history about 1500 B.C. At this time they were making their way westward via Mesopotamia into Syria (comp. Paton, l.c. ch. vii., viii.). They were the middlemen of the East; and their language became a means of international communication, displacing both Babylonian and Hebrew. Thus it happens that many of the dialects, through the literary monuments of which Aramaic is known to-day, are dialects spoken by foreigners.

Jewish Aramaic

The oldest Aramaic known is found in dockets to Babylonian tablets, inscriptions on weights, and the much longer inscriptions from Zenjirli of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. This language, though undoubtedly Aramaic, approximates much more closely to Canaanitish than does the later Aramaic. During the Persian period Aramaic was the official language of the western provinces. Some inscriptions of this period—one as early as Xerxes—and several tattered papyri in Aramaic are known, all of which exhibit much the same form of the language, though differing from that of Zenjirli. Aramaic as spoken by the Jews is known in several dialects as noted above. Of these, the Biblical Aramaic has been much influenced by Hebrew. The other Palestinian dialects closely resemble the Biblical Aramaic, but exhibit a later form of it. In them the causative in "ha" instead of "'a," and the formation of the passive by means of internal vowel-changes have disappeared (comp. Aramaic Language).

Samaritan, Nabatæan, and Palmyrene.

The Samaritans translated their sacred books into Aramaic, writing it in a script peculiar to themselves but developed out of the old Hebrew character. Their dialect of Aramaic is closely related to the other Palestinian dialects, though perhaps they softened the gutturals a little more. They have often arbitrarily introduced into their sacred books Hebrew forms from the original. This has led some wrongly to suppose that Samaritan is a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic. Aramaic is the language also of the inscriptions of the Nabatæan kingdom, which flourished for two or three centuries with its capital at Petra, until overthrown by Trajan in 105 C.E. It is thought by Nöldeke that the Nabatæans were Arabs who used Aramaic simply as a literary language. At Palmyra Aramaic inscriptions are found dating from a time shortly prior to the beginning of the Christian era down to the third century. The dialect of the Palmyrene inscriptions, while in most respects resembling closely West-Aramaic, has some features, such as the plural in א, in common with East-Aramaic.

Modern knowledge of the dialect of north-central Syria is confined to the Syriac inscriptions collected by Littmann ("Semitic Inscriptions," pp. 1-56). These offer but little grammatical material. While they exhibit some dialectical differences, the formation of the third person imperfect with "n" links the dialect with East-Aramaic.

Edessan or Syriac.

Syriac is the language of the Christian versions of the Bible made from the second century onward, and of a large Christian literature. Through this literature it became widely influential even in parts where it had not been previously known. It was called Syriac because the name "Aramaic," which belonged to the old inhabitants of the country,had come to the Christians to mean "heathen." In the eastern part of the Roman empire it was, next to Greek, the most important language until the Arabian conquest. Its characteristics, such as the imperfect in "n," and the emphatic state in "a" from which all trace of its use as a definite article had disappeared, were clearly marked from the beginning.

Babylonian and Mandæan Dialects.

The Babylonian Talmud (Gemara) is written in Babylonian Aramaic; but, as there is a constant mingling of Hebrew and Aramaic passages, the Aramaic is not pure. Closely akin to this is the dialect of the Mandæans, a peculiar sect, half Christian, half heathen, whose members lived probably in a different part of Babylonia. Mandæan is, therefore, slightly purer, because not subject to Hebrew influence. These dialects employ an imperfect either in "n" or in "l." They were displaced by the Arabian conquest, though possibly the Mandæans still speak among themselves a descendant of their old language.

In the region of ancient Assyria, Kurdistan, and Urumia dialects of Aramaic are still spoken by many Christians and by some Jews. American missionaries have developed the dialect spoken in Urumia into a new literary language. These modern dialects present many changes from the older usage, especially in verbal forms.

The Verb-Stems of Aramaic.

The formal relation of Aramaic to the other Semitic languages can, perhaps, be best illustrated by a glance at its verb-stems. These are most fully developed in Edessan and Mandæan, where are found (I.) a simple stem = Arabic I.; (II.) an intensive stem = Arabic II.; (III.) an 'af'eland (IV.) a shaf'el, both equivalent to Arabic IV. A reflexive of each of these stems is formed by prefixing "t." As this "t" is vowelless it takes prosthetic' with the auxiliary vowel "i," making '"it." Thus stems V., VI., VII., and VIII. became the reflexives of I., II., III., and IV.

In the Jewish Palestinian dialects the shaf'el and its reflexive (i.e., stems IV. and VIII.) are wanting. In Biblical Aramaic and the inscriptions of Zenjirli the haf'el takes the place of the 'af'el, and it has no reflexive; so that in these dialects stems IV., VII., and VIII. are wanting.

Bibliography:
  • F. Müller, Grundriss der Sprachwissenschaft, iii., section ii., Vienna, 1887;
  • Erman, Das Verhältniss des Aegyptischen zu den Semitischen Sprachen, in Z. D. M. G. xlvi. (1892) 93-126;
  • idem, Die Flexion des Aegyptischen Verbums, in Sitzungsberichte der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1900, pp. 317-353;
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  • Vassalli, Grammatica della Lingua Maltese, Malta, 1827;
  • Reinhardt, Ein Arabischer Dialekt Gesprochen in Oman, Berlin, 1894;
  • Marçais, Le Dialecte Arabe Parlé à Tlemçen, Paris, 1902;
  • Littmann, Zur Entzifferung der Safa-Inschriften, Leipsic. 1901;
  • idem, Zur Entzifferung der Thamudenischen Inschriften, Berlin, 1904;
  • Hommel, Süd-Arabische Chrestomathie, Munich, 1893;
  • D. H. Müller, Mehri- und Soqotri-Texte, in Anzeigen der Kaiserlichen Academie der Wissenschaften in Wien, phil.-hist. Classe, 1900-3;
  • Die Mehri und Soqotri Sprache, Vienna, 1902;
  • Jahn, Die Mehri-Sprache in Südarabischen, ib. 1902;
  • D. H. Müller, Epigraphische Denkmäler aus Abessinien, ib. 1894;
  • Dillmann, Grammatik der Aethiopischen Sprache, Leipsic, 1857;
  • Prätorius, Grammatica Æthiopica, Berlin, 1886;
  • idem, Die Amharische Sprache, Halle, 1879;
  • Guidi, Grammatica Elementare della Lingua Amariña, 2d ed., Rome, 1892;
  • Prätorius, Grammatik der Tigriñasprache, Halle, 1871;
  • Vito, Grammatica Elementare della Lingua Tigrigna, Rome, 1895;
  • Mondon-Vidailhet, La Langue Harari et les Dialectes Ethiopiens du Gouraghê, Paris, 1902;
  • Delitzsch, Assyrian, Grammar, Leipsic, 1889;
  • Lyon, Assyrian Manual, 2d ed., Boston. 1892;
  • Gesenius, Hebräische Grammatik, 26th ed. (by Kautzsch), Leipsic, 1896;
  • Eng. ed. (by Collins and Cowley), Oxford, 1898;
  • König, Lehrgebäude der Hebräischen Sprache, Leipsic, 1881-97 (comp. bibliography under Hebrew Language);
  • Schröder, Die Phönizische Sprache, Halle, 1869;
  • C. I. S. Paris;
  • Lidzbarski, Handbuch der Nord-Semitischen Epigraphik, Giessen, 1898;
  • idem, Ephemeris für Semitische Epigraphik, ib. 1900-3;
  • Cooke, North Semitic Inscriptions, Oxford, 1903;
  • Kautzsch, Grammatik des Biblisch-Aramäischen, Leipsic, 1884;
  • Dalman, Grammatik des Jüdisch-Palästinischen Aramäisch, ib. 1894;
  • Luzzatto, Elementi Grammaticali di Caldeo Biblico e Dialetto Talmudico Babilonese, Padua, 1865;
  • Nicholls, A Grammar of the Samaritan Language, London, 1858;
  • Petermann, Brevis Linguœ Samaritanœ Grammatica, Berlin, 1873;
  • Nestle, Brevis Linguœ Syricœ Grammatica, Leipsic, 1881;
  • Nöldeke, Kurzgefasste Syrische Grammatik, 2d ed., Leipsic, 1898;
  • idem, Mandäische Grammatik, Halle, 1875;
  • idem, Grammatik der Neusyrischen Sprache, Leipsic, 1868;
  • Littmann, Semitic Inscriptions, New York, 1904.
  • See also Grammar.
  • Of lexicons the following may be mentioned: Lane, Arabic Lexicon, London;
  • Dillmann, Lexicon Linguœ Æthiopicœ, Leipsic, 1865;
  • Gesenius, Hebräisches und Aramäisches Handwörterbuch, 13th ed. (by Buhl), Leipsic, 1899;
  • Briggs, Brown, and Driver, Hebrew and English Lexicon, Oxford, 1892 et seq.;
  • Delitzsch, Assyrisches Handwörterbuch, Leipsic, 1896;
  • Muss-Arnolt, Assyrisch-Englisch-Deutsches Handwörterbuch, Berlin, 1894 et seq.;
  • Jastrow, Dict. London and New York, 1902;
  • Dalman, Aramäisch-Neuhebräisches Wörterbuch zu Targum, Talmud, und Midrasch, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1901;
  • Payne Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus, Clarendon Press, Oxford;
  • Brockelmann, Lexicon Syriacum, Berlin, 1895;
  • Steingass, Arabic-English Dictionary, London, 1884;
  • Wahrmund, Wörterbuch der Neu-Arabischen und Deutschen Sprachen, Giessen, 1887;
  • Cook, Glossary of Aramaic Inscriptions, Cambridge, 1898;
  • Bloch, Phoenicisches Glossar, Berlin, 1891.
  • See also Dictionaries.
T. G. A. B.
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