Nizo is “a mostly secular Palestinian raised in the Melkite faith”; in his blog he writes about many topics, but the one of interest here is Aramaic, about which he has a couple of posts. He says that although he doesn’t speak the language, he “worshipped at a Maronite church while growing up and the service was in Syriac and Arabic… Learning Hebrew opened the door to understanding even more of this stale old tongue that has been relegated to the bearded priests with funny hats.” In the second post he divides Aramaic speakers in the region into “Ethnic Assyrians in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon who speak Assyrian at home as a first language and Arabic as a second language” (“These people are the main speakers of the language and make the contemporary contributions in music, literature and WWW”) and “NON-Assyrian Maronites In Lebanon whose clergymen are fluent in Syriac and whose church services are partially conducted in that language” (“The general population however does not speak the language except for a handful of individuals who are either uber-religious or interested in reviving the language”). Nizo is refreshingly unsentimental about the language: “I don’t care to listen to some sad song about an Assyrian shepherd in Mosul whose goats were devoured by Kurdish wolves. It doesn’t speak to my daily reality.” I hope he continues his investigations.
I also hope he writes more posts like this one (warning: Not Safe For Work!), which will be of great use to me should I ever do a follow-up to my curses-and-insults book. (Speaking of which, I’m going to be interviewed about it by PRI’s “The World” program Thursday morning; it will be archived on their site.)
Thanks for the link, Kobi!