Lishanid Noshan is a modern Jewish Aramaic language, often called Neo-Aramaic or Judeo-Aramaic. It was originally spoken in southern and eastern Iraqi Kurdistan, in the region of Arbil. Most speakers now live in Israel. Lishanid Noshan means 'the language of our selves'; speakers often also call it Lishana Didan, which means 'our language'. However, as similar names are used by most of the dialects of Jewish Neo-Aramaic, scholarly sources tend to call it Arbil Jewish Neo-Aramaic. Other popular names for the language are Hula'ula, 'Jewish', Galigalu, 'mine-yours' (noting the difference in grammar from other dialects), and Kurdit, 'Kurdish'.
|Lishanid Noshan (לשניד נשן [LišānÓd Nošān] or לשנא דידן [Lišānā DÓdān]) |
|Spoken in: ||Israel, originally Iraq |
|Region: ||Jerusalem, originally from eastern and southern Iraqi Kurdistan |
|Total speakers: ||2,000 to 2,500 |
|Ranking: ||Not in top 100 |
|Genetic classification: ||Afro-Asiatic |
|Official status |
|Official language of: ||None |
|Regulated by: ||None |
|Language codes |
|ISO 639-1 ||None |
|ISO 639-2 ||sem |
|SIL ||AIJ |
Origin and use today
Various Neo-Aramaic dialects were spoken across a wide area from Lake Urmia to Lake Van (in Turkey), down to the plain of Mosul (in Iraq) and back across to Sanandaj (in Iran again). Lishanid Noshan is quite central to this area (although normally termed a southwestern dialect). It is somewhat intelligible with the Jewish Neo-Aramaic languages of Hulaula (spoken to the east, in Iranian Kurdistan) and Lishan Didan (spoken to the north east, in Iranian Azerbaijan). However, it is quite unintelligible from Lishana Deni, the dialect that originally came from northwestern Iraqi Kurdistan. It is also unitelligble from the Christian dialects of Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic spoken in the region. It is only since the 1980s that studies have shown the distinctiveness that separates Lishanid Noshan from Hulaula; before this time they were simply considered to be dialect clusters of the same essential language.
There are two major dialect clusters of Lishanid Noshan. The western cluster of dialects was centred around Arbil. Most of the Jews of Arbil itself spoke Arabic as their first language, and their Aramaic was heavily influenced by Iraqi Arabic. Dastit, the language of the plain, is the Aramaic dialect of the villages of the Plain of Arbil. Lishanid Noshan was also spoken about 50 km north of Arbil, in the village of Dobe, with a dialect related to, but distinct from Arbili.
The eastern cluster of dialects was focused on the town of Koy Sanjaq in the mountains of northeastern Iraq (but not related to the Christian language of Koy Sanjaq Surat), with a slightly different subcluster further north, around the village of Ruwandiz. The dialects of the two clusters are intelligible to one another, and most of the differences are due to receiving loanwords from different languages: Arabic and Kurdish.
The verbal system of Lishanid Noshan is quite distinctive. It is clearly different from other Neo-Aramaic languages, and variations of it mark the boundaries of dialect clusters within the language. The Arbil dialect expresses the progressive aspect by prefixing the particle la- to the verb form (for example, laqatil, 'he is killing', and laqtille, 'he was killing', against qatil, 'he kills', and qtille, 'he killed'). The Dobe dialect does a similar thing, but uses the prefix na-. The eastern cluster dialects use non-finite forms of the verb with the copula to express the progressive aspect.
The upheavals in their traditional region after the First World War and the founding of the State of Israel led most of the Jews of Kurdistan to settle in the new Jewish homeland. However, uprooted from their homes, and thrown together with so many different language groups in the fledgling nation, Lishanid Noshan began to be replaced in the speech of younger generations by Modern Hebrew. Fewer than 3,000 people are known to speak Lishanid Noshan, and most of them are over 40 years old. The language faces extinction in the next few decades.
Lishanid Noshan is written in the Hebrew alphabet. Spelling tends to be highly phonetic, and elided letters are not written.
- Heinrichs, Wolfhart (ed.) (1990). Studies in Neo-Aramaic. Scholars Press: Atlanta, Georgia. ISBN 1-55540-430-8.
- Khan, Geoffrey (1999). A Grammar of Neo-Aramaic: the dialect of the Jews of Arbel. Leiden: EJ Brill.
- Ethnologue report for Lishanid Noshan (http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=AIJ).