Eastern Aramaic languages have developed from the varieties of Aramaic
that developed in and around
Mesopotamia (Iraq, southeast Turkey,
Syria and northwest and southwest Iran), as opposed to
western varieties of the
Levant (modern Levantine
Syria and Lebanon).
Most speakers are ethnic Assyrians, although there are a minority of
Mandeans who also speak varieties of Eastern Aramaic.
Numbers of fluent speakers among Assyrians range from approximately
575,000 to 1,000,000, with the main languages being Assyrian
Neo-Aramaic (235,000 speakers),
Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (216,000
speakers) and Surayt/Turoyo (250,000 speakers), together with a
number of smaller closely related languages with no more than 5,000 to
10,000 speakers between them.
Despite their names, they are not restricted to specific churches;
Chaldean Neo-Aramaic being spoken by members of the Assyrian Church of
Syriac Orthodox Church
Syriac Orthodox Church and Assyrian Protestant churches, and
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Turoyo being spoken by members of the
Chaldean Catholic Church
Chaldean Catholic Church etc.
In addition, there are approximately 25,000 speakers of
Aramaic dialects, and some 5,000 fluent speakers of Mandaic
language among the some 50,000 Mandeans, an ethno-religious Gnostic
Iraq and Iran.
Historically, eastern varieties of Aramaic have been more dominant,
mainly due to their political acceptance in the Neo-Assyrian Empire
and Achaemenid Persian empires. With the later loss of political
platforms to Greek and Persian, Eastern Aramaic continued to be used
by the population of Mesopotamia.
In Assyria, today's modern northern Iraq, south east
Turkey and north
east Syria, the local variety of eastern Aramaic, known as Syriac (the
terms Syrian and Syriac originally being Indo-European derivatives of
Assyrian) had emerged by the 5th century BC, and between the 1st and
4th centuries AD became a standard language among the Eastern Rite
Christian Assyrians, being used in the
Peshitta and by the poet
Ephrem, and in the schools of Edessa and Nisibis, and later by the
Saint Thomas Christians
Saint Thomas Christians in India.
In the region of
Babylonia (modern Southern Iraq), rabbinical schools
flourished, producing the Targumim and Talmud, making the language a
standard of religious
Among the Mandaean ethnic community of Khuzestan and Iraq, another
variety of eastern Aramaic, known as Mandaic, became the liturgical
language of the religion.
These varieties have widely influenced the less prominent western
varieties of Aramaic of the
Arameans of The Levant, and the three
literary, classical languages outlined above have also influenced
numerous vernacular varieties of eastern Aramaic, some of which are
spoken to this day, largely by ethnic Assyrians and
Neo-Aramaic languages). Since the Arab Islamic conquest of the 7th
century AD, most of the population of the
Middle East has undergone a
gradual but steady language shift to Arabic.
However there are still between some 550,000 - 1,000,000 fluent
speakers among the indigenous ethnic Assyrians of northern Iraq,
northeast Syria, southeastern
Turkey and northwestern Iran, as well as
small migrant communities in Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Armenia,
Georgia, southern Russia and Azerbaijan. Most of these are members of
the Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox Church, Chaldean
Catholic Church, Ancient Church of the East, Assyrian Pentecostal
Church and Assyrian Evangelical Church. A further number may have a
more sparse understanding of the language, due to pressures in their
homelands to speak Arabic, Turkish, Persian or Kurdish, and due to the
Assyrian Diaspora to the Western World.
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
(2017). "Eastern Aramaic".
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck
Institute for the Science of Human History.
^ Turoyo at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
^ *MacDonald, Kevin (2004-07-29). "Socialization for Ingroup Identity
among Assyrians in the United States". Paper presented at a symposium
on socialization for ingroup identity at the meetings of the
International Society for Human Ethology, Ghent, Belgium. Archived
from the original on 2007-06-10. Based on interviews with community
informants, this paper explores socialization for ingroup identity and
endogamy among Assyrians in the United States. The Assyrians descent
from the population of ancient
Assyria (founded in the 24th century
BC), and have lived as a linguistic, political, religious, and ethnic
minority in Iraq, Iran,
Turkey since the fall of the
Assyrian Empire in 608 BC. Practices that maintain ethnic and cultural
continuity in the Near East, the United States and elsewhere include
language and residential patterns, ethnically based
characterized by unique holidays and rites, and culturally specific
practices related to life-cycle events and food preparation. The
interviews probe parental attitudes and practices related to ethnic
identity and encouragement of endogamy. Results are being
^ Modern Mandaic at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
East Semitic languages
West Semitic and Central Semitic languages
Jewish Babylonian Aramaic
Koy Sanjaq Surat
Eastern Egyptian and Peninsular Bedawi
South Semitic languages
Silt'e (Wolane, Ulbareg, Inneqor)
Modern South Arabian