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ܛܘܪܝܐ Ṭuroyo, ܣܘܼܪܲܝܬ Ṣurayt, >ܣܘܪܝܝܐ Suryoyo
Pronunciation /tˤurˈɔjɔ/, /sˤuˈrajt/, /surˈjɔjɔ/
Spoken in Turkey, Syria; also in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Iraq, Lebanon, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, USA
Region Mardin Province of southeastern Turkey; Al Hasakah and Qamishli in northeastern Syria
Total speakers 200.000
Language family Afro-Asiatic
Writing system Syriac abjad (Serto variant), Latin alphabet has been modified for writing Turoyo in Sweden
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 tru

Turoyo/Surayt is traditionally spoken in eastern Turkey and north-eastern Syria by the Assyrian/Syriac people.



From the word ṭuro, meaning 'mountain', Ṭuroyo is the mountain tongue of the Tur Abdin in southeastern Turkey.

A far older name for the language is Ṣurayt,[1] and it is used by a number of speakers of the language in preference to Ṭuroyo. However, especially in the diaspora, the language is frequently called Surayt/Suryoyo (or Sureyt or Sŭryoyo or Süryoyo depending on dialect), meaning 'Syriac'. Most speakers use Classical Syriac, or Kthobhonoyo/Kthowonoyo/Kthowoyo, for literature and worship. Turoyo/Surayt speakers are currently mostly members of the Syriac Orthodox Church although there are also members of the Chaldean Catholic Church especially from the town of Midyat, until the 19th century there were also Nestorians especially in Tur Izlo/Bægoge area. There is an increasing interest in reviving Kthobhonoyo, the classical language, as a spoken language. This is most acute among non-Turoyo/Surayt-speaking Syriac Orthodox, whose first language may be Arabic, German, Swedish, English, Malayalam or another language. This, and the church's preference for Kthobhonoyo, has had some impact on Turoyo/Surayt.


Until recently, Turoyo/Surayt was a spoken vernacular and was never written down: Kthobhonoyo was the written language. In the 1880s, various attempts were made, with the encouragement of western missionaries, to write Turoyo/Surayt in the Syriac alphabet, in the Serto and in "Estrangelo" script used for West-Syriac Kthobhonoyo. However, with upheaval in their homeland through the twentieth century, many Turoyo/Surayt speakers have emigrated around the world (particularly to Syria, the Lebanon, Sweden and Germany). The Swedish government's education policy, that every child be educated in his or her mother tongue, led to the commissioning of teaching materials in Turoyo. Yusuf Ishaq, thus, developed a written language for Turoyo/Surayt that uses the Latin alphabet. The series of reading books and workbooks that use Ishaq's written Turoyo are called Toxu Qorena!, or "Come Let's Read!" This project has also produced a Swedish-Turoyo dictionary of 4500 entries: the Svensk-turabdinskt Lexikon: Leksiqon Swedoyo-Suryoyo. Another old teacher, writer and translator of the Turoyo/Surayt-Dialect is Yuhanun Üzel, born in Midun in 1934, who finished in 2009 the translation of the Peshitta Bible in Turoyo/Surayt, with Benjamin Üzel and Yahkup Bilgic, in Serto (Westsyriac) and Latin script, a good foundation for the language. This Aramaic Christian commission name is "Sihto du Kthovo Qadisho".

Turoyo/Surayt has borrowed some words from Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish. The main dialect of Turoyo/Surayt is that of Midyat (Mëḏyoyo), in the east of Turkey's Mardin Province. Every village for example Midin (Midun,Middo), Kfarze, `Iwardo/'Ewwardo and Anhil, and the Bægoge/Tur-Izlo(a cluster of seven small villages) all have distinctive Turoyo/Surayt dialects (Midwoyo, Kfarzoyo, `Iwarnoyo, Nihloyo and Izloyo respectively). All Turoyo/Surayt dialects are mutually intelligible with each other. Many Turoyo/Surayt speakers who have left their villages now speak a mixed dialect of their village dialect with the Midyat dialect. This mixture of dialects was used by Ishaq as the basis of his system of written Turoyo/Surayt. For example, Ishaq's reading book uses the word qorena in its title instead of the Mëḏyoyo qurena or the village-dialect qorina. All speakers are bilingual in another local language. Church schools in Syria and the Lebanon teach Kthobonoyo rather than Turoyo/Surayt, and encourage the replacement of non-Syriac loanwords with authentic Syriac ones. Some church leaders have tried to discourage the use and writing of Turoyo/Surayt, seeing it as an impure form of Syriac.

Pronunciation and grammar

Phonetically, Turoyo/Surayt is very similar to Classical Syriac. The additional phonemes /d͡ʒ/ (as in judge), /t͡ʃ/ (as in church) /ʒ/ (as in azure) and /ðˤ/ (the Arabic ẓāʼ) mostly only appear in loanwords from other languages. The most distinctive feature of Turoyo/Surayt phonolgy is its use of reduced vowels in closed syllables. The phonetic value of these reduced vowels differs depending both on the value of original vowel and the dialect spoken. The Miḏyoyo dialect also reduces vowels in pre-stress open syllables. This has the effect of producing a syllabic schwa in most dialects (in Classical Syriac the schwa is not syllabic).

The verbal system of Turoyo/Surayt is similar to that used in other Neo-Aramaic languages. In Classical Syriac, the ancient perfect and imperfect tenses had started to become preterite and future tenses respectively, and other tenses were formed by using the participles with pronominal clitics or shortened forms of the verb hwā ('to become'). Most modern Aramaic languages have completely abandoned the old tenses and form all tenses from stems based around the old participles. The classical clitics have become incorporated fully into the verb form, and can be considered more like inflections.

Turoyo/Surayt has also developed the use of the demonstrative pronouns much further than any other Aramaic language. In Turoyo/Surayt, they have become definite articles. Thus:

  • masculine singular: u-malko (the king)
  • feminine singular: i-malëkṯo/ i-malakṯo (the queen)
  • plural common: am-malke/æm-malke (the kings), am-malkōṯo/æm-malkōṯe-am-malëkyōṯe (the queens).

The Modern Western Syriac dialect of Mlahsô and `Ansha villages in Diyarbakır Province is quite different from Turoyo/Surayt. It is virtually extinct; its last few speakers live in al Qamishli in northeastern Syria. Turoyo/Surayt is also more closely related to other Neo-Aramaic dialects than the Western Neo-Aramaic dialect of Ma'loula.[2]

See also


  • Heinrichs, Wolfhart (ed.) (1990). Studies in Neo-Aramaic. Scholars Press: Atlanta, Georgia. ISBN 1-55540-430-8.
  • Jastrow, Otto (1985). Laut- und Formenlehre des neuaramäischen Dialekts von Mīdin im Ṭur cAbdīn. Otto Harrowitz Verlag: Wiesbaden.
  • Jastrow, Otto (1992). Lehrbuch der Ṭuroyo-Sprache. Otto Harrowitz Verlag: Wiesbaden. ISBN 3-447-03213-8.
  • Tezel, Aziz (2003). Comparative Etymological Studies in the Western Neo-Syriac (Ṭūrōyo) Lexicon: with special reference to homonyms, related words and borrowings with cultural signification. Uppsala Universitet. ISBN 91-554-5555-7.

External links



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