[b-hebrew] Aramaic in Babylonia

Alexey Liavdansky aliavdansky at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 6 13:24:17 EDT 2005

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" I think it was Tadmor. The idea is, that the use of Aramaic in imperial
administration spread after the Assyrian conquest of Damascus and other
Aramean kingdoms in the late 8th century. Deportations of Arameans 
have also contributed. My question is, at what stage did Aramaic 
Akkadian as the common spoken language in southern Mesopotamia? It 
seems to
have done so by the 5th or 4th centuries, even though chronicles and 
offical inscriptions were still being written in Akkadian even as late 
the Roman Period."
H.Tadmor "On the Role of Aramaic in the Assyrian Empire" // ??? writes that the western periphery of Assyria was bilingual "at the very least from the mid 9th century". Only 120 years later Aramaic became the second language of the empire, alongside Akkadian. One of the interesting points in his article that there are numerous Assyrian reliefs (Tiglath-pileser III time) portraying a scribe with a parchment scroll, presumably using alphabetic script, alongside with a scribe writing on a tablet (=cuneiform); these pictures are corroborated by the pair of terms occuring together in some cuneiform documents - tupsharru Asshuraya and tupsharru Aramaya, i.e. Assyrian scribe and Aramaic scribe.
The question is when the SECOND language becomes SPOKEN. Sometimes the non-literary documents (receipts, contracts, letters) are considered as evidence of spoken language. The best evidence would be graffity (something like outbursts of youthful creativity in a university WC). We know some aramaic graffity, but the problem with them, as far as I know , they are all from temples, a kind of private votive inscriptions. But anyhow we have quite a number of non-literary Aramaic documents form Mesopotamia (debt-notes from Asshur, annotations on Assyrian and Babylonian cuneiform tablets, a latter from Babylonia to Asshur) - all beginning with 7th cent. B.C. It stands to reason Aramaic was DOUBTLESS the SECOND (if not on a par with Accadian) language already in Neo-Assyrian Empire. We can say also it was PROBABLY one of the SPOKEN languages in Assyria at that time. One of the objections: the Aramaic writing is alphabetic which is much easier to learn and use so it might gain currency among
 scribes and be restricted at first to this class of professionals. 
Alexey Lyavdansky


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