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The Alapbet
Lesson #1

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LEARN ARAMAIC

-Introduction
-1) The Alapbet
-
2) Vowels & Dialect Marks
-
3) Your First Nouns

MATTHEW

-Evidences
-Manuscripts (NEW!)
-Translations

MARK

-Evidences
-Manuscripts
-Translations

LUKE

-Evidences
-Manuscripts
-Translations

JOHN

-Evidences
-Manuscripts
-Translations

REVELATION

-Evidences
-Manuscripts
-Translations

 

Posted by Steve Caruso , updated Tuesday, August 20, 2002 8:29 AM

The most important part of any written language is, you guessed it, the alphabet. A series of symbols or glyphs designed to represent the spectrum of sounds speakers make. Throughout the world, there are hundreds of different alphabets and writing systems. Aramaic happens to stem from one of the oldest, the old Phonecian (the same that Greek came from) and Aramaic has been written dowm for approximately the last 3000 years. Needless to say, it has shifted forms many times throughout it's life, and still thrives today!

In Aramaic, the alphabet is called the "alépbeet" based off of it's first two letters ܐ (alép) and ܒ (beet). Now with those two introductions, here's the rest of the family in their traditional order:

ܐ ܒ ܓ ܕ ܗ ܘ ܙ ܚ ܛ ܝ ܟ ܠ ܡ ܢ ܣ ܥ ܦ ܨ ܩ ܪ ܫ ܬ

And now here they are with a bit more information about them.

First, a blown up version of the letter,
Followed by a romanization and it's name spelled out in Aramaic,
Followed by it's pronounciation,
Followed by how it is represented in my romanizations.

ܐ

"Alép"
(ܐܳܠܰܦ)

Pronounciation:
Silent!

Romanization:
_ (underlined)

ܠ

"Léméd"
(ܠܰܡܰܕ)

Pronounciation:
"L" as in "Live"

Romanization:
"L"

ܒ

"Beet"
(ܒܺܝܬ)

Pronounciation:
"B" as in "Boy"

Romanization:
"B"

ܡ

"Meem"
(ܡܺܝܡ)

Pronounciation:
"M" as in "Mother"

Romanization:
"M"

ܓ

"Gamél"
(ܓܐܡܰܠ)

Pronounciation:
"G" as in "Girl"

Romanization:
"G"

ܢ

"Noon"
(ܢܽܘܢ)

Pronounciation:
"N" as in "Noon"

Romanization:
"N"

ܕ

"Dalat"
(ܕܳܠܳܬ)

Pronounciation:
"D" as in "Dog"

Romanization:
"D"

ܣ

"Simkath"
(ܣܺܡܟܳܬ݂)

Pronounciation:
"S" as in "Slip"

Romanization:
"S"

ܗ

"He"
(ܗܶܐ)

Pronounciation:
"H" as in "Hot"

Romanization:
"H"

ܥ

"'e"
(ܥܶܐ)

Pronounciation:
A very soft, sharp "uh" at the back of the throat.

Romanization:
" ' "

ܘ

"Waw"
(ܘܳܐܽ)

Pronounciation:
"W" as in "Wish"

Romanization:
"W"

ܦ

"Pe"
(ܦܶܐ)

Pronounciation:
"P" as in "Fish"

Romanization:
"F"

ܙ

"Zayn"
(ܙܳܝܢ)

Pronounciation:
"Z" as in "Zebra"

Romanization:
"Z"

ܨ

"Tsade"
(ܨܳܕܶܐ)

Pronounciation:
A "TS" as at the end of "Quince"

Romanization:
"TS"

ܚ

"Kheyt"
(ܚܶܝܬ)

Pronounciation:
A hard "CH" as in "Bach"

Romanization:
"KH"

ܩ

"Qoop"
(ܩܽܘܦ)

Pronounciation:
A "G" at the back of the throat. Use your epiglottis! :-)

Romanization:
"Q"

ܛ

"Ghayth"
(ܛܳܝܬ݂)

Pronounciation:
Like a sounded Kheyt (sounded as in the difference between "S" and "Z" or "P" and "B").

Romanization:
"GH"

ܪ

"Resh"
(ܪܶܫ)

Pronounciation:
"R" as in "Rip"

Romanization:
"R"

ܝ

"Yood"
(ܝܽܘܕ)

Pronounciation:
"Y" as in "Yes"

Romanization:
"Y"

ܫ

"Shin"
(ܫܺܝܢ)

Pronounciation:
"SH" as in "Shower"

Romanization:
"SH"

ܟ

"Kap"
(ܟܳܦ)

Pronounciation:
"K" as in "Kick"

Romanization:
"K"

ܬ

"Taw"
(ܬܳܘ)

Pronounciation:
"T" as in "Top"

Romanization:
"T"

 

These basic consonants make up all of the words of the Aramaic language, but, as I stated earlier, there are MANY versions of this alépbeet. Check out the chart below to see which set your computer's Unicode font displays in.

NOTICE!
FOR NOW I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU ONLY LEARN THE ALÉPBEET THAT YOUR COMPUTER DISPLAYS IN

Although I do list other alpbits here, the lessons will mainly be using the alépbeet that your computer displays as a default, and Estrangela. (Since most computers display Estrangela by default this should be no problem). After you're more familliar with the language I would recommend you learning about the other writing systems.

I warn about this only because trying to learn 5 different alépbeets for the same language at once will only result in a headache.

 

Estrangela / Estrangelo:

The most well-known Aramaic script is Estrangela. This is what the most ancient Aramaic documents containing the New Testament were written in, and it is the basis for what all modern Aramaic alapbets are derived from. In Estrangela, there are three types of letters, which I have seperated out using three rows. In the first row, we have our normal letters. These can be used at the beginning of words, and in the middle of words (intermedial).

At the end of words, however, some letters (kap, mim, nin, and simkath) have what are called "final forms." Much like modern Hebrew, these letters are written differently if found at the end of a word.

Kap and Nun even have another form called an "unattached" form. When they are written on their own as a single letter, or if they're found at the end of a word after a letter that does not have a line after it to attach to other letters (like a Waw) they are written as shown in row three.

Estrangela Letter Combinations:

In Aramaic script, certain letters look differently when they are combined. There are only two such combinations in Estrangela: (from right to left)

Taw-Léméd
When a Lmd preceeds a final Alp, it takes on this form, where the two letters crisscross.

Taw-Alép
When a Taw preceeds a final Alp, it takes on this form, the second leg of the Alp absorbed into the Taw, and the two stems crisscrossing.

 

 

Eastern:
(aka Swadaya, Neostorian, Assyrian, etc.)

The closest of the other scripts to Estrangela is the Eastern script family. It is written identically to Estrangela, only the letters are drawn a bit differently (the most notable of these being Alep, Dalat, He, Waw, Mim, Rish, and Taw), and Alp now has a final form.

In Eastern script, Estrangela characters are used for titles, names, and headlines.

Eastern is also the most likely script that your computer will display in Unicode.

Eastern Letter Combinations:

Eastern script, like Estrangela, has combinations as well, only there are four of them (three groups). Going from right to left:

Resh-Final Alp and Dalat-Final Alp
When a Resh or a Dalat preceeds a Final Alp, the Alp is "demoted" to a normal Alp.

Lmd-Alp
When a Lmd preceeds a final Alp it takes on this form.

Taw-Alp
When a Taw preceeds a final alp, it takes on this form. The form on the left is the old "traditional style" (note how it looks more closely to the Estrangela Taw-Alp) while the form on the right is the modern script.

 

 

Western:
(aka Serto, Jacobite, Maronite etc.)

This script happens to be my favorite out of all of the scripts I know, but it is the most confusing for someone new to the language. This evolved from Estrangela during the Westward spread of Christianity. It is the most "cursive" script of all Aramaic scripts, and has a look that's pleasing to the eye. Ironically, one form of this script is named "Serto," which quite litterally means "scratch." Funny how "scratch" is, in my opinion, the most beautiful of the scripts.

Since it is very flowing and suited for writing with a pen, each letter has two forms (two different ways to be written) but three uses: Initial, Intermedial, and Final. As described above:

When a letter is written at the beginning of a word (Initial), it is always written as shown in the first row.

When a letter is written in the middle of a word (Intermedial)), it is always written as the character right above the line; and,

When a letter is written at the end of a word (Final), it is always written as shown in the second row, otherwise (if there is no letter in row two) as in row 1.

For example, if a Waw is written the same way no matter where it is, but an Alep is only written as a squiggly line at the beginning of words.

Western Letter Combinations:

Alp-Lmd Combinations

Since Serta (the Western Alpbeet) is designed to be a flowing, written script ("cursive" as you might say) there are several combinations. The first two have to do strictly with the letters Alp and Lmd.

Alp-Lmd
This combination is only used at the beginning of words, the Alp written on the slant of the Lmd.

Lmd-Alp
The exact opposite of the previous example. It can be utilized anywhere in a word. For example, the Aramaic word for "no" (La) is this combination by itself.

Now come the combinations that make more sense. The "G" (Gml and Ghayth) Combinations.

Although the chart above may look menacing, all you need to do is remember one thing:

When a Lmd or 'E follows a "G" character, it's stem is an extention of the ending upwards stroke.

This can occur anywhere in a word, so I have left examples of both final and medial characters.

 

Hebrew Blockletters:

This should be a very familliar script to anyone who knows modern Hebrew, or is a student of Old Testament studies. Aramaic was written in this script for many hundreds of years in many different places.

The Aramaic in the Old Testament is preserved to this day in Hebrew Blockletters.

Hebrew Blockletters only have 5 Final forms, written as shown in row 2 only at the end of words.

Although the writing logistics are much simpler, the largest problem with Hebrew is that many letters look so much alike, making it difficult to read at a distance. For example, on signs in Israel, the scripts must exaggerate the baseline of a Beth (Bit), so that it does not look like a Kap. The same goes for the toplines of Dalet (Dalat) and Resh (Rish).

If you haven't already guessed, the letters, themselves, have different names than their Aramaic counterparts, usually the only variance being vowels.

 

Ancient Aramaic:

The oldest Semetic alapbet, Ancient Aramaic is what Hebrew and Estrangela came from. This script is what the Old Testament was originally written in, without vowels or dialect marks. When God wrote on the wall, this is what it was in, and His Name was revealed in these characters.

Since some of the letters look VERY much alike (ie, it is very difficult to tell apart a Dalat from a Rish, except for the slight bend on the "stem"), this alapbet dropped out of use millenia ago, but we still have many inscriptions that have been unearthed that survive to this day.

 

Well that's the Alapbet in a nutshell.

On to Lesson 2: Vowels! :-)

 

Everything © 2002 Steve Caruso unless otherwise noted.
Please feel free to use this for private or public use, just send me an email first! :-)


 


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