Eastern Aramaic languages

Eastern Aramaic languages have developed from the varieties of Aramaic that developed in and around Mesopotamia (Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeast Syria and northwest and southwest Iran), as opposed to western varieties of the Levant (modern Levantine Syria and Lebanon). Most speakers are ethnic Assyrians, although there are a minority of Jews and Mandeans who also speak varieties of Eastern Aramaic.

Eastern Aramaic
Middle East
Linguistic classificationAfro-Asiatic


Numbers of fluent speakers range from approximately 575,000 to 1,000,000, with the main languages being Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (235,000 speakers), Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (216,000 speakers) and Surayt/Turoyo (250,000 speakers),[2] together with a number of smaller closely related languages with no more than 5,000 to 10,000 speakers between them.

Despite their names, they are not restricted to specific churches; Chaldean Neo-Aramaic being spoken by members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox Church, Assyrian Protestant churches, and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Turoyo being spoken by members of the Chaldean Catholic Church etc.[3][4]

In addition, there are approximately 25,000 speakers of Jewish Eastern Aramaic dialects, and some 5,000 fluent speakers of Mandaic language[5] among the some 50,000 Mandeans, an ethno-religious Gnostic minority in Iraq and Iran.


Historically, eastern varieties of Aramaic have been more dominant, mainly due to their political acceptance in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Achaemenid Persian empires. With the later loss of political platforms to Greek and Persian, Eastern Aramaic continued to be used by the population of Mesopotamia.

In Assyria, today's modern northern Iraq, south east Turkey and north east Syria, the local variety of eastern Aramaic, known as Syriac (the terms Syrian and Syriac originally being Indo-European derivatives of Assyrian) had emerged by the 5th century BC, and between the 1st and 4th centuries AD became a standard language among the Eastern Rite Christian Assyrians, being used in the Peshitta and by the poet Ephrem, and in the schools of Edessa and Nisibis, and later by the Saint Thomas Christians in India.

In the region of Babylonia (modern Southern Iraq), rabbinical schools flourished, producing the Targumim and Talmud, making the language a standard of religious Jewish scholarship.

Among the Mandaean ethnic community of Khuzestan and Iraq, another variety of eastern Aramaic, known as Mandaic, became the liturgical language of the religion.

These varieties have widely influenced the less prominent western varieties of Aramaic of the Arameans of The Levant, and the three literary, classical languages outlined above have also influenced numerous vernacular varieties of eastern Aramaic, some of which are spoken to this day, largely by ethnic Assyrians and Mandeans (see Neo-Aramaic languages). Since the Arab Islamic conquest of the 7th century AD, most of the population of the Middle East has undergone a gradual but steady language shift to Arabic.

However there are still between some 550,000 - 1,000,000 fluent speakers among the indigenous ethnic Assyrians of northern Iraq, northeast Syria, southeastern Turkey and northwestern Iran, as well as small migrant communities in Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Armenia, Georgia, southern Russia and Azerbaijan. Most of these are members of the Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox Church, Chaldean Catholic Church, Ancient Church of the East, Assyrian Pentecostal Church and Assyrian Evangelical Church. A further number may have a more sparse understanding of the language, due to pressures in their homelands to speak Arabic, Turkish, Persian or Kurdish, and due to the Assyrian Diaspora to the Western World.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Eastern Aramaic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ http://userblogs.fu-berlin.de/aramaic-ol/didyouknow/
  3. ^ Turoyo at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  4. ^ *MacDonald, Kevin (2004-07-29). "Socialization for Ingroup Identity among Assyrians in the United States". Paper presented at a symposium on socialization for ingroup identity at the meetings of the International Society for Human Ethology, Ghent, Belgium. Archived from the original on 2007-06-10. Based on interviews with community informants, this paper explores socialization for ingroup identity and endogamy among Assyrians in the United States. The Assyrians descent from the population of ancient Assyria (founded in the 24th century BC), and have lived as a linguistic, political, religious, and ethnic minority in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey since the fall of the Assyrian Empire in 608 BC. Practices that maintain ethnic and cultural continuity in the Near East, the United States and elsewhere include language and residential patterns, ethnically based Christian churches characterized by unique holidays and rites, and culturally specific practices related to life-cycle events and food preparation. The interviews probe parental attitudes and practices related to ethnic identity and encouragement of endogamy. Results are being analyzed.
  5. ^ Modern Mandaic at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic

Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (ܣܘܪܝܬ, Sūreṯ), or simply Assyrian, is a Neo-Aramaic language within the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family that is largely spoken by Assyrian people, who are also known as Syriac Christians. The various Assyrian Aramaic dialects, including Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, have been heavily influenced by Classical Syriac, the Middle Aramaic dialect of Edessa, after its adoption as an official liturgical language, and they are ultimately descended from Old Aramaic, the lingua franca in the later phase of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, displacing the East Semitic Assyrian dialect of Akkadian beginning around the 10th century BC.Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is spoken by an estimated 200,000 people who are native to Upper Mesopotamia, which is a large region stretching from the plain of Urmia in northwestern Iran to the Nineveh plains, and the Irbil, Kirkuk and Duhok regions in northern Iraq, together with the Al Hasakah region of northeastern Syria, and parts of southeastern Turkey. Instability throughout the Middle East over the past century has led to a worldwide diaspora of Assyrian speakers, with many speakers now living abroad in such places as North America, Australia and Europe. Speakers of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and Turoyo are ethnic Assyrians and are descendants of the ancient Assyrian inhabitants of Northern Mesopotamia.Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is one of the largest Neo-Aramaic languages (232,000 speakers), with Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (213,000 speakers) and Turoyo (250,000 speakers) making up most of the remaining Neo-Aramaic speakers. Despite the terms "Chaldean Neo-Aramaic" and "Assyrian Neo-Aramaic" indicating a separate ethnoreligious identity, both the languages and their native speakers originate from the same Upper Mesopotamian region (historic Assyria).Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is, to a significant degree, mutually intelligible with Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and they are sometimes considered to constitute dialects of the same language rather than two separate languages. To a moderate degree, Assyrian is also intelligible with Senaya, Lishana Deni and Bohtan Neo-Aramaic (which are, at times, also considered to be dialects of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic), and is partially intelligible with Lishan Didan, Hulaulá and Lishanid Noshan. Its mutual intelligibility with Turoyo, a Central Neo-Aramaic language, is rather limited.Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is a moderately-inflected, fusional language with a two-gender noun system and rather flexible word order. There is some Akkadian influence in the language. Due to its location and cultural influences, the speakers may use Iranian, English and Arabic loanwords, depending on where they live or where their family came from. Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is written from right-to-left and it uses the Madnhāyā version of the Syriac alphabet. Assyrian, alongside other modern Aramaic languages, is now considered endangered.

Bohtan Neo-Aramaic

Bohtan Neo-Aramaic is a modern Eastern Neo-Aramaic language, one of a number spoken by the Assyrians. Originally, Bohtan Neo-Aramaic was spoken on the Plain of Bohtan in Şırnak Province of southeastern Turkey as well in the town of Gardabani, near Rustavi in Georgia, Göygöl and Ağstafa in Azerbaijan. However it is now spoken in Moscow, Krymsk and Novopavlosk, Russia. It is considered to be a dialect of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic since it is a northeastern Aramaic language and its speakers are ethnically Assyrians.

Central Neo-Aramaic

Central Neo-Aramaic is a term used differently by different Semiticists. In its widest sense it can refer to all Neo-Aramaic languages except for Western Neo-Aramaic and Neo-Mandaic. Neo-Aramaic speakers are mostly Assyrians, although smaller numbers of Jews, Syriac-Arameans and Mandeans also speak various dialects.

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, or simply Chaldean, is a Northeastern Neo-Aramaic language spoken throughout a large region stretching from the plain of Urmia, in northwestern Iran, to the Nineveh plains, in northern Iraq, together with parts of southeastern Turkey.

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is closely related to Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, where it is at times considered a dialect of that language. Most Assyrian Christians in Iraq, Iran and the Khabour River Valley in Syria speak either the Chaldean Neo-Aramaic or Assyrian Neo-Aramaic variety, two varieties of Christian Neo-Aramaic or Sureth. Despite the two terms seeming to indicate a separate religious or even ethnic identity, both languages and their native speakers originate from and are indigenous to the same Upper Mesopotamian region (what was Assyria between the 9th century BC and 7th century BC).

Hulaulá language

Hulaulá (Hebrew: יהודיותא‎) is a modern Jewish Aramaic language, often called Neo-Aramaic or Judeo-Aramaic. It was originally spoken in Iranian Kurdistan and small parts in the easternmost parts of Iraqi Kurdistan. Most speakers now live in Israel. The name Hulaulá simply means 'Jewish'.

Speakers sometimes call their language Lishana Noshan or Lishana Akhni, both of which mean 'our language'. To distinguish it from other dialects of Jewish Neo-Aramaic, Hulaulá is sometimes called Galiglu ('mine-yours'), demonstrating different use of prepositions and pronominal suffixes. Scholarly sources tend simply to call it Persian Kurdistani Jewish Neo-Aramaic.

Hulaulá is written in the Hebrew alphabet. Spelling tends to be highly phonetic, and elided letters are not written.

Hértevin language

The Hértevin language is a modern Eastern Aramaic or Syriac language. It was originally spoken in a cluster of villages in Siirt Province in southeastern Turkey. Speakers of Hértevin Aramaic have emigrated mostly to the West, and are now scattered and isolated from one another. A few speakers remain in Turkey.

Jewish Babylonian Aramaic

Jewish Babylonian Aramaic was the form of Middle Aramaic employed by writers in Lower Mesopotamia between the fourth and eleventh centuries. It is most commonly identified with the language of the Babylonian Talmud (which was completed in the seventh century) and of post-Talmudic (Geonic) literature, which are the most important cultural products of Babylonian Jews. The most important epigraphic sources for the dialect are the hundreds of inscriptions on incantation bowls.

List of loanwords in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic

Loanwords in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic came about mostly due to the contact between Assyrian people and Arabs, Iranians, Kurds and Turks in modern history, and can also be found in the other two major dialects spoken by the Assyrian people, these being Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and Turoyo. Assyrian is one of the few languages where most of its foreign words come from a different language family (in this case, Indo-European).Unlike other Neo-Aramaic languages, Assyrian has an extensive number of latterly introduced Iranian loanwords Depending on the dialect, Arabic loanwords are also reasonably present. Some Turkish loanwords are Turkified words that are of Arabic origin. To note, some of the loanwords are revised (or "Assyrianized"), and therefore would sound somewhat different to the original word. Furthermore, some loanwords may also have a slightly different meaning from the original language.

Mandaic language

Mandaic is the language of the Mandaean religion and community. Classical Mandaic is used by a section of the Mandaean community in liturgical rites. The modern descendent of Classical Mandaic, known as Neo-Mandaic or Modern Mandaic, is spoken by a small section of the Mandaean community around Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, Iran. Speakers of Classical Mandaic are found in Iran, Iraq (particularly the southern portions of the country) and in diaspora (particularly in the United States). It is a variety of Aramaic, notable for its use of vowel letters (see Mandaic alphabet) and the striking amount of Persian influence in its lexicon.

Classical Mandaic is a Northwest Semitic language of the Eastern Aramaic sub-family, and is closely related to the language of the Aramaic portions of the Babylonian Talmud, as well as the language of the incantation texts and Aramaic incantation bowls found throughout Mesopotamia. It is also related to Syriac, another member of the Eastern Aramaic sub-family, which is the liturgical language of many Christian denominations throughout the Middle East.

Mlahsô language

Mlaḥsô or Mlahsö (Classical Syriac: ܡܠܚܬܝܐ‎), sometimes referred to as Suryoyo or Surayt, is an extinct or dormant Central Neo-Aramaic language. It was traditionally spoken in eastern Turkey and later also in northeastern Syria by Jacobite Syriac-Assyrians.The Mlaḥsô language (Surayt of Mlaḥsô) is closely related to the Surayt of Turabdin but sufficiently different

to be considered a separate language, with the syntax of the language having retained more features of Classical Syriac than Turoyo. It was spoken in the villages of Mlaḥsô (Turkish: Yünlüce, Kurdish: Mela‎), a village established by two monks from the Tur Abdin mountain range, and in the village of ˁAnşa near Lice, Diyarbakır, Turkey. Aside from their native language, many Mlaḥsô speakers were fluent in Turkish, Arabic, Armenian, Kurdish and Zaza.

Nabataean Aramaic

Nabataean Aramaic was the Western Aramaic variety used in inscriptions by the Nabataeans of the Negev, the east bank of the Jordan River and the Sinai Peninsula.

During the early Islamic Golden Age, Arab historians applied the term "Nabataean" to other, eastern Aramaic languages in the Babylonian alluvial plain of Iraq and the Syrian Desert.


Neo-Mandaic, sometimes called the "ratna" (Arabic: رطنة‎ raṭna "jargon"), is the modern reflex of the Mandaic language, the liturgical language of the Mandaean religious community of Iraq and Iran. Although severely endangered, it survives today as the first language of a small number of Mandaeans (possibly as few as 100–200 speakers) in Iran and in the Mandaean diaspora. All Neo-Mandaic speakers are multilingual in the languages of their neighbors, Arabic and Persian, and the influence of these languages upon the grammar of Neo-Mandaic is considerable, particularly in the lexicon and the morphology of the noun. Nevertheless, Neo-Mandaic is more conservative even in these regards than most other Neo-Aramaic languages.

As the only known Aramaic literary language with a surviving modern reflex, Mandaic has one of the longest continuous histories of attestation of any Aramaic dialect and is therefore potentially of great interest to scholars of Aramaic.

Northeastern Neo-Aramaic

Northeastern Neo-Aramaic (often abbreviated NENA) is a term used by Semiticists to refer to a large variety of Modern Aramaic languages that were once spoken in a large region stretching from the plain of Urmia, in northwestern Iran, to the plain of Mosul, in northern Iraq, as well as bordering regions in south east Turkey and north east Syria.

As of the 1990s, the NENA group had an estimated number of fluent speakers among the Assyrians just below 500,000, spread throughout the Middle East and the Assyrian diaspora. More than 90% of these speak either the Assyrian Neo-Aramaic or the Chaldean Neo-Aramaic variety, two varieties of Christian Neo-Aramaic or Sureth which, contrary to what their names suggest, are not divided among denominational Chaldean Catholic Church/Assyrian Church of the East lines, and indeed some speakers of both dialects may be followers of the Syriac Orthodox Church or Protestants. There are a number of other NENA varieties, but all of them are endangered or near-extinct, and in addition, some Assyrian communities speak Central Neo-Aramaic dialects such as Turoyo.

Senaya language

The Senaya language is a modern Eastern Syriac-Aramaic language. It is the language of Assyrians originally from Sanandaj in Iranian Kurdistan. Most Senaya speakers now live in California, United States and few families still live in Tehran, Iran. They are mostly members of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Since the speakers are ethnically Assyrian, the language would be, at times, considered a dialect of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic.

Turoyo language

Turoyo (also called Surayt) is a Central Neo-Aramaic language traditionally spoken in southeastern Turkey and northeastern Syria by Syriac Christians. Most speakers use the Classical Syriac language for literature and worship.

Turoyo speakers are currently mostly members of the Syriac Orthodox Church, but there are also Turoyo-speaking members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, especially from the town of Midyat, and of the Assyrian Church of the East. It is also currently spoken in the Syriac Diaspora, although classified as a vulnerable language.Turoyo is not mutually intelligible with Western Neo-Aramaic having been separated for over a thousand years, while mutual intelligibility with Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is limited.Contrary to what these language names suggest, they are not specific to a particular church, with members of the Assyrian Church of the East and Chaldean Catholic Church speaking Turoyo, and members of the Syriac Orthodox Church speaking Assyrian or Chaldean Neo-Aramaic dialects.

Western Aramaic languages

Western Aramaic languages is a group of several Aramaic languages developed and once widely spoken throughout the ancient Levant, as opposed to those from in and around Mesopotamia, which make up what is known as the Eastern Aramaic languages, which are still spoken as mother tongues by the Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syriacs and Mandaeans of Iraq, north eastern Syria, south eastern Turkey and north western Iran. All of the Western Aramaic languages are extinct today except Western Neo-Aramaic.


The grapheme Š, š (S with caron) is used in various contexts representing the sh sound usually denoting the voiceless postalveolar fricative or similar voiceless retroflex fricative /ʂ/. In the International Phonetic Alphabet this sound is denoted with ʃ or ʂ, but the lowercase š is used in the Americanist phonetic notation, as well as in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet. It represents the same sound as the Turkic letter Ş and the Romanian letter Ș (S-comma).

For use in computer systems, Š and š are at Unicode codepoints U+0160 and U+0161 (Alt 0138 and Alt 0154 for input), respectively. In HTML code, the entities Š and š can also be used to represent the characters.

Ṣ (minuscule: ṣ) is a letter of the Latin alphabet, formed from an S with the addition of a dot below the letter. Its uses include:

the transliteration of Indic languages to represent retroflex [ʂ]

the transcription of Afro-Asiatic languages (mostly Semitic languages) to represent an "emphatic s" [sˀ] as in Arabic ص (Ṣād) and as in the Hebrew צ (Tzadi/Ṣādī) spoken by the Jews of Yemen and North Africa

the orthography of Yoruba in Nigeria to represent the voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant (the English "sh" sound)

Ṭ (minuscule: ṭ) is a letter of the Latin alphabet, formed from T with the addition of a dot below the letter.

It is used in the orthography of the Mizo language. It sounds much like a 'tr' in Mizo Language, as it sounds in English. But it does not replace Ṭ or ṭ .

It is used in the transcription of Afro-Asiatic languages to represent an "emphatic t", in romanization of Arabic, in the Syriac and in the Berber Latin alphabets.

In the transcription of Arabic, it corresponds to the letter ṭāʾ (ط).

It is also used in the Bhojpuri language as a single consonant to represent 'tr'.

In transliterating Indo-Aryan, East Iranian and Dravidian languages it represents a retroflex t. It was also formerly used for the same sound in Javanese, but has now been replaced by the digraph "th". It is used in writing the Pali letters ṭ and ṭh, an important language in Theravada Buddhism.

It is also used for literature for Chin Language. It is after T in the alphabets. As it is pronounced differently from T.

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