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syriac, hebrew, vowel, definite, tongue and syria

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TURE, one of the members of the Semitic family of languages. It is a variation or dia lect of the Aramaic tongue, which covered the districts of Mesopotamia, northern Syria, Damascus and eastern Palestine southward to Arabia Petrwa. The language of Syria, es pecially in its earlier form, differs very little from Chaldee or eastern Aramaic. The Latin equivalent of the name which is gyriacus and Its Greek equivalent mean of or pertaining to Syria or its language.

Language.— When Syriac first appeared within the view of history it must have been undoubtedly quite an ancient tongue, since its grammatical forms had assumed great definite ness, though it was subject to constant linguistic influence from the powerful and highly or ganized peoples by which it was surrounded. In later days it continued to be affected by Greek and still later by Arabic, the latter of which contributed to it many words. There was undoubtedly a very considerable body of pre-Christian Syriac literature; but this seems to have disappeared before the iconoclastic and missionary zeal of the Christian priests, though some of it may still be recorded from the ruins of very ancient Syraic cities. Syriac differs very considerably from Hebrew, more especially in its vocal system which is much more con densed than that of either Hebrew or Arabian. In the Aramaic the prefixed definite article does not exist; it is replaced by the ending °a" em phatic, but no longer definite in the sense that the prefixed article is definite. Both Hebrew and Syriac have 22 letters and these are identi cal in use and form, the dialectic difference of the two tongues being taken into consideration and allowed for. The Syriac tongue possesses 10 vowel sounds (5. a 'e e i i o o u u) which were used during the living period of the lan guage, rudicaled in the same manner as in the Semitic tongues. Later on, when it was rapidly becoming a dead speech, two distinctly different methods of representing these vowels came into use. The West Syrians borrowed their's from

the Greek alphabet, applying them in a some what indefinite manner; while the East Syrians made use of a series of dots by which they secured a much more effective vowel designa tion. The close relationship of Syriac to Hebrew and Arabic is evidenced by the fact that words having the same root in these three tongues have for the most part the same funda mental vowel sounds, with occasional inter change of letters and some slight and regular modifications indicative of the existing dialectic differences. In Hebrew the accent has a much greater tendency to lengthen the vowel than it has in Syriac, and the latter has a more primi tive vowel system than the former. The pro nominal suffixes to be found in all the mem bers of the Semitic group of languages effect fewer modifications or changes of the vowels in Syriac than in Hebrew and some of the other members of the group. Syriac possesses no neuter gender, has only two numbers, singular and plural, and had early attained to much more flexibility of construction than Hebrew; and this flexibility the Christian writers steadily increased. The Syriac verb is more regular than the Hebrew form, but it is notice able for the lack of the original passive forms which have been replaced by distinct gram matical inventions. Syriac has also contributed to its own flexibility by the invention of true tenses with the use of an auxiliary, thus at taining a decided superiority over Hebrew. The use of conjunctions and prepositions shows that Syriac was working steadily in the direc tion of an analytical construction. Its choice as the tongue in which so much early Christian literature was written was fortunate, since it gave very much greater facility to the expres sion of thought and the presentation of ideas of so many kinds which has already begun to knock incessantly at the door of a new world of religious and philosophical imagination and reason.

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