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Chaldean Neo-Aramaic
ܟܠܕܝܐ Kaldāyâ, ܣܘܼܪܲܝܬ Sōreth
Pronunciation /kalˈdɑjɑ/, /sorɛθ/
Spoken in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon,Brazil, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, USA
Region Iraq; Mosul, Ninawa, now also Baghdad and Basra.
Total speakers 600,000-800,000 est.
Language family Afro-Asiatic
Writing system Syriac abjad (Madenhaya variant)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 syr
ISO 639-3 cld

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is a Northeastern Neo-Aramaic dialect. Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is spoken on the Plain of Mosul in northern Iraq, as well as by the Chaldean communities worldwide. Most speakers are Chaldeans adhering to the Chaldean Catholic Church.

Called Neo-Aramaic, it is not to be confused with the original "Chaldean language" referring to the late Old Aramaic dialect of the Chaldean Dynasty of Babylon (6th century BC).


Origin, history and use today

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is one of a number of modern Eastern Aramaic languages spoken in the region between Lake Urmia in Iranian Azerbaijan and Mosul in northern Iraq. Jews and Christians speak different dialects of Aramaic that are often mutually unintelligible. The Christian dialects have been heavily influenced by the Syriac language, a dialect of Eastern Middle Aramaic, that became the literary and liturgical language of many churches in the Fertile Crescent. Therefore Christian Neo-Aramaic has a dual heritage: literary Syriac and colloquial Eastern Aramaic. The Christian dialects are often called Soureth, or Syriac. In Iraqi Arabic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is sometimes called فلّيحي, or Fallîħî. The term "Fallihi" is considered offensive by some speakers of the language. The term literally refers to those who speak the language as peasants for most of them were working in agriculture. The term typically highlights the social differences among various groups of the community.

Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is the Soureth language of the Plain of Mosul and Iraqi Kurdistan. It has a number of identifiable dialects, each corresponding to one of the villages where the language is spoken. The village/dialects are: Alqosh,Aqrah[1], Aqrah,[2] Mangesh, Tel Keipeh, Baghdeda, Tisqopa, Baqofah, Batnaya, Bartella, Sirnak-Cizre (Bohtan), Araden and Dahuk. Because of its historical importance, the dialect of Alqosh has become the basis for standardisation of Chaldean Neo-Aramaic. Before the 16th century, most Christians in this region were members of the Assyrian Church of the East. When schism split the church, most of the Christians of the region opted for communion with the Roman Catholic Church and became members of the Eastern Rite Chaldean Catholic Church. Despite having a different name, Chaldean is very close to Assyrian Neo-Aramaic[1] and Chaldeans and Assyrians are ethnically the same people, but with different religious denominations.

Chaldean 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 Chaldean rather than classical Syriac, in the 17th century, and the Dominican Press in Mosul has produced a number of books in the language.


  1. ^ Compare the various charts in Otto Jastrow, 1997, "The Neo-Aramaic Languages", The Semitic Languages, pp. 334-377 to see the similarities and differences between Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, represented by the dialect of Aradhin, and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, represented by the dialect of Urmi.


Assyrian • Chaldean • Turoyo
  • 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

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