Syria is a country in the Middle East that lies between Turkey and Lebanon, and borders the Mediterranean Sea. Arabic is the official language in Syria, while numerous dialects of the language are spoken on a daily basis in the country. Before Arabic was introduced in the Syrian territory, Aramaic was the dominant language, and it is still spoken in some communities.
Arabic: The Official Language of Syria
Modern Standard Arabic is recognized as the language of the education system, although it is not native to all of the country’s inhabitants. The language managed to spread to other regions of Syria in the 7th century when Muslims settled the nation. Syrian Arabic is written from right to left, although the Arabic numbers are drafted from left to right.
Arabic Dialects Spoken in Syria
Numerous variations of the Arabic language are spoken in different regions. Nearly 17 dialects are recognized in the country, including Mesopotamian Arabic. This language is native to the Mesopotamian basin of a handful of countries including Iraq, Syria, Iran, as well as Turkey. The language is classified into two main groups, both of which are used in Syria. Levantine Arabic is widely spoken at home in Syria. The language is not only used in the country, but it is embraced in the Eastern Mediterranean coastal strip, and it is seen as being among the five primary variants of Arabic. The language is related to languages such as Anatolian Arabic and North Mesopotamian Arabic. Bedawi Arabic is another native tongue to Syria and it is spoken by a population of Bedouins. The refugees from the diaspora who have settled in Syria use their respective languages, mainly Palestinian Arabic, as well as Iraqi Arabic.
Minority Languages of Syria
Kurdish is mostly spoken in Eastern Syria among Kurdish communities. Most of the Kurds, however, take pride in a good grasp of Arabic. Kurdish also has speakers in Damascus and Aleppo. The Kurds makeup 6% of Syria's population and speak the Kurmanji form of Kurdish.
Aramaic is widely spoken by an estimated 30 villages situated north of Damascus. Over time, most of the ethnic Aramaics have adopted Arabic as their first tongue. Western Neo-Aramaic has been identified as the last of the Western Aramaic languages in use, and it has speakers in Syria. The language has speakers in the three Syrian villages of Ma'loula, Bakh'a, and Jubb'adin, all of which are located about 35 miles northeast of Damascus. The variation spoken in Bakh'a has been influenced less by Arabic in comparison to the other villages. The survival of these dialects has been attributed to the relative segregation of the villages, as well as their tightly knit Christian communities.
A community of Syrian Assyrians who have Assyrian descent accounts for 4 to 5% of Syria's population. The Al-Hasakah Governorate, in particular, has large numbers of this community. The Assyrian Neo-Aramaic dialect is the most common variation of the current Assyrian language. The language makes use of the Syriac script and also has some Jewish Aramaic dialects popular with Assyrian Jews in the country. The Assyrians have also adopted Arabic.
Foreign Languages Spoken in Syria
French and English are used in educated Syrian circles, particularly in Aleppo and Damascus. Of the two, English is more popular.
Syrian Sign Language
The deaf society in Syria makes use of the Syrian Sign Language for communication. The language is similar to those used in Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan.