On the effort to revive Classic Christian Aramaic in Israel

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by origumi, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. origumi Senior Member

  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    You have not actually asked any question, but I assume you want to know what we linguists think of this proposal. The article does not make it clear what sort of Aramaic this person wants to “revive”. The Church language of the Maronites is Syriac, which is an Eastern Aramaic language based on the dialect of Edessa (Urfa). The spoken language in the Levant was Western Aramaic. These are actually quite different languages. Modern Western Aramaic dialects are still spoken in three villages in Syria, but I cannot imagine that the suggestion is that these should be exported to Palestine.
  3. origumi Senior Member

    The language is Middle Syriac I guess, the one spoken by Eastern Christians in parallel time and in vicinity to the Jewish Babylonian Aramaic and remained the liturgical language for the Maronites. Take into account that of the two Talmud variants, Jerusalemite and Babylonian, the latter is much more influential for the last 1,500 years. Therefore this Talmudic language is apparently very similar to the one being "revived" now. Calling it Palestinian Aramaic (or "exported to Palestine") is misleading as the Israeli Maronites are part of the Lebanese Maronite community and happen to live in a different country due to political events.

    My curiosity is about the chances of such revival to really happen. The example of modern Hebrew seems too particular to predict the success of a neighboring language.
  4. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    I've had a personal interest in Syriac for a while, and even attempted to write a few articles in the Syriac Wikipedia. One problem with it is that there are far too many variants of the language for it to work. In any case, it's pretty fun managing to read a language I've never learnt.
  5. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    There are similarities, but there are also significant differences. Jews descend from people who, in the remote past, actually spoke Hebrew. The ancestors of the Maronites never spoke Edessan Syriac; the spoke a Western Aramaic language, and before that Phoenician, but used Edessan Syriac as their Church language, like Latin in England. So this is not a question of “reviving” an ancestral language, but at best one of secularising a sacral language.
  6. origumi Senior Member

    I see your point.

    Are these strongly established facts, that (1) the Maronites are (mostly) descendants of the ancient Canaanite people of Lebanon and (2) they never spoke the Eastern dialect (outside the church)? I know that some of today's Maronites are proud of their distinct Phoenician origin but have no clue how much it's historical truth or just an ethnic sentiment.
  7. rayloom

    rayloom Senior Member

    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    The situation in Israel might succeed. The Maronites there are quite secluded and aren't numerous. Away from Arab political pressure. But its implication for the Maronites of Lebanon might not be evident.

    By the way, there was already an effort in Lebanon to "revive" Syriac as a language of the Maronites. I remember an old interview with one of the Gemayel's who was a strong proponent.
    But between such efforts to revive Syriac, revive Pheonician or turn Lebanese (Arabic) into an official language with a different alphabet (and claiming it's a dialect or continuation of Aramaic not Arabic), I only see dissipated efforts for the moment in Lebanon. There's even a counter-effort to strengthen the situation of Arabic in front of French and English, lead even by some Maronites.
  8. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Of course questions of ethnicity are complicated. Doubtless, the ancestors of the Maronites intermarried with the Romans, the Crusaders and the French, and surely also with Muslims and others at one point or another.

    The East-West divide in Aramaic is somewhere between Damascus and Edessa. It is unlikely that there were ever Eastern Aramaic speakers in the Lebanon.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2013
  9. origumi Senior Member

    Sporadic intermarriage with other peoples is a different issue. The question is whether the Maronites have a significant Eastern ethnic element, which can hint that they also have Eastern cultural elements, maybe to the level that once they spoke Syriac as their native language.
    Yet again, the Maronite story may be an exception. They could absorb the Eastern dialect as early as the 5th century, for example via the disciples of Mar Maron.
  10. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    I do not see any evidence for that.

    Mar Maroun is a possibly fictitious person, in any case one about whom we have no concrete information.
  11. origumi Senior Member

    Ok, thanks fdb.

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