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Aramaic- language of empires disappearing

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iguanamon
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 Message 1 of 8
25 February 2013 at 4:14pm | IP Logged 
Saw this today on NPR: The Language Of Empires Faces Extinction- Aramaic

NPR wrote:
For centuries, Aramaic was the language of an entire empire. It was the language of Christ, of biblical scholars, and of the Middle East. And for that reason, Esho Joseph, a former translator for the Iraqi regime who now lives in the U.S., is saddened by its slow disappearance....Ariel Sabar is author of an article on the disappearing language in February's edition of Smithsonian magazine. He says it's astonishing to think that Aramaic could be disappearing because it once was as common as English.

The language was spoken by Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. At its height, it could be heard from the Mediterranean to the borders of China. Now, it may be one or two generations away from vanishing. It's only spoken in small villages across northern Iraq, Syria and southern Turkey.

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tarvos
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 Message 2 of 8
25 February 2013 at 5:28pm | IP Logged 
Languages change. It's the same as mourning the fact that Latin is (practically) extinct.
Just consider Modern Hebrew and its variants (I don't know what relationship Arabic has
to Aramaic) its follow-up. In France and Portugal, we don't complain that nobody speaks
Latin anymore either, and we still teach that in schools.
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vonPeterhof
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 Message 3 of 8
27 February 2013 at 5:15pm | IP Logged 
tarvos wrote:
Languages change. It's the same as mourning the fact that Latin is (practically) extinct.
Just consider Modern Hebrew and its variants (I don't know what relationship Arabic has
to Aramaic) its follow-up. In France and Portugal, we don't complain that nobody speaks
Latin anymore either, and we still teach that in schools.
Aramaic isn't the ancestor of either Hebrew or Arabic. Both Aramaic and Hebrew belong to the Northwestern branch of the Semitic languages, but they split from each other circa 3000 years ago and developed separately since then. In fact, by the time of Jesus Aramaic had displaced Hebrew as the main spoken language of Judea, with the latter being relegated to a status similar to Latin in Mediaeval Europe. Neither that shift nor the one going on right now was the result of natural language change like the gradual shift from Vulgar Latin to the Romance languages; this is more akin to French displacing Occitan, a closely related yet separate language which was once somewhat influential in Mediaeval European culture through its poetry, but ended up being relegated to the status of a dialect by French linguistic policies.

Edited by vonPeterhof on 27 February 2013 at 5:20pm

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Malek
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 Message 4 of 8
01 March 2013 at 2:35am | IP Logged 
In every thread on endangered languages, someone will come in and say that it's just a natural process and that languages die out. Yeah, we know that. That view has been heard and it seems to be the dominant one, which is unfortunate in my eyes. I've got a real passion for Neo-Aramaic and various other languages which are on their last legs and would love to see them revitalised. We hold onto old books, paintings, and restore old buildings. People have different goals and interests in life. Live and let live.

For some time, I've been interested in starting a website which focuses on bring together people with a passion for small and extinct languages. Hopefully that will be realised, one of these days. The trouble is that it's so hard to build a community. Perhaps that a topic for another thread on another day...
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zerrubabbel
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 Message 5 of 8
01 March 2013 at 3:00am | IP Logged 
It really turned my gears thinking that "it was once as common as English" yet here we are watching its life come to
an end. I think watching history like this makes the future interesting.
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beano
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 Message 6 of 8
01 March 2013 at 2:31pm | IP Logged 
Malek wrote:
In every thread on endangered languages, someone will come in and say that it's just a natural process and that languages die out. Yeah, we know that. That view has been heard and it seems to be the dominant one, which is unfortunate in my eyes. I've got a real passion for Neo-Aramaic and various other languages which are on their last legs and would love to see them revitalised. We hold onto old books, paintings, and restore old buildings. People have different goals and interests in life. Live and let live.



Yet many of these people would be the first to squeal if you dared suggest that English will one day be supplanted by another lingua franca, or evolve into a completely new form.

It's almost like "languages die, but hands off the one I happen to know"
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AML
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 Message 7 of 8
02 March 2013 at 6:12pm | IP Logged 
For what it's worth, Aramaic is read every day, by many many Jews, in the Talmud (a hugely important Jewish religious text over 6000 pages long). So in the context of Rabbinic Judaism, Aramaic will never die.
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