Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic

Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic
לשניד דינן Lišānîd d-Jānān
Native to Israel
Region Jerusalem, originally from Bijil in Iraq
Native speakers
20 (2004)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 bjf
Glottolog barz1241[2]

Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic is a modern Jewish Aramaic language, often called Neo-Aramaic or Judeo-Aramaic. It was originally spoken in three villages near Aqrah in Iraq.[3] The native name of the language is Lishanid Janan, which means 'our language', and is similar to names used by other Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialects (Lishan Didan, Lishanid Noshan).[4][5][6][7] [8][9]

It is nearly extinct, with only about 20 elderly speakers today.[7]


Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic is classified as Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, and Aramaic language.[10]

Origin and use today

The Jewish inhabitants of a wide area from northern Iraq, eastern Turkey and north western Iran, corresponding to the area of Kurdistan, mostly spoke various dialects of modern Aramaic. The turmoil near the end of World War I and resettlement in Israel in 1951 (when eight families from Bijil moved to the new Jewish state) led to the decline of these traditional languages. This particular and distinct dialect of Jewish Neo-Aramaic was spoken in the villages of Bijil, Barzan and Shahe. It was known as Bijili until recently.

The last native speaker of Bijil Neo-Aramaic died in 1998. The remaining second-language speakers are all related and over 70 years of age, and most from Barzan. Other speakers are from Aqra. Barzan and Aqra are both located in Iraqi Kurdistan. The first language of these speakers is either Hebrew or Kurdish, and some also speak Arabic or another Neo-Aramaic dialect. Thus, the language is effectively extinct.

Most of the speakers of Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic live in Jerusalem, Israel today.[7]


Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic is part of the Northeastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA) speech-type. Many of the NENA languages are seriously endangered, like Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic. Most of the NENA languages became endangered since most of the Aramaic speaking Jewry began to immigrate to Israel. This occurred mostly during the 1950s. Barzani Jewish-Neo Aramaic stands out from these languages because it began its endangerment in the early 1900s. This occurred in Kurdistan. The reason for the decline of the language was that most of the speakers were dispersed and integrated into communities that spoke other languages than Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic. This dispersal occurred violently in many of the communities by outside forces.[7]

Most speakers of Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic now speak Israeli Hebrew or Arabic.[7]

Geographical Distribution

Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic is only spoken in Israel today. Speakers come mostly from Iraq.

Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic is not the official language of any country.

Sounds and Phonology

There are 23 in the Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic alphabet and eight vowels. The letters can sound differently, making 35 distinct sounds.

Dialects and Varieties

Between the years of 1996 and 2000, three dialects of Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic were discovered. They are called Barzan, Shahe, and Bejil. Bejil is extinct.[7]

It may be related to Lishanid Noshan, which has clusters around Arbil to the south east of Barzan. There may be some similarities between Barzani and the subdialect of Lishanid Noshan formerly spoken in the village of Dobe, 50 km north of Arbil. The Sandu dialect of Jewish Neo-Aramaic is quite similar to Barzani. However, studies suggest that it has more in common with Lishana Deni. There is evidence that the language was also spoken in the nearby village of Nerim, but no speaker from that village remains.

Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic has been infused with words from the Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialect of Zakho. This occurred due to the close proximity of the speakers of Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic and the dialect Zakho. This dialect is the most commonly spoken variant of Aramaic spoken in Jerusalem. This dialect is seen as more prestigious by the speakers and is most commonly understood.[7]


Hezy Mutzafi has recorded and translated two texts in Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic.[7]

Writing system

The alphabet used in Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic is the same alphabet used in modern Hebrew.

See also


  1. Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Sabar, Ariel (2008-09-16). My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. ISBN 1-56512-490-1.
  4. Sabar, Y. (1984). "The Arabic Elements in the Jewish Neo-Aramaic Texts of Nerwa and ʿAmādıya, Iraqi Kurdistan". Journal of the American Oriental Society: 201–211.
  5. MUTZAFI, H. (2002). "Barzani jewish neo-aramaic and its dialects". Mediterranean Language Review. 14: 41–70.
  6. Mutzafi, H. (2008). "Trans-Zab Jewish Neo-Aramaic". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 71 (03): 409–431. doi:10.1017/S0041977X08000815.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 MUTZAFI, H. (2004). "Two texts in Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 67 (01): 1–13. doi:10.1017/s0041977x04000011.
  8. Sabar, Yona (September 1974). "Nursery Rhymes and Baby Words in the Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Zakho (Iraq)". Journal of the American Oriental Society. American Oriental Society. 94 (3): 329–336. doi:10.2307/600067. ISSN 0003-0279. JSTOR 600067.
  9. Khan, Geoffrey (2004-05-15). Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Sulemaniyya and Salabja [Halabja], The. Brill. ISBN 90-04-13869-2.
  10. "Endangered Languages Project - Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic". Retrieved 2016-11-17.

External links

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