The Western Aramaic languages are a group of several Aramaic languages developed and once widely spoken throughout the ancient Levant, as opposed to those from in and around Mesopotamia, which make up what is known as the Eastern Aramaic languages, which are still spoken as mother tongues by the ethnic Assyrians (including the religious denominations of Chaldean and Syriac) and Mandaeans of Iraq, north eastern Syria, south eastern Turkey and north western Iran. All of the Western Aramaic languages are extinct today except Western Neo-Aramaic.
Following the early Muslim conquests of the 7th century and the cultural and linguistic Arabization of the Levant, Arabic gradually displaced various Aramaic languages (including the Western Aramaic varieties) as the first language of most people. Despite this, Western Aramaic appears to have survived for a relatively long time, at least in some villages in mountainous areas of the Mount Lebanon range and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains (in modern Syria). In fact, up until the 17th century, travelers in the Lebanon region still reported Aramaic-speaking villages.
Today, Western Neo-Aramaic is the sole surviving remnant of the entire Western branch of the Aramaic languages, spoken by no more than a few thousand people in the Anti-Lebanon of Syria, mainly in Maaloula, Jubb'adin and Bakhah. The speakers avoided cultural and linguistic Arabization due to the remote mountainous isolation of their villages.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Western Aramaic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Owens, Jonathan (2000). Arabic as Minority Language (owens) Csl 83. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-016578-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link), page 347
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