Western Aramaic languages

Western Aramaic
Middle East
Linguistic classification:


Glottolog: west2815[1]

Western Aramaic languages is a group of several Aramaic languages 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 extinct today except Western Neo-Aramaic.


Following the rise of Islam and ensuing mass conversions of the local indigenous populations, cultural and linguistic Arabization of new Muslims, Arabic displaced various Aramaic languages (including the Western Aramaic varieties) as the first language of most people. Despite this, Western Aramaic appears to have survived for a relatively long time, at least in some villages in mountainous areas of the Mount Lebanon range and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains (in modern Syria). In fact, up until the seventeenth century, travelers in the Lebanon region still reported 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 Ma'loula, Jubb'addin and Bakhah. The speakers consist of both Muslims and Christians who managed to escape cultural and linguistic Arabization due to the remote mountainous isolation of their villages.


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Western Aramaic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Owens, Jonathan (2000). Arabic as Minority Language (owens) Csl 83. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-016578-4., page 347

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