Mary at school with the nuns – Modern Aramaic texts from the Khabur

Last year, Shabo Talay published a study of the Neo-Aramaic dialects that today are spoken in northeast Syria, in the Jazira region. Its speakers are Assyrians that originally come from the Hakkari region in southeastern Turkey. Whereas last year’s volume is a grammatical analysis mainly of interest for those studying the Neo-Aramaic dialects, the volume that came from the press this year is also interesting for a wider group of readers. This time Talay published a wide selection of the texts upon which he based his grammatical study, in modern Aramaic and in German. These texts tell us about the eventful history of the Assyrians in the late Ottoman Empire, their lives in the villages along the river Khabur in Syria in the twentieth century and the intricate tribal system and religious landscapes of which they formed and still form an integral part. Many of the stories recount stories from the bible and hagiography, including a Life of the Virgin Mary, who according to this version, was given to the church soon after her birth and was raised and educated by the nuns before she was married to Joseph (17.3). It is the interplay of elements from traditional Lives with modern interpretations that make this collection such fascinating reading – even more so because so little is known about this community.

Shabo Talay, Neuaramäische Texte in den Dialekten der Khabur-Assyrer in Nordostsyrien (Semitica Viva, 41; Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz Verlag, 2009). My review of the two volumes has been published in Aramaic Studies 7.2 (2009) 208-212.

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One Response to Mary at school with the nuns – Modern Aramaic texts from the Khabur

  1. Thanks for the link to this study of the Neo Aramaic dialects. Quite a few studies have been done on these dialects, going as far back as the 1800s. It is amazing that, despite the influence of Arabic over 1000+ years, a recognisable form of Aramaic is still spoken. Apart from Hebrew, Aramaic seems to be the language with the oldest unbroken record in mankind’s history.

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