Western Neo-Aramaic

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Western Neo-Aramaic
Native toSyria
RegionBab Touma District, Damascus; Anti-Lebanon Mountains: Maaloula, Al-Sarkha (Bakhah) and Jubb'adin.
Native speakers
21,700 (18,800 in Syria) (2016)[1]
Aramaic alphabet
Latin alphabet
Syriac alphabet
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3amw
ELPWestern Neo-Aramaic
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Western Neo-Aramaic (liššōna arōmay), more commonly referred to as Siryon (Siryōn), is a modern Western Aramaic language. Today, it is only spoken in three villages in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains of western Syria.[2] Western Neo-Aramaic is the only living language among the Western Aramaic languages. All other Neo-Aramaic languages are of the Eastern branch.

Distribution and history[edit]

Western Neo-Aramaic is probably the last surviving remnant of a Western Middle Aramaic dialect which was spoken throughout the Orontes River Valley area and into the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in the 6th century. It now is spoken solely by the villagers of Maaloula, Jubb'adin and Bakh'a, about 60 kilometres (37 mi) northeast of Damascus. The continuation of this little cluster of Aramaic in a sea of Arabic is partly due to the relative isolation of the villages and their close-knit Christian and Muslim communities.

Following the Muslim conquest of the Levant, there was a linguistic shift to Arabic for local Muslims and later for remaining Christians; Arabic displaced various Aramaic languages, including Western Aramaic varieties, as the first language of the majority. Despite this, Western Aramaic appears to have survived for a relatively long time at least in some villages in mountainous areas of Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon (in modern Syria). In fact, up until the 17th century, travellers in the Lebanon still reported on several Aramaic-speaking villages.[3]

In the last three villages where the language still survives, the dialect of Bakh'a appears to be the most conservative. It has been less influenced by Arabic than the other dialects, and retains some vocabulary that is obsolete in other dialects. The dialect of Jubb'adin has changed the most. It is heavily influenced by Arabic, and has a more developed phonology. The dialect of Maaloula is somewhere between the two, but is closer to that of Jubb'adin.[citation needed] Cross-linguistic influence between Aramaic and Arabic has been mutual, as Syrian Arabic itself (and Levantine Arabic in general) retains an Aramaic substratum.

As in most of the Levant prior to the introduction of Islam in the seventh century, the villages were originally all Christian. However, Maaloula is the only village that retains a sizeable Christian population (they belong to the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and Melkite Greek Catholic Church) as most of the inhabitants of Bakh'a and Jubb Adin adopted Islam over the generations, and are now all Muslim. Maaloula glows in the pale blue wash with which houses are painted every year in honour of Mary, mother of Jesus.

All three remaining Western Neo-Aramaic dialects are facing critical endangerment as living languages. As with any village community in the 21st century, young residents are migrating into major cities like Damascus and Aleppo in search of better employment opportunities, thus forcing them into monolingual Arabic-speaking settings, in turn straining the opportunity to actively maintain Western Neo-Aramaic as a language of daily use. Nevertheless, the Syrian government provides support for teaching the language.[4] Since 2007, Maaloula has been home to an Aramaic institute established by the Damascus University that teaches courses to keep the language alive. The institute's activities were suspended in 2010 amidst fears that the square Aramaic alphabet used in the program too closely resembled the square script of the Hebrew alphabet and all the signs with the square Aramaic script were taken down. The program stated that they would instead use the more distinct Syriac alphabet, although use of the Aramaic alphabet has continued to some degree.[5] Al Jazeera Arabic also broadcast a program about Western Neo-Aramaic and the villages in which it is spoken with the square script still in use.[6]

In December 2016 during an Aramaic Singing Festival in Maaloula, a modified version of an older style of the Aramaic alphabet closer to the Phoenician alphabet was used for Western Neo-Aramaic. This script seems to be used as a true alphabet with letters to represent both consonants and vowels instead of the traditional system of the Aramaic alphabet where it's used as an abjad. A recently published book about Maaloula Aramaic also uses this script.[7][8]

The Syriac language organization Rinyo has published the Book of Psalms from the Old Testament in writing and the book Portrait of Jesus in writing with audio in Aromay in the Syriac Serto script on their website and a translation of the New Testament into Aromay has been finished in 2017 and is now available online.[9][10][11]

In July 2017 a free course in Western Neo-Aramaic started at Damascus University.[12][13][14][15]


The phonology of Western Neo-Aramaic has developed quite differently from other Aramaic languages. The labial consonants of older Western Aramaic, /p/ and /f/, have been retained in Bakh'a and Maaloula while they have mostly collapsed to /f/ in Jubb'adin under influence from Arabic. The labial consonant pair /b~v/ has collapsed to /b/ in all three villages. Amongst dental consonants, the fricatives /θ ð/ are retained while /d/ have become /ð/ in most places and /t/, while remaining a phoneme, has had its traditional position in Aramaic words replaced by /ts/ in Bakh'a, and /tʃ/ in Maaloula and Jubb'adin. However, [ti] is the usual form for the relative particle in these two villages, with a variant [tʃi], where Bakh'a always uses [tsi]. Among the velar consonants, the traditional voiced pair of /ɡ ɣ/ has collapsed into /ɣ/, while /ɡ/ still remains a phoneme in some words. The unvoiced velar fricative, /x/, is retained, but its plosive complement /k/, while also remaining a distinct phoneme, has in its traditional positions in Aramaic words started to undergo palatalization. In Bakh'a, the palatalization is hardly apparent; in Maaloula, it is more obvious, and often leads to [kʲ]; in Jubb'adin, it has become /tʃ/, and has thus merged phonemically with the original positions of /t/. The original uvular plosive, /q/, has also moved forward in Western Neo-Aramaic. In Bakh'a it has become a strongly post-velar plosive, and in Maaloula more lightly post-velar. In Jubb'adin, however, it has replaced the velar plosive, and become /k/.


Labial Dental Alveolar Palato-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyn-
plain emphatic plain
Nasal m n
Plosive p b t d k~ g q (ʔ)
Fricative f v θ ð s z ʃ (ʒ) x ɣ ħ ʕ h
Approximant w l j
Trill ʀ


Western Neo-Aramaic has the following set of vowels:[16]


Square Aramaic Alphabet[edit]

Square Aramaic Alphabet used for Aromay/Western Neo-Aramaic.[17] Words beginning with a vowel are written with an initial Maaloula square alef.svg. Short vowels are omitted or written with diacritics, long vowels are transcribed with macrons (Āā, Ēē, Īī, Ōō, Ūū) and are written with mater lectionis (Maaloula square wawf.svg for /o/ and /u/, Maaloula square yod.svg for /i/, which are also used at the end of a word if it ends with one of these vowels and if a word begins with any of these long vowels, they begin with Maaloula square alef.svg + the mater lectionis). Words ending with /a/ are written with Maaloula square alef.svg at the end of the word, while words ending with /e/ are written with Maaloula square hi.svg at the end. Sometimes Maaloula square kaf 2.svg is used both for final Maaloula square kaf.svg and Maaloula square khaf.svg instead of also using Maaloula square khaf 2.svg.

Aramaic letter Maaloula square alef.svg Maaloula square bet.svg Maaloula square vet.svg Maaloula square gemal.svg Maaloula square ghemal.svg Maaloula square dalet.svg Maaloula square dhalet.svg Maaloula square hi.svg Maaloula square wawf.svg Maaloula square zayn.svg Maaloula square het.svg Maaloula square tet.svg Maaloula square yod.svg Maaloula square kaf.svg
Maaloula square kaf 2.svg
Maaloula square khaf.svg
Maaloula square khaf 2.svg
Maaloula square lamed.svg Maaloula square mem.svg
Maaloula square mem 2.svg
Maaloula square nun.svg
Maaloula square nun 2.svg
Maaloula square sameh.svg Maaloula square ayn.svg Maaloula square pi.svg
Maaloula square pi 2.svg
Maaloula square fi.svg
Maaloula square fi 2.svg
Maaloula square sady.svg
Maaloula square sady 2.svg
Maaloula square qof.svg Maaloula square resh.svg Maaloula square shin.svg Maaloula square taq.svg Maaloula square thaq.svg Maaloula square tshaq.svg
Hebrew letter א בּ ב גּ ג דּ ד ה ו ז ח ט י כּ ךּ כ ך ל מ ם נ ן ס ע פּ ףּ פ ף צ ץ ק ר שׁ תּ ת ת
Latin letter/Transliteration Aa, Ee, Ii, Oo, Uu
Āā, Ēē, Īī, Ōō, Ūū
Bb Vv Gg Ġġ Dd Ḏḏ Hh Ww Zz Ḥḥ Ṭṭ Yy Kk H̱ẖ Ll Mm Nn Ss Ҁҁ Pp Ff Ṣṣ Qq Rr Šš Tt Ṯṯ Čč
Pronunciation /b/ /v/ /g/, /ʒ/ /ɣ/ /d/ /ð/ /h/ /w/ /z/ /ħ/ // /j/ /k/ /x/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /s/ /ʕ/ /p/ /f/ // /k/~// /r/ /ʃ/ /t/ /θ/ //

Syriac and Arabic Alphabet[edit]

Serto Syriac and Arabic alphabet used for Aromay/Western Neo-Aramaic.[11]

Syriac letter: ܐ ܒ ܒ݆ ܓ ܔ ܓ݂ ܕ ܕ݂ ܗ ܘ ܙ ܚ ܚ݂ ܛ ܜ ܝ ܟ ܟ݂ ܠ ܡ ܢ ܣ ܥ ܦ ܨ ܨ̇ ܩ ܪ ܫ ܬ ܬ݂ ܬ̤
Arabic letter: ا ب پ گ ج غ د ذ ه و ز ح خ ط ظ ي ک خ ل م ن س ع ف ص ض ق ر ش ت ث چ
Pronunciation /ʔ/, ∅ /b/ /p/ /g/ // /ɣ/ /d/ /ð/ /h/ /w/ /z/ /ħ/ /x/ // // /j/ /k/ /x/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /s/ /ʕ/ /f/ // /ðˤ/ /q/~// /r/ /ʃ/ /t/ /θ/ //
Syriac letter ܰ ܶ ܳ ܺ ܽ
Arabic letter ـَ ـِ ـُ ي و
Pronunciation /a/ /e/ /ɒ/ /i/ /u/

Alternate Aramaic Alphabet[edit]

Characters of the script system similar to the Old Aramaic/Phoenician alphabet used occasionally for Western Neo-Aramaic with matching transliteration. The script is used as a true alphabet with distinct letters for all phonemes including vowels instead of the traditional abjad system with plosive-fricative pairs.[18][8]

Letter Maaloula b.png Maaloula ġ.png Maaloula ḏ.png Maaloula h.png Maaloula w.png Maaloula z.png Maaloula ḥ.png Maaloula ṭ.png Maaloula y.png Maaloula k.png Maaloula x.png Maaloula l.png Maaloula m.png Maaloula n.png Maaloula s.png Maaloula ʕ.png Maaloula p.png Maaloula f.png Maaloula ṣ.png Maaloula ḳ.png Maaloula r.png Maaloula š.png Maaloula t.png Maaloula ṯ.png Maaloula č.png Maaloula ž.png Maaloula ᶄ.png Maaloula ḏ̣.png Maaloula ẓ.png Maaloula stop.png
Transliteration b ġ h w z y k x l m n s ʕ p f r š t č ž ḏ̣ '
Pronunciation /b/ /ɣ/ /ð/ /h/ /w/ /z/ /ħ/ // /j/ /k/ /x/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /s/ /ʕ/ /p/ /f/ // /k/~// /r/ /ʃ/ /t/ /θ/ // /ʒ/ // /ðˤ/ // /ʔ/
Letter Maaloula a.png Maaloula ā.png Maaloula e.png Maaloula ē.png Maaloula i.png Maaloula ī.png Maaloula o.png Maaloula ō.png Maaloula u.png Maaloula ū.png Maaloula ᵊ.png
Transliteration a ā e ē i ī o ō u ū
Pronunciation /a/ /a:/ /e/ /e:/ /i/ /i:/ /ɒ/ /ɒ:/ /u/ /u:/ /ə/

Sample of Lord's Prayer[edit]

Lord's Prayer in Western Neo-Aramaic, Turoyo, Syriac and Hebrew.

Western Neo-Aramaic Turoyo (Central Neo-Aramaic) Classical Syriac Hebrew
Ōboḥ ti bišmō yičqattaš ešmaẖ Abuna d-këtyo bišmayo miqadeš ešmoḵ Aḇūn d-ḇa-šmayyāʾ neṯqaddaš šmāḵ Avinu šebašamayim yitkadeš šimḵa
yṯēle molkaẖ yiṯkan ti čbaҁēleh g-dëṯyo i malkuṯayḏoḵ howe u ṣebyonayḏoḵ tēṯēʾ malkūṯāḵ nēhwēʾ ṣeḇyānāḵ tavo malḵutḵa, ya'aseh retsonẖa
iẖmel bišmō ẖet ҁalarҁa. ḵud d'kit bi šmayo hawḵa bi arҁo ste ʾaykannāʾ d-ḇa-šmayyāʾ ʾāp̄ b-ʾarʿāʾ. kevašamayim ken ba'arets.
Aplēḥ leḥmaḥ uẖẖil yōmaḥ Haw lan u laḥmo d-sniquṯayḏan adyawma Haḇ lan laḥmāʾ d-sūnqānan yawmānā Et leẖem ẖukenu ten lanu hayom
ġfurlēḥ ḥṭiyōṯaḥ eẖmil wa šbaq lan a-ḥṭohayḏan ḵud d-aḥna ste wa-šḇōq lan ḥawbayn wa-ḥṭāhayn uselaẖ lanu al ẖata'enu
nġofrin lti maḥiṭ ҁemmaynaḥ sbaq lan lanek laf elan ʾaykanāʾ d-āp̄ ḥnan šḇaqn l-ḥayāḇayn kefi šesolẖim gam anaẖnu laẖot'im lanu
wlōfaš ttaẖlennaḥ bčaġribyōṯa w lo maҁbret lan l'nesyuno w-lāʾ taʿlan l-nesyōnāʾ ve'al tavienu lide nisayon
bes ḥaslannaḥ m-šēḏa elo mfaṣay lan mu bišo ʾelāʾ paṣān men bīšāʾ ki im ẖaltsenu min hara

Miscellaneous words and sample phrases[edit]

English Western Neo-Aramaic
Hello / Peace šloma
Altar server šammoša
Morning ʕṣofra
Mountain ṭūra
Water mōya
God alo, iloha
Sun šimša
Mouth femma
Head rayša
Village qrīṯa
I swear b'sliba
Nice ḥalya
Here / here it is hōxa, hōxa hū
Liar daklona
After bōṯar min
Son ebra
Daughter berča
Brother / Brothers ḥōna, ḥuno
Sister ḥōṯa
Donkey hmora
Tongue / language lišōna
Money kiršo
Nation omṯa
Year ešna
Moon ṣahra
King malka
Earth arʕa
Dove yawna
Long live! tihi!
Grave qabra
Food xōla
(Paternal) Uncle ḏōḏa
(Maternal) Uncle ḥōla
(Paternal) Aunt ʕamṯa
(Maternal) Aunt ḥōlča
Father ōbū
Mother emma
My mother emmay
Grandfather gitta [ʒita]
Grandmother gičča [ʒitʃa]
Way tarba
Ocean yamma
Congratulations! brixa!
Aramean (Syrian/Syriac) suray
Sky šmoya
Who? mōn?
Love rhmoṯa
Kiss noškṯa
How are you? ex čōb? (m), ex čība? (f)
Fast sawma
Human barnōša
Holy Spirit ruẖa qudšo
Poison samma
Sword seyfa
Bone germa
Blood eḏma
Half felka
Skin gelta
Hunger xafna
Stone / rock xefa
Vineyard xarma
Back hassa
Goat ezza
Lip sefṯa
Chin / beard ḏeqna
Tooth / crag šennā
Past zibnō
Queen malkṯa
The little man ḡabrōna zʕora
Peace to all of you šloma lḵulxun
Who is this? mōn hanna? (m), mōn hōḏ? (f)
I am Aramean and my language is Aramaic. Ana suray w lišoni suray.
We are Arameans and our language is Aramaic. Anaḥ suroy w lišonah suray.
Church klēsya (Greek loanword)
shirt qameṣča (from Latin camisia)
What's your name? (m) mō ošmaḵ? (m)
Dream helma
Old man soba


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Western Neo-Aramaic at Ethnologue (23rd ed., 2020)
  2. ^ Brock, An Introduction to Syriac Studies Archived 2013-05-18 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 2011
  3. ^ Owens, Jonathan (2000). Arabic as a Minority Language. Walter de Gruyter. p. 347. ISBN 3-11-016578-3.
  4. ^ Sabar, Ariel (18 February 2013). "How To Save A Dying Language". Ankawa. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  5. ^ Beach, Alastair (2010-04-02). "Easter Sunday: A Syrian bid to resurrect Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
  6. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "أرض تحكي لغة المسيح". YouTube.
  7. ^ "Aramaic singing festival in Maaloula for preserving Aramaic language – Syrian Arab News Agency". 10 September 2016.
  8. ^ a b Francis, Issam (10 June 2016). L'Arameen Parle A Maaloula – Issam Francis. ISBN 9781365174810.
  9. ^ "Ma'luli".
  10. ^ http://www.rinyo.org/Bible
  11. ^ a b https://scriptureearth.org/data/amw/PDF/amwMaLuliNT-web.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  12. ^ ""الآرامية" بالمجان في جامعة دمشق | الاتحاد الوطني لطلبة سورية".
  13. ^ "دورة مجانية لتعليم اللغة الآرامية بجامعة دمشق".
  14. ^ http://tishreenonline.sy/2017/07/17/%D8%AF%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%AC%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D8%BA%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A2%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%AC/[dead link]
  15. ^ https://www.facebook.com/groups/483076162042401/about/[user-generated source]
  16. ^ "Western Neo-Aramaic language and alphabet".
  17. ^ "الأبجدية المربعة | PDF".
  18. ^ http://aramia.net/


External links[edit]