The Syrian script consists of 22 letters derived from the corresponding letters of the older Aramaic alphabet. The direction of the script is from right to left; the character of the writing is italic, and most of the letters are interconnected inside the word. The type of script used in older manuscripts (up to the end of the fifth century) is known as the estrangel (ʔesṭrangelå from the Greek στρογγύλη ‛round’). The inscriptions on the estrangelo are known from the monumental epigraphy of the I century A.D. from Osroena. After the division of the Syrian Church into Nestorians and Jacobites, each of these two groups developed its own type of font.

The East Syriac ('Nestorian', 'Chaldean' or 'Assyrian') font appeared at the beginning of the VII century. In Syriac, it is called madnḥāyā (lit. 'eastern'). The outlines of the East Syriac font are closer to estrangela than the West Syriac.

The West Syriac ('Jacobite' or 'Maronite') font has been known in the manuscript book tradition since the end of the 8th century. In (Western) Syriac, it is called serto (lit. 'dash, letter'), which derives from serṭo pšiṭo ('simple/regular font'). Paleographic data show that serto dates back to the italics found in documents on parchment at the beginning of the III century from Edessa.

The letters represent only consonants. At the end of the VII or the beginning of the VIII century, two systems of icons for vowels were created. The east introduced a system of dots, which were to be written above and below the letters to denote 8 vowels — 4 long and 4 short. In the west represented by the Jacobites in particular, this goal was reached by using small and slightly modified Greek letters, which were placed either above the letters or under them; 5 vowels were in action.


Range 0700–074F
Characters 80

List of Characters

Table of Characters