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Garshuni originated in the seventh century AD, when Arabic was becoming the dominant spoken language in the Fertile Crescent, but Arabic script was not yet fully developed and widely read. There is evidence that writing Arabic in Garshuni influenced the style of modern Arabic script. After this initial period, Garshuni writing has continued to the present day among some Syriac Christian communities in the Arabic-speaking regions of the Levant and Mesopotamia.
The Syriac alphabet has three principal varieties:
- The estrangelâ script (the classical Syriac script),
- The madnhâyâ script (the eastern Syriac script, often called 'Assyrian' or 'Nestorian'),
- The sertâ script (the western Syriac script, often called 'Jacobite' or 'Maronite').
The Syriac alphabet is extended by use of diacritics to write Arabic Garshuni.
For the analogous Jewish practice of writing Arabic in Hebrew letters, see Judaeo-Arabic languages.
Today, Assyrians use the word 'garshuni' when referring to a spoken language written using something other than its corresponding script, i.e. spoken Assyrian written using Latin script. "Garshuni" comes from the word "grasha" which literally translates to "pulling".