The History and Development of the Assyrian Language

The Assyrian language, or Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, is considered to be a modern form of the Eastern Neo-Aramaic language. The Assyrian language is a language that should not be mistaken for Assyrian Akkadian or Old Aramaic which was used in Assyria around the 8th century. Despite the fact that both languages are Aramaic languages, Old Aramaic and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic are unintelligible to the other.

The Syriac alphabet/language as well as Latin played a very significant role when it comes to the Assyrian language. Both of these languages alphabets played their own part in forming the Assyrian Neo-Aramaic alphabet; however, Syriac was the most influential between the two.
In 1836, the Urmian dialect of the Assyrian language became increasingly important as it was now to be used as the main dialect for printing purposes. In 1952 Justin Perkins, an American Presbyterian missionary, translated the Bible into General Urmian. This is the same man that was responsible for the standard literary form of the Assyrian language.

Related Languages

The Assyrian language consists of many dialects or groups, and each one of those dialects can be broken down into their own sub-dialects: Urmian (sub-dialects: Solduz, Sopurghan and Urmia), the Northern Group (sub-dialects: Baz, Dez, Gawar, Jilu, Qochanis, Salmas, Upper Barwari and Van), the Central Group (sub-dialects: Anhar and Nochiya) and the Western Group (sub-dialects: Lewin, Lower Barwari, Lower Tiari, Tal, Tkhuma and Upper Tiari). However, the Urmian dialects are the most important. On occasion, the Central and Western dialects are merged and that fusing forms what is known as the Ashiret dialects. Additionally, another dialect was born when the Assyrians were forced to leave Turkey during WWI. This dialect is known as Iraqi Koine and was seemingly forged from the combination of the Ashiret dialects and the General Urmian dialects.

Aramaic is spoken by both Christians and Jews alike, but the difference between the dialects is substantial and, as a result, they are not mutually intelligible. The Christian dialect is chiefly influenced by the Syriac language, which is a dialect of Eastern Middle Aramaic, and was primarily used for literary as well as liturgical purposes in many churches. Some of the Christian dialects are often referred to as Colloquial Syriac, Suret, Suryaya, Swadaya and Syriac.
The Assyrian Language Today

The Assyrian language was born in the areas between North-Western Iran and South-Eastern Turkey, but today it is a language that is used by a large Diaspora group. Assyrian, or Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, can also be found spoken in countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The Assyrian Neo-Aramaic spoken in Armenia and Georgia was studied by Russian linguists toward the end of the 19th century. These linguists first adopted the name Aysorskiy for the language, but later they changed it to Assyrian.

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