The main difference between Aramaic and Hebrew is that Aramaic is the language of the Arameans (Syrians) while Hebrew is the language of the Hebrews (Israelites).
Both Aramaic and Hebrew are closely related languages (both Northwest Semitic) with a quite similar terminology. However, there exists plenty of grammatical and lexical variations between these two languages.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Aramaic
– Definition, Features
2. What is Hebrew
– Definition, Features
3. Similarities Between Aramaic and Hebrew
– Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Aramaic and Hebrew
– Comparison of Key Differences
What is Aramaic
Aramaic is a Northwest Semitic language. It originated among the Arameans in ancient Syria. Possessing a three-thousand-year long history, Aramaic has undergone several stages of development. However, Modern or Neo-Aramaic is a group of related languages that includes the modern spoken varieties of the Aramaic language, which was preserved and continued to evolve within the dethatched communities across the Middle East.
Furthermore, World Ethnologue has identified 19 spoken varieties of Neo-Aramaic language prevailing in the world up to this day. The largest groups of Aramaic speaking communities practice the Assyrian Neo-Aramaic language, the Turoyo. Modern Aramaic language, and the Chaldean Neo-Aramaic language.
What is Hebrew
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Northern western group. However though spoken centuries back in Palestine, Hebrew was replaced by the western dialect of Aramaic by 3rd century BC. However, even after that, people continued to use the Hebrew language as a liturgical and literary language.
Hebrews was revived as a spoken language during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today Hebrew is the official language of Israel. Being the language of the Bible, Hebrew continues to fascinate and attract people all around the world. In brief, most consider Hebrew as a holy language, and the majority of the ultra-orthodox will only use it for prayer.
Similarities Between Aramaic and Hebrew
- Aramaic and Hebrew are both holy languages due to their usage in the Bible.
- Both languages are common in Jewish communities.
- They fall under the Northwest Semitic subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages.
- Moreover, we write both Aramaic and Hebrew in the Aramaic square script.
Differences Between Aramaic and Hebrew
Aramaic is a Northwest Semitic language. It is a spoken language of Arameans. Meanwhile, Hebrew is also a Northwest Semitic language. But, it is a spoken language of Hebrews.
Hebrew was originally a biblical language. The Hebrew language came to life after 2000 years and today is a modern language with over 9 million speakers. Although Hebrew stopped being an actively spoken language, it never stopped being practised as a written language throughout history. Today, Hebrew is the official language of Israel.
Moreover, focusing on the Neo-Aramaic languages, none of them has the status of official languages in their countries. However, the majority of the modern monolingual speakers of Neo-Aramaic languages tend to be older adults, and the younger speakers currently learn Aramaic as a second language along with another mainstream language of the country as their first language.
Moreover, there exist several distinct grammatical differences between these two languages. For example, the definite article differs between these two languages. In Hebrew, the definite article is prefixed to the noun as a he, whereas in Aramaic, the definite article is suffixed to the end of the noun as an aleph. Further, there are letter changes visible between these two languages. For instance, Hebrew words that include “sh” will be often formed in Aramaic replaced with a “t.” For example, “teqel” is the Aramaic spelling of the Hebrew word “sheqel.”
In brief, the main difference between Aramaic and Hebrew is that Aramaic is a Northwest Semitic language spoken by the Arameans while Hebrew is a Northwest Semitic language spoken by the Hebrews. Unlike Hebrew, which is a flourishing language, many varieties of Aramaic language are currently facing extinction, and some are already extinct.
1. “Hebrew Alphabet” By Drdpw – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Slab with Aramaic Hatran Inscription from Hatra, Iraq, Iraq Museum“By Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia