Ancient Semitic-speaking peoples  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ancient Semitic-speaking peoples were West Asian people who lived throughout the Ancient Near East, including the Levant, Mesopotamia, Arabian peninsula, and Horn of Africa from the third millennia until the end of antiquity.

The languages they spoke are usually divided into three branches: East, Central, and South Semitic. Proto-Semitic was likely spoken in the 4th millennium BC, and the oldest attested forms of Semitic date to the mid-3rd millennium (the Early Bronze Age).

Speakers of East Semitic include the Akkadians and the descended cultures of Assyria and Babylonia. Central Semitic combines Northwest Semitic and Arabic. Speakers of Northwest Semitic were the Canaanites (including the Phoenicians and the Hebrews) and the Aramaeans. South Semitic peoples include the speakers of South Arabian and Ethiopic.

Later history

Aramaic dialects continued to be dominant among the peoples of what are today Iraq, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Sinai, south eastern Turkey, and parts of north western Iran and some areas the northern Arabian peninsula, until the Arab Islamic conquest of the 7th century AD. After this, Arabic gradually replaced Aramaic as a part of a steady process of Arabization and Islamification, accompanied by the influx of a large number of Muslim Arabs from the Arabian peninsula, although the Syriac language, script and literature continued to exert influence upon Arabic into the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, a number of Eastern Aramaic dialects survive as the spoken tongues of the Assyrians of northern Iraq, south east Turkey, north east Syria and north west Iran, and of the Mandeans of Iraq and Iran, with somewhere between 575,000 and 1,000,000 fluent speakers in total. The Western Aramaic of the Arameans themselves is now almost extinct, with only a few thousand speakers extant in and around Ma'loula in western Syria.

Hebrew survived as the liturgial language of Judaism and it was revived in the 19th century, in the form of Ivrit, the spoken tongue of modern Israel.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ancient Semitic-speaking peoples" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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