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The North Eastern Neo-Aramaic Database Project

Bruno Poizat Harbole 1978
Bruno Poizat Harbole 1978

This website, which is currently under construction, will give access to an electronic database relating to the North Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects.

The North Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects (generally known as the NENA dialects) form a very diverse group of Aramaic dialects that were spoken until modern times in Northern Iraq, North West Iran and South Eastern Turkey by Christian and Jewish communities. These are among the last remaining living vestiges of the Aramaic language, which was one of the major languages of the region in antiquity. Over the last few decades most of the speakers of these dialects have been forced to leave their places of residence and have settled in numerous émigré communities throughout the world. The younger generations of these communities are increasingly losing competence in these dialects and as a result most of the dialects are now in danger of extinction. It is an urgent task for Semitic philology to study and document the dialects while competent speakers can still be located.

The construction of the database is taking place at the Faculty of Oriental Studies of Cambridge University within the framework of a five year project that is funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (October 2004 - September 2009). One of the main objectives of the project is to produce sketches of the individual dialects according to a fixed questionnaire format and make these sketches available to the public through this website. It will be possible to make comparative searches across the dialects and to create customized electronic map displays of the distribution of linguistic features. The website will also contain audio recordings of the dialects. The sketches of each dialect are being prepared on the basis of fieldwork carried out by a team of researchers. Grammatical material that has been published already will also be used as a source for the data. We plan to publish collections of articles about the dialects we have investigated in hard copy form. It is our hope that other scholars who are actively researching the NENA dialects will contribute articles to these collections and that this initiative will act as a stimulus for them to publish data that they have collected. This will ensure that the database will have the maximal coverage of the dialect group.

 


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