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Chaldean Neo-Aramaic


Chaldean Neo-Aramaic

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic
ܟܠܕܝܐ Kaldāyâ, ܣܘܼܪܲܝܬ Sōreth
Sûret in written Syriac
(Madnkhaya script)
Native to Iraq, Iran, Turkey
Region Iraq; Mosul, Ninawa, now also Baghdad and Basra.
Native speakers
200,000 (1994)[1]
Syriac (Madenhaya alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 cld
Glottolog chal1275[2]

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is a Northeastern Neo-Aramaic language[3] spoken throughout a large region stretching from the plain of Urmia, in northwestern Iran, to the Nineveh plains, in northern Iraq, together with parts of southeastern Turkey. Especially in view of the very early establishment of Christianity in Assyria and its continuity to the present and the continuity of the population. Speakers are ethnic Chaldean and are descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Chaldea.

More than 90% of these ethnic Chaldeans speak either the Chaldean Neo-Aramaic or Assyrian Neo-Aramaic variety, two varieties of Christian Neo-Aramaic or Sureth which, contrary to what their names suggest, are not divided among denominational Chaldean church lines.[4][5][6]

It is extremely closely related to Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, where it is at times considered a dialect of that language. Both evolved from the same Syriac language, a language which developed in Assyria[7] between the 5th century BC and 1st century AD. The terms Syrian and thus Syriac were originally 9th century BC Indo-Anatolian derivatives of Assyrian.[8]

Despite the terms Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic indicating a separate religious or even ethnic identity, both languages and their native speakers originate from and are indigenous to the same Upper Mesopotamian region (what was Assyria between the 9th century BC and 7th century BC), and both originate directly from Syriac, which was founded in that same region.


  • History 1
  • Dialects 2
  • Phonology 3
    • Consonants 3.1
    • Vowels 3.2
  • Script 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • See also 8
  • External links 9


The Syriac language in turn, had evolved from Imperial Aramaic, an Akkadian infused dialect introduced as the lingua franca of Assyria and the Neo-Assyrian Empire by Tiglath-Pileser III in the 8th century BC. The term Syrian and thus its derivative Syriac, had originally been 9th century BC Indo-Anatolian and Greek corruptions of Assyria.[9]

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is one of a number of modern Northeastern Aramaic languages spoken by the Chaldean people,[10][11] native to the northern region of Iraq from Kirkuk through the Nineveh plains, Irbil and Mosul to Dohuk, Urmia in northwestern Iran, northeastern Syria (particularly the Al Hasakah region) and in southeast Turkey, particularly Hakkari, Bohtan, Harran, Tur Abdin, Mardin and Diyarbakir. The Assyrian Christian dialects have been heavily influenced by Classical Syriac, the literary language of the Assyrian Church and Syriac Christianity in antiquity.

Therefore, Christian Neo-Aramaic has a dual heritage: literary Syriac and colloquial Neo-Assyrian Eastern Aramaic. The closely related dialects are often collectively called Soureth, or Syriac in Iraqi Arabic.

Jews, Mandeans and Syriac-Aramean Christians speak different dialects of Aramaic that are often mutually unintelligible.


Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic are dialects originating in the Nineveh Plains and Upper Mesopotamia, a region which was an integral part of ancient Assyria between the 9th century BC and 7th century BC. They have a number of identifiable dialects, each corresponding to one of the Chaldo-Assyrian Christian villages where the language is spoken. The village/dialects are: Ankawa, Alqosh, Aqrah, Mangesh, Tel Keppe, Baghdeda, Tel Skuf, Baqofah, Batnaya, Bartella, Sirnak-Cizre (Bohtan), Araden and Dahuk.



Table of Chaldean Neo-Aramaic consonant phonemes
Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain emphatic
Nasal m n
Plosive b k ɡ q ʔ
Fricative sibilant s z ʃ
non-sibilant f θ ð x ɣ ħ ʕ h
Approximant w l j
Rhotic r
  • The Chaldean dialects are generally characterised by the presence of the fricatives /θ/ (th) and /ð/ (dh) which correspond to /t/ and /d/, respectively, in other Assyrian dialects (excluding the Tyari dialect). However, the standard or educational form of Chaldean would realize the consonants /θ/ and /ð/ as /tˤ/.
  • Most Chaldean Neo-Aramaic varieties would use the phoneme of /f/, which corresponds to /p/ in most of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic dialects (excluding the Tyari dialect).
  • In some Chaldean dialects /r/ is realized as [ɹ]. In others, it's either a tap [ɾ] or a trill [r].
  • Unlike in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, the guttural sounds of [ʕ] and [ħ] are used predominantly in Chaldean varieties - this is a feature also seen in other Northeastern Neo-Aramaic languages.[12]


Front Central Back
Close i
Mid ɛ ə ɔ
Open a ɑ


Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is written in the Madenhaya version of the Syriac alphabet, which is also used for classical Syriac. The School of Alqosh produced religious poetry in the colloquial Neo-Aramaic rather than classical Syriac in the 17th century prior to the founding of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the naming of the dialect as Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, and the Dominican Press in Mosul has produced a number of books in the language.

See also


  1. ^ Chaldean Neo-Aramaic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Chaldean Neo-Aramaic".  
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Northeastern Neo-Aramaic". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
  5. ^ Blench, 2006. The Afro-Asiatic Languages: Classification and Reference List
  6. ^ Khan 2008, pp. 6
  7. ^ Khan 2008, pp. 6
  8. ^ Tekoglu, R. & Lemaire, A. (2000). La bilingue royale louvito-phénicienne de Çineköy. Comptes rendus de l’Académie des inscriptions, et belleslettres, année 2000, 960-1006.
  9. ^ Rollinger, Robert (2006). "The terms "Assyria" and "Syria" again" (PDF). Journal of Near Eastern Studies 65 (4): 284–287. doi:10.1086/511103.
  10. ^ Parpola, Simo (2004). "National and Ethnic Identity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Assyrian Identity in Post-Empire Times" (PDF). Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies (in English) (JAAS). Vol. 18 (No. 2): pp. 22.
  11. ^ Mar Raphael J Bidawid. The Assyrian Star. September–October, 1974:5
  12. ^ *Beyer, Klaus (1986). The Aramaic language: its distribution and subdivisions. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. ISBN 3-525-53573-2.


  • 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.

See also

  • Dani Khalil - a Chaldean homicide detective in Low Winter Sun

External links

  • Eastern Syriac script for Chaldean Neo-Aramaic at Omniglot
  • Semitisches Tonarchiv: Dokumentgruppe "Aramäisch/Neuostaramäisch (christl.)" (text in German).
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