Aramaic revival with help from Sweden

I found an interesting article today about efforts to revive the Aramaic language in Israel. The Syriac variety of Aramaic is used in the Maronite Christian and Syrian Orthodox churches, where prayers are chanted in the language, though few understand them. Only the elderly members of the community still speak the language, which is the case for many other endangered languages. It seems that transmission of the language within families has broken down and in an effort to make up for this, children are taught the language in two schools for a few hours a week on a voluntary basis. This is unlikely to produce many fluent speakings – using the language as a medium of instruction would be a more effective way of doing that – but it’s better than nothing.

There are also Aramaic speaking communities in Sweden, who produce various publications, including a newspaper and children’s books, and also run a television station in Aramaic. The TV station gives the Maronite and Syrian Orthodox communities in Israel opportunities to hear Aramaic being used in non-religious contexts, which encourages them to use the language more.

4 thoughts on “Aramaic revival with help from Sweden

  1. It is true that the ‘original’ Aramaic, allegedly used by Jesus, is no longer spoken, but many modern Aramaic dialects are very much alive. Syriac (the Christian variety of Aramaic) in its classical form is mainly used in liturgical settings, but the modern version is in fact the first language of many Eastern Christians around the world, young and old. One major modern Syriac dialect is called Turoyo; another one is Sureth.

    For those interested, S.P. Brock, An Introduction to Syriac Studies is an excellent introduction.

  2. You’re welcome, Vijay! I wrote a slightly elaborated version of my comment to the original article, but they disabled comments right after I did so. For completeness’ sake, here it is:

    It is important to distinguish between ‘classical’ Aramaic and modern dialects. It is true that in its ‘original’ form (the variety allegedly spoken by Jesus, although its heritage goes back way further), Aramaic is no longer spoken, but there are many modern dialects that are very much alive. In this light it is helpful also to distinguish between the terms ‘Aramaic’ and ‘Syriac’. While the latter is technically a dialect of the former (used primarily by Christians), there are differences to the extent of mutual unintelligibility. What is nowadays called Aramaic is in serious decline, as the article states (the villages mentioned by Fassberg being some of the exceptions), but Syriac is used extensively by many Eastern Christians, both in its classical and its modern forms. Not only is it used by the Maronite and Syrian Orthodox Churches mentioned in the article, but equally by the no less influential Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church, many followers of which speak a modern Syriac dialect as their mother tongue.

  3. I am delighted that the language of Jesus and Daniel is being revived. Bear in mind though, that the modern language is drastically different than that of the Talmud or the apostles. I find the modern dialects even further than Chaucer and today’s English. I understand aincent Aramaic but can’t understand the aincent language. Even in aincent times many of the dielects may have been mutually uninteligible. In any event it is a welcome phenomenon.

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