British scientists have been attempting to preserve Aramaic, a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic, once spoken by Jesus Christ. A professor of linguistics is now making recordings of the language.
Aramaic has been around for approximately three thousand years, and the number of persons speaking it are few. Geoffrey Khan, professor of linguistics at the University of Cambridge has begun a quest to record the ancient language before it completely disappears.
After speaking to a Jew from Erbil in northern Iraq, who speaks Aramaic, Professor Khan was stunned. “It completely blew my mind,” he told Smithsonian.com.
“To discover a living language through the lips of a living person, it was just incredibly exhilarating,” he added.
Professor Khan has found that speakers of the language can be found in various different parts of the world, from Iraq to America, including Chicago where several thousands Assyrians live.
He hopes that by recording some of the remaining native Aramaic speakers, he can then preserve the language, which is on the verge of extinction.
Khan has published several important books over the past twenty years on the previously undocumented dialects of Urmi and Sanandaj, in Iran, as well as Barwar, Qaraqosh, Erbil, Sulemaniyya and Halabja, all areas in Iraq.
Smithsonian.com reports that Khan is also working on a web-based database of text and audio records, allowing word-by-word comparisons across dozens of Aramaic dialects.
Aramaic was spoken in Israel from 539 BC to 70 AD and is, according to linguistics, the most likely language to have been spoken by Jesus. The language is known for its use in large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra.
Aramaic is also the main language of Rabbinic Judaism’s key text, the Talmud and apparently parts of the ancient Dead Sea scrolls were written in the dialect. As Jesus died on the cross, he cried out in Aramaic, "Elahi, Elahi, lema shabaqtani?" ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?").