Mandaic language

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Mandāyì, Raṭnā, ࡓࡀࡈࡍࡀ
Native toIraq and Iran
RegionIraq – Baghdad, Basra Iran – Khuzistan
Native speakers
5,500 (2001–2006)[1]
Mandaic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
mid – Mandaic
myz – Classical Mandaic
mid Neo-Mandaic
 myz Classical Mandaic

Mandaic (Arabic: ٱلْمَنْدَائِيَّة‎, al-Mandāʾīyah) is a southeastern Aramaic dialect type in use by the Mandaean community for their religious books. Classical Mandaic is still employed by Mandaean priests in liturgical rites.[5] The modern descendant of Classical Mandaic, known as Neo-Mandaic or Modern Mandaic, is spoken by a small section of Mandaeans around Ahvaz in the province Khuzistan (Iran).[6] Liturgical use of Classical Mandaic is found in Iran (particularly the southern portions of the country), in Baghdad, Iraq and in the diaspora (particularly in the United States, Sweden, and Germany). It is an Aramaic dialect notable for its abundant use of vowel letters (mater lectionis with aleph, he only in final positionl, ‘ayin, waw, yud)) in writing, so-called plene spelling (Mandaic script)[7] and the amount of Iranian[8] and Akkadian[9] language influence on its lexicon, especially in the area of religious and magical terminology.

Classical Mandaic belongs to the group of Southeastern Aramaic and is closely related to the language of the Aramaic in major portions of the Babylonian Talmud[10], but less to the various dialects of Aramaic and Syriac appearing in the incantation texts on unglaced ceramic bowls so-called incantation bowls[11] found mostly in central and south Iraq as well as the Iranian province of Khuzistan.[12] It is less related to Syriac.

This southeastern Aramaic dialect is transmitted through religious, liturgical, and magical manuscripts[13] as well as a unique astronomical and astrological omen manuscript[14], most of them stored today under the Drower Collection, Bodleian Library (Oxford)[15], and in the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris), the British Library (London), and others Bodleian Library (Oxford). More specific written objects and of linguistic importance on account of their early transmission (5th – 7th centuries CE) are the earthenware incantation bowls and lead rolls (amulets), including silver and gold specimens[16] that were often unearthed in archaeological excavations in the regions of their historical living sites between Wasiṭ and Baṣra[17], and frequently in central Iraq, for example (Bismaya[18], Kish[19], Khouabir[20], Kutha[21], Uruk[22], Nippur[23]), north and south of the confluences of the Euphrates and Tigris (Abu Shudhr[24], al-Qurnah[25]), and the adjacent province of Khuzistan as (Hamadan)[26].  


Neo-Mandaic represents the latest stage of the phonological and morphological development of Mandaic, a Northwest Semitic language of the Eastern Aramaic sub-family Ahvaz in the south, clustered in small groups. Having developed in isolation from one another, most Neo-Aramaic dialects are mutually unintelligible and should therefore be considered separate languages; however, determining the exact relationship between the various Neo-Aramaic dialects is a difficult task, fraught with many problems, which arise from our incomplete knowledge of these dialects and their relation to the Aramaic dialects of antiquity.

Although no direct descendants of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic survive today, most of the Neo-Aramaic dialects spoken today belong to the Eastern sub-family of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic and Mandaic, among them Neo-Mandaic that can be described with any certainty as the direct descendant of one of the Aramaic dialects attested in Late Antiquity, probably Mandaic. In terms of its grammar, Neo-Mandaic is the most conservative among the Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects, preserving the old Semitic "suffix" conjugation (or perfect). The phonology, however, has undergone many innovations, the most notable being the loss of the so-called "guttural" consonants.[27]

Neo-Mandaic survives in three subdialects, which arose in the cities of Shushtar, Shah Vali, Masjed Soleyman, and Dezful in northern Khuzestan Province, Iran. The Mandaean communities in these cities fled persecution during the 1880s and settled in the Iranian cities of Ahvaz and Khorramshahr. While Khorramshahr boasted the largest Mandaic-speaking population until the 1980s, the Iran–Iraq War caused many to flee into diaspora, leaving Ahvaz the only remaining Mandaic-speaking community.[28]

Reference Works[edit]

  • Theodor Nöldeke. 1862. "Ueber die Mundart der Mandäer," Abhandlungen der Historisch-Philologischen Classe der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen 10: 81-160.
  • Nöldeke, Theodor. 1875. Mandäische Grammatik. Halle: Waisenhaus.
  • Svend Aage Pallis. 1933. Essay on Mandaean Bibliography. London: Humphrey Milford.
  • Drower, Ethel Stefana and Rudolf Macuch. 1963. A Mandaic Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Rudolf Macuch. 1965. Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic. Berlin: De Gruyter.
  • Rudolf Macuch. 1989. Neumandäische Chrestomathie. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz.
  • Rudolf Macuch. 1993. Neumandäische Texte im Dialekt von Ahwaz. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz.
  • Joseph L. Malone. 1997. "Modern and Classical Mandaic Phonology," in Phonologies of Asia and Africa, ed. Alan S. Kaye. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.
  • Rainer M. Voigt. 2007. "Mandaic," in Morphologies of Asia and Africa, edited by Alan S. Kaye. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.
  • Christa Müller-Kessler. 2009. "Mandaic Language", in Encyclopaedia Iranica [1]
  • Charles Häberl. 2009. The Neo-Mandaic Dialect of Khorramshahr. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Mandaic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Classical Mandaic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Macro-Mandaic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Mandaic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Classical Mandaic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ Ethel Stefana Drower, The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran (Leiden: Brill, 1937; reprint 1962); Kurt Rudolph, Die Mandäer II. Der Kult (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht; Göttingen, 1961; Kurt Rudolph, Mandaeans (Leiden: Brill, 1967); Christa Müller-Kessler, Sacred Meals and Rituals of the Mandaeans”, in David Hellholm, Dieter Sänger (eds.), Sacred Meal, Communal Meal, Table Fellowship, and the Eucharist: Late Antiquity, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity, Vol. 3 (Tübingen: Mohr, 2017), pp. 1715–1726, pls.
  6. ^ Rudolf Macuch, Neumandäische Texte im Dialekt von Ahwaz (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 1993), pp. XXXVI–XXXVIII, 1–101.
  7. ^ Theodor Nöldeke, Mandäische Grammatik (Halle: Waisenhaus, 1875), pp. 3–8.
  8. ^ No comprehensive and individual study exists yet except for some word discussions in Geo Widengren, Iranisch-semitische Kulturbegegnung in parthischer Zeit (Köln: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1960) and the etymological sections in Ethel Stefana Drower and Rudolf Macuch, A Mandaic Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963).
  9. ^ Stephen A. Kaufman, The Akkadian Influences on Aramaic (Assyriological Studies 19; Chicago: The University of Chicago: 1974).
  10. ^ Theodor Nöldeke, Mandäische Grammatik (Halle: Waisenhaus, 1875), pp. XXVI–XXVII; Franz Rosenthal, Das Mandäische, in Die aramaisctische Forschung seit Th. Nöldeke’s Veröffentlichungen (Leiden: Brill 1939), pp. 228–229.
  11. ^ Tapani Harvaianen, An Aramaic Incantation Bowl from Borsippa. Another Specimen of Eastern Aramaic “Koiné”, Studia Orientalia 53.14, 1981, pp. 3–25.
  12. ^ Christa Müller-Kessler, "Zauberschalen und ihre Umwelt. Ein Überblick über das Schreibmedium Zauberschale," in Jens Kamran, Rolf Schäfer, Markus Witte (eds.), Zauber und Magie im antiken Palästina und in seiner Umwelt (Abhandlungen des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 46; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2017), pp. 59–94, pls. 1–8, map.
  13. ^ Ethel Stefana Drower, The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran (Leiden: Brill, 1937; reprint 1962).
  14. ^ Ethel Stefana Drower, The Book of the Zodiac (sfar Malwašia) D.C. 31 (Oriental Translation Fund XXXVI; London: The Royal Asiatic Society, 1949).
  15. ^ Ethel Stefana Drower, "A Mandaean Bibliography", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1953, pp. 34–39.
  16. ^ Christa Müller-Kessler, "A Mandaic Gold Amulet in the British Museum," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 311, 1998, pp. 83–88.
  17. ^ M. Thevenot, Relations de divers voyages curieux, première partie (Paris, 1663–1672), map with Mandaean villages; J. Heinrich Petermann, Reisen im Orient, Vol. II (Leipzig: Veit, 1861), pp. 66, 83–123, 447–465.
  18. ^ Henri Pognon, "Une incantation contre les génies malfaisantes, en Mandaite," Mémoires de la Soceté de linguitiques de Paris 8, 1892, p. 193
  19. ^ Peter R. S. Moorey, Kish Excavation 1923 – 1933 (Oxford: Oxford Press, 1978), pp. 123–124.
  20. ^ Henri Pognon, Inscriptions mandaïtes des coupes de Khouabir (Paris: H. Wetter, 1898; reprint Amsterdam: Philo Press, 1979), pp. 1–5.
  21. ^ Christopher Walker apud Jehudah B. Segal, Catalogue of the Aramaic and Mandaic Incantation Bowls in the British Museum (London: British Museum Press, 2000), pp. 35–39.
  22. ^ Rudolf Macuch, "Gefäßinschriften," in Eva Strommenger (ed.), Gefässe aus Uruk von der Neubabylonischen Zeit bis zu den Sasaniden (Ausgrabungen der deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft in Uruk-Warka 7; Berlin 1967), pp. 55–57, pl. 57.1–3.
  23. ^ J. P. Peters, Nippur or Explorations and Adventures on the Euphrates, Vol. II (New York: , 1897); Hermann V. Hilprecht, Explorations in Bible Lands During the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia: A. J. Molman and Company, 1903), p. 326; James A. Montgomery, Aramaic Incantation Texts from Nippur (Publications of the Babylonian Section 3; Philadelphia, 1913), pp. 37–39, 242–257; Christa Müller-Kessler (ed.), Die Zauberschalentexte der Hilprecht-Sammlung, Jena und weitere Nippur-Texte anderer Sammlungen (Texte und Materialen der Frau Professor Hilprecht-Collection 7; Wiesbaden 2005), pp. 110–135, 143–147.
  24. ^ François Lenormant, Essai sur la propagation de l’alphabet phénicien dans l’ancien monde, vol. II (Paris, 1872), pp. 76–82, pls. X–XI; Edmund Sollberger, "Mr. Taylor in Chaldaea," Anatolian Studies 22, 1972, pp. 130–133.
  25. ^ Christa Müller-Kessler, "Interrelations between Mandaic Lead Rolls and Incantation Bowls," in Tzvi Abusch, Karel van der Toorn (eds.), Mesopotamian Magic. Textual, Historical, and Interpretative Perspectives (Ancient Magic and Divination 1; Groningen: STYX, 1999), pp. 197–198, pl. 209.
  26. ^ Cyrus H. Gordon, "Two Magic Bowls in Teheran," Orientalia 20, 1951, pp. 306–311.
  27. ^ Rudolf Macuch, Neumandäische Chrestomathie (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 1989).
  28. ^ Rudolf Macuch, Neumandäische Texte im Dialekt von Ahwaz (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 1993); Charles Häberl, The Neo-Mandaic Dialect of Khorramshahr, (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009).