Twenty Developments in Syriac Studies.

Kristian Heal at Studia Syriaca has a stupendous roundup called Twenty Great Developments in Syriac Studies in the Last Twenty Years; it starts with gatherings of Syriac scholars and includes accounts of digital humanities projects, reprints and PDFs, translations, manuscripts, and much more. A couple of my favorite sections:


The first edition of Carl Brockelmann’s Lexicon Syriacum was published in 1895 when he was only 27. This dictionary was based on his broad and deep reading of the Syriac editions that were accumulating at this time, thanks in large part of the British Library acquisitions from Deir es-Surian. And it is clear that Brockelmann kept reading everything that was published, not only from the addenda added to the first edition, but also from the considerably enlarged second edition, which appeared just over thirty years later (1928). By that time, Brockelmann had competition in the form of Jessie Payne Smith’s brilliant Compendious Syriac Dictionary (1903). Despite the advantages of Brockelmann’s Lexicon, Payne Smith became the preferred, and then the only dictionary used by English speakers who did not have a command of Latin. That is until Michael Sokoloff’s corrected, expanded and updated translation of Brockelmann’s Lexicon appeared in 2009. This marked a massive advance in the lexicographical knowledge available to English speaking readers of classical Syriac texts.

Two other publications deserve special attention. The first is Claudia Ciancaglini 2008 publication of Iranian Load [sic — LH] Words in Syriac. This important volume discusses and demonstrates the significant impact of Iranian languages on Syriac from the earliest period. The second is Sebastian Brock and George Kiraz’s Concise Syriac-English, English-Syriac dictionary, with its successor, the Gorgias Illustrated Learner’s Syriac-English, English-Syriac Dictionary. The concise dictionary draws upon centuries of lexicographical work, and also offers the first bi-lingual dictionary for English readers (Brockelmann’s first edition had a Latin-Syriac appendix, while the second dictionary only had a Latin index).

Teaching and Learning Syriac

It is now easier than ever to learn Syriac. Syriac is taught in many universities around the world. Summer courses at The Catholic University of America, the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, Vrije University in Amsterdam, and Beth Mardutho also offer the chance for graduate students, and others, to start and advance in learning Syriac. The standard English language grammar, by Robinson, now fully revised and updated by Chip Coakley, is in its sixth edition (2013). Revised editions of Muraoka’s Classical Syriac (2005) and Classical Syriac for Hebraists (2013) have also appeared. John Healey’s First Studies in Syriac was published in 2005, adding to the established list an inductive grammar that can be gone through in a single semester, and that also has the advantage of recordings of the chrestomathy readings. Finally, George Kiraz has produced a splendidly accessible and effective Syriac Primer, now in a corrected third edition (2013). It is also now easy to supplement these teaching grammars with a copy of Nöldeke’s Compendious Syriac Grammar, thanks to the fine reprint published by Eisenbrauns (2001).

There are approximately a zillion links there;, which I posted excitedly about in 2015, is but one of them. Enjoy!


  1. Stu Clayton says

    Given all those resources, Syriac will be learned immediately.

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