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A branch of the Semitic family of languages, especially the language of Syria used as a lingua franca in the Near East from the 6th century bc, later dividing into varieties one of which included Syriac and Mandaean. It replaced Hebrew locally as the language of the Jews, and though displaced by Arabic in the 7th century ad, it still has about 200,000 speakers in scattered communities.

Subjects: Biblical Studies.

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