Galilean Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus of Nazareth and a significant battery of Rabbinic literature, is a language that has all but fallen into obscurity. It is perhaps one of the least understood of the ancient Aramaic dialects, and is very distinct.
Increasingly referred to as Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, Galilean is a Western dialect of Aramaic. Its closest contemporary cousins were Samaritan Aramaic and Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA), all of which shared similar features of grammar and vocabulary. While there are a large number of modern Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects, the only dialect of Western Aramaic that survives to this day is spoken in the three villages of Ma’loula, Bakh’a, and Jub’addin in Syria (collectively known as the Ma’loula dialect). Sadly with current events and violence in the middle east, the fate of this dialect is uncertain.
Due to the distinct nature of how Galileans spoke differently, early Judean Rabbis thought poorly of them, often accusing them of sloppy speech. There are several scathing stories in the Babylonian Talmud where Galileans are mocked in how they didn’t distinguish between certain consonants and vowels which were much more distinct and articulate in the prevalent Judean/Babylonian dialect. [Talmud Bavli, Erub. 53b] One such story even forbid Galileans from reciting public prayers due to their speech. [Talmud Bavli, Meg. 24b]
However, despite these differences, after the fall of the Temple in 70 AD, there was a large migration of rabbis from Judea into Galilee, and this is when the dialect flourished. Great works such as the Palestinian Talmud (a.k.a. the Jerusalem Talmud, or Yerushalmi) and the Rabba series of Biblical commentary were penned, and large schools were founded. The era of “Classical” Galilean (the “granddaughter dialect” to that which Jesus spoke) began, and it continued well into the Byzantine period.
Sadly, in the 600s AD with the rise of the first Patriarchal Caliphate, Galilean was quickly supplanted as the everyday language in Galilee by Arabic, and the linguistically “orphaned” Western, Galilean texts soon fell into the hands of Eastern Aramaic-speaking scribes for preservation.
As these scribes transmitted and re-copied these texts over the next thousand years, they were amazed at how many “errors” they found in them. They took it upon themselves to freely correct the spelling and grammar mistakes wherever they were found. At the time, they did not realize that most of these “errors” were not mistakes at all, but were genuine and proper features of the dialect.
It was not until the discovery of Galilean manuscripts in Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat (Old Cairo), Egypt that scholars had realized what had happened. Some of these old manuscripts displayed “uncorrected” features that solved a number of curiosities about the Galilean dialect that had puzzled scholars for a very long time. From there, they were able to paint a better picture about the dialect.
These particular discoveries and conclusions about Galilean are so “recent” (most made in the past 50 to 60 years) that to this day, nearly every grammar written on the Galilean dialect to date (Dalman, Oderberg, Stevenson, Levias, Marshall, etc.) has fallen victim to these corrupt “corrections.” The two grammars that are based upon sound principles (Fassberg and Sokoloff) are based on translational language and are not available in English respectively. There is still no fully articulated syntax.
This means that anyone who wants to learn Galilean has a huge task ahead of them, and must first learn classical Aramaic dialects before turning to a more holographic approach and obscure resources. Even today, Galilean tends to give scholars who are more familiar with the more prolific Eastern Aramaic dialects pause with its unusual spelling, vocabulary, and grammar.
In this course, we will be learning these peculiarities from the ground-up.
This 10-week course is a basic introduction to Galilean Aramaic, a member of the Western Aramaic family, best known as the language of Jesus of Nazareth and the Jerusalem Talmud.
This is the BETA version.
Please submit feedback directly in the comments.
As you use this course, things may change. Tests and quizzes may randomly reset or disappear and be replaced with other materials. Your feedback will be directly taken into account for those changes, so be sure to articulately express what you like as well as what you think could be better.
Once this course leaves Beta Testing: All students’ progress and grades will be reset, and the tests and quizzes re-written. Students can then choose to re-enroll in the course, and at that point completion will count as credit towards the AramaicNT.org Galilean Aramaic Online Certificate.
Introduction & Housekeeping
This section goes over the background of the language, and basics such as the alphabet and vowel system.
Pronouns & Nouns
We'll learn how to construct simple sentences in Galilean, and learn some useful phrases.
Verbs & Objects
We'll learn how verbs work in the Present Tense.
We'll learn some basic, everyday phrases.
We'll learn how to count from 1 to 1,000 - and from there to as high as we need to.
We'll learn the words for different foods and what one finds in a kitchen.
We'll learn the names of common pets and other animals.
The Final Unit Tests & Exam
Now you'll be tested on what you've learned. Good luck!