Chaldean Neo-Aramaic

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Chaldean Neo-Aramaic
ܟܠܕܝܐ Kaldāyâ, ܣܘܼܪܲܝܬ Sōreth
Sûret in written Syriac
(Madnkhaya script)
Pronunciation [kalˈdɑjɑ], [sorɛθ]
Native to

Iraq, Iran, Turkey

Region Iraq; Mosul, Ninawa, now also Baghdad and Basra.
Native speakers
unknown (undated figure of 220,000)[1]
(110,000 in Iraq in 1994)
Syriac (Madenhaya alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 cld
Glottolog chal1275[2]

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is an Assyrian Northeastern Neo-Aramaic dialect. Chaldean Neo-Aramaic originated in, and is spoken on the plain of Mosul in northern Iraq (the Assyrian Homeland), as well as by the Assyrian Chaldean Catholic communities worldwide. It is extremely closely related to Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, both evolving from the same Syriac language, a distinct dialect which evolved in Assyria/Athura between the 5th century BC and 1st century AD.

The Syriac language in turn, had evolved from Imperial Aramaic, an Akkadian infused dialect introduced as the Lingua Franca of Assyria and the Neo Assyrian Empire by Tiglath-Pileser III in the 8th century BC. (The term Syrian and thus its derivative Syriac, had originally been 9th century BC Indo-Anatolian and Greek corruptions of Assurayu/Assyrian).

Speakers are ethnic Assyrians and are wholly unrelated to the long extinct ancient Chaldeans who were 9th century BC migrants to the extreme south east of Mesopotamia. To avoid theological differences with the Assyrian Church of the East from which the Chaldean Catholic Church originated, they are also known as Chaldo-Assyrians, or by the purely denominational term of Chaldean Catholics.


Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is one of a number of modern Northeastern Aramaic languages spoken by the Babylonian people. native to the northern region of Iraq, between Lake Urmia in Iranian Azerbaijan in northern Iraq near Dohuk and near the Turkish border. Jews, Mandeans and Syriac-Aramean Christians speak different dialects of Aramaic that are often mutually unintelligible. The Christian dialects have been heavily influenced by Classical Syriac, the literary language of the Assyrian Church and Syriac Christianity in antiquity.

Therefore, Christian Neo-Aramaic has a dual heritage: literary Syriac and colloquial Neo-Assyrian Eastern Aramaic. The Christian dialects are often called Soureth, or Syriac in Iraqi Arabic. The dialect is spoken mostly by Assyrian communities in the mountainous regions of northern Iraq, as well as by Assyrians who migrated to Basra, Babil, Baghdad and other Iraqi and Syrian provinces

Before the schism of 1552, most Assyrian Christians in northern Mesopotamia were members of the Assyrian Church of the East, with a minority being affiliated with the Syriac Orthodox Church.[3] When the schism split the church, many of the Christians of the region opted for communion with the Roman Catholic Church and became members of the Church of Assyria and Mosul in the 1550s AD, which was only much later renamed the Chaldean Catholic Church in 1683 AD.[4]


Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is one of the Assyrian dialects of the Nineveh Plains and what is now Iraqi Kurdistan, a region which was an integral part of ancient Assyria between the 25th century BC and 7th century AD. It has a number of identifiable dialects, each corresponding to one of the villages where the language is spoken. The village/dialects are: Ankawa, Alqosh, Aqrah, Mangesh, Tel Keipeh, Baghdeda, Tel Skuf, Baqofah, Batnaya, Bartella, Sirnak-Cizre (Bohtan), Araden and Dahuk.


Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is written in the Madenhaya version of the Syriac alphabet, which is also used for classical Syriac. The School of Alqosh produced religious poetry in the colloquial Chaldean Neo-Aramaic rather than classical Syriac, in the 17th century, and the Dominican Press in Mosul has produced a number of books in the language.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chaldean Neo-Aramaic at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Chaldean Neo-Aramaic". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar Winkler: The Church of the East: A Concise History. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. pages 5, 19, 30, 79, 89, 103-104
  4. ^ Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar Winkler: The Church of the East: A Concise History. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. page 112


  • Heinrichs, Wolfhart (ed.) (1990). Studies in Neo-Aramaic. Scholars Press: Atlanta, Georgia. ISBN 1-55540-430-8.
  • 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.

See also[edit]

  • Dani Khalil - a Chaldean homicide detective in Low Winter Sun

External links[edit]