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The Aramaic alphabet is an abjad alphabet designed for writing the Aramaic language. As with other abjads, the letters all represent consonants; a few matres lectionis are consonants that also represent long vowels.
The earliest inscriptions in the Aramaic language use the Phoenician alphabet. In time, the alphabet developed into the form shown below. The use of Aramaic as a lingua franca throughout the Middle East from the 8th century BCE led to the gradual adoption of the Aramaic alphabet for writing Hebrew. Formerly, Hebrew had been written using an alphabet closer in form to that of Phoenician (the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet).
The Hebrew and Nabataean alphabets are little changed in style from the Aramaic alphabet. The development of cursive versions of Aramaic led to the creation of the Syriac, Palmyrenean and Mandaic alphabets. These scripts formed the basis of the Arabic, Sogdian, Orkhon and Mongolian alphabets. Controversially, it is claimed that the Aramaic alphabet may be the forebear of the Indic alphabets.
Today, Biblical Aramaic, Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialects and the Aramaic language of the Talmud are written in the Hebrew alphabet. Syriac and Christian Neo-Aramaic dialects are written in the Syriac alphabet. Mandaic is written in the Mandaic alphabet.
Imperial Aramaic alphabet
Redrawn from A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic, Franz Rosenthal; forms are as used in Egypt, 5th century BCE. Names are as in Biblical Aramaic.
|Letter's name||Letter's Shape||in Hebrew|
|כף||ך / כ|
|מם||ם / מ|
|נון||ן / נ|
|פא||ף / פ|
|צדי||,||ץ / צ|