Back in 2009, Dr. Yona Sabar of UCLA wrote an article in The Jewish Week about his experiences as an Aramaic speaker. In recent light of the troubles facing Neo-Aramaic speakers in the Middle East it’s been circulating again, so I figured that I should re-share it.
“Burying My Mother Tongue”
Aramaic is my first language. I don’t get to speak it much with fellow native speakers in Los Angeles, where I live now. The number of Jewish Aramaic speakers has dwindled so much that we now quixotically call ourselves “The Worldwide Federation of Aramaic Speakers.” The group would fit in a small room.
Aramaic is considered the second holiest language after Hebrew. A language usually is not born holy. It becomes holy when it ceases being spoken and is mainly used as the language of scriptures, rituals and prayers. That is how Hebrew came to be called leshon ha-kodesh. After Hebrew faded as a spoken language around 200 BCE, myriads of Jews and Christians in Babylonia, Persia and the land of Israel picked up Aramaic, its Semitic sister. Two late books in the Bible, Daniel and Ezra, contain large sections in literary Aramaic. When Hebrew was waning as a spoken language, almost the entire Bible was translated into Aramaic for the benefit of the masses who couldn’t understand the original Hebrew. Aramaic became a part of the synagogue ritual for many centuries.
Read the rest here.
So, I decided to scrap the audio I recorded for the Aramaic lesson and start over.
I simply didn’t think it was good enough, and the focus of the lesson was completely off.
However, now I have a much better introduction to greetings that I think will get stuck in your heads better. 🙂
More info soon.
So, I’m presently thinking long and hard about merging The Aramaic Blog and AramaicNT.org (The Aramaic New Testament) permanently.
Here at The Aramaic Blog, I get a heck of a lot of traffic, but I haven’t been doing much with it lately. The Aramaic New Testament, however, has a lot going for it, it’s on an up-to-date self-hosted WordPress install so I have much more control, it looks spiffier, it hosts all of my Aramaic courseware and translations, and it’s really where I wish to expand upon over the next year. Both often overlap in their purview so much that I’ve often found myself debating which blog to post something new to.
Historically they were separate because The Aramaic Blog had more of an academic focus where AramaicNT.org had more of a theological focus. However, when I re-designed AramaicNT.org it became much more academically centered with fewer personal theological elements. Since then, I only tend to expound theologically on my personal blog, so the need for two Aramaic “spots” is no longer an issue.
So, if a merger is to happen, I would be taking all of the articles here on The Aramaic Blog and adding them to The Aramaic New Testament and setting up the proper redirects so that when folks go looking for the old articles, they’ll land on the new pages.
What do you, dear readers, think?
Over on Ralph The Sacred River, there is a neat discussion about recent Aramaic sightings in fiction (books & TV).:
I was surprised, though, to hear Aramaic used in the scripts of the series Spartacus on the Starz network. The series (now defunct, I understand) narrates the “lives and loves” of characters in an ancient gladiatorial training academy, and makes liberal use of cable TV’s license to display nudity and use profanity. Interestingly, beginning in the second season, a number of foreign gladiators enter the “ludus”: Ashur and Dagan, “a hulking Syrian.” The Romans speak English — the producers apparently unwilling to emulate Gibson and put Latin in their mouths — but not these new guys. They speak potty-mouthed Aramaic.
A couple of fun things about curious word choices when a translator comes up against a phrase they cannot translate very well… such as profanity. However, there is plenty of good Aramaic profanity floating around — given most of it doesn’t translate well into English without some explanation.
Ed also goes to show that not all Aramaic is equal, due to some vocabulary choices.
Anyways, click through to read the rest. 🙂
Elitzur A. Bar-Asher Siegal, Introduction to the Grammar of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (Lehrbücher orientalischer Sprachen – LOS III / 3, 2013).
The dialect spoken and written by the Jews of Babylonia from the third century CE onwards is known as “Jewish Babylonian Aramaic”. This is the first comprehensive description of this dialect since Levias’ “Grammar of Babylonian Aramaic” of 1930. The current book offers a thorough reexamination of the grammar on the basis of a large corpus in its manuscript witnesses. It not only synthesizes the results of recent scholarship but introduces original insights on many important questions. The book is designed to appeal to readers of all backgrounds, including those with no prior background in Babylonian Aramaic or the Babylonian Talmud. The discussion frequently makes reference to parallels in other Semitic languages and in other Aramaic dialects, as well as to a variety of topics in linguistics . The book is structured as a textbook: it introduces topics in an order determined by pedagogical considerations, and offers vocabulary notes and translation exercises at the end. At the same time, the book can be used as a reference grammar.
(HT Jim Davila)