This article is about one of the modern dialect groups spoken by the Assyrian people. For similarly named languages, see Assyrian language
Assyrian-speakers are native to Upper Mesopotamia
, northwestern Iran
, southeastern Anatolia
and the northeastern Levant
, which is a large region stretching from the plain of Urmia
in northwestern Iran
through to the Erbil
regions in northern Iraq
, together with the northern regions of Syria
and to southcentral and southeastern Turkey
Instability throughout the Middle East over the past century has led to a worldwide diaspora of Assyrian speakers
, with most speakers now living abroad in such places as North and South America, Australia, Europe and Russia.
Speakers of Assyrian and Turoyo
are ethnic Assyrians and are the descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia.
is not considered its own independent language from Assyrian; rather, the separation of the two is a designation created by SIL
grounds, rendering 'Chaldean' and 'Assyrian' as dialects of 'Suret'.
Assyrian is the largest extant Syrian-Aramaic language (828,930 speakers), with Turoyo (103,300 speakers) making up most of the remaining Syrian-Aramaic speakers. Both however, evolved from Middle Syrian-Aramaic which was, along with Latin
, one of "the three most important Christian languages in the early centuries" of the Common Era
Assyrian Aramaic is to a moderate degree, intelligible with Senaya
, Lishana Deni
, Bohtan Neo-Aramaic
which are at times, also considered to be dialects of Assyrian.[N 2]
A similar circumstance exists with Lishan Didan
and Lishanid Noshan
Its mutual intelligibility with Turoyo is partial and asymmetrical, but more significant in written form.
and Syrian-Aramaic have been in extensive contact since their old periods. Local unwritten Syrian-Aramaic dialects emerged from Imperial Aramaic
. In around 700 BC, Syrian-Aramaic slowly started to replace Akkadian in Assyria, Babylonia and the Levant
. Widespread bilingualism among Assyrian nationals was already present prior to the fall of the Empire.
The language transition was achievable because the two languages featured similarities in grammar and vocabulary, and because the 22-lettered Aramaic alphabet was simpler to learn than the Akkadian cuneiform
which had over 600 signs.
The converging process that took place between Assyrian Akkadian and Aramaic across all aspects of both languages and societies is known as Aramaic-Assyrian symbiosis
By the 1st century AD, Akkadian was extinct, though vocabulary and grammatical features still survive in modern Assyrian.
The Neo-Aramaic languages
evolved from Middle Syrian-Aramaic
by the 13th century.
There is evidence that the drive for the adoption of Syriac was led by missionaries. Much literary effort was put into the production of an authoritative translation of the Bible
into Syriac, the Peshitta
). At the same time, Ephrem the Syrian
was producing the most treasured collection of poetry and theology in the Classical Syriac language.
By the 3rd century AD, churches in Urhay
in the kingdom of Osroene
began to use Classical Syriac as the language of worship and it became the literary and liturgical language of many churches in the Fertile Crescent
. Syriac was the common tongue of the region, where it was the native language of the Fertile Crescent, surrounding areas, as well as in parts of Eastern Arabia
. It was the dominant language until 900 AD, till it was supplanted by Greek and later Arabic in a centuries-long process having begun in the Arab conquests
An 18th-century Assyrian Gospel Book from the Urmia
region of Iran
The differences with the Church of the East
led to the bitter Nestorian schism
in the Syriac-speaking world. As a result of the schism as well as being split between living in the Byzantine Empire
in the west and the Sasanian Empire
in the east, Syrian-Aramaic developed distinctive Western
and Eastern varieties. Although remaining a single language with a high level of comprehension between the varieties, the two employ distinctive variations in pronunciation and writing systems and, to a lesser degree, in vocabulary and grammar. During the course of the third and fourth centuries AD, the inhabitants of the region began to embrace Christianity. Because of theological differences, Syriac-speaking Christians bifurcated during the 5th century into the Church of the East
, or East Syrians
under Sasanian rule, and the Syriac Orthodox
, or West Syrians
under the Byzantine empire
. After this separation, the two groups developed distinct dialects differing primarily in the pronunciation and written symbolisation of vowels
invasions of the 13th century and the religiously motivated massacres of Assyrians
further contributed to the rapid decline of the language. In many places outside of northern Mesopotamia (the Assyrian homeland
), even in liturgy
, the language was replaced by Arabic
"Modern Syriac Aramaic" is a term occasionally used to refer to the modern Neo-Aramaic languages
, including Assyrian. Even if they cannot be positively identified as the direct descendants of attested
Middle Syriac, they must have developed from closely related dialects belonging to the same branch of Aramaic, and the varieties spoken in Christian communities have long co-existed with and been influenced by Middle Syriac as a liturgical and literary language. Moreover, the name "Syriac", when used with no qualification, generally refers to one specific dialect of Middle Aramaic but not to Old Aramaic or to the various present-day Eastern and Central Neo-Aramaic
languages descended from it or from close relatives.
In 2004, the Constitution of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region
recognised Syriac in article 7, section four, stating, "Syriac shall be the language of education and culture for those who speak it in addition to the Kurdish language."
In 2005, the Iraqi constitution
recognised it as one of the "official languages in the administrative units in which they constitute density of population" in article 4, section four.
The original Mesopotamian
writing system, believed to be the world's oldest, was derived around 3600 BC from this method of keeping accounts. By the end of the 4th millennium BC, the Mesopotamians were using a triangular-shaped stylus made from a reed pressed into soft clay to record numbers.
Around 2700 BC, cuneiform
began to represent syllables of spoken Sumerian
, a language isolate
genetically unrelated to the Semitic
and Indo-Iranian languages
that it neighboured. About that time, Mesopotamian cuneiform became a general purpose writing system for logograms
and numbers. This script was adapted to another Mesopotamian language, the East SemiticAkkadian
) around 2600 BC.
With the adoption of Aramaic
as the lingua franca
of the Neo-Assyrian Empire
(911–609 BC), Old Aramaic was also adapted to Mesopotamian cuneiform. The last cuneiform scripts in Akkadian discovered thus far date from the 1st century AD.
Various bronze lion-weights found in Nineveh
featured both the Akkadian and Aramaic text etched on them, bearing the names of Assyrian kings
, such as Shalmaneser III
(858-824 B.C), King Sargon
(721-705 B.C) and Sennacherib
(704-681 B.C). Indication of contemporaneous existence of the two languages in 4th century B.C. is present in an Aramaic document from Uruk
written in cuneiform. In Babylon
, Akkadian writing vanished by 140 B.C, with the exclusion of a few priests who used it for religious matters. Though it still continued to be employed for astronomical texts up until the common era
Classical Syriac written in Madnhāyā
The oldest and classical form of the alphabet is ʾEsṭrangēlā
); the name is thought to derive from the Greek adjective στρογγύλη (strongúlē
Although ʾEsṭrangēlā is no longer used as the main script for writing Syriac, it has undergone some revival since the 10th century.
gradually began to be the dominant spoken language in the Fertile Crescent
after the 7th century AD, texts were often written in Arabic with the Syriac script. Malayalam
was also written with Syriac script and was called Suriyani Malayalam
. Such non-Syriac languages written in Syriac script are called Garshuni
The Madnhāyā, or 'eastern', version formed as a form of shorthand developed from ʾEsṭrangēlā and progressed further as handwriting patterns changed. The Madnhāyā version also possesses optional vowel markings to help pronounce Syriac. Other names for the script include Swāḏāyā, 'conversational', often translated as "contemporary", reflecting its use in writing modern Neo-Aramaic.
The sixth beatitude
) in Classical Syriac from the Peshitta (in Madnhāyā
):ܛܘܼܒܲܝܗܘܿܢ ܠܐܲܝܠܹܝܢ ܕܲܕ݂ܟܹܝܢ ܒܠܸܒ̇ܗܘܿܢ: ܕܗܸܢ݂ܘܿܢ ܢܸܚܙܘܿܢ ܠܐܲܠܵܗܵܐ܂Ṭūḇayhōn l-ʾaylên da-ḏḵên b-lebbhōn, d-hennōn neḥzon l-ʾǎlāhā.
In the Assyrian Neo-Aramaic of the Urmi Bible of 1893, this is rendered as:ܛܘܼܒ̣ܵܐ ܠܐܵܢܝܼ ܕܝܼܢܵܐ ܕܸܟ̣ܝܹ̈ܐ ܒܠܸܒܵܐ: ܣܵܒܵܒ ܕܐܵܢܝܼ ܒܸܬ ܚܵܙܝܼ ܠܐܲܠܵܗܵܐ.Ṭūḇā l-ʾānī d-ʾīnā diḵyē b-libbā, sābāb d-ʾānī bit xāzī l-ʾalāhā.
'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'
Three letters act as matres lectionis
: rather than being a consonant, they indicate a vowel. ʾĀlep̄
), the first letter, represents a glottal stop
, but it can also indicate the presence of certain vowels (typically at the beginning or the end of a word, but also in the middle). The letter Waw
) is the consonant w
, but can also represent the vowels o
. Likewise, the letter Yōḏ
) represents the consonant y
, but it also stands for the vowels i
. In addition to foreign sounds, a marking system is used to distinguish qūššāyā
, 'hard' letters) from rūkkāḵā
, 'soft' letters). The letters Bēṯ
, all plosives
('hard'), are able to be spirantised
The system involves placing a single dot underneath the letter to give its 'soft' variant and a dot above the letter to give its 'hard' variant (though, in modern usage, no mark at all is usually used to indicate the 'hard' value).
In the 1930s, following the state policy for minority languages of the Soviet Union
, a Latin alphabet
was developed and some material published.
Despite the fact that this innovation did not displace the Syriac script, the usage of the Latin script in the Assyrian community has become rather widespread due to the Assyrian diaspora
's predominant settlement in Europe
and the Anglophone world
, where the Latin script dominates.
The Latin alphabet is preferred by most Assyrians for practical reasons and its convenience, especially in social media
, where it is used to communicate. Although the Syriac Latin alphabet contains diacritics
, most Assyrians rarely utilise the modified letters and would conveniently rely on the basic Latin alphabet
. The Latin alphabet is also a useful tool to present Assyrian terminology to anyone who is not familiar with the Syriac script. A precise transcription
may not be necessary for native Assyrian speakers, as they would be able to pronounce words correctly, but it can be very helpful for those not quite familiar with Syriac and more informed with the Latin script.
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic consonants
- In all Assyrian dialects, voiced, voiceless, aspirated and emphatic consonants are recognised as distinct phonemes, though there can be an overlap between plain voiceless and voiceless emphatic in sound quality.[page needed][page needed]
- In Iraqi Koine Assyrian and many Urmian & Northern dialects, the palatals [c], [ɟ] and aspirate [cʰ] are considered the predominate realisation of /k/, /g/ and aspirate /kʰ/.[page needed]
- In the Koine and Urmi dialects, velar fricatives /x ɣ/ are typically uvular as [χ ʁ].
- The phoneme /ħ/ is only used by Assyrian-speakers under larger Arabic influence. In most dialects, it is realised as [x]. The one exception to this is the dialect of Hértevin, which merged the two historical phonemes into [ħ], thus lacking [x] instead.
- The pharyngeal /ʕ/, represented by the letter 'e, is a marginal phoneme that is generally upheld in formal or religious speech. Among the majority of Assyrian speakers, 'e would be realised as [aɪ̯], [eɪ̯], [ɛ], [j], deleted, or even geminating the previous consonant, depending on the dialect and phonological context.
- /r/ may also be heard as a tap sound [ɾ].
- /f/ is a phoneme heard in the Tyari, Barwari and Chaldean dialects. In most of the other Assyrian varieties, it merges with /p/, though [f] is found in loanwords for these varieties of Assyrian.
- The phonemes /t/ and /d/ have allophonic realisations of [θ] and [ð] (respectively) in most Lower Tyari, Barwari and Chaldean dialects, which is a carryover of begadkefat from the Ancient Aramaic period.
- In the Upper Tyari dialects, /θ/ is realised as [ʃ] or [t]; in the Marga dialect, the /t/ may at times be replaced with [s].
- In the Urmian dialect, /w/ has a widespread allophone [ʋ] (it may vacillate to [v] for some speakers).
- In the Jilu dialect, /q/ is uttered as a tense [k]. This can also occur in other dialects.
- In the Iraqi Koine dialect, a labial-palatal approximant sound [ɥ] is also heard.
- /ɡ/ is affricated, thus pronounced as [d͡ʒ] in some Urmian, Tyari and Nochiya dialects. /k/ would be affricated to [t͡ʃ] in the same process.
- /ɣ/ is a marginal phoneme that occurs across all dialects. Either a result of the historic splitting of /g/, through loanwords, or by contact of [x] with a voiced consonant.
- /ʒ/ is found predominately from loanwords, but, in some dialects, also from the voicing of /ʃ/ (e.g. ḥašbunā /xaʒbu:na:/, "counting", from the root ḥ-š-b, "to count") as in the Jilu dialect.
- /n/ can be pronounced [ŋ] before velar consonants [x] and [q] and as [m] before labial consonants.
- In some speakers, a dental click (English "tsk") may be used para-linguistically as a negative response to a "yes or no" question. This feature is more common among those who still live in the homeland or in the Middle East, than those living in the diaspora.
The vowel phonemes of Iraqi Koine
According to linguist Edward Odisho
, there are six vowel phonemes in Iraqi Koine.
They are as follows:
- /a/, as commonly uttered in words like naša ("man; human"), is central [ä] for many speakers. It is usually [a] in the Urmian and Nochiya dialects. For some Urmian and Jilu speakers, [æ] may be used instead. In those having a more pronounced Jilu dialect, this vowel is mostly fronted and raised to [ɛ]. In the Tyari and Barwari dialects, it is usually more back [ɑ].
- /ɑ/, a long vowel, as heard in raba ("much; many"), may also be realised as [ɒ], depending on the speaker. It is more rounded and higher in the Urmian dialect, where it is realised as [ɔ].
- /e/, heard in beta ("house") is generally diphthongised to [eɪ̯] in the Halmon dialect (a Lower Tyari tribe). To note, the [aj] diphthong is a vestigial trait of classical Syriac and thereby may be used in formal speech as well, such as in liturgy and hymns.
- /ɪ/, uttered in words like dədwa ("housefly"), is sometimes realised as [ə] (a schwa).
- The mid vowels, preserved in Tyari, Barwari, Baz and Chaldean dialects, are sometimes raised and merged with close vowels in Urmian and some other dialects:
- /o/, as in gora ("big"), is raised to [u]. The Urmian dialect may diphthongise it to [ʊj].
- /e/, as in kepa ("rock"), is raised to [i].
- /o/, as in tora ("bull") may be diphthongised to [ɑw] in some Tyari, Barwari, Chaldean and Jilu dialects.
- Across many dialects, close and close-mid vowels are lax when they occur in a closed syllable:
- /u/ or /o/ is usually realised as [ʊ];
- /i/ or /e/ is usually realised as [ɪ].
East Syriac dialects may recognize half-close sounds as [ɛ] and also recognize the back vowel [ɒ
] as a long form of /a/.
Two basic diphthongs
exist, namely /aj/ and /aw/. For some words, many dialects have monophthongised
them to [e] and [o] respectively. For substantives
, A common vowel alteration in Assyrian is apophonically
shifting the final -a
, so ṭera
('bird') will be ṭere
('birds') in its plural form.
Phonetics of Iraqi Koine
Iraqi Koine is a merged
dialect which formed in the mid-20th century, being influenced by both Urmian and Hakkari dialects.
- Iraqi Koine, like the majority of the Assyrian dialects, realises /w/ as [w] instead of [ʋ].
- Iraqi Koine generally realises the interdental fricatives /θ/, /ð/ in words like maṯa ("village") and rqaḏa ("dancing") as alveolar stops [t], [d] respectively.
- Dorsal fricatives /x ɣ/ are heard as uvular as [χʁ].
- Predominantly, /q/ in words like qalama ("pen") does not merge with /k/.
- The diphthong /aw/ in words like tawra ("bull"), as heard in most of Hakkari dialects, are realised as [o]: tora.
- The [ʊj] diphthong in zuyze ("money") is retained as [u]: zuze.
- Depending on the speaker, the velar stops /k/ and /ɡ/ may be affricated as [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ] respectively.
- The [t͡ʃ] in some present progressive verbs like či'axla ("[she] eats") is retained as [k]: ki'axla.
In Assyrian, personal pronouns
have seven forms. In singular forms, the 2nd
and 3rd have separate masculine
forms, while the 1st (and, in some dialects, the 2nd person subject pronoun) do(es) not. The plural forms also lack gender distinction.
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic Personal Pronouns
Nouns carry grammatical gender (masculine or feminine). They can be either singular or plural in number (a very few can be dual, a vestigial trait of Old Aramaic). Almost all singular substantives
) are suffixed with -ā
in their lemma
form, the main exception being foreign words, which do not always take the suffix. The three grammatical states
present in Classical Syriac are no longer productive
, only being used in a few set terms and phrases (for example, ܒܲܪ ܐ݇ܢܵܫܵܐ
, bar nāšā,
"man, person", literally "son of man"), with the emphatic state becoming the ordinary form of the noun. Adjectives always agree in gender and number with the nouns that they modify.
In Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, most genitive relationships are built using the relative particle d-
, used in the same way as English "of" (e.g. ܢܘܼܗܪܵܐ ܕܫܸܡܫܵܐ
, nuhrā d-šimšā
, "the light of
the sun"). Though written as a prefix on the noun in the genitive, the modern spoken form occurs as a suffix on the head
, with some dialects displaying final-obstruent devoicing
(e.g. nuhr-id šimšā
or nuhr-it šimšā
Assyrian employs a system of conjugations
to mark intensive and extensive developments in the lexical meaning of verbs. Verb conjugations
are present in other Semitic languages. These are regular modifications of the verb's root to express other changes in meaning. The first conjugation is the 'ground' stem (a.k.a. G-stem or Peal
stem), which models the shape of the root and carries the usual meaning of the word. The next is the 'intensive' stem (a.k.a. D-stem or Pael
stem), which usually carries an intensified
meaning. The third is the 'extensive' stem (a.k.a. C-stem or Aphel
stem), which is often causative
in meaning. Although Classical Syriac has a coordinate passive
conjugation for each stem (Ethpeel
stems, respectively), Modern Assyrian does not. Instead, passive meanings are sometimes expressed through the Peal
ones, through the Aphel
. The following table illustrates the possible verbal conjugations of the root ṣ-l-y
), which carries the basic meaning of "descending":
The particle [h]wā (ܗ݇ܘܵܐ) may follow verbal forms to indicate an action further in the past (e.g. ܨܵܠܹܐ ܗ݇ܘܵܐ, ṣālē [h]wā, "he used to go down").
Assyrian may also negate
clauses by using double negatives
, such as in the phrase le yawin la zuze
money"). Common negation words include la
, depending on usage and dialect.
Assyrian uses verbal inflections marking person and number. The suffix "-e
" indicates a (usually masculine) plural
, "flower", becomeswarde
forms of personal pronouns
are affixed to various parts of speech. As with the object pronoun
, possessive pronouns
that are attached to the end of nouns
to express possession similar to the English pronouns my, your, his, her,
etc., which reflects the gender and plurality of the person or persons.
This is a synthetic
feature found in other Semitic languages and also in unrelated languages such as Finnish
) and Turkish
). Moreover, unlike many other languages, Assyrian has virtually no means of deriving
words by adding prefixes or suffixes to words. Instead, they are formed according to a limited number of templates applied to roots.
Modern Assyrian, like Akkadian but unlike Arabic, has only "sound" plurals formed by means of a plural ending (i.e. no broken plurals
formed by changing the word stem
). As in all Semitic languages, some masculine nouns take the prototypically feminine plural ending (-tā
Iraqi Koine possessive suffixes
Although possessive suffixes are more convenient and common, they can be optional for some people and seldom used, especially among those with the Tyari and Barwari dialects, which take a more analytic
approach regarding possession, just like English possessive determiners
. The following are periphrastic
ways to express possession, using the word betā
("house") as a base (in Urmian/Iraqi Koine):
- my house: betā-it dīyī ("house-of mine")
- your (masc., sing.) house: betā-it dīyux ("house-of yours")
- your (fem., sing.) house: betā-it dīyax ("house-of yours")
- your (plural) house: betā-it dīyōxun ("house-of yours")
- 3rd person (masc., sing.): betā-it dīyū ("house-of his")
- 3rd person (fem., sing.): betā-it dīyō ("house-of hers")
- 3rd person (plural): betā-it dīyéh ("house-of theirs")
An unstressed -eh
denotes a singular possessive form (masc.), whereas a stressed -éh
is a third person plural possessive
Like English, Assyrian is a stress-timed language
, although some dialects may be more syllable-timed
. In native words, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic almost always stresses
syllable. Although Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, like all Semitic languages, is not a tonal language
, a tonal stress is made on a plural possessive suffix -éh
; "their") in the final vowel to tonally differentiate
it from an unstressed -eh
; "his"), which is a masculine singular possessive
, with a standard stress pattern falling on the penult. The -eh
used to denote a singular third person
masculine possessive (e.g. bābeh
, "his father"; aqleh
, "his leg") is present in most of the traditional dialects in Hakkari and Nineveh Plains, but not for Urmian and some Iraqi Koine speakers, who instead use -ū
for possessive "his" (e.g. bābū
, "his father"; aqlū
, "his leg"), whilst retaining the stress in -éh
This phenomenon however may not always be present, as some Hakkari speakers, especially those from Tyari and Barwar, would use analytic speech to denote possession. So, for instance, bābeh
(literally, "father-his") would be uttered as bābā-id dīyeh
(literally, "father-of his"). In Iraqi Koine and Urmian, the plural form and the third person plural possessive suffix of many words, such as wardeh
("flowers"/"eggs" and "their flower(s)"/"their eggs", respectively), would be homophones
were it not for the varying, distinctive stress on the penult or ultima.
When it comes to a determinative
(like in English this
, etc.), Modern Assyrian generally has an absence of an article
), unlike other Semitic languages such as Arabic
, which does use a definite article
translating to "this
" and "that one over there", respectively, demonstrating proximal, medial and distal deixis
) are commonly utilised instead (e.g. āhā betā
, "this house"), which can have the sense of "the". An indefinite article ("a(n)") can mark definiteness if the word is a direct object
(but not a subject) by using the prepositional prefix "l-
" paired with the proper suffix (e.g. šāqil qālāmā
, "he takes a
pen" vs. šāqil-lāh qālāmā
, "he takes the
articles may be used in some speech (e.g. bayyīton xačča miyyā?
, which translates to "do you [pl.] want some
In place of a definite article, Ancient Aramaic used the emphatic state, formed by the addition of the suffix: "-ā
" for generally masculine words and "-t(h)ā
" (if the word already ends in -ā
) for feminine. The definite forms were pallāxā
for "the (male) worker" and pallāxtā
for "the (female) worker". Beginning even in the Classical Syriac era, when the prefixed preposition "d-
" came into more popular use and replaced state Morphology for marking possession, the emphatic (definite) form of the word became dominant and the definite sense of the word merged
with the indefinite sense so that pālāxā
became "a/the (male) worker" and pālaxtā
became "a/the (female) worker."
Most Assyrian Neo-Aramaic nouns
and verbs are built from triconsonantal roots
, which are a form of word formation in which the root
is modified and which does not involve stringing morphemes
together sequentially. Unlike Arabic, broken plurals
are not present. Semitic languages typically utilise triconsonantal roots, forming a "grid" into which vowels may be inserted without affecting the basic root.
The root š-q-l (ܫ-ܩ-ܠ) has the basic meaning of "taking", and the following are some words that can be formed from this root:
- šqil-leh (ܫܩܝܼܠ ܠܹܗ): "he has taken" (literally "taken-by him")
- šāqil (ܫܵܩܸܠ): "he takes"
- šāqlā (ܫܵܩܠܵܐ): "she takes"
- šqul (ܫܩܘܿܠ): "take!"
- šqālā (ܫܩܵܠܵܐ): "taking"
- šqīlā (ܫܩܝܼܠܵܐ): "taken"
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic has lost the perfect
and imperfect morphological
tenses common in other Semitic languages. The present tense
is usually marked with the subject pronoun
followed by the participle
; however, such pronouns are usually omitted in the case of the third person. This use of the participle to mark the present tense is the most common of a number of compound
tenses that can be used to express varying senses of tense and aspect.
Assyrian's new system of inflection is claimed to resemble the one of the Indo-European languages, namely the Iranian languages
. This assertion is founded on the utilisation of an active participle
concerted with a copula
and a passive participle
with a genitive/dative
element which is present in Old Persian
and in Neo-Aramaic.
Both Modern Persian and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic build the present perfect tense
around the past/resultative
participle in conjunct with the copula (though the placing and form of the copula unveil crucial differences). The more conservative Assyrian dialects lay the copula in its full shape before the verbal constituent
. In the Iraqi and Iranian dialects, the previous construction is addressable with different types of the copula (e.g. deictic
) but with the elemental copula only the cliticised form is permitted. Among conservative Urmian speakers, only the construction with the enclitic ordered after the verbal constituent is allowed. Due to language contact
, the similarities between Kurdish and Modern Persian and the Urmian dialects become even more evident with their negated
forms of present perfect, where they display close similarities, which, from the Assyrian perspective, are patent innovations in the Assyrian language.
A recent feature of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is the usage of the infinitive
instead of the present base for the expression of the present progressive
, which is also united with the copula. Although the language has some other varieties of the copula precedent to the verbal constituent, the common construction is with the infinitive and the basic copula cliticsed to it. In Jewish Urmian of Assyrian, the symmetrical order of the constituents is with the present perfect tense. This structure of the Assyrian dialects is to be compared with the present progressive in Kurdish and Turkish
as well, where the enclitic follows the infinitive. Such construction is present in Kurdish, where it is frequently combined with the locative
element "in, with", which is akin to the preposition bi- preceding the infinitive in Assyrian (as in "bi-ktawen" meaning 'I'm writing'). The similarities of the constituents and their alignment
in the present progressive construction in Assyrian is clearly attributed to influence from the neighbouring languages, such as the use of the infinitive for this construction and the employment of the enclitic copula after the verbal base in all verbal constructions, which is due to the impinging of the Kurdish and Turkish speech.
and the valency of the verb, and the arrangement of the grammatical roles
should be noticed when it comes to the similarities with Kurdish
. Unlike Old Persian
, Modern Persian
made no distinction between transitive
and intransitive verbs
, where it unspecialised the absolutive
type of inflection. Different handling of inflection with transitive and intransitive verbs is also nonexistent in the Assyrian dialects. In contrast with Persian though, it was the ergative type that was generalised in Assyrian.
Persian and Assyrian verb tense comparison
Although Aramaic has been a nominative-accusative language historically, split ergativity
in Christian and Jewish Neo-Aramaic languages developed through interaction with ergative Iranian languages
, such as Kurdish
, which is spoken by the Muslim population of the region.
Ergativity formed in the perfective
aspect only (the imperfective aspect is nominative-accusative), whereas the subject
, the original agent construction
of the passive participle, was expressed as an oblique
with dative case
, and is presented by verb-agreement
rather than case. The absolutive argument in transitive
clauses is the syntactic object
The dialects of Kurdish make a concordant distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs by using a tense-split ergative pattern, which is present in the tense system of some Assyrian dialects; The nominative accusative type is made use of in the present for all the verbs and also for intransitive verbs in past tense and the ergative type is used instead for transitive verbs.
Unique among the Semitic languages, the development of ergativity in northeastern Neo-Aramaic dialects involved the departure of original Aramaic tensed finite verbal
Thereafter, the active participle became the root of the modern Assyrian imperfective, while the passive
participle evolved into the modern Assyrian perfective.[page needed]
The Extended-Ergative dialects, which include Iraqi Koine, Hakkari and Christian Urmian dialects, show the lowest state of ergativity and would mark unaccusative
subjects and intransitive verbs
in an ergative pattern.
Furthermore, Assyrian dialects exhibiting a higher level of ergativity are mostly SOV, while the dialects displaying a lower degree of ergativity are generally SVO.
One online Assyrian dictionary website, Sureth Dictionary
, lists a total 40,642 words–half of which are root words
Due to geographical proximity,
Assyrian has an extensive number
of Iranian loanwords
and Kurdish–incorporated in its vocabulary, as well as some Arabic, Ottoman Turkish
and, increasingly within the last century, English loanwords (see list of loanwords in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic
). Mesopotamian Iraqi Arabic
, being an Aramaic Syriac substratum
, is said to be the most Syriac-influenced dialect of Arabic
sharing significant similarities in language structure, as well as having evident and stark influences from other ancient Mesopotamian languages of Iraq, such as Akkadian
Mesopotamian Arabic dialects developed by Iraqi Muslims
, Iraqi Jews
, as well as dialects by Iraqi Christians
, most of whom are native Syriac speakers. Assyrian Neo-Aramaic has over 300 words borrowed into its vocabulary directly from Akkadian, some of them also being borrowed into neighbouring Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. Several of these words are not attested in Classical Edessan Syriac, many of them being agricultural
terms, being more likely to survive by being spoken in agrarian rural communities rather than the urban centres like Edessa.
A few deviations in pronunciation between the Akkadian and the Assyrian Aramaic words are probably due to mistranslations of cuneiform signs which can have several readings. While Akkadian nouns generally end in "-u
" in the nominative case, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic words nouns end with the vowel "-a
" in their lemma form.
Akkadian and modern Assyrian vocabulary[N 4]
Map of the Assyrian dialects.
SIL Ethnologue distinguishes five dialect groups: Urmian, Northern, Central, Western and Sapna, each with sub-dialects. Mutual intelligibility between the Assyrian dialects is as high as 80%–90%.
dialect has become the prestige dialect of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic after 1836, when that dialect was chosen by Justin Perkins
, an American Presbyterian
missionary, for the creation of a standard literary dialect of Assyrian. A second standard dialect derived from General Urmian known as "Iraqi Koine
", developed in the 20th century.
- Iranian group:
- Turkey group:
- northern Iraq (Nineveh Plains):
Sample of the Chaldean dialect (voice by Bishop Amel Shamon Nona
). Notice the usage of [ħ] and [ʕ], which makes it sound similar to the Western Aramaic
languages. Note also the many Arabic loanwords (at least in this discourse).
- Lower Barwari – The dialect within this group has more in common with Tyari than with Upper Barwari dialect
Sample of the Iraqi Koine dialect (voice by Linda George
). Notice how it combines the phonetic features of the Hakkari (Turkey) and Urmian (Iran) dialects.
Iraqi Koine, also known as Iraqi Assyrian and "Standard" Assyrian, is a compromise between the rural Ashiret accents of Hakkari and Nineveh Plains
(listed above) and the former prestigious dialect in Urmia
. Iraqi Koine does not really constitute a new dialect, but an incomplete merger of dialects, with some speakers sounding more Urmian, such as those from Habbaniya
, and others more Hakkarian, such as those who immigrated from northern Iraq
. Koine is more analogous or similar to Urmian in terms of manner of articulation, place of articulation and its consonant cluster
formations than it is to the Hakkari dialects, though it just lacks the regional Farsi
influence in some consonants and vowels, as the front vowels
in Urmian tend to be more fronted and the back ones
For an English accent
equivalence, the difference between Iraqi Koine and Urmian dialect would be akin to the difference between Australian
and New Zealand English
During the First World War
, many Assyrians living in Ottoman Turkey
were forced from their homes
, and many of their descendants now live in Iraq
. The relocation has led to the creation of this dialect. Iraqi Koine was developed in the urban
areas of Iraq
, Habbaniya and Kirkuk
), which became the meccas for the rural Assyrian population. By the end of the 1950s, vast number of Assyrians started to speak Iraqi Koine. Today, Iraqi Koine is the predominant use of communication between the majority of the Assyrians from Iraqi cities
and it is also used as the standard dialect in music and formal speech.
Some modern Hakkari speakers from Iraq can switch back and forth
from their Hakkari dialects to Iraqi Koine when conversing with Assyrian speakers of other dialects. Some Syrian-Assyrians
, who originate from Hakkari, may also speak or sing in Iraqi Koine. This is attributed to the growing exposure to Assyrian Standard-based literature, media and its use as a liturgical
language by the Church of the East, which is based in Iraq. Elements of original Ashiret
dialects can still be observed in Iraqi Koine, especially in that of older speakers. Furthermore, Assyrian songs
are generally sung in Iraqi Koine in order for them to be intelligible and have widespread recognition. To note, the emergence of Koine did not signify that the rest of the spoken dialects vanished. The Ashiret
dialects are still active today and widely spoken in northern Iraq
and Northeastern Syria as some Assyrians remained in the rural areas and the fact that the first generation
speakers who relocated in urban areas still maintained their native dialects.
Neo-Aramaic has a rather slightly defined dialect continuum
, starting from the Assyrians in northern Iraq
) and ending with those in Western Iran
). The dialects in Northern Iraq, such as those of Alqosh and Batnaya, would be minimally unintelligible to those in Western Iran.
Nearing the Iraqi-Turkey border, the Barwari
dialects are more "traditionally Assyrian" and would sound like those in the Hakkari province
in Turkey. Furthermore, the Barwar and Tyari dialects are "transitional", acquiring both Assyrian and Chaldean phonetic features (though they do not use /ħ/). Gawar, Diz and Jilu
are in the "centre" of the spectrum, which lie halfway between Tyari and Urmia, having features of both respective dialects, though still being distinct in their own manner.
In Hakkari, going east (towards Iran
), the Nochiya
dialect would begin to sound distinct to the Tyari/Barwar dialects and more like the Urmian dialect in Urmia
, Western Azerbaijan
, containing a few Urmian features. The Urmian dialect, alongside Iraqi Koine, are considered to be "Standard Assyrian", though Iraqi Koine is more widespread and has thus become the more common standard dialect in recent times. Both Koine and Urmian share phonetic characteristics with the Nochiya dialect to some degree.
Early Syriac texts still date to the 2nd century, notably the Syriac Bible
and the Diatesseron
Gospel harmony. The bulk of Syriac literary production dates to between the 4th and 8th centuries. Classical Syriac literacy survives into the 9th century, though Syriac Christian authors in this period increasingly wrote in Arabic
. The emergence of spoken Neo-Aramaic
is conventionally dated to the 13th century, but a number of authors continued producing literary works in Syriac in the later medieval period.
Because Assyrian, alongside Turoyo
, is the most widely spoken variety of Syriac today, modern Syriac literature would therefore usually be written in those varieties.
The conversion of the Mongols
to Islam began a period of retreat and hardship for Syriac Christianity and its adherents, although there still has been a continuous stream of Syriac literature in Upper Mesopotamia
and the Levant
from the 14th century through to the present day. This has included the flourishing of literature from the various colloquial Eastern Aramaic Neo-Aramaic
languages still spoken by Assyrians
literature bears a dual tradition: it continues the traditions of the Syriac literature of the past and it incorporates a converging stream of the less homogeneous spoken language. The first such flourishing of Neo-Syriac was the seventeenth century literature of the School of Alqosh
, in northern Iraq
This literature led to the establishment of Assyrian Aramaic as written literary languages.
In the nineteenth century, printing presses
were established in Urmia
, in northern Iran
. This led to the establishment of the 'General Urmian' dialect of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic as the standard in much Neo-Syriac Assyrian literature up until the 20th century. The Urmia Bible
, published in 1852 by Justin Perkins was based on the Peshitta
, where it included a parallel translation in the Urmian dialect. The comparative ease of modern publishing methods has encouraged other colloquial Neo-Aramaic languages, like Turoyo, to begin to produce literature.
- ^ This figure is the total of both Assyrian and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic speakers
- ^ These varieties are spoken by ethnic Assyrians and are all fairly mutually intelligible with each other that they can be considered peripheral Assyrian Neo-Aramaic dialects.
- ^ The speakers of these Jewish Aramaic dialects have ancestry in Upper Mesopotamia and would therefore be of Assyrian heritage, if not wholly.
- ^ Many Akkadian and Aramaic words share the same Semitic root and have cognates in Arabic and Hebrew as well. Therefore, the list below focuses on words that are direct loanwords (not cognates) from Akkadian into modern Assyrian Neo-Aramaic. Other Semitic languages that have borrowed the word from Akkadian may be noted as well.
- ^ UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
- ^ a b c Assyrian Neo-Aramaic at Ethnologue (23rd ed., 2020)
- ^ a b "Iraq's Constitution of 2005" (PDF). constituteproject.org. 1 February 2019. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
- ^ a b The Comprehensive Policy to Manage the Ethnic Languages in Iraq (CPMEL)
- ^ a b "Kurdistan: Constitution of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region". Retrieved 14 April 2019.
- ^ Maclean, Arthur John (1901). Dictionary of the Dialects of Vernacular Syriac. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 223b.
- ^ "ܣܘܪܬ in English". Glosbe - the multilingual online dictionary. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
- ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Northeastern Neo-Aramaic". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- ^ Blench, 2006. The Afro-Asiatic Languages: Classification and Reference List
- ^ a b Bae, C. Aramaic as a Lingua Franca During the Persian Empire (538-333 BCE). Journal of Universal Language. March 2004, 1-20.
- ^ Maclean, Arthur John (1895). Grammar of the dialects of vernacular Syriac: as spoken by the Eastern Syrians of Kurdistan, north-west Persia, and the Plain of Mosul: with notices of the vernacular of the Jews of Azerbaijan and of Zakhu near Mosul. Cambridge University Press, London.
- ^ Assyrians After Assyria, Parpola
- ^ The Fihrist (Catalog): A Tench Century Survey of Islamic Culture. Abu 'l Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq al Nadim. Great Books of the Islamic World, Kazi Publications. Translator: Bayard Dodge.
- ^ From a lecture by J. A. Brinkman: "There is no reason to believe that there would be no racial or cultural continuity in Assyria, since there is no evidence that the population of Assyria was removed." Quoted in Efrem Yildiz's "The Assyrians" Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, 13.1, pp. 22, ref 24
- ^ Especially in view of the very early establishment of Christianity in Assyria and its continuity to the present and the continuity of the population, I think there is every likelihood that ancient Assyrians are among the ancestors of modern Assyrians of the area." Biggs, pp. 10
- ^ Salminen, Tapani (2010). "Europe and the Caucasus". In Moseley, Christopher (ed.). Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger (3rd ed.). Paris: UNESCO Publishing. p. 41. ISBN 9789231040962. . . . Suret (divided by SIL on non-linguistic grounds into Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic) . . .
- ^ Wilken, Robert Louis (27 November 2012). The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-300-11884-1.
- ^ Avenery, Iddo, The Aramaic Dialect of the Jews of Zakho. The Israel academy of Science and Humanities 1988.
- ^ a b Heinrichs, Wolfhart (ed.) (1990). Studies in Neo-Aramaic. Scholars Press: Atlanta, Georgia. ISBN 1-55540-430-8.
- ^ Tezel, Aziz (2003). Comparative Etymological Studies in the Western Neo-Syriac (Ṭūrōyo) Lexicon: with special reference to homonyms, related words and borrowings with cultural signification. Uppsala Universitet. ISBN 91-554-5555-7.
- ^ a b Khan 2008, pp. 6
- ^ a b c Khan, Geoffrey (2007). Postgate, J.N. (ed.). "Aramaic, Medieval and Modern" (PDF). British School of Archaeology in Iraq. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Languages of Iraq: Ancient and Modern): 110. ISBN 978-0-903472-21-0.
- ^ The Nestorians and their Rituals; George Percy Badger.
- ^ A Short History of Syriac Christianity; W. Stewart McCullough.
- ^ Naby, Eden. "From Lingua Franca to Endangered Language". Assyrian International News Agency.
- ^ Parpola, Simo (2004). "National and Ethnic Identity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Assyrian Identity in Post-Empire Times" (PDF). Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies. JAAS. 18 (2). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2011.
Sabar, Yona (1975). "The impact of Israeli Hebrew on the Neo-Aramaic dialect of the Kurdish Jews of Zakho: a case of language shift". Hebrew Union College Annual (46): 489–508.
- ^ Gzella, Holger; Folmer, M. L. (2008). Aramaic in its Historical and Linguistic Setting. Harrassowitz. ISBN 9783447057875. OCLC 938036352.
- ^ "Microsoft Word - PeshittaNewTestament.doc"(PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
- ^ Aramaic Documents of the Fifth Century B. C. by G. R. Driver
- ^ a b The British Survey, By British Society for International Understanding, 1968, page 3
- ^ Drijvers, H. J. W. (1980). Cults and beliefs at Edessa. Brill Archive. p. 1. ISBN 978-90-04-06050-0.
- ^ Kaufman, Stephen A. (1974),The Akkadian influences on Aramaic. University of Chicago Press
- ^ Shaked, Saul (1987). "Aramaic". Encyclopedia Iranica. 2. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 250–261. p. 251
- ^ Frye, Richard N.; Driver, G. R. (1955). "Review of G. R. Driver's "Aramaic Documents of the Fifth Century B. C."". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 18 (3/4): 456–461. doi:10.2307/2718444. JSTOR 2718444. p. 457.
- ^ Krotkoff, Georg.; Afsaruddin, Asma; Zahniser, A. H. Mathias, eds. (1997). Humanism, Culture, and Language in the Near East : Studies in Honor of Georg Krotkoff. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns. ISBN 9781575065083. OCLC 747412055.
- ^ Bird, Isabella, Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan, including a summer in the Upper Karun region and a visit to the Nestorian rayahs, London: J. Murray, 1891, vol. ii, pp. 282 and 306
- ^ Lipiński, Edward Lipiński (2001). Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar. Peeters Publishers. p. 70. ISBN 978-90-429-0815-4.
- ^ Odisho, Edward Y. (2001). „ADM’s educational policy: A serious project of Assyrian language maintenance and revitalization “, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, Xv/1:3–31.
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- ^ Syriac Romanization Table
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- ^ a b c Khan, Geoffrey (2016). The Neo-Aramaic Dialect of the Assyrian Christians of Urmi. Brill. p. 93.
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- ^ The Debate on Ergativity in Neo-Aramaic EDIT DORON & GEOFFREY KHAN (2010). The Hebrew University of Jerusalem & University of Cambridge
- ^ 8 Cf. M. Tomal, Studies in Neo-Aramaic Tenses, Kraków 2008, pp. 108 and 120.
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- ^ E. Kutscher, Two "Passive" Constructions in Aramaic in the Light of Persian, in: Proceedings of the International Conference on Semitic Studies held in Jerusalem, 19–23 July 1965, The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities 1969, pp. 132–151
- ^ Cf. M. Tomal, Studies in Neo-Aramaic Tenses, Kraków 2008, pp. 108 and 120.
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