Western Aramaic languages

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Western Aramaic
Middle East
Linguistic classification: Afro-Asiatic
Glottolog: west2815[1]

Western Aramaic languages is a group of several Aramaic dialects developed and once widely spoken throughout the ancient Levant, as opposed to those from in and around Mesopotamia which make up what is known as the Eastern Aramaic languages. All of the Western Aramaic languages are today extinct, with the sole exception of Western Neo-Aramaic.


Following the rise of Islam and ensuing mass conversions of the local indigenous populations, cultural and linguistic Arabization of the new Muslims, but also the remaining Christians, soon followed, and the Arabic language displaced various Aramaic languages (including the Western Aramaic varieties) as the mother tongue of the majority of the people.

Despite this, Western Aramaic appears to have survived for a relatively long time at least in some villages in mountainous areas of the Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon (in modern Syria). In fact, up until the 17th century, travelers in the Lebanon still reported on several Aramaic-speaking villages.[2]


Today, Western Neo-Aramaic is the sole surviving remnant of the entire Western branch of the Aramaic languages, spoken by no more than a few thousand people in the Anti-Lebanon of Syria mainly in Maaloula. The speakers consists of both Muslims (despite their Islamization) and Christians who managed to escape cultural and linguistic Arabization due to the remote mountainous isolation of their villages.


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Western Aramaic". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Owens, Jonathan (2000). Arabic as a Minority Language. Walter de Gruyter. p. 347. ISBN 3-11-016578-3.