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
fam5=Western Aramaic
iso2=arc|iso3=amw

Western Neo-Aramaic is a Modern Aramaic language. Today, it is spoken in three villages in the Anti-Lebanon mountains of western Syria. [http://meti.byu.edu/Brock_Introduction.pdf]

Western Neo-Aramaic is the only living language drawn from the western dialect of Aramaic. All other Neo-Aramaic languages are of the eastern dialect region. Western Neo-Aramaic probably is the surviving remnant of a Western Middle Aramaic dialect which was spoken throughout the Orontes Valley area and into the Anti-Lebanon in the 6th century. It now is spoken by the villagers of Ma`loula ( _ar. معلولة), Bakh'a ( _ar. بخعة) and Jubb'adin ( _ar. جبّعدين), who live about 60 km north east of Damascus. The continuation of this little cluster of Aramaic in a sea of Arabic is partly due to the relative isolation of the villages and their close-knit communities.

Of the three villages, the dialect of Bakh'a appears to be the most conservative. It has been less influenced by Arabic than the other dialects, and retains some vocabulary that is obsolete in other dialects. The dialect of Jubb'adin has changed the most. It is heavily influenced by Arabic, and has a more developed phonology. The dialect of Ma`loula (or Malula) is somewhere between the two, but is closer to that of Jubb'adin. Cross-linguistic influence between Aramaic and Arabic has been mutual, as Syrian Arabic itself (and Levantine Arabic in general) retains an Aramaic substratum. Like in most of the Levant prior to the introduction of Islam in the 7th century AD, the villages were originally all Christian. However, Ma'loula is the only village that retains a sizeable Christian population (they mostly belong to the Melkite Catholic Church) as most of the inhabitants of Bakh'a and Jubb'adin are Muslims. Ma'loula glows in the pale blue wash with which houses are painted every year in honour of the Virgin Mary.

The phonology of Western Neo-Aramaic has developed quite differently from other Aramaic languages. The labial consonants of older Western Aramaic (/p/—/f/, /b/—/v/) have been retained in Bakh'a and Ma'loula. Under influence from Arabic, Jubb'adin has collapsed the series to /b/, /f/. In the dental consonants, the fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ are retained; /d/ is lost, becoming /ð/ (despite colloquial Arabic influence to reverse this trend), and /t/ has become /IPA|ʦ/ in Bakh'a, and /IPA|ʧ/ in Ma'loula and Jubb'adin. However, [ti] is the usual form for the relative particle in these two villages, with a variant [IPA|ʧi] , where Bakh'a always uses [IPA|ʦi] . Among the velar consonants, the voiced pair of /g/—/IPA|ɣ/ has collapsed into /IPA|ɣ/. The unvoiced velar fricative, /x/, is retained, but its plosive complement /k/ has started to undergo palatalisation. In Bakh'a, the palatalisation is hardly apparent; in Ma'loula, it is more obvious, and often leads to /kj/; in Jubb'adin, it has become /IPA|ʧ/, and has thus merged phonetically with the original /t/. The original uvular plosive, /q/, has also moved forward in Western Neo-Aramaic. In Bakh'a it has become a strongly post-velar plosive, and in Ma'loula more lightly post-velar. In Jubb'adin, however, it has replaced the velar plosive, and become /k/.

ee also

*Western Aramaic languages

References

* Arnold, Werner (1989f) "Das Neuwestaramäische". 5 Volumes. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
* Arnold, Werner (1990). New materials on Western Neo-Aramaic. In Wolfhart Heinrichs (Ed.), "Studies in Neo-Aramaic", pp. 131–149. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press. ISBN 1-55540-430-8.
* Beyer, Klaus (1986). "The Aramaic language: its distribution and subdivisions". Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. ISBN 3-525-53573-2.
* Tsereteli, Konstantin (1990). The velar spirant unicode|ġ in Modern East Aramaic dialects. In Wolfhart Heinrichs (Ed.), "Studies in Neo-Aramaic", pp. 131–149. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press. ISBN 1-55540-430-8.

Notes

External links

* [http://www.ethnologue.org/show_language.asp?code=AMW Ethnologue report for Western Neo-Aramaic] .
* [http://semarch.uni-hd.de/dokumentgruppen.php4?ST_ID=5&DT_ID=8 Semitisches Tonarchiv: Dokumentgruppe "Aramäisch/Neuwestaramäisch"ndash recordings of Western Neo-Aramaic] .


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