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Jewish Babylonian Aramaic

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Title: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic  
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Jewish Babylonian Aramaic

Babylonian Aramaic
Region Ancient Near East
Era ca. 200–1200 CE
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tmr

Babylonian Aramaic was the form of Middle Aramaic employed by writers in Babylonia between the 4th century and the 11th century CE. It is most commonly identified with the language of the Babylonian Talmud (which was completed in the seventh century) and of post-Talmudic (Geonic) literature, which are the most important cultural products of Babylonian Jewry. The most important epigraphic sources for the dialect are the hundreds of Aramaic magic bowls written.[1]

Classification and type

The language was closely related to other Eastern Aramaic dialects such as Mandaic and the Eastern Syriac of the Assyrian Church. Its original pronunciation is uncertain, and has to be reconstructed with the help of these kindred dialects and of the reading tradition of the Yemenite Jews,[2] and where available those of the Iraqi, Syrian and Egyptian Jews. The value of the Yemenite reading tradition has been challenged by some scholars.[3] (The vocalized Aramaic texts with which Jews are familiar, from the Bible and the prayer book, are of limited usefulness for this purpose, as they are in a different dialect.)[4]

Talmudic Aramaic bears all the marks of being a specialist language of study and legal argumentation, like Law French, rather than a vernacular mother tongue, and continued in use for these purposes long after Arabic had become the language of daily life. It has developed a battery of technical logical terms, such as tiyuvta (conclusive refutation) and tiqu (undecidable moot point), which are still used in Jewish legal writings, including those in other languages, and have influenced modern Hebrew.


The language has received considerable scholarly attention, as shown in the Bibliography below. However, the majority of those who are familiar with it, namely Orthodox Jewish students of Talmud, are given no systematic instruction in the language, and are expected to "sink or swim" in the course of Talmudic studies, with the help of some informal pointers showing similarities and differences with Hebrew.[5]


  1. ^ Sokoloff 2003
  2. ^ Morag 1988
  3. ^ Morgenstern 2011
  4. ^ See the introduction in Bar-Asher Siegal 2013
  5. ^ Jay Bushinsky, "The passion of Aramaic-Kurdish Jews brought Aramaic to Israel"


  • Bar-Asher Siegal, Elitzur A., Introduction to the Grammar of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2013 ISBN 978-3-86835-084-5
  • J. N. Epstein, Diqduq Aramit Bavlit ("Grammar of Babylonian Aramaic"), 1960 (Hebrew)
  • Frank, Yitzhak, Grammar for Gemara: An Introduction to Babylonian Aramaic: Jerusalem, Ariel Institute, 2000 ISBN 0-87306-612-X
  • Jastrow, Marcus, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (reprinted many times) ISBN 1-56563-860-3
  • Kara, Yehiel, Babylonian Aramaic in the Yemenite Manuscripts of the Talmud: Orthography, Phonology and Morphology of the Verb: Jerusalem 1983
  • Klein, Hyman, An Introduction to the Aramaic of the Babylonian Talmud: London 1943
  • Kutscher, Eduard Yechezkel, Hebrew and Aramaic Studies, ed. Z. Ben-Hayyim, A. Dotan, and G. Sarfatti: Jerusalem, The Magnes Press / The Hebrew University, 1977
  • Levias, Caspar, A grammar of the Aramaic idiom contained in the Babylonian Talmud: 1900 (reprints available)
  • Marcus, David, A Manual of Babylonian Jewish Aramaic: University Press of America, Paperback ISBN 0-8191-1363-8
  • Margolis, Max Leopold, A manual of the Aramaic language of the Babylonian Talmud; grammar chrestomathy & glossaries: Munich 1910 (reprints available)
  • Melamed, Ezra Zion, Dictionary of the Babylonian Talmud, Feldheim 2005 ISBN 1-58330-776-1
  • Morag, Shelomo (1988). Babylonian Aramaic: The Yemenite Tradition – Historical Aspects and Transmission Phonology: the Verbal System . Jerusalem: Ben Zvi Institute.   (in Hebrew)
  • Morgenstern, Matthew (2011). Studies in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Based Upon Early Eastern Manuscripts. Harvard Semitic Studies.  
  • Sokoloff, Michael (2003). A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic of the Talmudic and Geonic Periods. Bar Ilan and Johns Hopkins University Press.  

External links

  • Links to selected pages of Talmud showing Yemenite vocalization
  • Grammatical synopsis

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