You are on page 1of 8

SECTION 47

Aramaic
for

Scripts

Aramaic Languages
Peter
T.

Daniels

Classical Syriac

The

origin of Syriac script

is

not fully clear, though


fairly easily

its

development across the cen-

turies of its flowering

can be followed

thanks to dated colophons (Hatch


is

1946).

The

fullest discussion

of Syriac paleography

Pirenne 1963.

Three kinds of consonants


There are three main
varieties of Syriac writing. Oldest is the Estrangelo; during the

Golden Age there came about a schism

in the Syrian church,

on Christological

Acknowledgment:
improvements

am

extremely grateful to

Bob Hoberman

for his careful reading of

and manifold

to the treatment of Classical Syriac.

499

500

PART

VIII:

MIDDLE EASTERN WRITING SYSTEMS

TABLE

47.1: Syriac Consonants


gle verb,

some

sort of differentiation

was

required. This

at first

took the form of a sinwith the

gle dot placed over a

letter to indicate a "fuller, stronger" syllable (usually

vowel

a),

and under

it

to

mark a

"finer,

weaker" vocalization, or none


;

at all:

r<T^^
or

^bd^ [Tva:9a:] 'a work', i<:i=ai^ ^bd^ [Tavdai] 'servant'


[qat^el] 'he murdered'
,

A\ii qtl

[qait^el] 'he kills'

iV

9/^ [q^al] 'he killed'

The

latter sort

of differentiation

was generalized to mark morphological distinctions even when those specific vowels were not involved yatm sm [saim] 'he placed'. This system is already in place in the earliest dated Syriac manuscript (411 c.e.); with the schism and the Conquest in the seventh century, further specification of vowel quality became essential, and the system of vowel points found
in

table

47.2,

first

column, began to emerge. The system

was perfected in East Syrian manuscripts of the ninth century. In the West Syrian sphere, the pointing system was at first maintained; but Jacob of Edessa (later 7th century), showing how complicated it had become, proposed inserting vowel letters into the consonantal text. This scheme was never used. Instead,
the vowel letters of

Greek could be placed alongside

the Syriac consonant letters

(table 47.2, second column) above or below as space dictated; the odd orientation of the vowel signs is explained by the Syriac scribal practice of writing downward on
the page, left to right (90 counterclockwise

from the direction of reading). The date


(etc.) are

of introduction of the Greek vocalization cannot be established more certainly than


before 1000. The vocalization systems of Syriac

described in

Morag
it is

1961.

further sign sporadically found

is

the linea occultans,

which occasionally
placed
'city';

marks a vowelless consonant, but more often an unpronounced consonant;


above or (more recently) below the affected
letter,

t<^"i=a md(n)t^ [ms^ittai]

but a line below could also represent a "fuller" pronunciation.

There are also two optional dots that indicate stop versus
of the six plosive consonants b g

fricative pronunciation

dkp

t:

qussdyd, a dot above, marks the stop; ruk-

kdkd, a dot below, marks the fricative (Segal 1989). Only a stop following a vowel or

an "underlying" vowel can be fricativized, so rukkdkd morphological information.

is

an important indicator of

The

first

lines of the

two Syriac samples might look


T<a\ci^rC

as follows, fully vocalized:

^cnzaa rCAui!>

^=i^i iruD^in

nav:i^r<"i

^.i3or< ^aiLl\<ci

Samples of Classical Syriac^

estrangelo
nyhbw
rOxur<
^nr'h^

^tyr'b^

^tw"t^

bkr

tymdq

*nzk*d

nyrm^
*.

nys"n^w<-

r^Haa*! T<^ci^v<
^r'psd
^tw"t^

:=i:ki

^ aTiiWo

rCL^co
^nkh

xKMmospxi

bkr

nwmylsw

,^swmn

ya^ ms

SECTION

47:

ARAMAIC SCRIPTS FOR ARAMAIC LANGUAGES

bhyd

wh

^yyrwsd

tymdqw

.nwhnm

rqyt^i

mm"4
rwsd

bhyw

mryhl

/.

Transliteration:

w^ns'yn
w-nasin

^mryn
amrin
say

d^kzn^

qdmyt
qadm-ayat
first-ly

rkb

'twl'

2.

Normalization:
Gloss:
^br'yt'

d-akzna
that-e.g.

rakkeb atwata
devised letters.the

3.
/.

and-men

wbhyn
and-in-them
dspr"'

2.

^ebrayata wa-b-hen

sm sam
he.set 'hr"n'

nmws\
namos-a
law-the

hkn^

wslymwn
wa-slemon

rkb

hakanna
Hkewise

rakkeb

J.
1.

Hebrew
'tw"t'

and -Solomon devised


d 'tyqr

wyhb
w-yab
and-gave

2.

atwata

d-sepre

hrane

1-^amme
to-Gentiles

d etyaqqar
to-be.honored

3. letters.the

of-languages others

/.

2.

hw dswryy^ mnhwn. wqdmyt men-hon w-qadm-ayat d-suryaya haw


by-them
and-first-ly

dyhb
d-yab
that-he.gave

Ihyrm
l-hiram

dswr
d-Sor
of-Tyre

5.

of-Syriac

demonst

to-Hiram

'Men say that as (Moses) first devised the Hebrew letters and wrote the law with them, so Solomon devised the letters of other languages and imparted them to the Gentiles in order to be held in honor by them. (He devised) first (the letters of) Syriac, which he gave to Hiram of Tyre.' -From Ishodad ofMerv's commentary on Genesis (gth century), quoted in Coxon igjo: 16.

Serto
i\vi(tv>
tjio

v^OLUO

^'^r-?

\Lo^Ll^o
^twr't^bw
.ntwld

nylmsm

nm nwhnm
^ylms'm

.nyr'dhd

nylh

^r

pes<-

Ikl

^r'psw

.nyrysbw

nyrysh

nyd nwhnm

nyrymgw

^hktsm

nwhl

'btkb

^msrtmd

'twt'

'nslb

nmtltm

'spwt

Vh

^1

^r'ysh

^r'psw

.^ynmr^w

^ytpwg^w ^ymwrw

ynwyld

^mk^

nwhl

^btktmd'trws

'ytyb

'nslb

^nmtltm

'spwt

Ikl

>ybr^w

^yyrwsw

'yrb4d

mk'

'hktsm

'

PART

VIII:

MIDDLE EASTERN WRITING SYSTEMS


sepr"^

Transliteration:

hlyn

dlwtn.

db'trwt^

dhdr'yn.

Normalization:
Gloss:

sepre
scripts

halen da-lwat-an d-b-atrawwata


those
that-at-us

da-hdar-ayn
that-around-us

that-in-places

mnhwn. men-hon
from-them
wbsyryn.

mn
man

msmlyn msamlen

wgmyryn
wa-gmirin
and-perfected
Ikl

rnnhwn
inen-hon

dyn
den

hsyryn
hassirin

some complete
wspr"^

irom them

however incomplete
blsn^

ms'mly'

twps* mtltmn^
tupsa

wa-bsirm

w-sepre

msamlayya

1-kol

metlatmana
pronounced

b-lessana

and-imperfectand-scripts complete
1.

to-each type

with-tongue

^twt^

dmtrsm^

bktb^

Ihwn
l-hon

mstkh
mestakhii
existing

^km^

dlywny^
da-1-yawnaya

2.

atuta

d-metrasma
that-inscribed

ba-ktaba

akma

S. letters
/.

in-writing to-them

such. as that-of-Greek

wrwmy^
w-romaya
and-Latin
Ikl

2.

w^gwpty^ w-eguptaya

w^rmny^.

wspr

'

hsyr"^

P
la

hw>

J.
1.

w-armanaya and-Egyptian and Armenian


mtltmn^
blsn^

W'-sepre

hassire

wa

and-scripts incomplete

not (was)

twps'
tupsa

byty

swrt^
surta

dmtktb'

2. 1-kol
3.

metlatmana
pronounced

b-lessana

baytaya
proper

d-metkatba
that-written

to-each type

with-tongue

form

1.

Ihwn
l-hon

mstkh ^

^km^

dPbry>
da-l-*^ebraya

wswryy^
wa-suraya
and-Syriac

w^rby^

2.
3.

mestakha
existing

akma
such.as

w-arbaya
and-Arabic

to-them

that-of-Hebrew

As for the scripts (used) by us or our neighbors, some are complete and perfect,
but others are incomplete and imperfect. For complete scripts, each distinct

sound has
as in

its

own

written

letter,

as in Greek, Latin, Coptic,

and Armenian; but

incomplete scripts do not have, for each distinct sound, their

own
4,

written form,

Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic'

Bar Hebraeus

(i 22^/6-1286), ''Book

of Kays,' tractate

chap,

i,

sec. i

(Mobersy ig22: 191-92, igoj: 3-4).

Bibliography

Aramaic
Abbott, Nabia. 1939. The Rise of the North Arabic Script audits Kur 'anic Development with a Full Description of the Kur 'an Manuscripts in the Oriental Institute (Onental Institute Publications 50). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gruendler, Beatrice. 1993. The Development of the Arabic Scripts: From the Nabatean Era to the First Islamic Century According to Dated Texts (Harvard Semitic Studies 43). Atlanta: Scholars
Press.

Klugkist, A. C. 1982.

"The Importance of the Palmyrene Script for Our Knowledge of the Development of the Late Aramaic Scripts." In Arameans, Aramaic and the Aramaic Literary Tradition,

ed. Michael Sokoloff, pp. 57-74. Bar Ilan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University Press. Rosenthal, Franz. 1939. Die aramaistischen Forschungen seit Theodor Noldeke's Verojfentlichungen. Leiden: Brill.

Rosenthal, Franz, ed. 1967.


parts.

An Aramaic Handbook (Porta Linguarum

Orientalium

10). 2 vols, in

Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Classical Syriac
Brockelmann, Carl. i960. Syrische Grammatik,
I976(isted., 1899). Hatch, William Henry Paine. 1946. Academy of Arts and Sciences.
rev. ed. Leipzig:

VEB

Verlag Enzyklopadie, repr.

An Album

of Dated Syriac Manuscripts. Boston: American

Moberg, Axel. 1907-13. Buch der Strahlen: Die grossere Grammatik des Barhebraus. Ubersetzung nach einem kritisch berichtigten Texte mit textkritischem Apparat und einemAnhang: Zur Terminologie. Vol.
i,

Einleitung, Traktat I-III, 1913; vol. 2, Einleitung

und zweiter

Teil,

1907.

Leipzig: Hjirrassowitz.

La grande grammaire de Gregoire Barhebraeus. Texte syriavec une introduction etdes notes (ActSi Reg. Societatis Humaniorum Litteramm Lundensis 4). Lund: Gleerup. Moller, Garth I. 1988. "Towards a New Typology of the Syriac Manuscript Alphabetr Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 14: 1^3-9^].
.

1922. Le livre des splendeurs:


edite d'apres les manuscrits

aque

Morag, Shelomo. 1961. The Vocalization Systems ofArabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic: Their Phonetic and Phonemic Principles (Janua Linguarum Series Minor 13). The Hague: Mouton.
Muller-Kessler, Christa. 1991.

Grammatik des Christlich-Paldstinisch-Aramdischen,paTt

i:

Schrift-

PART

VIII:

MIDDLE EASTERN WRITING SYSTEMS


Formenlehre (Texte und Studien zur Orientalistik 6). Hildesheim: Olms. ed., trans. James A. Crichton. London:
ist ed., 1880.)

lehre, Lautlehre,

Noldeke, Theodor. 1904. Compendious Syriac Grammar, 2nd

Williams

& Norgate. (German orig., 1898;


"Aux

Pirenne, Jacqueline. 1963.

origines de la graphie syriaque.' Syria 40: ioi-37-

Segal, Judah B. 1953. The Diacritical Point

and the Accents

in

Syriac (London Oriental Series

2).

London: Oxford University Press.


.

1989. ''Qussaya and Rukkaka:

A Historical Introduction." Journal of Semitic

Studies 34:

483-91.

THE WORLD'S WRITING SYSTEMS

'^'^'l^^^^''
William Bright