Almost a year and a half ago I posted a teaser about Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, which is now causing such a brouhaha; my interest, of course, was and is in the use of Aramaic and Latin—particularly the former, since now that I know the Latin is spoken in modern Italian church pronunciation I can’t say I have much interest in it (and it should, of course, be Greek anyway). Now the NY Times has an article by Clyde Haberman on that very subject, leading off with a modern Aramaic speaker:
George A. Kiraz can hardly wait [to see the movie]…
“I want mainly to see if I understand any of the Aramaic, and what form of Aramaic it is,” said Dr. Kiraz, director of the Syriac Institute in Piscataway, N.J. His organization promotes the study of Syriac, an Aramaic dialect that is the liturgical language of the Syrian Orthodox Church and some other churches with Middle Eastern roots.
“I call it BBC Aramaic—the standard form that continues to be used today,” said Dr. Kiraz, 39. He began speaking it as a boy in Bethlehem (as in Little Town of Bethlehem, not the place in Pennsylvania). He uses it today with his daughter, Tabetha.
“Since she was born three years ago, I’ve only spoken the classical Syriac, which is Aramaic, to her,” he said. “Now when she speaks to me, it’s always in Aramaic. It’s mostly a language used among bishops and priests. It would be like someone speaking Latin to his kid.”
I hope there will be further quotes when he’s seen the movie.
The Syriac Institute (Beth Mardutho) “seeks to promote the study and preservation of the Syriac heritage and language” and has published Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies since January 1998; it looks to be a good resource for anyone interested in the language.
The link to the Times story is via Classics in Contemporary Culture, a new (since December) blog whose creator says:
[...in this weblog, my interest is in:]
REPORTING ON SIGHTINGS OF CONTINUING INFLUENCES, PERCEIVED INFLUENCES, AND OPPORTUNISTIC ABUSES OF ANCIENT GREEK AND ROMAN CULTURES IN THE PRESENT…
It too looks worth following.
Addendum. The Guardian has published a glossary of Aramaic phrases for filmgoers.
Aykaa beyt tadkeetha? Zaadeq lee d-asheeg eeday men perdey devshaanaayey haaleyn!
Where is the loo? I need to wash my hands of this popcorn.
Een, Yuudaayaa naa, ellaa b-haw yawmaa laa hweeth ba-mdeetaa.
Yes, I’m Jewish, but I wasn’t there that day.
Silly but amusing. (By the way, they’re using ee to indicate a high front vowel, more or less as in English see.)