The Samaritan is chiefly a compound of the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Syriac. Among the words derived from these sources are to be recognized a great number of Cuthaean words, imported, doubtlessly, by the new colonists. We must therefore not be surprised that Greek, Latin, Persian, Arabic, and possibly other languages as well, have each contributed something to enrich the vocabulary. The grammar bears all the signs of irregularity which would characterize that of an illiterate people; the orthography is uncertain; there is a profusion of quiescents, and a complete confusion between the several gutturals and cognate letters respectively; the vowels are uncertain, the A sound being most prominent. Such is the dialect which was spoken in Samaria till the Arabian conquest of the country in the seventh century A.D., when the language of the victors was introduced, and by its superior vigor gradually overpowered its rival, till, probably by about the 8th or 9th century, it had entirely taken its place. The old language, however, still continued to be understood and written by the priests, so that, like the Jews, they had two sacred languages, which, however, they had not the skill completely to distinguish from each other. The "Hebrew," consequently, which appears in the correspondence of Samaritans with Europeans is largely impregnated with Aramaisms; Arabisms also are not by any means unfrequent.
Orthographic Elements. — The Samaritan language, or, as the Samaritans call it, the "Hebrew," like all Shemitic languages, is read from right to left. The alphabet consists only of consonants (twenty-two in number), as in the adjoining table.
Save some points and scanty orthographical signs, there are in Samaritan no accents or other diacritical marks, as in Hebrew. There are no vowel- points, as in other Shemitic languages; but in order to supply this want and to indicate somewhat the pronunciation, some consonants are used as vowels, viz.:
a ה אe י אi יu (oo) וOf two consonants beginning a word, the first is pronounced as if it were a slight and indistinct vowel, similar to the Hebrew Sheva.
The only diacritical sign is a stroke over the consonant (e.g. א) serving to distinguish two different words written in the same manner, or two different forms derived from one and the same root, or to indicate some letter added or omitted. When placed over י or 5, the stroke indicates that these letters are real consonants, not representing vowels. Words cannot be separated at the end of the lines, hence the two letters ending the last word are separated from the others and placed at the end of the line; but in printing this is generally avoided by diminishing or enlarging the spaces between the words.
As to punctuation, a point is put by the side of the final letter of a word. Besides this, the following signs have been introduced by the transcribers:
:or ῥ or .: at the end of a sentence.
- - (also .) at the end of part of a sentence, like our colon.
=.: or -<: more seldom — .: etc., or compound <:=.: etc., at the end of a longer sentence or section.
< .:. = = .:. > or similar signs, sometimes again and again repeated, between the end of one section, paragraph, or chapter, and the beginning of the other.
The numbers are written as in Hebrew.
Grammars. — Chr. Crinesius, Lingua Samaritica ex Scriptura Sacra fideliter eruta (Altdorphi, s. a.); Chr. Ravis, A Discourse of the Oriental Tongues, viz. Ebrew, Samaritane, etc., together with a Grammar ofthe said Tongues (Lond. 1649); Morini, Opuscula Hebroeo-Samaritana (Paris, 1657); Hilligerius, Summarium Linguoe Aramoeoe, i.e. Chaldeo- Syro-Samaritanoe (Witteb. 1679); Cellarius, Horoe Samaritanoe (Cizse, 1682; Francof. et Jenae, 1705); Otho, Synopsis Institutionum Samaritanarum, Rabb, etc. (Francof. 3d ed. 1735); Mascleff, Grammatica Hebraica: access. tres Granmaticoe, Chaldaica, Syriaca, et Samaritana (Paris, 2d ed. 1743, 2 vols. 12mo); Stohr, Theoria et Praxis Linguarun Sacrarum, sc. Samaritanoe, Hebr., et Syr. earumque Harmonia (Aug. Vind. 1796); Uhlemann, Institutiones Linguoe Samaritane: accedit Chrestomathia Samaritana Glossario Locupletata (Lips. 1837); Nicholls, A Grammar of the Samaritan Language, with Extracts and Vocabulary (Lond. 1858); Petermann, Brevis Linguoe Samaritanoe Grammatica, etc. (Berolini, 1873).
Lexicons.-Castelli, Lexicon Heptaglotton (Lond. 1669 fol.); Young, Samaritan Root-book (Edinburgh, s. a.). See also Kohn, Samaritanische Studien, and Zur Sprache der Sanmaritaner, p. 206 sq. (B.P.)