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Lear ni ng t o wr i t e Syr i ac on

t hi s page
In this lesson you'll learn to read and write the various
forms of the Assyrian Aramaic cursive script, which
has been used for two millenia for writing the Syriac
dialects of the Aramaic language.
Make sure you're very familiar with the basics of the
cursive script, including how to indicate vowels, how
to write the different forms of the letters in context,
and how to write simple words. After you've
thoroughly reviewed the fundamentals, take a look at
the versions of the Syriac cursive script throughout its
history.
Early Syriac Inscriptions 1.
Eastern Estrangela vs. Western Estrangelo 2.
Western Serto or "Jacobite" Script 3.
Eastern Assyrian or "Nestorian" Script 4.
LEARN TO WRI TE I N ARAMAI C SCRI PT
Writing the cursive scripts for Syriac/Assyrian Aramaic
Intro Early Aramaic Square Hand >Cursive Hand< Workbook
How to write Aramaic - learn the Syriac cursive scripts http://www.nativlang.com/aramaic-language/aramaic-writing-cu...
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Ear l y Syr i ac I nscr i pt i ons
Although most early examples of the Syriac cursive
script come from ancient Christian works, some
inscriptions are even older. The oldest of these lack
the flowing, connected nature of the later script. Still,
since you already know the cursive script, many of
the letters are instantly familiar.
Take a look at one example of the early Syriac
cursive script, the Birecik inscription, below.
EXAMPLES
1. Click to view an image of the Birecik/Birta
inscription.
2. Here's a quick transcription of the Birecik epigraph.
3. Finally, this is the same inscription rewritten in
Estrangelo & translated into English.
East er n Est r angel a vs. West er n
Est r angel o
You learned the ancient version of the in my
introduction to the cursive script. Western Assyrian
Aramaic call this script Estrangelo, while Eastern
Syriac speakers pronounce it Estrangela. The use of
the Estrangelo/Estrangela writing system doesn't
differ much between East and West. Of course, small
differences will be noticed between manuscripts,
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writers and time periods.
The most significant differences between the Eastern
and Western ways of writing of this early cursive
script are the vowel pointers. Vowel pointers look very
different in the East and the West.
EASTERN VOWEL POI NTI NG/ DI ACRI TI CS
The Eastern vowel system was also introduced in the
intro to the cursive script. I've reproduced my
examples below so you can review and compare them
to the other system.
Vowel Pointing Example
word
Description
a !
"
#
$
% & 'abb! one dot
above + one
dot below
consonant
! !
"
#
$
% & 'abb! two dots
above
consonant
e/" !
"
'#
(
) zebl! two dots
below
consonant
i/# * % +, sh#n yud with dot
below
$ -
$
./ q$p waw with dot
above
% 0 % .1 k%l waw with dot
below
WESTERN VOWEL POI NTI NG/ DI ACRI TI CS
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If vowels are added in the West, a separate set of
symbols is used above the Estrangelo consonants.
These vowel marks derive from vowel letters in the
Greek alphabet.
Vowel Pointing Example
word
Description
a
2
!#
3
& 'abb! like a turned
capital A or
even a small
triangle; < &
! !
2
#
3
& 'abb! like small
turned 9
above
previous
consonant; <
'
e/" !
2
'#
4
) zebl! like small
turned E
above
previous
consonant; <
(
i/# *+
5
, sh#n like small I
above
previous
consonant; <
)
% 0.
6
1 k%l small circle
bounded on
top & right; <
*+
HARD & SOFT CONSONANT DOTS
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Common to both dialects is a series of consonant
feature marks. Syriac has "hard" stop consonants that
can sometimes turn into "soft" fricative consonants.
When the consonant is hard, it takes a dot above (
$
7
sounds like the hard t-sound in 'stay'). When the
same consonant is soft, it takes a dot below ( % 7 sounds
like the soft t-sound in 'thing').
!
$
#89 lebe vs. ! % #:; yat!v!
Some hard consonants are heard doubled in Eastern
Syriac. This is not the case in Western Syriac.
<
$
=> gadd! (Eastern pronunciation)
DOUBLE DOTS FOR PLURAL FORMS
You may see & write the plural form of a word with
two dots, called seyame. This is an ancient &
traditional way to distinguish words in written Syriac.
When writing without vowels, many singular and
plural forms look identical if the syame is left out.
!?'@ malk! "king" vs. A , !?9 malke 'kings'
I've introduced some of the basic diacritics used in
Syriac, but other marks exist. For example, a single
line above a consonant signals that the consonant is
either silent or followed by another consonant (rather
than a vowel): B - ! !; hw!y! (for h" followed
immediately by waw) vs. & - C7 t! (for silent 'alap).
PRACTI CE EXERCI SE 1
Take a close look at the clean, legible ancient
manuscript below, and answer the following
questions.
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Does this text include diacritics? 1.
Is this style more typical of the Eastern or the
Western style introduced above?
2.
Find the words '"da d"l" 'my (own) hand' in the
text.
3.
Look for the phrase m!ran 'eth! 'our Lord has
come'.
4.
Find the word shl!m!'peace' or 'greetings'. 5.
Find the phrase Aqel#s wa Prisq$la 'Aquila and
Priscilla'.
6.
Find the phrase d Pawl#s'of Paul'. 7.
Is every vowel in the text indicated with "pointers"
or dots?
8.
Are any vowel marks different from the ones I
introduced above? Give one example.
9.
In a notebook or a separate sheet of paper, make
two short columns. Transcribe the Aramaic words
& phrases you identified above in both the the
Eastern and Western systems.
10.
Page from a Peshitta (Syriac Aramaic New
Testament) manuscript (1)
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West er n Ser t o or Jacobi t e
Scr i pt
Western scribes modified the script over time, and it
acquired a unique style. The Serto or Western writing
system is considered a distinct script, not just a
separate variant of Estrangelo handwriting. It has also
been called Jacobite due to the script's association
with Jacobite Syrian Christians.
All of the earlier concepts about writing Syriac still
apply to this script - only the letter forms have
changed. Serto is still written from right to left, still
uses matres lectionis, still has ligatures between
certain letters, and so on. Crucially, the Serto script
uses the vowels (vowel pointers) introduced for
Western Estrangela in the previous section.
Western vowels occur below tall letters, like ALAP+I.
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PRACTI CE EXERCI SE 2
Identify a number of words and phrases in the Serto
text below. Practice writing and pronouncing the
words as you do this.
Find the phrase l mall!lu 'to speak'. 1.
Find the word msarhab 'hasty'. 2.
Locate for the phrase u maw%ar 'and slow'
(twice!).
3.
Look for the phrase l meshma`'to hear'. 4.
Find the phrase `a%%ay %abb"&e'my dear
brothers'.
5.
Find the phrase l mergaz'to anger'. 6.
Look for the phrase `a%%ay %abb"&e'my brothers'. 7.
Are any of the consonants in the words above
marked "hard" or "soft"? Which ones are hard?
Which are soft?
8.
Write this phrase in Serto & Estrangelo, then
translate: msarhab l-meshma` u-maw%ar l-mall!lu
u-maw%ar l-mergaz.
9.
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Verse from the Peshitta in a Serto font
East er n or Nest or i an Scr i pt
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The Assyrian script developed separately in the East.
This way of writing Syriac is reminiscent of Estrangela
in many of its letters, but it's still distinct from both the
Estrangela script and the later Western script.
All of the earlier rules and tips for writing Syriac
apply. The Eastern script uses the vowels (vowel
pointers) introduced for Eastern Estrangela above.
PRACTI CE EXERCI SE 3
I've reprinted the text from the previous exercise
below, this time in Eastern script. Practice writing &
pronouncing the words as you do this. Answer the
same set of questions, this time reading & writing the
words in the Eastern script.
How to write Aramaic - learn the Syriac cursive scripts http://www.nativlang.com/aramaic-language/aramaic-writing-cu...
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Verse from the Peshitta in an Eastern font
Ext r a Exampl es
Click to view an early Syriac inscription in Estrangela.
Click to see an excerpt from the book of James in a
Peshitta manuscript.
Here's an image of a page from the Curetonian
gospels, one of the earliest surviving Syriac
manuscripts.
This one's a medieval manuscript in Serto (Jacobite)
script.
Here's a late Sert! manuscript.
Click to see a large image of a late manuscript in
Eastern (Nestorian) script.
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I mage Sour ces & Ref er ences
1. See the full image of this manuscript page at the
Shoynen Collection website.
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