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!

Update (May 2024). I have discovered what I seem to have intended by “a couple of posts” (stupid, feckless LH-of-2008!): Lishono Suryoyo (Syriac Language) and Lishono Suryoyo (Syriac Language) II. The Wayback Machine has not archived those URLs, but happily you can read the posts at the “blog” link above, which has the archive of all the Jan. 2008 posts — just scroll down.


  1. aldiboronti says

    Now those first two are real mouth-filling curses! Glorious!
    And I shall certainly listen to the interview, not least for having the pleasure of putting a voice to Language Hat!

  2. Nizo knows a lot more about language categories than most non-linguistics, which I assume him to be. But, he can learn a lot more about Aramaic revival outside the Middle East, especially among speakers of the living western version – suryoyo – pejoritively called by citified bellies “Turoyo”, that is “village dialect.” These speakers originate from Turkey mainly, one or two generations ago. They have just put up their own satellite TV (Sweden) and there is a resurgence of Aramaic language use among the young. Now if they would only marry and have children to whom they can teach the language, there is some hope of reversing the slaughter of WWI.

  3. Very interesting—thanks!

  4. Did the interview not end up happening? It doesn’t seem to be on the page for today’s program.

  5. They taped half an hour of talk which they’ll boil down to ten minutes or so; they’ll let me know when it will be broadcast, and I’ll post the info here. It was a lot of fun—Lisa Mullins is a great interviewer, and I got to quote a lot of foreign curse words, including a nice spittle-spraying khui (Russian for ‘cock’), though of course I had to use circumlocutions like “the f word” in English.

  6. Alas, not a single swear-word, foreign or domestic, bowdlerized or explicit, made it onto the podcast — except, of course, stupid.

  7. Also alas, although Nizo’s blog is still going, he appears to have taken down all the posts I linked to.

  8. Wayback enabled me to restore the last (NSFW) one, but I can’t find the Aramaic ones — why didn’t I link to individual posts rather than a tag??

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