Chaldee Language, the eastern dialect of the Aramaic, of which the Syriac is the west-tern, and which forms the northern branch of the Semitic tongues, the Hebrew, the Arabic, and some other minor dialects forming the southern branch. As the language or one of the languages of Babylonia in the time of its national greatness, whence it was brought by the Jews after their captivity to Palestine, it is also called Babylonic. The Chaldee is known to us only through the writings of Jews, every other trace of national literature in this language, if there was any such, having disappeared, while of the kindred Assyrian tongue only scanty inscriptions have been preserved. The history of the Babylonian priest Berosus, of which fragments have been saved, was originally written in Greek. Besides a few words in Genesis (xxxi. 47) and Jeremiah (x. 11), we have in the Hebrew canon several chapters of Daniel (from ii. 4 to vii. 28) and Ezra (from iv. 8 to vi. 18, and vii. from 12 to 2G) written in this language; and of works of later Jewish writers, the different Chaldaic translations and paraphrases (Targumim) of various parts of the Bible, the two Talmuds, and some more modern productions.
The apocryphal books of Tobit, Judith, and Maccabees, as well as the history of the Jewish war by Josephus, are also supposed to have been originally written in Chaldaic, this idiom having become by degrees the common language of the Jews after the Babylonish captivity, and particularly from the times of the Maccabees. Of the Targums, that attributed to Onkelos, a strict translation of the Pentateuch, is distinguished by the purity of its idiom, surpassing that of the Biblical fragments; that of Jonathan ben Uziel, a paraphrase of the historic and prophetic books, and the Pseudo-Jonathan and Hierosolymitan paraphrases of the Pentateuch, are less pure and valuable. (See Targums.) Of the Talmuds only the Gemaras or the commentaries are composed in a Chaldaic idiom, which is greatly corrupt, chiefly in that of Jerusalem, and requires a particular study; while the shorter and older Mishnah, or the text, is Hebrew, though with Aramaic features. After the conquest of Babylonia by the Arabs in the year 640, the use of the Chaldee language gradually ceased; and it is now spoken only in a few mostly Christian communities in the mountains of Kurdistan. As a dialect it is distinguished from the Syriac by its avoiding diphthongs and the vowel o, for which it generally has a, by the use of dagesh forte, as well as by generally accenting the last syllable, and a less defective writing; from the Hebrew, with which it has a common alphabet, by broadness, by substituting labial for hissing sounds, n for π and τ, o for v, and by comparative poverty in vowels.
In forms it is poorer than both the Hebrew and Syriac. To the best grammars of this language belong those of Buxtorf, Michaelis, Harris ("Elements of the Chaldaic Language," London, 1822), Furst (Leipsic, 1835), Petermann (1841), Winer (Leipsic, 1842), and Bertheau (Gottingen, 1843). The great dictionary of Nathan ben Jehiel of Rome (of the 11th century), entitled Arukh, and enriched with additions by Mussaphiah, has been published in a more modern form by Landau (5 vols., Prague, 1819 et, seq.). Buxtorf s Lexicon Chaldaicum, Talmudicum et RabMnicum (Basel, 1640), is founded upon it. Luzzatto's Oheb-Ger, Gei-ger's Lehr- vnd Lesebuch zur Sprache der Mischna (Breslau, 1845), and J. Levy's Chaldaisches Worterbucli uber die Targumim (Leipsic, 1866-'8) are valuable contributions.