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North-eastern Neo-Aramaic: Endangered communities and languages in contact

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North-eastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA) is one of the modern branches of the (Semitic) Aramaic language family. The NENA dialects are (or were) spoken by Christian and Jewish communities across northern Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. Most dialects of NENA are severely endangered and many have already died out, due to the persecutions, wars and ethnic cleansing the various communities have endured. A large majority of the remaining speakers can be found in the world-wide diaspora rather than in the homeland. Events in Iraq and Syria within the next few years will probably be decisive for the survival of NENA .

The languages in contact with NENA are genetically diverse: Kurmanji and Sorani Kurdish (Iranian), vernacular and standard Arabic (Semitic), Iranian Azeri and Turkish (both Turkic), as well as Persian (Iranian). Contact influence on NENA seems to have arisen mainly through long-term bi- and multi-lingualism rather than through language shift. Contact influence is apparent at all levels of the language, lexicon, phonology, morphology and syntax.

This talk will give an overview of the current endangerment of the dialects before discussing some contact-induced influences in NENA dialects and the socio-linguistic situations that gave rise to them.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Endangered Languages and Cultures Group series.

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