Assyrian Neo-Aramaic

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Assyrian Neo-Aramaic
ܐܬܘܪܝܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ Ātûrāyâ, ܣܘܪܝܬ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ Sûret-Ashuri
Sûret in written Syriac
(Madnkhaya script)
Native to

Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria

Region Hakkari Turkey, Urmia Iran
Native speakers
unknown (undated figure of 220,000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 aii

Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (also known as Aššuri, Assuri, Ashuri, Aturi, Assyrian, Aisorski, Assyrianci, Assyriski, Lishana Aturaya, Neo-Syriac, Sooreth, Suret, Sureth, or Suryaya Swadaya) is a Neo-Aramaic dialect, spoken by an estimated 220,000 people (1994 SIL estimate), formerly in the area between Lake Urmia, north-western Iran, northern Iraq, north-eastern Syria and Siirt, south-eastern Turkey, but now more widely throughout the Assyrian–Chaldean–Syriac diaspora.

Ethnologue estimates that as of the mid-1990s, about 80,000 speakers lived in the Assyrian homeland in the Middle East, while the majority of speakers lived abroad, most of them in the United States or in Europe. Most speakers are members of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East. Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is to a considerable extent mutually intelligible with Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and to a lesser extent with Turoyo.[citation needed]


The Neo-Aramaic languages evolved from Middle Aramaic by the 13th century. The division of the Assyrians was a consequence of the religious schism of 1552 which led to the formation of the Chaldean Church. Chaldeans were originally Assyrians before this schism of 1552, causing them to split from the Assyrian people and form an audience and affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church.

Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is one of a number of modern Eastern Aramaic dialects spoken in the region between Lake Urmia in Iranian Azerbaijan and Mosul in northern Iraq.

All Christian dialects of Aramaic have been heavily influenced by the Syriac language, a dialect of Eastern Middle Aramaic, which became the literary and liturgical language of many churches in the Fertile Crescent and, as linguist Geoffrey Khan suggests, Akkadian elements. Christian Neo-Aramaic therefore has a dual heritage: literary Syriac and colloquial Eastern Aramaic. The Christian dialects are often called Sûret, Syriac, or Sûryāya Swādāya, Colloquial Syriac.

Russian linguists studied Assyrian Neo-Aramaic as spoken by immigrant speakers in Georgia and Armenia at the end of the 19th century. They called the language Айсорский, Aysorskiy, from Armenian: ասորի asori. However, by the 1930s, the official name of the language in Russian had become Ассирийский, Assiriyskiy, or Assyrian.


SIL Ethnologue distinguishes five dialect groups: Urmian, Northern, Central, Western, and Sapna, each with sub-dialects. Standard literary Assyrian is based on the Urmian dialect and is known as "General Urmian" (since the 1830s), with a second standard dialect derived from General Urmian eveloping in the 20th century, known as "Iraqi Koine".

Northeastern Neo-Aramaic is a dialect continuum, and because of the high intelligibility between dialects, and due to the high level of exposure of the non-standard dialects to General Urmian or the Iraqi Koine.


The Urmia 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. In 1852, Perkins' translation of the Bible into General Urmian was published by the American Bible Society with a parallel text of the classical Syriac Peshitta.

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 a separate dialect usually called Iraqi Koine. It is a mixture of Ashiret dialects with General Urmian. Iraqi Koine does not really constitute a new dialect, but an incomplete merger of dialects. Elements of original Ashiret dialects can still be observed in Iraqi Koine, especially in that of older speakers.

  • Hakkari group (western):
    • Tyari (i.e. Ashitha) - Dialects within this group, and especially the Western group, have more in common with Chaldean Neo-Aramaic than with Standard Assyrian (similar to General Urmian). Tyari dialects are often characterised by the presence of the fricatives θ (th) and ð (dh), where other dialects pronounce them either as stops (t and d) or, in the case of the Northern group, often eliding them.
    • Tkhuma
    • Tal
    • Lewin


Assyrian is written in the Madnhāyā version of the Syriac alphabet, which is also used for classical Syriac. In the 1930s, following the state policy for minority languages of the Soviet Union, a Latin alphabet for Assyrian was developed and some material published. However, this innovation did not displace the Syriac script.

Sample phrases[edit]

English Assyrian Neo-Aramaic
Hello (how are you?) Shlama (dakhee 'eet?)
I'm fine Spyen
What is your name? Shimakh ma' 'eeleh? (female)/Shimukh ma' 'eeleh? (male)
My name is ___ 'eeleh Shemee' ____
Love Khuba
Good morning brikha d-ṣaprakh (female)/brikha d-ṣaprukh (male)
God bless you Barekhlakh Allaha (female)/Barekhlukh Allaha (male)
I want water Ba'ayyin Miya
Kiss N-shaqta
Thank you Baseema (male)/Basemta (female)
Child Yala (Male)/Yalta or Yaltha(Female)
Students Talmeedeh
Sit Tu
Stand/Stop Qom/Klee/Kleh
Hunger Kapna
Father Baba
Mother Yemma
God Alaha
Uncle Khalo (Maternal) / Mahmoona (Paternal)
Aunt Khalta or kaltha (Maternal)/amta (Paternal)
Help Hayer/Udrana
Man Nasha
Woman Niqwa or Niqva
Boy Bruna
Girl Brata or Bratha
Book Ktava/Ktawa
Pen Qanya or Qalama
Trousers Sheerwala or Tumbana
Table loḥa
Plate lagtha or Mana
Bring qaneelee or Melee
Go Azee or Khush
Birth Yalda or Breta
Come Ta/'Tha or Hayo
Run Rkhaṭa
Walk Jooj or Jwajta
Jump Shwara or Indaya
Rain Muṭra
Sun Shemsha or Shimsha
Moon Sahra
Fish Noonta
Star Kikhwa or Kekhva
Elder (male) Sawa or Sava
Elder (female) Sota
Hand (Y)eeda
Mouth Pumma
Car 'Aghalta or Utmabel
Cow / bull Tawirrta / Tawra
Song Zmarta or Zmartha
Marriage Zuwagha
Tomorrow Qudmeh
Today 'aya d-yooma or Idyoo
Death Mawata or Mawtha
Money Zoozeh
Gun Zayuna or Dobunja
Heart Liba
Breath Napas
Head Reesha or Resha
Tooth Kaka/Shina
Dream Khulma
Village Mata or Matha
Dig Khpara
Flying Prakha
Mirror Nawra
River Nahra
Creek Shaqita
Ocean Yama

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Assyrian Neo-Aramaic at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)


External links[edit]