Undergraduate Study of Aramaic and Syriac Languages and Cultures

Clay tablet inscribed with Aramaic text. Syria, 7th Century BC.

At undergraduate level Aramaic and Syriac may be studied as additional language option for students studying courses in Egyptology and Ancient Near East Studies, Jewish Studies, Arabic, or Persian. The course may also be of interest to students studying for a degree within the Faculty of Theology.

Aramaic is a group of Semitic languages with a 3,000-year history. It has been the language of administration of empires and the language of divine worship. It is the original language of large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra, and is the main language of the Babylonian Talmud. Aramaic remains a literary and liturgical language among Jews, Mandaeans and some Christians, and is still spoken by small isolated communities throughout its original area of influence. The turbulence of the last two centuries has seen speakers of first-language and literary Aramaic dispersed throughout the world.

Syriac was originally a local Aramaic dialect in northern Mesopotamia. Before Arabic became the dominant language, Syriac was a major language among Christian communities in the Middle East, Central Asia and Kerala southern India. It is now spoken as a first language in small, scattered communities in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Israel, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.