Maaloula Aramaic

2. Aramaic > 2.3. Maaloula Aramaic

Rimon Wehbi   April 18, 2023

2.3.1. Introduction:

From the towering peaks of the Maaloula mountains, a timeless language resonates in the hearts and minds of resilient villagers who are proudly uphold their cultural heritage, despite facing numerous challenges and changes over the years. A language that was once isolated as a rare gem, is treasured by linguists and scholars for its unique linguistic and cultural features.

Maaloula Aramaic is the only surviving dialect of the Western Aramaic branch, belonging to Modern Western Aramaic (also known as Western Neo-Aramaic). It is considered the closest living language to the one spoken by Jesus; it has remained relatively unchanged for centuries due to the isolation of its community. Most of its speakers are Christians who have preserved their unique culture and language in this remote region.

2.3.2. Historical overview:

The Aramaic language family has a long and rich history, dating back to the 10th century BCE. Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Middle East during the first millennium BCE, and it remained an important language in the region during the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine eras. However, it gradually lost its prominence during the Islamic era and was gradually replaced by Arabic. Its usage underwent a major decline during the Ottoman era.

“Maaloula Aramaic” is a dialect of “Modern Western Aramaic”. It has developed from “Late Western Aramaic” dialects that were spoken in the region, particularly the sub-group called “Damascene Aramaic”.

2.3.3. Characteristics:

Maaloula Aramaic has a total of 28 consonants and 6 vowels, along with 3 consonants that are only found in some loan words.

It shares many features with the other extinct Western Aramaic dialects. For example, as in Galilean Aramaic the diphthongs aw and ay are retained, the ending of the masculine plural emphatic is –ōyā < *-āyā, and the imperf 3rd person masculine is not formed with l– or n-, as in Eastern Aramaic, but with y-, as in Old Aramaic and its western dialects. In addition, there are lexical correspondences with the Christian and Jewish Palestinian Aramaic like: iḥmi ‘to see’, erraʕ ‘below’, and imōḏi ‘today’, compared to the Syriac ḥzā, lṯaḥt, and yawmān.

And since it is a Semitic language, it shares many features with other Semitic languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic. For example, Maaloula Aramaic has a system of tri-consonantal roots, which are used to form the language’s verbs and nouns.

2.3.4. Writing System:

Maaloula Aramaic is a spoken language only and has been passed down orally from generation to generation. However, scholars have written it down since the 19th century using modified Latin alphabet.

In the past 20 years, some native speakers have attempted to adapt various scripts to write Maaloula Aramaic. These scripts include modified Old Aramaic script, modified Aramaic square script, Estrangelo Syriac script, Serto Syriac script, and Arabic script. However, no agreed-upon writing system exists to date.

2.3.5. Current Status:

Western Neo-Aramaic and particularly Maaloula Aramaic is now classified as “definitely endangered” by UNESCO. However, the UNESCO site’s data requires updating as it does not reflect the current number of actual speakers. Today, Maaloula Aramaic is spoken by a small community of approximately 1,000 people, with only a few children still learning it as a first language. All speak Maaloula Arabic (≈ Damascus Arabic) as a second language.

The decline of Maaloula Aramaic can be attributed to several factors, including social and economic pressures, the influence of Arabic as a dominant language, and the devastating impact of Maaloula catastrophe in 2013.

Economic pressures have forced many speakers to move to larger cities and other countries in search of work, where they are exposed to Arabic and other dominant languages. Moreover, Maaloula catastrophe in 2013 has led to the displacement of many Aramaic speakers, who are unable to return to their homes due to the destruction of the town.

This has put the future of Maaloula Aramaic in jeopardy, as the language is in danger of dying out if the community is unable to maintain its traditions and pass this unique and valuable language down to future generations.

2.3.6. Conclusion:

In conclusion, Maaloula Aramaic is a language in peril, facing numerous challenges that threaten its survival. However, despite these challenges, there are ongoing efforts to preserve the language and promote its use among younger generations. Maaloula Aramaic deserves to be recognized and protected as a language with a rich history and cultural significance and as a valuable part of our shared human heritage.

Rimon Wehbi   April 18, 2023

To cite this article:
Wehbi, Rimon. “Maaloula Aramaic.” In Yawna. Article published April 18, 2023; retrieved MONTH DAY, YEAR.

Read More:
Yawna Maaloula Aramaic Dictionary ، قاموس يَونا للغة الآرامية. آرامية معلولا

Maaloula Aramaic

علاوة على ذلك، أكل التلميذ. في النهاية، الكتب هي. كذلك كتب التعليم هي. علاوة على ذلك، تلك الكتب. في النهاية، الكتب هي. كذلك كتب التعليم هي. بصورة شاملة، العمل هو الحياة. من بين أهم الأمور. رغم أن العمل ليس كافي. في الحقيقة، لقد كان صحيحاً. قبل كل شيء، على الإنسان. وفي الوقت نفسه، الحياة جيدة. في الواقع، الجمل بما حمل. منذ ذلك الحين، نعمل معاً. كذلك كتب التعليم هي. علاوة على ذلك، جميع الكتب. في النهاية، الكتب هي. عموماً، القصة كاملة لا غير. لا هذا ولا ذاك. من أجل أن يقوم بذلك. بالمثل يعمل الكاتب. من أجل ذلك، تقوم القصة. بصفة عامة، علينا أن. بينما كتب التعليم. كما أنّ كتب التعليم. في أقرب وقت، أكثر الكتب. بناء على ذلك، عليكم أن تفعلو ذلك. من هنا معلولا. لكم أن تتخيلو الى آخره. إما النصر أو الشهادة. من ناحية أخرى، علينا أن. كما أن القصة هي.

في نهاية المطاف، عَن يَونا، من ناحية أخرى، علينا أن. كما أن القصة هي. ما عدا، قصّتي هي. في نهاية المطاف، يركض الطفل. وفي الوقت نفسه، يكتب الكاتب. على وجه التحديد، تعمل القصة. على سبيل المثال، هذه قصّتي تتكون. لا يزال، الشخص هو.

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1 year ago

Hi there! I’m so happy that there are now resources online to finally learn this language.

Question: Can a someone who is proficient in Maaloula understand the Aramaic in the Old Testament, New Testament and the Talmud?

Bonus question: to what degree do these forms of Aramaic differ from each other? Old Testament, New Testament, Talmud, Modern Western Aramaic. Thanks

1 year ago
Reply to  Rimon Wehbi

Rimon, thank you for your clear and knowledgeable answer. Cheers.

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