Mon, 28 Jan 2013 12:25 UTC
Professor of linguistics at the University of Cambridge, Geoffrey Khan, has begun a quest to record the ancient language that's been around for three thousand years before it finally disappears.
Prof Khan decided to record the language after speaking to a Jew from Erbil in northern Iraq. "It completely blew my mind," Khan told Smithsonian.com.
"To discover a living language through the lips of a living person, it was just incredibly exhilarating," he added.
By recording some of the remaining native Aramaic speakers, the linguist hopes to preserve the 3,000-year-old language on the verge of extinction. Speakers can be found in different parts of the world, from America to Iraq.
Over the past twenty years Prof. Khan has published several important books on the previously undocumented dialects of Barwar, Qaraqosh, Erbil, Sulemaniyya and Halabja, all areas in Iraq, as well as Urmi and Sanandaj, in Iran. He is also working on a web-based database of text and audio recordings that allows word-by-word comparisons across dozens of Aramaic dialects, Smithsonian.com reported.
Aramaic which belongs to the Semitic family of languages is known for its use in large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra. It is also the main language of Rabbinic Judaism's key text, the Talmud. Parts of the ancient Dead Sea scrolls were written in Aramaic
The language was used in Israel from 539 BC to 70 AD. According to linguists it was most likely spoken by Jesus.