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Introduction to the Aramaic Alphabet and Scripts

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As we have seen in our lessons on the history and background of Aramaic, Aramaic has had a long history. Over that time, the Aramaic Alphabet itself has not changed, but the script used to write Aramaic has changed.

Therefore, a number of different scripts have traditionally been used in Aramaic. In this lesson, we will introduce you to each of them in turn. We will explain what each one is used for, and help you to decide which one(s) are the most appropriate for you. In general, our recommendation is:

  • Learn the 'Hebrew' Ashuri script first. These are the letters we will be covering over the next few lessons.
  • If you are interested in the Peshitta Old and/or New Testaments, then learn the Estrangela script (next).
  • If you are interested in studying the Peshitta New Testament, then learn the Serta script too.

But the main point is... don't be put off by the Aramaic Alphabet. Aramaic only has 22 letters. There are no capitals. No letters are joined together (at least in the Ashuri script). By contrast, English has 26 letters. And 26 more, in the capitals. And there are lots of other letter sounds. And English letters can be joined together. So how hard can Aramaic be, right?    :-)

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Ewan MacLeodBoth scripts were used almost certainly right from the start, with Ashuri in Israel and Estrangela outside of Israel - Estrangela covered a very wide area. There are examples in the Peshitta where mistakes in Greek can only have come from mis-reading Ashuri letters - but others where Estrangela letters were mis-read. And so, as manuscripts were copied and re-copied in different scripts, both Ashuri and Estrangela were used.
New Testament ScripsHi Ewan, I have both the Magiera New testament translation and Andrew Roth's translation. One is written in the Estrangela script the other in Ashuri . What was the original writings inspired in. Thanks, Christopher
Shelley BibeauGreetings Malphono. Can you give us guidance for using fonts on our keyboard. We have learned 3 or 4 alphabets. I am unsure how to type with them. Also, will we ever cover eastern alphabet? Hungry students :) Many thanks, Shelley
Ewan MacLeodHi Shelley, I will add the lessons for the Eastern (Swadaya) script in the next few months. I will answer your question about fonts more fully in an upcoming Q&A, but I use Accordance, BibleWorks and Logos, and they all provide their own Aramaic fonts which I use for different purposes. In addition, I have added other Syriac fonts, such as melthofonts (just Google that). It is a free download, and gives a variety of nice fonts. Once I have those fonts installed, I usually only need to type small quantities of text such as for vocabulary and phrases, so I just type in the text directly, or copy and paste it. Then I use Insert Symbol (or FontBook) to insert other characters such as vowels. That method would be cumbersome for long paragraphs, but it works for small quantities of text.
Ewan MacLeodFeel free to leave comments or questions about this lesson on the Aramaic Alphabet and Scripts!