|לשן דידן Lišān Didān, לשנן Lišānān|
|Native to||Israel, Azerbaijan, Georgia, originally Iran, Turkey|
|Region||Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, originally from Iranian Azerbaijan|
|Native speakers||4,500 (2001)|
Lishán Didán is a modern Jewish Aramaic language, often called Neo-Aramaic or Judeo-Aramaic. It was originally spoken in Iranian Azerbaijan, in the region of Lake Urmia, from Salmas to Mahabad. Most speakers now live in Israel. The name Lishán Didán means 'our language'; other variations are Lishanán, 'our-language', and Lishanid Nash Didán, 'the language of our selves'. As this causes some confusion with similarly named dialects (Lishana Deni, Lishanid Noshan), scholarly sources tend simply to use a more descriptive name, like Persian Azerbaijani Jewish Neo-Aramaic. To distinguish it from other dialects of Jewish Neo-Aramaic, Lishán Didán is sometimes called Lakhlokhi (literally 'to-you(f)-to-you(m)') or Galihalu ('mine-yours'), demonstrating different use of prepositions and pronominal suffixes.
Origin and use today
Various Neo-Aramaic dialects were spoken across a wide area from Lake Urmia to Lake Van (in Turkey), down to the plain of Mosul (in Iraq) and back across to Sanandaj (in Iran again). Lishán Didán, at the northeastern extreme of this area, is somewhat intelligible with the Jewish Neo-Aramaic languages of Hulaula (spoken further south, in Iranian Kurdistan) and Lishanid Noshan (formerly spoken around Kirkuk, Iraq). However, the local Christian Neo-Aramaic dialects of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic are unintelligible: Christian and Jewish communities living side by side developed completely different variants of Aramaic that had more in common with their co-religionists living further away than with their neighbours. Like other Judaeo-Aramaic dialects, Lishán Didán is sometimes called Targumic, due to the long tradition of translating the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic, and the production of targums.
There are two major dialect clusters of Lishán Didán. The northern cluster of dialects centred around Urmia and Salmas in West Azarbaijan, and extended into the Jewish villages of the Turkish province of Van. The southern cluster of dialects was focused on the town of Mahabad and villages just south of Lake Urmia. The dialects of the two clusters are intelligible to one another, and most of the differences are due to receiving loanwords from different languages: Persian, Kurdish and Turkish languages especially.
The upheavals in their traditional region after the Second World War and the founding of the State of Israel led most of the Azerbaijani Jews to settle in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. However, uprooted from their homes, and thrown together with so many different language groups in the fledgling nation, Lishán Didán began to be replaced in the speech of younger generations by Modern Hebrew. Fewer than 5,000 people are known to speak Lishán Didan, and most of them are over 50 years old. The language faces extinction in the next few decades.
Lishán Didán is written in the Hebrew alphabet. Spelling tends to be highly phonetic, and elided letters are not written.
- Heinrichs, Wolfhart (ed.) (1990). Studies in Neo-Aramaic. Scholars Press: Atlanta, Georgia. ISBN 1-55540-430-8.
- Mahir Ünsal Eriş, Kürt Yahudileri - Din, Dil, Tarih, (Kurdish Jews) In Turkish, Kalan Publishing, Ankara, 2006
- 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.