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IV. Language and Script

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Chapter Summary

Aramaic first appeared on the stage of history when several newly emerging kingdoms, or chiefdoms, decided to use it as a written language during the opening centuries of the Iron Age. The following grammatical sketch is based on the Aramaic dialect reflected in the Tell Fekheriye text, the Aramaic inscriptions from central Syria, and Sam'alian as well as its Aramaic successor at Zincirli. Identifiable local forms of the West Semitic alphabet evolved during the 1st millennium B.C.; the first distinctive traits of the Aramaic family of scripts appeared at the end of the 9th century B.C. Due to the inherent deficiencies of its largely consonantal writing system, the phonology of Old Aramaic has to be reconstructed on the basis of internal and external evidence. When morphological case marking disappeared in Northwest Semitic around 1000 B.C., the corresponding vowel lost its grammatical function.

Keywords: Aramaic dialect; central Syria; consonantal writing system; morphological case marking; script; Tell Fekheriye text; written language



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