Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialect of Zakho

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Lishana Deni
לשנא דני Lišānā Denī, לשנא יהודיא Lišān Hōzāyē
Pronunciation[liˈʃɑnɑ ˈdɛni]
Native toIsrael, Iraq, Turkey
RegionNineveh Plains, Iraqi Kurdistan (Iraq), Bohtan valley and Hakkari mountains (Turkey)
Native speakers
7,500 (1999)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3lsd
ELPLishana Deni

The Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialect of Zakho[2][3][4] is a dialect of Northeastern Neo-Aramaic originally spoken by Jews in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey in the lands west of the Great Zab. Following the exodus of Jews from the Muslim lands, most speakers now live in Israel, principally Jerusalem and surrounding villages.


Various Neo-Aramaic dialects were spoken across a wide area from the Zakho region, in the west, to Lake Urmia, in the northeast to Sanandaj, in the southeast (the area covers northern Iraq and northwestern Iran). The upheavals in their traditional region after the First World War and the founding of the State of Israel led most of the Jews of Kurdistan to move to Jerusalem and villages nearby.

However, uprooted from northern Iraq, and thrown together with so many different language groups in the fledgling nation, Lishana Deni began to be replaced in the speech of younger generations by Modern Hebrew.

Fewer than 8,000 people are known to speak Lishana Deni, and all of them are over 50 years old. Lishana Deni is written in the Hebrew alphabet. Spelling tends to be highly phonetic, and elided letters are not written.


The language faces extinction in the next few decades. Although there is very little intelligibility between Lishana Deni and the other Jewish dialects, there is quite reasonable intelligibility between it and the Christian Neo-Aramaic dialects spoken in the region.

The Christian dialect of Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is closest to Lishana Deni, followed by the Ashiret dialects of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic. Like other Judaeo-Aramaic dialects, Lishana Deni is sometimes called Targumic, due to the long tradition of translating the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic, and the production of targumim.


Lishana Deni was spoken by Kurdish Jews in Kurdistan Region, which is located west of the Great Zab river in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey. Most Lishana Deni speakers are rural and were farmers and shepherds but there are urban speakers as well in cities such as Nohadra, Zakho, Amedya and more.

The regions where Lishana Deni was spoken are Bohtan, Zakho and Nineveh Plains in Upper Mesopotamia, as well as Nerwa, Sapna, Barwari and Hakkari mountains.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lishana Deni at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Neuman, Yishai (2019). "Categorical Shifts of the Idiom Ribono shel(a)olam: From a Tannaitic Vocative to a Jewish Theocentric Interjection to a Substrate Component in Israeli Hebrew Discourse". Journal of Jewish Languages. 7 (2): 190–226. doi:10.1163/22134638-06011139a.
  3. ^ Nissan, Ephraim (2019). "Names for the fishes of the river Tigris in Baghdadi Judaeo-Arabic and in Zakho Jewish Neo-Aramaic". La linguistique. 55 (1): 97. doi:10.3917/ling.551.0097.
  4. ^ Nissan, E. (1 January 1999). "REVIEWS". Journal of Semitic Studies. XLIV (2): 320–322. doi:10.1093/jss/XLIV.2.320.


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