Lishana Deni

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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

Lishana Deni is a modern Jewish Aramaic language, often called Neo-Aramaic or Judeo-Aramaic. It was originally spoken in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey in the lands west of the Great Zab river (Athura). Following the exodus of Jews from the Muslim lands, most speakers now live in Israel, principally Jerusalem and surrounding villages.

The name Lishana Deni means 'our language', and is similar to names used by other Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialects (Lishan Didan, Lishanid Noshan). Other popular names for the language are Lishan Hozaye, 'the language of the Jews', and Kurdit, 'Kurdish'. Scholarly sources tend simply to refer to Lishana Deni as Zakho Jewish Neo-Aramaic although it was spoken in the entire region west of the Great Zab river.


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 in Athura (which means Assyria in NENA dialects), 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. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Lishana Deni". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.


  • Avenery, Iddo, The Aramaic Dialect of the Jews of Zakho. The Israel academy of Science and Humanities 1988.
  • 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.
  • Sabar, Yona (1975). "The impact of Israeli Hebrew on the Neo-Aramaic dialect of the Kurdish Jews of Zakho: a case of language shift". Hebrew Union College Annual (46): 489–508.
  • Sabar, Yona (2002). A Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dictionary. Harrassowitz. ISBN 978-3-447-04557-5.

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