Aramaic: Is it understood by Arab natives?

Whodunit

Senior Member
Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
:) ,أهلاً يا ناسي العريرون​

After having seen "The Passion of the Christ" (a film in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin) in amazement, I've come to think about whether Aramaic and Latin would still be understood by their heritors of today. In this thread, I want to concentrate on Aramaic (not Modern or Neo-Aramaic), because both Arabic and Aramaic belong to the Central Semitic language branch.​

My question is whether you, as native Arabic speakers would be able to understand spoken Aramaic, as it was used by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago? I'm not asking about mutual intelligibility, but rather about understanding the gist of what is said. If you've never heard Aramaic in all your life, here's the Lord's Prayer in the old language. I'm not allowed, for obvious reasons, to post a link to the movie (where you'll be able to hear it spoken, subtitled in English) here, but you can contact me via PM, if you need it. :)

:) .شكرًا جزيلاً على جميع أخوبتكم الواضحة
 
  • Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    I didn't understand any of the Lord's Prayer, I have however watched an Aramaic TV program before, and recognised quite a few words, but as far as being able to get the gist of what's being said, not really.
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    I didn't understand any of the Lord's Prayer, I have however watched an Aramaic TV program before, and recognised quite a few words, but as far as being able to get the gist of what's being said, not really.
    Yeah I agree. I picked out some phrases in The Passion of the Christ like "wahad minhom" ("one of them") and "int mlik?" ("you're a king?") but the rest I could only recognize because I was alerted to them by the subtitles. Bear in mind though, that we don't really know what old Aramaic sounded like. We do know what some versions of modern Aramaic sound like, and there's no way an Arabic speaker can understand any of it:

    http://www.syriane.com/syrianyat/
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    If you've never heard Aramaic in all your life, here's the Lord's Prayer in the old language. I'm not allowed, for obvious reasons, to post a link to the movie (where you'll be able to hear it spoken, subtitled in English) here, but you can contact me via PM, if you need it.
    That link to the Lord's Prayer is quite a stretch - that man is obviously not a native speaker of any modern dialect of Aramaic, nor likely a member of any church in which liturgical Syriac is the normal language of prayer. I mean, that pronunciation wouldn't be too easy to understand for people who actually use Aramaic either in speech or in prayer.

    The Lord's Prayer in Aramaic, however, does contain a lot of roots which are common in Arabic, but would not be understood without close inspection:

    (The dialect I refer to below are collectively the dialects in the Levant, which I am most familiar with, and which would be expected to have the most similarity to Aramaic if any at all because this was an Aramaic speaking area before the arrival of Arabic)

    abbuun d ba-shmaayaa, nitqaddash shmakh, titee malkuutakh, newe Sebyanakh, aykanaa d bshmaayaa af b-ar3aa.

    hab lan la7maa d suunqaanan yawmnaa, u shbooq lan 7awbayn aykanaa d af 7nan shbaqan l-7ayaabeen, wlaa ta3lan l-nisyuunaa ella paSaan men biishaa.

    me-Tul d-diilakh hiiy malkuutaa w-7eelan w-teshbuu7taa, l-3alem 3almiin. Amiin.

    abbuun d ba-shmaayaa
    Our father who art in heaven:
    abb - father, ba- in (in North Levantine, bi- is common for "in"), shmaayaa (cf. "samaa'")

    suffix -n is "our" like نا - the connecting form أبو for "our father" is all similar to Arabic. The normal word in Aramaic for father (unconnected) is Abb or Abbaa.


    nitqaddash shmakh
    Hallowed be thy name (lit. Let your name be made holy)
    qaddash - to make something holy, (nitqaddash is a passive), similar to Arabic root q-d-s, plus the وزن (or binyan in Hebrew) of the verb looks "passive" of qaddash.

    shmakh = shm + akh or, name+your (cf. dialect Arabic -ak)

    titee malkuutakh
    Thy kingdom come (lit. Let your kingdom arrive)
    titee - feminine singular imperfect, cognate with Arabic أتى. The use here can mean "Your kingdom shall come" or "May your kingdom come" - The Aramaic imperfect can be used like a jussive/implied imperative/subjunctive or for future tense. Cf. the use of the imperfect in dialect Arabic without b- prefix (ya3Tiik il-3aafiye - May He give you health)

    malkuut-akh - your kingdom. Malkuut is cognate with common root m-l-k to mean "king" as well as "ownership." The wazn is different from Arabic (mamlaka). According to the Mawrid dictionary, ملكوت also means "kingdom" or "empire"

    newe Sebyanakh
    Thy will be done
    In Arabic there exists "صبأ إلى" which means "to yearn for, to desire, to strive for" In this way, "Sebyan" is like a maSdar. Dialect Arabic has maSaadir (and maybe classical too) like this, like "3arfaan" from "3iref". I'm not sure about newe - it may be related to the same root as نوى which means to "intend" and since it is in the perfect form, the idea is that the prayer hope the Sebyan will already come true. (aspect and tense are a little separate in classical Aramaic and classical Hebrew and you can use the perfect for a variety of non-past situations).

    aykanaa d bshmaayaa af b-ar3aa
    On earth as it is in heaven. (Lit. just as it is in heaven also on earth)
    I'm not sure about the first word. It might be separable into morphemes, and ka- is like the classical prefix for "as, like-".

    I forgot to mention this before, but the prefix d- is a relative pronoun and a possessive in Aramaic. It combines the meanings of dialect illi and taba3 or classical لـ، الذي،التي etc.

    As for the change of ض - to 3ayin in Aramaic, this is normal sound correspondence between the languages. Daad in Arabic corresponds to Saadi (tzadi) in Hebrew and 3ayin in Aramaic. 3ayin in Arabic also corresponds to 3ayin in Aramaic. So in Hebrew أرض is rended as 'erS (or modern eretz) and in Aramaic as 'ar3. (the -aa in ar3aa is grammatical - it's kinda like the definite article ال).

    hab lan la7maa d suunqaanan yawmnaa
    Give us this day our daily bread (lit. Give us bread that we need today).
    I looked in Al-Mawrid, and it seems the word هبة (hiba) means a gift, present or donation. Also with the same root, وهب means to donate, to give to.

    lan- to us. Unlike عطى, this verb (hab) needs the indirect object pronoun lan (لنا, or dialect ilna).

    la7m- this root means bread in both Aramaic and Hebrew but meat in Arabic. My guess is the original ancestral root meant "food" or "meal." That means that a place-name like Bethlehem probably meant something like an ancient "restaurant" or "inn."

    d suunqaanan - literally d- (which is) suunqaan (need) -an (our). The syntax is similar to dialect laazimna لازمنا. I can't find an Arabic root س-ن-ق. But due to nasal-sonorant similarity, it's possible the original root was س-ل-ق or س-ر-ق or س-م-ق (cf. the derivation of dialect mnii7 from مليح). These don't make sense in Arabic though, so a cognate might not exist.

    u shbooq lan 7awbayn aykanaa d af 7nan shbaqan l-7ayaabeen
    And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. (Lit. and forgive us our debts just as we also forgive our debtors/creditors?.)

    u shbooq .... shbaqan "sh" corresponds to س in Arabic. سبق exists, but it doesn't mean forgive. So I'm not sure if the two are really related, otherwise there has been a big change in meaning.

    7-y-b/7-w-b might be related to خ-ي-ب like the verb خيّب which means to frustrate or thwart someone's plans. (ح and خ both correspond to 7 in Aramaic). The basic meaning is we forgive people who do wrong to us.

    7nan: us/we cf. dialect إحنا i7na.

    wlaa ta3lan l-nisyuunaa ella paSaan men biishaa
    And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

    The root 3-l-(y) means to bring someone up, bring someone to something, as well as being related to the word for "high." The cognate in Arabic is in the adjective عالي, although the normal word for the verb "go up" is طلع.

    nisyuun means "temptation" but it eerily looks like it has the root for "woman" in it - as if it meant "womannness." I think this is more likely relation (women are connected in judeo-christian theology with temptation and sin). It might also be related to نسي, and meant "forgetfulness" but I like the other explanation.

    ella - like إلاّ in Arabic, only here it means "instead" or "but rather."

    paSaa - sorry no clue :). If it was related to an Arabic root, the root would probably be ف-ص. Certainly not all proto-semitic roots survived in Arabic ;).

    men - just like من

    biish - This cognate with the root بأس in Arabic. بأس is harm, damage, injury. بئس (which if it were a colloquial word might be pronounced biis without hamza)- is a word for evil or an evil person as well calamity and misfortune.

    me-Tul d-diilakh hiiy malkuutaa w-7eelan w-teshbuu7taa
    For thine is the kingdom, the power and glory
    (Lit. since that which is yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory)

    Tul - cf. dialect طول Tuul which can mean "all" (طول عمري)

    diilakh - "yours" I don't know the cognate in classical, but in Maghrebi, they use dyaal to mean "belonging to" like in Levantine taba3. dyaalak means "yours." I don't know how dyaal evolved. But since it is pretty convincingly like the Aramaic diil- it probably is of Semitic origin.

    hiiy - hiya/hiyye. The syntax is just like Arabic: kull illi tab3tak hiyye...

    7eelan - حَيل in Al-Mawrid is listed as "strength, force, vigor" and a synonym of قوّة. And Classicists, don't be fooled, the -an suffix is not like the tanwiin on cases in Arabic at all. It is cognate of the ان suffix found on some maSaadir and adjectives. Aramaic does not have noun cases like classical Arabic. (It does however have states of the noun: absolute, emphatic/definite and construct).

    teshbuu7t- First guess: tep3ool is the equivalent of the maSdar تفعيل for verbs of wazn II فعّل. That means the main verb is shabba7. The -t suffix is feminine (ة). With that in mind, my first guess is تسبيح or تسبيحة. And, تسبيح means praise or glorification (of God). The same root is in سبحان like in سبحان الله.


    l-3alem 3almiin. Amiin.
    Forever and ever, Amen. (Lit. To the world of worlds, Amen.)

    3alem should be obvious as a direct cognate of عالم. The Hebrew version is 3oolam. 3almiin is the plural. The expression 3alem 3almiin means "forever and ever." The Hebrew equivalent is l-3oolam wa-3ed (in modern, l'olam va'ed), which literally means "to the world and continuously" (3ed is cognate of Arabic عاد to repeat/continue).

    There is a syntactic equivalent of this in: la-2abad el-2aabidiin (I mean, equivalent in the sense of stacking the singular and plural. 2abad just mean eternity, so literally "to eternity of eternities)


    Voila. After reading that, it's pretty clear that Arabic and Aramaic actually share a lot of phonology, morphology and syntax in common. However, my, umm, long elucidation does not, I suspect, make Aramaic any more intelligible to an Arabic speaker :). You could do the same thing with any two mutually unintelligible yet related languages.


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    k8an

    Senior Member
    English - Australian
    Old threat! :)

    For my two cents on the issue - Aramaic is much much closer to Hebrew than it is to Arabic. In my personal experience, I feel that Hebrew is in the middle of the two. Also, Aramaic is included in many Hebrew prayers so it seems much more familiar to a Hebrew speaker.

    For example, in Hebrew:

    abbuun d ba-shmaayaa, nitqaddash shmakh, titee malkuutakh, newe Sebyanakh, aykanaa d bshmaayaa af b-ar3aa.

    Avinu she'ba-shamayim, yitqaddash shmekha, tavo malkhutekha, ya'aseh ratzonekha, ba'aretz k'asher na'aseh ba-shamayim.
     
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