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Cognate Language
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

When someone says that Aramaic is "a close cognate language to Hebrew," I'm not sure what that means. Wasn't it a sister language to Hebrew?

The phrase "cognate language" means the same thing as "sister language."   The term "Cognate" means having a common ancestor.  For instance, English and Danish are cognate languages, both being Germanic.

As vocabulary, sounds and grammatical features are compared, we find Hebrew and Aramaic related to a number of other languages.  This group of languages is called Semitic.  Some other languages in this group are Ugaritic, Canaanitish, Arabic, Assyrian, and Amharic. It is just a matter of how closely cognate they are.  

This Semitic group of languages is, then, in turn, related as a group to the next closest languages in the Afro-Asiatic family. This broader family includes about 1/3 of the languages of Africa.  

Hebrew is the name given to one form of a closely related family of Semitic dialects spoken in the eastern Mediterranean area of Asia.

Aram and Babylon
Aramaic gets its name from the region called Aram, an old name associated with Assyria, Syria and the western region of Mesopotamia from Turkey down to Damascus.  This language was the common language of administration of the Assyrian Empire, then was retained by the Chaldeans, who established their Chaldean Babylonian Empire by defeating the Assyrians.

Language of the Jews
Aramaic was the common language of the Fertile Crescent from about 800 BC, and became the mother tongue of many of the peoples, including the Judeans, who lost their Hebrew language during the time of Exile in Babylon, in the 400s BC.


Based on notes in an email exchange December 10, 2001
Article written 04 December 2004
Last edited 06 December 2004

Copyright © Orville Boyd Jenkins 2004
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Other rights reserved.
Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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