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
200,000 (1994)[1]
Syriac (Madenhaya alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 cld
Glottolog chal1275[2]

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is a Northeastern Neo-Aramaic language[3] 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. Both evolved from the same Syriac language, a language which developed in Assyria[4] between the 5th century BC and 1st century AD. The terms Syrian and thus Syriac were originally 9th century BC Indo-Anatolian derivatives of Assyrian.[5]

More than 90 percent of Chaldean Christians 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), and both originate directly from Syriac, which was founded in that same region.[6][7][8]


The Syriac language in turn, had evolved from Imperial Aramaic, which was adopted as the second language of the Neo-Assyrian Empire by Tiglath-Pileser III in the 8th century BCE in account of the mostly Aramaic population in areas conquered west of the Euphrates. On the Western periphery of Assyria there had been widespread Aramean-Akkadian bilingualism at least since the mid-9th century BCE. Aramaic would supplant Akkadian throughout the entire empire.[9]

The term Syrian and thus its derivative Syriac, had originally been 9th century BC Indo-Anatolian and Greek corruptions of Assyria.[10]

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is one of a number of modern Northeastern Aramaic languages spoken by Syriac Christians native to the northern region of Iraq from Kirkuk through the Nineveh plains, Irbil and Mosul to Dohuk, Urmia in northwestern Iran, northeastern Syria (particularly the Al Hasakah region) and in southeast Turkey, particularly Hakkari, Bohtan, Harran, Tur Abdin, Mardin and Diyarbakir. The Assyrian Christian[disambiguation needed] dialects have been heavily influenced by Classical Syriac, the literary language of the Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church in antiquity.

Therefore, Christian Neo-Aramaic has a dual heritage: literary Syriac and colloquial Neo-Assyrian Eastern Aramaic. The closely related dialects are often collectively called Soureth, or Syriac in Iraqi Arabic.

Jews, Mandeans and Syriac-Aramean Christians speak different dialects of Aramaic that are often mutually unintelligible.


Sample of the standard Chaldean dialect. The frequent usage of /ħ/ and /ʕ/ makes it similar sounding to the Western Aramaic languages (voice by Bishop Amel Shamon Nona).

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic originate in the Nineveh Plains and Upper Mesopotamia, a region which was an integral part of ancient Assyria between the 9th century BC and 7th century BC. Chaldean (Assyrian) Neo-Aramaic bears a resemblance to the Assyrian tribal dialects of Tyari and Barwar in the Hakkari Province, although the Assyrian dialects do not use the pharyngeals /ħ/ and /ʕ/.

Loanwords of Arabic, Persian and Kurdish origin exist in the language, as with Assyrian.



Table of Chaldean Neo-Aramaic consonant phonemes
Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain emphatic
Nasal m n
Plosive b k ɡ q ʔ
Fricative sibilant s z ʃ
non-sibilant f θ ð x ɣ ħ ʕ h
Approximant w l j
Rhotic r
  • The Chaldean dialects are generally characterised by the presence of the fricatives /θ/ (th) and /ð/ (dh) which correspond to /t/ and /d/, respectively, in other Assyrian dialects (excluding the Tyari dialect). However, the standard or educational form of Chaldean would realize the consonants /θ/ and /ð/ as /tˤ/.
  • Most Chaldean Neo-Aramaic varieties would use the phoneme of /f/, which corresponds to /p/ in most of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic dialects (excluding the Tyari dialect).
  • In some Chaldean dialects /r/ is realized as [ɹ]. In others, it's either a tap [ɾ] or a trill [r].
  • Unlike in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, the guttural sounds of [ʕ] and [ħ] are used predominantly in Chaldean varieties - this is a feature also seen in other Northeastern Neo-Aramaic languages.[11]


Front Central Back
Close i
Mid ɛ ə ɔ
Open a ɑ


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 Neo-Aramaic rather than classical Syriac in the 17th century prior to the founding of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the naming of the dialect as Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, and the Dominican Press in Mosul has produced a number of books in the language. Alternatively, the Syriac Latin alphabet may also be used to transliterate the Syriac script into Latin.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chaldean Neo-Aramaic at Ethnologue (14th ed., 2000).
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Chaldean Neo-Aramaic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Khan 2008, pp. 6
  5. ^ Tekoglu, R. & Lemaire, A. (2000). La bilingue royale louvito-phénicienne de Çineköy. Comptes rendus de l’Académie des inscriptions, et belleslettres, année 2000, 960-1006.
  6. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Northeastern Neo-Aramaic". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
  7. ^ Blench, 2006. The Afro-Asiatic Languages: Classification and Reference List
  8. ^ Khan 2008, pp. 6
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Rollinger, Robert (2006). "The terms "Assyria" and "Syria" again" (PDF). Journal of Near Eastern Studies 65 (4): 284–287. doi:10.1086/511103.
  11. ^ *Beyer, Klaus (1986). The Aramaic language: its distribution and subdivisions. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. ISBN 3-525-53573-2.


  • 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]