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A group of Semitic languages, known as Chaldaic in their most ancient form. The earliest surviving form of Aramaic dates ca. 900 B.C.E. The Assyro-Babylonian and Persian empires absorbed this language, and since Aramaic was closely related to Hebrew, it was picked up by the Jewish exiles in Babylonia in the 6th century B.C.E. When they returned to Judea, Jews brought the Aramaic tongue home with them. By 300 B.C.E. it was used in daily life, and many prayers were chanted in Aramaic. Aramaic was also the language of trade and diplomacy in the whole Middle East. Isolated portions of the Bible (Dan. 2:46, Ezra 4:8-6:18, 7:12-26, and Jer. 10:11) are written in a West Aramaic dialect. This is also the language of the Palestinian Talmud (except for the Mishnah, which is in Hebrew) and of the Midrashim. Aramaic is the language of the Babylonian Talmud and of an authorized translation of the Bible known as Targum Onkelos. Aramaic is the language of parts of the Siddur, or prayer book, of the Kaddish, and of a section of the Passover Haggadah, beginning with the words “This is the bread of affliction.” The Had Gadya (One Little Goat), the popular song sung toward the end of the Passover Seder, is also in Aramaic.

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