Turoyo language

ܛܘܪܝܐ Ṭûrôyo
ܣܘܼܪܲܝܬ Ṣurayt
ܣܘܪܝܝܐ Suryoyo
Pronunciation [tˤurˈɔjɔ], [sˤuˈrajt], [surˈjɔjɔ]
Native to

Turkey, Syria

Region Mardin Province of southeastern Turkey; Al-Hasakah and Qamishli in northeastern Syria
Native speakers
62,000 (1994)[1]
Syriac (Serto alphabet); Latin has been modified for writing Turoyo in Sweden by Yusuf Ishaq and Germany by Silas Üzel
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tru
Glottolog turo1239[2]

Turoyo or Suryoyo ("Syriac"), known in English as Western Syriac,[3] is a Neo-Aramaic (Syriac) dialect, or group of dialects,[4] mostly and traditionally spoken in the Tur Abdin region in eastern Turkey by Syriac Orthodox Christians. The name is derived from ṭuro ("mountain"), thus translated as "the mountain language".

Turoyo is not mutually intelligible with Western Neo-Aramaic, having been separated for over a thousand years, while mutual intelligibility with Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is considerable, but to a limited degree.[5] Contrary to what these language names suggest, they are not specific to a particular church, with members of the Chaldean Catholic Church and Assyrian Church of the East speaking Turoyo, and members of the Syriac Orthodox Church speaking Assyrian or Chaldean Neo-Aramaic dialects. The Syriac churches use the Classical Syriac language as the liturgical language, while Syriac Christian authors have historically, and some still, use it in literature.


The homeland of Turoyo is the Tur Abdin region in southeastern Turkey.[6] This region is a traditional stronghold of Syriac Orthodox Christians.[7] The Turoyo-speaking population prior to the 1915 genocide largely adhered to the Syriac Orthodox Church.[6] In 1970 it was estimated that there were 20,000 Turoyo-speakers still living in the area, however, they gradually migrated to Western Europe and elsewhere in the world.[6] The Turoyo-speaking diaspora is now estimated at 40,000.[6] Today only hundreds of speakers remain in Tur Abdin.[6]

Until recently, Turoyo 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 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 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 first tongue, led to the commissioning of teaching materials in Turoyo. Yusuf Ishaq thus developed an alphabet for Turoyo/Surayt based on the Latin script.

A series of reading books and workbooks that introduce Ishaq's alphabet 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 Turoyo is Yuhanun Üzel (born in Midun in 1934) who in 2009 finished the translation of the Peshitta Bible in Turoyo, with Benjamin Bar Shabo and Yahkup Bilgic, in Serto (West-Syriac) and Latin script, a foundation for the "Aramean-Syriac language".


Turoyo has borrowed some words from Arabic, Kurdish, Armenian, and Turkish. The main dialect of Turoyo is that of Midyat (Mëḏyoyo), in the east of Turkey's Mardin Province. Every village have distinctive dialects (Midwoyo, Kfarzoyo, `Iwarnoyo, Nihloyo and Izloyo, respectively). All Turoyo dialects are mutually intelligible with each other. There is a dialectal split between the town of Midyat and the villages, with only slight differences between the individual villages.[6] A closely related language or dialect, Mlaḥsô, spoken in two villages in Diyarbakir, is now deemed extinct.[6]

Many Turoyo-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. 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, 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, seeing it as an impure form of Syriac.

Latin alphabet

Main article: Syriac Latin alphabet

The alphabet as used in a forthcoming translation of New Peshitta in Turoyo Yuhanun Bar Shabo, Sfar mele surtoṯoyo - Picture dictionary Benjamin Bar Shabo and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.


Phonetically, Turoyo 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 phonology is its use of reduced vowels in closed syllables. The phonetic value of such 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. That has the effect of producing a syllabic schwa in most dialects (in Classical Syriac, the schwa is not syllabic).


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

The Modern Western Syriac dialect of Mlahsô and Ansha villages in Diyarbakır Province is quite different from Turoyo. It is virtually extinct; its last few speakers live in 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.[8]

Sample phrases

English Turoyo - Aramaic
Hello (how are you? m/f) Shlomo (aydarbo-hat)
I'm fine Towo/Tawwo no / Towto/Tawto no
What is your name? m/f Munyo ishmokh or ishmukh / ishmakh or ishmekh?
My name is ___ Ishmi ____ yo
Love Hubo
Jesus Yeshu'or Isho'
Good morning Brikh sapro/safro or Sapro towo
God bless you m/f Aloho mbarakhlokh / mbarakhlekh/mbarakhlakh
I want water m/f Koba'no maye or Kob'eno maye / Kob'ono maye or Kobo'yono maye
Kiss Nushaqto
Thank you Tawdi
Child m/f Z'uro or Na'imo /Z'urto or Na'imto
Students of university Sawboye
Sit tæw or itæw
Stand/stop Kli (m)/Klay (f)/Basyo
Hunger Kapno or Kafno
Father Babo
Mother Emo
God Aloho
Uncle Holo (Maternal) / 'ammo (Paternal)
Aunt Holto or Hulto (Maternal / 'amtho (Paternal)
Help 'ewono or 'udrono
Man Nosho/Gawro
Woman Athto
Boy Talyo
Girl Tlitho
Book Kthowo
Youth 'laymuto
Pen Qanyo
Trousers Pantalon/Pantlo
Table Tablitho
Chair Kursyo
Bring Ayti(m) or Amti(m)
Go Zokh/Zukh (m) or Zolukh/Zelokh (m)
Birth Mawlodho
Come m/f Tukh/Tokh (m)/ Takh/Tekh or Tolokh /Tælakh
Run Rhat
Walk Halækh
Jump Qpas/ or Qsaf
Rain Matro
Sun Shimsho
Moon Sahro
Fish Nuno
Star Kukwo
Grandpa Qassho or Sowo (Babi Sowo) or under Arabic influence Jiddo
Grandma Qashto or Sowto (Emi Sowto)
Hand Idho
Mouth Pemo or Femo
Car Radayto
Cow / bull Turto / Tawro
Song Zmarto
Marriage Gworo
Tomorrow Ramhol/Lamhor
Today Yawma or Adyawma rare Adyawmo
Death Mawto
Money Zuze
Gun Zayno
Heart Lebo
Breath Nashmo/Nafas
Head Resho or Risho
Tooth 'arsho
Dream Hulmo
Village Qritho
Dig Hporo or Hforo
Flying Pyoro or Fyoro or ProHo (rare)
Mirror Mahzitho
River Nahro
Creek NaHlo or a loan Jiwo or Jowe
Ocean Yamo


  1. Turoyo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Turoyo". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Klaus Beyer (1986). The Aramaic Language, Its Distribution and Subdivisions. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. pp. 54–. ISBN 978-3-525-53573-8.
  4. Markus K. Tozman; Andrea Tyndall (2012). The Slow Disappearance of the Syriacs from Turkey and of the Grounds of the Mor Gabriel Monastery. LIT Verlag Münster. pp. 198–. ISBN 978-3-643-90268-9.
  5. Brenzinger, Matthias (2007). Language Diversity Endangered. Walter de Gruyter. p. 268. ISBN 9783110170498.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Weninger 2012, p. 697.
  7. Aphram I. Barsoum; Ighnāṭyūs Afrām I (Patriarch of Antioch) (2008). The History of Tur Abdin. Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-715-5.
  8. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 31, No. 3 (1968), pp. 605-610


Further reading

  • Beth-Sawoce, Jan (2012). Xëzne d xabre/Ordlista Surayt-Swedi [mëdyoyo]. Södertälje: Nsibin. ISBN 978-91-88328-57-1
  • 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.
Turoyo language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator
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