|לשן דידן Lišān Didān, לשנן Lišānān|
|Native to||Israel, Azerbaijan, Georgia, originally Iran, Turkey|
|Region||Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, originally from Iranian Azerbaijan|
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 a difference of prepositions and pronominal suffixes. Lishán Didán is written in the Hebrew alphabet. Spelling tends to be highly phonetic, and elided letters are not written.
There are two major dialect clusters of Lishán Didán. The northern cluster of dialects centered on 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.
Many of the Jews of Urmia worked as peddlers in the cloth trade while others were jewelers or goldsmiths. The degree of education for the boys was primary school with only some advancing their Jewish schooling in a Talmud yeshiva. Some of these students earned their livelihood by writing talisman and amulets. There was a small girls school with only twenty pupils. There were two main synagogues in Urmia, one large one and one smaller one. The large synagogue was called the synagogue of Sheikh Abdulla.
The upheavals in their traditional region after the First World War and the founding of the State of Israel led most of the Azerbaijani Jews to settle in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and villages in various parts of the country. By 1918, due to the assassination of the Assyrian Patriarch and the invasion of the Ottoman forces, many Jews were uprooted from their homes and fled. The Jews settled in Tbilisi or emigrated to Israel. Due to the persecution and relocation, Lishán Didán began to be replaced by the speech of younger generations by Modern Hebrew. Most of the native Lishan Didan speakers, speak Hebrew to their children now. Fewer than 5,000 people are known to speak Lishán Didan, and most of them are older adults, in their sixties, who speak Hebrew as well. The language faces extinction in the next few decades.
There are five main dialect groups of Neo-Aramaic.
- Jewish Azerbaijani Neo-Aramaic (Lishan Didan)
- Trans-Zab Jewish Neo-Aramaic: Also referred to as Hulaula, located in Iranian Kurdistan.
- Inter-Zab Jewish Neo-Aramaic: Located between Greater Zab and Lesser Zab in the Erbil and the Sulaymaniyah regions.
- Central Jewish Neo-Aramaic: Located in upper Greater Zab and Erbil as well.
- Lishana Deni: Located in Northern Mosul.
Lishan Didan is called 'Jewish Azerbaijani Neo-Aramaic' by most scholars. Its speakers lived in Northern Iran in the townships of Northern Persian Azerbaijan (specifically Urmia, official name Rizaiye and Salamas, official name Shahpur). Lishan Didan, translated as 'our language' is often confused with other similar dialects called Lishanid Noshan (which is also referred to as Lishan Didan). The term targum is often used to describe the different dialects called Lishan Didan as it is a traditional and common term for the Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialects.
Another Lishan Didan dialect is called Manuscript Barzani or Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic. Manuscript Barzani was spoken in a community in Iraqi Kurdistan of the Rewanduz/Arbel region. This dialect is also called 'Targum' as it follows distinct translation techniques used by Targum Onkelos and Targum Jonathan. Most of the men of the Barzani family were Rabbi's and Torah scholars. The Rabbi's would travel around Kurdistan in order to set up and maintain many Yeshiva's in the towns of Barzan, Aqra, Mosul and Amediya. Much literature (commentaries on religious text, poetry, prayers, ritual instructions) has been compiled and published by the members of the Barzani family and their community.
This is different from Jewish Urmia dialect as this dialect has the unvoiced pharyngeal /ḥ/ while Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic has regular pharyngealization with the voiced pharyngeal /ς/.
Many scholars separate the dialects of Jewish Neo-Aramaic and Christian Neo-Aramaic because, as in almost all cases, both communities living side by side were unintelligible from one another. Lishan Didan is part of a large Jewish Trans-Zab continuum with dialects similar to other Jewish Neo-Aamaic dialects, while the Christian community in Salamas (neighboring the Jewish community in Salamas) is similar to dialects in the areas of Van, Northern Hakkari and across the Turkish border (in Sara, Timur, Gawar, Jilu and Dez). The Jews of Salamas lived in a small town called Kushneh Shahr which was a few miles away from Dilman which was the capital town of the district. The Christians of Salamas lived in the larger cities of Khosrava and Dilman itself.
Another Christian community settled in Urmia after the local Kurds and Turkish army forced them to flee their homes. Over ten thousand people died en route to Urmia. After additional trouble in Urmia, the Christian community left and settled in Ba‘quba near Baghdad. In the early 1930s some moved to Syria and lived near the Khabur river between Hassake and Ras el Ain.
The following displays examples of divergence in phonology, morphology, and lexicon between the Jewish and Christian Urmia dialects.
|Jewish Urmia||Christian Urmia|
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 only mildly intelligible: 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 neighbors. The topography in many of the dialects of Neo-Aramaic is so distinct that small villages, (like the town of Arodhin which consisted of two Jewish families), had their own dialect.
Below is a general comparison of different Neo-Aramaic dialect differences in phonology:
|ידאֿ "hand"||ʾ īza||ʾ īḏa||ʾ īda||īda||īla|
As a trans-Zab dialect, Jewish Salamas *ḏ has a reflex l. Examples are:
The reflex for Jewish Salamas of *ṯ is l. Examples are:
Jewish Salamas lost the trait of word emphasis. This is the only Neo-Aramaic dialect that has completely lost word emphasis. Below is a comparison of Jewish Salamas and Christian Salamas suprasegmental Emphesis.
|Jewish Salamas||Christian Salamas||English|
- Lishán Didán at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
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- "Neo-Aramaic". Jewish Virtual Library.
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- 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.