Old and Imperial Aramaic

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Aramaic belongs to the Western branch of the Semitic language family and together with Ugaritic, Hebrew, Phoenician, and some other Canaanite idioms constitutes the Northwest Semitic sub-group. This chapter discusses the Aramaic language with a focus on historical settings and textual evidence, language contacts and social settings, Aramaic grammar, and nominal morphology and morphosyntax. In western Syria, Aramaic tribes promoted their local Aramaic dialect (Old Aramaic (OA)) to a literary language for representational and probably also administrational purposes. The bulk of the Imperial Aramaic (IA) texts stems from Egypt, most notably from the island of Elephantine in the south. Aramaic was in contact with many languages from the entire Middle East; often the contact can also be associated with distinct social settings. The OA and IA dialects exhibit some differences in phonology, morphology, and spelling practices. In OA and IA, the emphatic consonants were pharyngealized, and vowel length was phonemic.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Languages
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons Inc.
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781119193814
ISBN (Print)9781119193296
StatePublished - 2020


  • Imperial aramaic
  • Language contacts
  • Nominal morphology
  • Old aramaic
  • Social settings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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