Neo-Aramaic languages

Modern Aramaic
Ethnicity: Assyrians
Iraq, Iran, Israel, Syria, Turkey and diaspora
Linguistic classification: Afro-Asiatic

Neo-Aramaic, or Modern Aramaic, languages are varieties of Aramaic that are spoken vernaculars in the medieval to modern era, evolving out of 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, these classical languages continue to have influence over the colloquial, Neo-Aramaic languages.

According to SIL Ethnologue, there are an estimated 550,000 native speakers of Neo-Aramaic dialects as of 1994. The largest group is Sureth which some artificially divide according to church into Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (210,000 speakers), Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (206,000 speakers) and Surayt/Turoyo (112,000 speakers).

The group of Neo-Aramaic languages is not uniform; it 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 classical languages.

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. Only Western Neo-Aramaic, spoken in Ma`loula and surrounding villages in the Anti-Lebanon, remains as a witness to western varieties.

The other 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 by about a hundred people mostly in Ahvaz, Iran, all of whom are Mandaeans.

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 apart. This sub-grouping is witnessed by Turoyo/Surayt and, the now extinct, Mlahsô, both influenced by Classical Syriac. 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; Jewish NENA varieties are influenced by Targumic Aramaic.


  • (French) Poizat, Bruno (2008). Manuel de Soureth. Paris: Geuthner. p. 271. ISBN 9782705338046. 
  • (French) Père Jean Rhétoré (1912). Grammaire de la Langue Soureth. Mossoul: imprimerie des Pères Dominicains. p. 255. 
  • 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. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Chaldean Neo-Aramaic — ܟܠܕܝܐ Kaldāyâ, ܣܘܼܪܲܝܬ Sōreth Sûret in written Syriac (Madnkhaya script) Pronunciati …   Wikipedia

  • Central Neo-Aramaic — See Northeastern Neo Aramaic for the other languages of the larger group. Central Neo Aramaic Northwestern Neo Aramaic Geographic distribution: Mardin and Diyarbakır provinces in Turkey, Qamishli and al Hasakah in Syria; also in Sweden and… …   Wikipedia

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  • Western Neo-Aramaic — language familycolor=Afro Asiatic name=Western Neo Aramaic nativename=ܐܪܡޑܬ Aramîth , آرامي Ārāmī states=Syria region=Anti Lebanon mountains: Ma loula, Bakh a and Jubb adin. speakers=15,000 fam2=Semitic fam3=Central Semitic fam4=Aramaic… …   Wikipedia

  • Assyrian Neo-Aramaic — Infobox Language name=Assyrian Neo Aramaic nativename=ܐܬܘܪܝܐ Ātûrāyâ , ܣܘܪܬ Sûret states=Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Sweden, Syria, United States region=Hakkari Turkey, Urmia Iran speakers=210,231 (fluent), [… …   Wikipedia

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  • Assyrian Neo-Aramaic — ISO 639 3 Code : aii ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living Macrolanguages : Identifier : (ISO 639 3) : syr Macrolanguages : Name : Syriac Individual languages : Identifier : (ISO 639 3) …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

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