The Syriac alphabet developed from the Aramaic alphabet and was used
mainly to write the Syriac language from about the 2nd century BC.
There are a number of different forms of the Syriac alphabet: Esṭrangelā
(ܣܪܛܐ) and Madnḥāyā (ܡܕܢܚܝܐ).
Esṭrangelā, meaning 'rounded', is the oldest form and is
considered the classical version of the Syriac alphabet. It was revived
during the 10th century, and is now used mainly in scholarly publications,
titles and inscriptions.
West Syriac is generally written with Serṭā, meaning 'line',
which is also known as the Pšīṭā (ܦܫܝܛܐ,
'simple'), Maronite or Jacobite. It was modelled on Esṭrangelā but with
simpler, more flowing lines. A version of Serṭā appeared in the earliest
Syriac manuscripts, and it became popular during the 8th century.
East Syriac is usually written in the Madnḥāyā (ܡܕܢܚܝܐ, 'Eastern') form of the alphabet,
which is also known as Swādāyā (ܣܘܕܝܐ, 'conversational/contemporary'), Assyrian,
Chaldean and Nestorian. Madnḥāyā is closer to Esṭrangelā than Serṭā.
Type of writing system: abjad
Direction of writing: right to left in horizontal lines.
Number of letters: 22 consonants, plus diacritics
Used to write: Aramaic, Syriac and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic
Letter forms change depending on their position in a word.
There are no symbols for numerals. Instead each letter has a numeric value.
Syriac scripts are usually written pointed (with vowel diacritics)
but can also be written unpointed (without vowel diacritics).
Used to write:
Aramaic, a Semitic language that was the lingua franca of
much of the Near East from about 7th century BC until the 7th century AD, when it
was largely replaced by Arabic. Classical or Imperial Aramaic was the
main language of the Persian, Babylonian and Assyrian empires and spread
as far as Greece and the Indus valley.
After Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian Empire, Aramaic ceased
to be the official language of any major state, though continued to
be spoken widely. It was during this period that Aramaic split into
western and eastern dialects.
Aramaic was once the main language of the Jews and appears in some of the
Dead Sea Scrolls. It is still used as a liturgical language by Christian
communities in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and is still spoken by small numbers
of people in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Syria.
Aramaic has also been written in versions of the
Cyrillic alphabets, though
the Syriac is the most widely used script to write Aramaic.
Syriac (ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ leššānā Suryāyā), an eastern dialect of Aramaic spoken by Christians
in the lands in between the Roman and Parthian empires between the 1st and 12th
centuries. Syriac is still used used nowadays as ritual and literary language
by speakers of Neo-Aramaic in Syria. It is also used for sermons in Syrian churches
in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Syriac has also been written with the
a member of the Aramaic branch of the Semitic language family spoken
in parts of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria by abour 220,000 people.
Esṭrangelā script (ܐܣܛܪܢܓܠܐ)
Serṭā script (ܣܪܛܐ)
Madnḥāyā script (ܡܕܢܚܝܐ)
The letters kap and nun have three different forms, the one on the right
is used in initial and medial positions, the one in the middle is used
in final positions when connected to a previous letter, and the one
of the left is used in final positions when unconnected to a previous
letter. In Estrangelo the letter kap only has a different shape when in
The letters meem and simkâth have one form for initial and medial
positions (right) and one form for final positions (left).
In the Serto script the letter lamâdh has a different initial form.
The vowel diacritics for î, ô and û are always attached
to the letters y and w, while other vowels diacritics can be attached
to any consonants.
Sample text (Syriac)
Glory to Him who has glorified and exalted the Syriac language in His holy
mouth, and [who] entrusted and handed over His life-giving teachings to His
blessed apostles in Syriac; and the renowned forefathers and the skilled
teachers of His Church have constituted and composed her beautiful liturgies
in Aramaic, and explained and translated the living words of His salvation-bringing
Gospel in the same [language].
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)