The Neo-Aramaic or Modern Aramaic languages are varieties of the
Semitic Aramaic, that are spoken vernaculars from the medieval to
modern era that evolved out of
Imperial Aramaic via Middle Aramaic
dialects, around AD 1200 (conventional date).
The term strictly excludes those Aramaic languages that are used only
as literary, sacred or classical languages today (for example,
Targumic Aramaic, Classical Syriac and Classical Mandaic). However,
the classical languages continue to have influence over the colloquial
Northeastern Neo-Aramaic and
Central Neo-Aramaic dialects are spoken
primarily (though not wholly exclusively) by ethnic Assyrians, who are
members of the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church
(Eastern Rite Catholics), Syriac Orthodox Church, Ancient Church of
Assyrian Pentecostal Church and Assyrian Evangelical Church.
The Assyrians are an indigenous people of Iraq, northeast Syria,
Turkey and northwest Iran, descendants of the ancient
As of 2014[update], the number of fluent Neo-Aramaic speakers is
significantly smaller, and newer generations of Assyrians generally
are not acquiring the full language, especially as many have emigrated
and acculturated into their new resident countries.
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
The numbers of fluent speakers of
Neo-Aramaic languages range from
approximately 575,000 to 1,000,000. The largest of these are Assyrian
Neo-Aramaic with approximately 235,000 speakers, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic
with approximately 216,000 speakers and Surayt/Turoyo with
approximately 250,000 speakers. While these are often associated with
specific religious affiliations among Assyrians (Assyrian Church of
Chaldean Catholic Church
Chaldean Catholic Church and Syriac Orthodox Church
respectively) these dialects have speakers from different churches
amongst their numbers, for example, a member of the Chaldean Catholic
Church may speak Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, and a member of the Assyrian
Church of the East or
Syriac Orthodox Church
Syriac Orthodox Church may speak Chaldean
Neo-Aramaic. There are also smaller numbers of speakers of smaller
Northeastern Neo-Aramaic languages, notably Jews originally from
Kurdistan, in approximate number of dozens of thousands of speakers in
Israel, Western Neo-Aramaic,
Judeo-Aramaic languages and Neo-Mandaic.
Throughout the history of the Aramaic language, a clear dialect
boundary dividing western and eastern varieties has existed, running
transversely across the Syrian Desert from southeast to northwest.
Eastern Aramaic has remained dominant throughout history, and all
classical languages are eastern varieties originating in Mesopotamia
(Assyria-Babylonia). Only Western Neo-Aramaic, spoken in
surrounding villages in the
Anti-Lebanon by Syriac-
communities, remains as a witness to the once widespread western
varieties of the
Levant and Transjordan.
Neo-Aramaic languages are not uniform; they grew out of pockets of
Aramaic-speaking communities that have held fast to their language
through the changes of past centuries. Therefore, the dialect
continuum is incomplete, with many varieties absent. Mutual
intelligibility between the varieties of the group is limited to
closest neighbours only. However, many of the varieties share features
that have developed in parallel from
Middle Aramaic varieties and the
Neo-Aramaic languages are all eastern varieties, but with
little homogeneity. Most distinct in this group is Modern Mandaic,
which has low intelligibility with other varieties. It is the direct
descendant of Classical Mandaic, which traces its roots back to the
Persian-influenced Aramaic of the Arsacid Empire. Modern Mandaic is
spoken fluently by about 6,000 people mostly in Ahvaz, Iran, all of
whom are Mandaeans, a
Gnostic ethnic minority with approximately
70,000 followers in
Iraq and Iran, most of whom have largely adopted
Arabic or Persian despite being non-Arab and non-Iranian ethnically.
The other Eastern
Neo-Aramaic languages have a lot more in common with
each other. Some studies have labelled this group Central Neo-Aramaic
(however, that name is also used for a smaller sub-grouping) or
Northern Neo-Aramaic. These languages can be divided in various ways.
Sometimes they are divided by religion into Jewish and Christian
varieties. However, there is not complete intelligibility throughout
either religious community, and on occasion better intelligibility
across the religious divide. From this group, the Christian varieties
of the extreme north west of Mesopotamia – Central Neo-Aramaic
(confusingly different from the definition above) – stand
This sub-grouping is witnessed by Turoyo/Surayt and, the now extinct,
Mlahsô, both influenced by the Classical Syriac of Sassanid Assyria
(Assuristan). The other varieties, both Jewish and Christian, form the
largest sub-grouping of Neo-Aramaic, which is usually referred to as
Northeastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA). Christian NENA varieties are
influenced by Classical Syriac, but to a lesser degree than Central
Neo-Aramaic, and appear to retain some Akkadian loan words and
grammatical structures; Jewish NENA varieties are influenced by
List of loanwords in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic
Syriac Latin alphabet
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute
for the Science of Human History.
^ Perlin, Ross (August 14, 2014). "Is the Islamic State Exterminating
the Language of Jesus?". Foreign Policy. Graham Holdings
^ Mandaic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
Poizat, Bruno (2008). Manuel de Soureth (in French). Paris: Geuthner.
p. 271. ISBN 978-2-7053-3804-6.
Père Jean Rhétoré (1912). Grammaire de la Langue Soureth (in
French). Mossoul: imprimerie des Pères Dominicains.
Costaz, Louis (1963). Syriac-English Dictionary. imprimerie catholique
de Beyrouth. p. 421.
Oraham, A.J. (1941). Oraham's Dictionary of the stabilized and
enriched Assyrian Language and English. p. 576.
Sabar, Yona (2002). A Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dictionary. Harrassowitz.
Sabar, Yona (2003). "Aramaic, once a great language, now on the verge
of extinction," in When Languages Collide: Perspectives on Language
Conflict, Language Competition, and Language Coexistence, Joseph,
DeStefano, Jacobs, Lehiste, eds. The Ohio State University Press.
pp. 222–234. ISBN 978-0-8142-0913-4.
Waltisberg, Michael (2016). Syntax des Ṭuroyo (= Semitica Viva 55).
Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3-447-10731-0.
Aramaic Dictionary – search the online dictionary using English
or Aramaic words, including many other options.
Sureth – French/English Dictionary
Modern Aramaic languages
Koy Sanjaq Surat
Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic
Betanure Jewish Neo-Aramaic
Links to related articles
Modern Semitic languages
varieties of Arabic
Koy Sanjaq Surat
Old South Arabian
Modern South Arabian
Languages of Iran
Persian Sign Language
Languages of Iraq
Iraqi Sign Language
Languages of Syria
Varieties of Arabic
Arabic Sign Language
Languages of Turkey
Turkish Sign Language