The Syriac language belongs to the Aramaic branch of the family of Semitic languages. The earliest datable Syriac writing dates form the year 6 CE. Syriac is the active liturgical language of many communities of the Middle East (Syrian Orthodox, Assyrian, Maronite, Syrian Catholic and Chaldaean) and Southeast India (Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara). It is also the native language of a considerable population in these communities.

Syriac is divided into two dialects. West Syriac is used by the Syrian Orthodox, Maronites and Syrian Catholics. East Syriac is used by the Assyrians (that is, Ancient Church of the East) and Chaldaeans. The two dialects are very similar with almost no difference in grammar and vocabulary. They differ in pronunciation and use different dialectal forms of the Syriac script.

A number of modern languages and dialects employ the Syriac script on one form or another. They include :

  1. Literary Syriac : The primary usage of Syriac script.
  2. Neo-Aramaic dialects : The Syriac script is widely used for modern Aramaic languages, next to Hebrew, Cyrillic and Latin. A number of Eastern Modern Aramaic dialects known as Swadaya (also called vernacular Syriac, modern Syriac, modern Assyrian and so on, an spoken mostly by the Assyrians and Chaldaeans of Iraq, Turkey and Iran), and Central Aramaic dialect, Turoyo (spoken mostly by the Syrian Orthodox of the Tur Abdin region in southeast Turkey), belong to this category.
  3. Garshuni : Arabic written in the Syriac script. It is currently used for writing Arabic liturgical texts by Syriac-speaking Christians. Garshuni employs the Arabic set of vowels and overstrike marks.
  4. Christian Palestinian Aramaic : A.k.a. Palestinian Syriac. This dialect is no longer spoken.
  5. Other languages : The Syriac script was used in various historical periods for writing Armenian and some Persian dialects. Syriac speakers employed it for writing Arabic, Ottoman Turkish and Malayalam.
The Syriac script is cursive and has shaping rules that are similar to those for Arabic. Syriac is written right to left; see the Bidirectional Algorithm.

Syriac texts employ several type styles

  1. Estrangela : (from the Greek strongulos meaning rounded) is the oldest. It is the current standard in Syriac texts and Western scholarship.
  2. Serto or West Syriac : The most cursive style, it emerged around the 8th century and is used today in West Syriac texts, as well as Turoyo (Central Neo-Aramaic) and Garshuni.
  3. East Syriac : developed into its own style around the 13th century. It is used for East Syriac and Swadaya, and in West Syriac for headers, titles and such.
  4. Christian Palestinian Aramaic : Manuscripts of this dialect employ a script similar to the Estrangela style.

Unicode's Syriac code block reserves the 80 code points from U+0700 to U+074F, of which 77 are currently assigned.

Arabic <-- Syriac --> Arabic Supplement

Number of characters added in each version of the Unicode standard :
Unicode 3.0 : 71
Unicode 4.0 : 6

Number of characters in each General Category :

Letter, Other       Lo : 34
Mark, Non-Spacing   Mn : 28
Punctuation, Other  Po : 14
Other, Format       Cf :  1

Number of characters in each Bidirectional Category :

Right To Left Arabic   AL : 48
Non Spacing Mark      NSM : 28
Boundary Neutral       BN :  1

The columns below should be interpreted as :

  1. The Unicode code for the character
  2. The character in question
  3. The Unicode name for the character
  4. The Unicode General Category for the character
  5. The Unicode Bidirectional Category for the character
  6. The Unicode version when this character was added

If the characters below show up poorly, or not at all, see Unicode Support for possible solutions.

 

Syriac

     Syriac punctuation and signs

U+0700   ܀   Syriac end of paragraph Po AL 3.0
* marks the end of a paragraph
U+0701   ܁   Syriac supralinear full stop Po AL 3.0
* marks interrogations, imperatives, and pauses, especially in Biblical texts
U+0702   ܂   Syriac sublinear full stop Po AL 3.0
* marks subordinate clauses and minor pauses, especially in Biblical texts
U+0703   ܃   Syriac supralinear colon Po AL 3.0
* marks expressions of wonder and has a distinct pausal value in Biblical texts
U+0704   ܄   Syriac sublinear colon Po AL 3.0
* used at the end of verses of supplications
U+0705   ܅   Syriac horizontal colon Po AL 3.0
* joins two words closely together in a context to which a rising tone is suitable
U+0706   ܆   Syriac colon skewed left Po AL 3.0
* marks a dependent clause
U+0707   ܇   Syriac colon skewed right Po AL 3.0
* marks the end of a subdivision of the apodosis, or latter part of a Biblical verse
U+0708   ܈   Syriac supralinear colon skewed left Po AL 3.0
* marks a minor phrase division
U+0709   ܉   Syriac sublinear colon skewed right Po AL 3.0
* marks the end of a real or rhetorical question
U+070A   ܊   Syriac contraction Po AL 3.0
* a contraction mark, mostly used in East Syriac
* placed at the end of an incomplete word
U+070B   ܋   Syriac harklean obelus Po AL 3.0
* marks the beginning of a phrase, word, or morpheme that has a marginal note
U+070C   ܌   Syriac harklean metobelus Po AL 3.0
* marks the end of a section with a marginal note
U+070D   ܍   Syriac harklean asteriscus Po AL 3.0
* marks the beginning of a phrase, word, or morpheme that has a marginal note

     Syriac format control character

U+070F   ܏   Syriac abbreviation mark Cf BN 3.0
aka sam
* marks the beginning of a Syriac abbreviation

     Syriac letters

U+0710   ܐ   Syriac letter alaph Lo AL 3.0
U+0711   ܑ   Syriac letter superscript alaph Mn NSM 3.0
* used in East Syriac texts to indicate an etymological Alaph
U+0712   ܒ   Syriac letter beth Lo AL 3.0
U+0713   ܓ   Syriac letter gamal Lo AL 3.0
U+0714   ܔ   Syriac letter gamal garshuni Lo AL 3.0
* used in Garshuni documents
U+0715   ܕ   Syriac letter dalath Lo AL 3.0
U+0716   ܖ   Syriac letter dotless dalath rish Lo AL 3.0
* ambiguous form for undifferentiated early dalath/rish
U+0717   ܗ   Syriac letter he Lo AL 3.0
U+0718   ܘ   Syriac letter waw Lo AL 3.0
U+0719   ܙ   Syriac letter zain Lo AL 3.0
U+071A   ܚ   Syriac letter heth Lo AL 3.0
U+071B   ܛ   Syriac letter teth Lo AL 3.0
U+071C   ܜ   Syriac letter teth garshuni Lo AL 3.0
* used in Garshuni documents
U+071D   ܝ   Syriac letter yudh Lo AL 3.0
U+071E   ܞ   Syriac letter yudh he Lo AL 3.0
* mostly used in East Syriac texts
U+071F   ܟ   Syriac letter kaph Lo AL 3.0
U+0720   ܠ   Syriac letter lamadh Lo AL 3.0
U+0721   ܡ   Syriac letter mim Lo AL 3.0
U+0722   ܢ   Syriac letter nun Lo AL 3.0
U+0723   ܣ   Syriac letter semkath Lo AL 3.0
U+0724   ܤ   Syriac letter final semkath Lo AL 3.0
U+0725   ܥ   Syriac letter E Lo AL 3.0
U+0726   ܦ   Syriac letter pe Lo AL 3.0
U+0727   ܧ   Syriac letter reversed pe Lo AL 3.0
* used in Christian Palestinian Aramaic
U+0728   ܨ   Syriac letter sadhe Lo AL 3.0
U+0729   ܩ   Syriac letter qaph Lo AL 3.0
U+072A   ܪ   Syriac letter rish Lo AL 3.0
U+072B   ܫ   Syriac letter shin Lo AL 3.0
U+072C   ܬ   Syriac letter taw Lo AL 3.0

     Persian letters

U+072D   ܭ   Syriac letter persian bheth Lo AL 4.0
U+072E   ܮ   Syriac letter persian ghamal Lo AL 4.0
U+072F   ܯ   Syriac letter persian dhalath Lo AL 4.0

     Syriac points (vowels)

U+0730   ܰ   Syriac pthaha above Mn NSM 3.0
U+0731   ܱ   Syriac pthaha below Mn NSM 3.0
U+0732   ܲ   Syriac pthaha dotted Mn NSM 3.0
U+0733   ܳ   Syriac zqapha above Mn NSM 3.0
U+0734   ܴ   Syriac zqapha below Mn NSM 3.0
U+0735   ܵ   Syriac zqapha dotted Mn NSM 3.0
U+0736   ܶ   Syriac rbasa above Mn NSM 3.0
U+0737   ܷ   Syriac rbasa below Mn NSM 3.0
U+0738   ܸ   Syriac dotted zlama horizontal Mn NSM 3.0
U+0739   ܹ   Syriac dotted zlama angular Mn NSM 3.0
U+073A   ܺ   Syriac hbasa above Mn NSM 3.0
U+073B   ܻ   Syriac hbasa below Mn NSM 3.0
U+073C   ܼ   Syriac hbasa esasa dotted Mn NSM 3.0
U+073D   ܽ   Syriac esasa above Mn NSM 3.0
U+073E   ܾ   Syriac esasa below Mn NSM 3.0
U+073F   ܿ   Syriac rwaha Mn NSM 3.0

     Syriac marks

U+0740   ݀   Syriac feminine dot Mn NSM 3.0
* feminine marker used with the Taw feminine suffix
U+0741   ݁   Syriac qushshaya Mn NSM 3.0
* indicates a plosive pronunciation
U+0742   ݂   Syriac rukkakha Mn NSM 3.0
* indicates an aspirated (spirantized) pronunciation
U+0743   ݃   Syriac two vertical dots above Mn NSM 3.0
* accent mark used in ancient manuscripts
U+0744   ݄   Syriac two vertical dots below Mn NSM 3.0
* accent mark used in ancient manuscripts
U+0745   ݅   Syriac three dots above Mn NSM 3.0
* diacritic used in Turoyo for letters not found in Syriac
U+0746   ݆   Syriac three dots below Mn NSM 3.0
* diacritic used in Turoyo for letters not found in Syriac
U+0747   ݇   Syriac oblique line above Mn NSM 3.0
* indication of a silent letter
U+0748   ݈   Syriac oblique line below Mn NSM 3.0
* indication of a silent letter
* also used to indicate numbers multiplied by a certain constant
U+0749   ݉   Syriac music Mn NSM 3.0
* a music mark
* also used in the Syrian Orthodox Anaphora book to mark the breaking of the Eucharist bread
U+074A   ݊   Syriac barrekh Mn NSM 3.0
* a diacritic cross used in liturgical texts

     Sogdian letters

U+074D   ݍ   Syriac letter sogdian zhain Lo AL 4.0
U+074E   ݎ   Syriac letter sogdian khaph Lo AL 4.0
U+074F   ݏ   Syriac letter sogdian fe Lo AL 4.0

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Syr"i*ac (?), a. [L. Syriacus, from Syria: cf. F. syriaque.]

Of or pertaining to Syria, or its language; as, the Syriac version of the Pentateuch.

--

n.

The language of Syria; especially, the ancient language of that country.

 

© Webster 1913.

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