I've lately attended a series of lectures on the history of Christianity held by a Coptic scholar. He gave a few examples of Aramaic or Syriac sentences (translated from the Bible) which might be found in a similar form in the (Arabic) Quran.

That made me a bit curious and I would like to know how people learn such an ancient language, which is no longer in daily use and maybe can only be derived from ancient scripture like Aramaic and (what I understand as) it's derivative Syriac.

What special techniques exist to learn Aramaic vocabulary?

  • Are you trying to learn Aramaic? If so, what specific struggles are you having? This will make for a much better question than asking for an impossibly broad overview of how "people" learn Aramaic.
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 10:48
  • 1
    Would it be helpful to narrow down the question to just vocabulary and ask a separate questions about learning grammar and pronunciation?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 15:36

1 Answer 1


In order to learn an ancient language, scholars usually rely on one (or several) of the following:

  1. Knowledge of related extant languages. In case of Egyptian, Koptic was the clue.
  2. Bilingual texts where one of the two languages is already well known. In case of Egyptian, the famous Rosetta stone was of great help.
  3. Some knowledge about the writing system (Cuneiform was used for several unrelated languages, but knowledge of the writing system could be transferred). Same is true for Etruscan: It can be read (but not everything is understood).
  4. Transcriptions of proper names into better-known languages help both on pronunciation and on deciphering an unknown writing system.

Ancient pronunciation is a difficult theme, and scholarly informed opinions on the pronunciation of Ancient Egyptian have changed considerably over time. Usually, the focus lies on understanding the Ancient texts, not in pronouncing them correctly.

EDIT: Since Ancient Aramaic is a well documented language that is taught on universities (e.g., for students of Christian theology or Semitic languages), there are grammars, dictionaries and even teaching materials and courses available. There is also the Bible in Aramaic language, a text with many local translations. This makes life much easier than the situation sketched above.

  • @Schultz: I will make an edit to my answer. Transcribed proper names are a clue on pronunciation (and in deciphering an otherwise unknown writing system). Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 13:35
  • @jknappen does this mean that in case of Aramaic even the pronunciation has been "Preserved" some how?
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 12:03
  • @Medi1Saif: This is a different question and I am probably not fully qualified to answer it. But there are some Aramaic phrases in the Greek NT and other clues giving us at least an idea of the ancient pronunciation of Aramaic. Commented May 23, 2016 at 12:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.