Syriac alphabet

From Academic Kids

11th century book in Syriac Serto.
11th century book in Syriac Serto.

The Syriac alphabet is used for writing the Syriac language. It is clearly related to other alphabets used to write Semitic languages.


General remarks

Syriac is written from right to left. It is a cursive (joined-up) script, where some, but not all, letters connect within a word. The alphabet consists of 22 letters, all of which are consonants. The vowel sounds are supplied by the reader's memory or by pointing (a system of diacritical marks to indicate the correct reading). In fact, three letters act as matres lectionis: rather than being a consonant, they indicate a vowel. The first letter, 'laph, often represents a glottal stop, but it can also indicate a vowel at the beginning or the end of a word. The letter waw is technically a w, but can also represent the vowels o and u. Likewise, the letter ydh represents the consonant y, but it also stands for the vowels i and e.

Forms of the Syriac alphabet

Template:Alphabet There are three major variations of the Syriac alphabet. The oldest and classical form of the alphabet is estrangel (the name is derived from the Greek description στρογγυλη, strongyl, 'rounded'). Although estrangel is no longer used as the main script for writing Syriac, it has received a bit of a revival. It is often used in scholarly publications (for instance, the Leiden University version of the Peshitta), in titles and inscriptions.

The West Syriac dialect is usually written in the sert ('line') form of the alphabet. Most of the letters are obviously derived from estrangel, but are simplified, flowing lines. The western script is usually vowel-pointed with miniature Greek vowel letters above or below the letter which they follow: Α (capital alpha) represents a, α (lowercase alpha) represents (pronounced as an o), ε (lowercase epsilon) represents e and , Ι (capital iota) represents , and a combined symbol of Υ (capital upsilon) and ο (lowercase omicron) represents .

The East Syriac dialect is usually written in the madnhy ('eastern') form of the alphabet. Unfortunately, it is often called 'nestorian', a term that was originally used to disparage Christians living in the Persian Empire. The eastern script resembles estrangel more closely than the western script. The eastern script uses a system of dots above or below letters to indicate vowels.

When Arabic began to be the dominant spoken language in Fertile Crescent, texts were often written in Arabic with the Syriac script. These writings are usually called Karshuni or Garshuni.

Syriac estrangel script

Letter Normal
Unicode character Pronunciation
'Âlaph image:aramaic_alap.png     ܐ ʔ (glottal stop)
or silent
Bth image:aramaic_beth.png image:aramaic_beth_c.png   ܒ hard: b (voiced bilabial plosive)
soft: v (voiced labiodental fricative) or w (labial-velar approximant)
Gmal Missing image

Missing image

  ܓ hard: g (voiced velar plosive)
soft: ɣ (voiced velar fricative)
Dlath Missing image

    ܕ hard: d (voiced alveolar plosive)
soft: ð (voiced dental fricative)
H image:aramaic_heh.png     ܗ h (voiceless glottal fricative)
Waw image:aramaic_waw.png     ܘ consonant: w (labial-velar approximant)
mater lectionis: u (close back rounded vowel) or o (close-mid back rounded vowel)
Zain Missing image

    ܙ z (voiced alveolar fricative)
Hth image:aramaic_kheth.png Missing image

  ܚ ħ (voiceless pharyngeal fricative)
Tth image:aramaic_teth.png image:aramaic_teth_c.png   ܛ (pharyngealized voiceless alveolar plosive)
Ydh image:aramaic_yodh.png image:aramaic_yodh_c.png   ܝ consonant: j (voiced palatal approximant)
mater lectionis: i (close front unrounded vowel) or e (close-mid front unrounded vowel)
Kph image:aramaic_kap.png Missing image

Missing image

ܟ hard: k (voiceless velar plosive)
soft: x (voiceless velar fricative)
Lmadh Missing image

image:aramaic_lamadh_c.png   ܠ l (alveolar lateral approximant)
Mm image:aramaic_meem.png image:aramaic_meem_c.png   ܡ m (bilabial nasal)
Nn image:aramaic_noon.png image:aramaic_noon_c.png image:aramaic_noon_f.png ܢ n (alveolar nasal)
Semkath image:aramaic_simkath.png image:aramaic_simkath_c.png   ܣ / ܤ s (voiceless alveolar fricative)
image:aramaic_ain.png image:aramaic_ain_c.png   ܥ ʕ (voiced pharyngeal fricative)
P image:aramaic_payin.png image:aramaic_payin_c.png   ܦ hard: p (voiceless bilabial plosive)
soft: f (voiceless labiodental fricative) or w (labial-velar approximant)
dh image:aramaic_tsade.png     ܨ (pharyngealized voiceless alveolar fricative)
Qph image:aramaic_qoph.png image:aramaic_qoph_c.png   ܩ q (voiceless uvular plosive)
R image:aramaic_resh.png     ܪ r (alveolar trill)
n Missing image

image:aramaic_sheen_c.png   ܫ ʃ (voiceless postalveolar fricative)
Taw Missing image

    ܬ hard: t (voiceless alveolar plosive)
soft: θ (voiceless dental fricative)
  image:aramaic_lamadh_alap.png       Lmadh and 'Âlaph combined
at end of word
  image:aramaic_taw_alap.png       Taw and 'Âlaph combined
at end of word

Syriac in Unicode

The Syriac Unicode range is U+0700 ... U+074F.

700 ܀܁܂܃܄܅܆܇܈܉܊܋܌܍܎܏
710 ܐܑܒܓܔܕܖܗܘܙܚܛܜܝܞܟ
720 ܠܡܢܣܤܥܦܧܨܩܪܫܬܭܮܯ
730 ܱܴܷܸܹܻܼܾܰܲܳܵܶܺܽܿ
740 ݂݄݆݈݀݁݃݅݇݉݊݋݌ݍݎݏ
ar:ابجدية سريانية

ja:シリア文字 sl:Sirska abeceda


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