Modern Assyrian Language between Speech and Writing: Linguistic Examination
Posted: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 08:15 PM UT
The history of the Modern Assyrian (Aramaic) language of today represents a minimum of a three-millennium long panorama of linguistic, cultural and civilizational events. As a Semitic language, it carried the burden of functioning as the medium of civilization after the gradual diminishing role of the Babylonian and Assyrian languages. It is especially in the land of the Assyrian empire that Assyrian and Aramaic languages came intimately into contact. It is because of this intimacy of contact that, according to Rosenthal, various Aramaic dialects were likely to have been spoken at the borders and within Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent, but it was the dialect used by the Arameans settled within the confines of Assyria that from the eighth century B.C. on supplanted all other dialects (1974:6). Thus, one can call the Aramaic spoken in Assyria as the Assyrian Aramaic. The two languages intermingled extensively, but it is always the language of the incoming rising civilization that gradually, albeit steadily, takes over. The takeover was accelerated with the downfall of the Assyrian empire early in the 7th century BC. However, the collapse of the political system in Assyria does not, and should not, imply, in any shape or form, the vanishing of a People in its entirety, nor should it imply the sudden disappearance of the language, culture and civilization of that People. The fall of Assyria simply meant the demise of the political system not the demise of a People and the evaporation of its ethnic identity represented in its language and culture (Odisho, 1988b; 2003a). Consequently, the natural approach to visualize the new emerging scenario in the land of Beth Nahrain is through the blending of the two languages (Assyrian and Aramaic), the two cultures and the two civilizations. It is because of this blending and their common linguistic ancestry that the two languages share thousands of lexical items (vocabulary), but the grammar of modem Assyrian is more Aramaic than the grammar of ancient Assyrian. In fact, it is because of grammar type that linguists consider the modem Assyrian language primarily as a descendant of Aramaic. In turn, some very significant elements of the ancient Assyrian culture became common among all non-Assyrian ethnic groups living within the boundaries of the Assyrian empire. Specific reference to such influence is made by Parpola in the form of religious ideas and mythology, which were propagated to all segments of the population, including the Arameans, through imperial art, emperor cult, religious festivals, and the cults of Assur, Istar, Nabu, Sin and other Assyrian gods (Parpola, 2004)...
Edward Y. Odisho was born in Kirkuk, Iraq in 1938. He received his B.A. Honors in English language in 1960 and taught English for eleven years in Iraq after which he went to England to further his education in Phonetic Sciences. He received his M. Phil. in 1973 and Ph.D. in 1976 from Leeds University. He returned to Baghdad and served as professor of Linguistics at the Mustansiriyah University until political turmoil under Saddam Hussein's regime led to his escape from Iraq in 1980. He settled in the U.S.A. and taught at Loyola University Chicago for 20 years and concurrently at the Northeastern Illinois University until his retirement in 2008. He has published 8 books — six of which are cataloged by the U.S. Library of Congress — and numerous papers and articles in international journals. This book is his 9th and is meant to encourage the learners and teachers of Assyrian (Aramaic) to pursue a modern linguistic approach.