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1.1 Ergativity, an Enigma in Semitic Linguistics?

Although ergativity is a well-known cross-linguistic phenomenon attested in language families such as Austronesian, Basque, Caucasian and Eskimo-Aleut, it is unexpected to encounter it in a Semitic language. In traditional terms (e.g. Dixon 1994), ergativity is defined as the arrangement where the subject (s) of an intransitive clause, such as I in I died, and the patient/object (p/o) of a transitive clause, such as me in He killed me, are treated in the same way, yet different from the agent (a) in the transitive construction, such as He in He killed me.

An example of ergative inflection in a Semitic language can be found in the Aramaic dialect spoken by the Jews of Sulaymaniyah (known to Kurds as Silêmanî) in northeastern Iraq (Khan 2007a, 154). This is illustrated by (1) below, where the noun baxtăké ‘the woman’ is cross-referenced using the same suffixal person form -a in both clauses, but it does not have the same syntactic function. In (1a), baxtăké is the subject of the intransitive verb m-y-l ‘die’ (related to m-y-ṯ in other dialects), while, in (1b), it is the object of the transitive verb q-ṭ-l ‘kill’. Moreover, the subject of the transitive verb in (1b) is marked with an entirely different suffix, i.e. -le.

(1) Jewish dialect of Sulaymaniyah (NE Iraq; Khan 2007a, 154)

a.

baxtăké

mil-a

the.woman

diePFV-she

The woman died.’

b.

gorăké

baxtăké

qəṭl-a-le

the.man

the.woman

killPFV-her-he

‘The man killed (lit. her) the woman.’

This ergative marking of subject and object contrasts with the better-known accusative systems found in the most widely studied European languages such as German and Latin, but also well-known Semitic languages such as Akkadian and Classical Arabic. In these languages, the verb agrees with the subject of both the transitive and intransitive and the noun is inflected by the nominative case, while the object is singled out using the accusative case.

The ergative alignment in this example from Aramaic is expressed by means of verbal agreement (-a, -le). Moreover, it is conditioned morphologically by the inflectional base, generally referred to as the Past base, that is historically a resultative participle, e.g. *qṭīl- ‘killed’ (e.g. Khan 2007a). It is never manifested in the imperfective present (or past) constructions that do not have this historical basis.

Indeed, there is a particular transitive construction in the eastern varieties of Aramaic, known as the qṭil l- or šmiʿ l-construction, which has puzzled Semitists for a long time. The example below from the Aramaic dialect spoken by the Jews of ʿAmedia (Kurdish Amêdî, NW Iraq) may illustrate this. The first suffixal person index -i agrees with the object (ʾanna gure ‘these men’), while the suffixal index -la agrees with the subject.

(2)

ʾe

baxta

šmiʾ-i-la

ʾanna

gure

dem:fs

woman:fs

hearPFV-3pl-3fs

dem:pl

man:pl

‘The woman heard these men.’ (Hoberman 1983, 132)

At face value, this appears to be nothing special. And yet, the same suffixes occur in the corresponding clause in the present tense marking the opposite syntactic function:

(3)

ʾanna

gure

k-šamʾ-i-la

ʾe

baxta

dem:pl

man:pl

ind-hearIPFV-3pl-3fs

dem:fs

woman:fs

‘These men hear the woman.’ (based on Hoberman 1983, 132)

Here, the first suffix -i expresses the agent (ʾanna gure ‘these men’) and the second suffix -la the object. It is striking that the functions of the morphologically identical suffixes are inverted. The construction in example (2) typically expresses the perfective past, while example (3) represents the syntax of imperfective constructions. The main morphological difference between the two is the inflectional base šmiʾ- (perfective of šmʾ ‘hear’) versus šamʾ- (imperfective of šmʾ ‘hear’).

This alternation and inversion of argument encoding are reminiscent of the active and passive voice. Early grammatical descriptions treat the perfective transitive construction as a passive form with an active sense (for example, Rhétoré 1912, 83; Polotsky 1979, 208). In a passive, the patient (or undergoer) becomes the subject, the verbal form is modified, and the agent (or actor) is not expressed as the subject. To quote Polotsky (ibid.):

Since the inverse function of the identical suffixes concerns the roles of actor and undergoer and is contingent upon a formal difference between the bases … it is in these that the cause must be sought. The interchange between the suffixes must be the effect of the bases themselves contrasting with one another in respect of their Voice … we should have to infer that the bases … express the contrast of Active vs. Passive. The passive character … provides the key to the whole construction.

Despite this strong language (“we should have to infer”, “the passive character” “provides the key”), such explanations have recently been abandoned in favor of the so-called concept of split-ergativity.1 In such a split, the subject (s) in an intransitive construction is treated the same as either the agent (a) or the patient (p) in the transitive construction depending on grammatical or semantic properties such as imperfective or perfective aspect. No other hitherto known Semitic language, however, has been convincingly shown to evince ergativity (Waltisberg 2002; Hasselbach 2013, 55–65), and most of Aramaic itself unmistakably records a nominative-accusative system for three millennia, like all other Semitic languages. If ergative(-like) properties are claimed to have found their way into one of the most unlikely places, this raises fundamental questions of how and why. First, however, we need to establish a coherent framework to properly identify ergative alignment alongside other alignment types in the dialectal microvariation of modern Aramaic.

1.2 Neo-Aramaic Dialects in the Land of Rivers

Aramaic is a subbranch of the Semitic language family, closely related to Hebrew and Arabic. People may know it as one of the languages of Jesus of Nazareth and parts of the Old Testament, e.g. sections in the books of Daniel and Ezra. The language was the official lingua franca of the ancient Near East, reaching at its height an area stretching from Egypt into modern-day Afghanistan. Aramaic is also enshrined as a literary vehicle of Judaism and Christianity. Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, for instance, is a principal language of the Talmud and closely related to modern Aramaic. Most Aramaic literature comes to us through Syriac, the liturgical language of several Christian churches in the Middle East and beyond. Early translations of the Gospels and the Old Testament were written in Syriac—the standard Syriac Bible version is known as the Pšiṭta.

The Aramaic spoken today, called Neo-Aramaic (also known as ‘Neo-Syriac’, ‘Sureth’, ‘Chaldean’, or ‘Assyrian’2), comprises pockets of an (extremely) endangered group of minority languages spoken by primarily Jewish and Christian communities originating in the Middle East. The vast majority of speakers are found dispersed around the globe.

Although the internal classification of Neo-Aramaic languages is far from problematic and presumably a dialect continuum (Kim 2008, 2010), certain clusters or subgroups can be discerned. The dialectology of Neo-Aramaic is further complicated by the speaker’s religious affiliation (Christian, Jewish, Mandaean, Muslim), partly by diglossia (higher literary vs. lower local code), and by contact with neighboring non-Aramaic languages (e.g. Noorlander 2014). Most speakers have left their traditional territory for political and economical reasons in this or the previous century. Many of these dialects are therefore endangered or have already gone extinct in the worldwide dispersion of speakers.

Scholars generally distinguish between two major groups of Neo-Aramaic languages (Hoberman 1989, 5), namely:

  • Western Neo-Aramaic (Christian/Muslim, SW Syria)

  • Eastern Neo-Aramaic:

    • Central Neo-Aramaic (Christian, SE Turkey, NW Syria)

    • Northeastern Neo-Aramaic (Jewish/Christian, SE Turkey, N Iraq, NW Iran)

    • Southeastern Neo-Aramaic or Neo-Mandaic (Mandaean, SW Iran)

This book concentrates on Central and Northeastern Neo-Aramaic which are typologically closest to one another. The Western group is confined to relatively small Christian and Muslim communities in Syria, of which Maʿlula in the anti-Lebanon mountain range is particularly known for its Christian Aramaic speakers. The Neo-Mandaic varieties are mainly confined to older speakers adhering to the Mandaean religion in or from the cities Ahvaz (provincial capital) and Khorramshahr in the Iranian province Khuzestan (Häberl 2009). While Western Neo-Aramaic does share certain properties with the Central varieties and Neo-Mandaic, in turn, with the Northeastern ones, both Western Neo-Aramaic and Neo-Mandaic are typologically closer to pre-modern Aramaic and, hence, will not be treated in this book.

1.2.1 Above the Tigris: Northeastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA) Dialect Bundle

With about 150 dialects (Khan 2011), Northeastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA) is by far the largest subgroup. Although the internal differentiation of NENA is to some extent comparable to that of a language family and many dialects are not mutually intelligible, it is a common practice to speak of NENA in terms of dialects. NENA constitutes a notoriously complex dialect continuum, which itself is part of a larger continuum that also includes Neo-Aramaic dialects in Ṭur ʿAbdin (see § 1.2.2). These dialects are spoken by Jewish (J.) and Christian (C.) communities in West and Northwest Iran (Iranian Kurdistan and Iranian Azerbaijan), North Iraq (Dohuk, Arbel, Sulaymaniyyah) north of the river Tigris and in Southeast Turkey (Hakkari, Van, Bohtan), many of whom have fled the area in the previous century. They are primarily named after the town where they are or used to be spoken with the additional specification of the religious affiliations of the speakers, since the dialects of the Jewish and Christian communities from the same town could differ greatly. Map 1 below displays the locations of several towns known to have (had) NENA-speaking communities at least in the previous century, whose dialects will be discussed in this monograph. The names of the towns are generally Aramaic and do not necessarily reflect their equivalents in other regional languages.3 The Christian varieties in Bohtan (Southeast Turkey) and the Jewish varieties east of the Greater Zab river (Northeast Iraq and Northwest Iran) reveal particularly complex alignment types not found in the core NENA area.

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the emergence of new nations such as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey and the beginning of the Kurdish struggle for autonomy, the Aramaic speakers found themselves largely in the cross-fire between Kurds and central governments and left their traditional territory. Most of the Jewish community left the region in the 1950s and settled in the young state of Israel. During the First World War most Christians fled present-day Turkey, where an ethnic cleansing occurred in 1915. Since the 1960s the exodus of the Christian community began, taking refuge in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and South America. Following the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, the instability in the area reached a catastrophic climax in the turmoil of the Syrian Civil War and Islamic State’s (Daesh’s) reign of terror in Syria and Iraq, until Islamic State was ultimately defeated in the battles of Mosul (July, 2017) and Raqqa (October, 2017). Many Christians chose to return and remain in Iraq, although the material damage alone is enormous.

Thus, due to ongoing displacement in the Middle East and beyond, the dialectology of NENA is for a large part a historical reconstruction of the once vibrant tapestry of variation before 1915.

d118098525e4000

Map 1

The NENA-speaking area and the location of the main dialects discussed in this book

copyright: Paul M. Noorlander

NENA dialects display a staggering degree of diversity on every level. Certain major clusters along the dialect continuum can be distinguished. It is most convenient to approach this in terms of core and periphery. Christian dialects reach further into the west in southeastern Turkey, while Jewish varieties beyond the Greater Zab river scatter further into the east well into western Iran.

1.2.1.1 Core and Peripheral Christian Varieties

The NENA-speaking Christian communities belong to several denominations, including the Chaldean Catholic Church (in communion with Rome) or the (Assyrian) Church of the East (independent), both East Syriac traditions of Christianity. Some of them, particularly on the Nineveh Plains, also belong to the West Syriac Church, mainly Catholic, but also Orthodox. There are also Protestant movements, especially among the migrant communities in the West. There have been numerous Protestant missions in the region since the 19th century.

The Christian Neo-Aramaic dialects are also known as Chaldean or Assyrian. Speakers themselves refer to their languages as surəṯ (< *surāʾīṯ ‘Syriac’) and dialectal variants thereof, i.e. the language of the suraye ‘(Syrian) Christians’. Their language is an essential part of their ethnic-religious identity.

The NENA-speaking area encompasses roughly the area north of the Tigris in Northern Iraq, with the Greater Zab river flowing in between. It stretches into the Hakkari, Van, Siirt and Şırnak provinces of SE Turkey and West Azerbaijan and Kurdistan provinces of W Iran. This includes major towns in Iraq, such as Zakho, Dohok (Duhok), Alqosh and Arbel (Arbil/Erbil, Kurd. Hewlêr), in Iranian Azerbaijan, such as Urmi (or Urmia) and in Iranian Kurdistan, such as Sanandaj (or Sena/Sine). Each town, however, used to have its own dialect, often with a tribal association. There were many villages and clans in SE Turkey, most of which left the region after 1915, including tribes such as Ṭyari, Tkuma (Tkhumnaye), Baz(naye), Jilu (Jilwaye), Gawar (Gawernaye), Timurnaye etc. Many of these Christian communities found refuge along the Khabur Valley in NW Syria (Talay 2008, 2009) or fled to Northern Iraq, the Caucasus or outside of West Asia. NENA used to be spoken in the Bohtan region, where Artun (Kurd. Hertevin, Turk. Ekindüzü) and Borb-Ruma alongside the Judi dialects (Sinha 2000) represent the most northwest dialects on the map. There is a southern periphery of Christian communities on the Nineveh Plains near Mosul, such as Alqosh and Baghdeda (Qaraqosh, Khan 2002a), while the city Başkale (Bashqala) constituted the northernmost outpost in Turkey.4

1.2.1.2 Crossing The Greater Zab River: Trans-Zab Jewish

As far as we know, virtually all Jews have moved to Israel, where they identify as kurdim (lit. ‘Kurds’) speaking kurdi (lit. ‘Kurdish’) as Jews from the regions of the Kurds. Concerning the Jewish varieties, the Greater Zab river in Iraq functions as a natural border separating western dialects such as ʿAmedia (or ʿAmadiya in Arabic, Amêdî in Kurdish) Zakho and Dohok in the Duhok province of Iraq from the other dialects to the east.5 These communities generally identify themselves as speakers of lishana deni ‘our language’. The Jewish community in Barzan north of the Great Zab also belongs to this group (Mutzafi 2002a), so that the dividing line continues to the northeast, even though the Great Zab flows in a curve to the northwest.6

The Jewish dialects to the east of the Greater Zab, including Arbel, Rustaqa and Rewanduz stretching up north to Urmi and Salmas, are accordingly known as Trans-Zab Jewish (Mutzafi 2008b) as opposed to Western Jewish communities (lishana deni) lying to the west of the Greater Zab as well as the settlement Barzan (Barzani). The Trans-Zab Jewish dialect bundle differs greatly from the Christian and other Jewish varieties and is also internally rather diverse.

1.2.2 Below the Tigris: Dialects of Ṭur ʿAbdin

Further west one finds the dialects spoken by Syriac-Orthodox Christians from the region Ṭur ʿAbdin (Mardin province, Jastrow 1985; Ritter 1990; Waltisberg 2016), hence known as ‘Ṭuroyo’, literally ‘mountainous’ (after ṭuro ‘mountain’). Because of the close connection with Syriac Christianity, the language is also called Suryoyo or Surayt by speakers (lit. ‘Syriac Christian’). Ṭuroyo forms a larger subgroup called Central Neo-Aramaic together with Mlaḥsó (Lice, Diyarbakır province, Jastrow 1994), which is now extinct. Nowadays most speakers of Ṭuroyo are to be found in Northern Europe (e.g. Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands).

Mlaḥsó and Ṭuroyo share a few features that distinguish them from most of NENA.7 A salient phonological feature, for example, is the vowel /o/ where most of NENA would normally have /a/, as in Ṭuroyo ḥmoro, Mlaḥsó ḥmoró ‘donkey’ against NENA xmara.8 Within the dialectal variation of Ṭuroyo, the urban dialect of Midyat (Məḏyoyo) is particularly divergent from the rural dialects, the best known of which is the more archaic dialect of Miden (Mədwoyo) (Jastrow 1985, 1992). This may range from subtle differences in phonology to more drastic distinctions in morphology and morphosyntax.

1.2.3 Writing a Spoken Language: Sociolinguistic Factors

NENA dialects are mainly known to us through the documentation of spoken varieties. From the 16th century onwards, speakers across space and time have continually made efforts to commit Neo-Aramaic to writing. Both Jewish and Christian communities in Iraqi Kurdistan developed a written literary tradition during the Ottoman period. A manuscript culture emerged on the basis of oral literature. This involves Jewish literature written in Hebrew script in Nerwa dated to at least the 16th century (Sabar 1976) and Christian literature, mainly poetry, written in Syriac script in Alqosh dated to at least the 17th century and perhaps even earlier (Mengozzi 2002a–b, 2011). These early written traditions primarily concern Bible translations and commentaries and other types of religious works.

Since the 19th century other written literary Christian varieties have been passed down to us in different forms and under different circumstances. Literary Christian Urmi is a case in point. In the 19th century up to the First World War a written form based on the local dialect of Urmi flourished among Christians inspired by missionary activities from various Christian denominations, producing printed publications of all sorts: not only Bible translations, but also hagiography, folktales, school textbooks, periodicals etc. It became the basis for literary developments ever since in Urmi and other Christian communities (Odisho 1988; Murre-van den Berg 1999).

Literacy among speakers increased due to migrations to larger cities. A literary revival arose among educated Christian speakers in Iraqi cities such as Kirkuk, Baghdad and Baṣra, between the 1920s and 1960s. These factors contributed to the koineization of urban Christian varieties, so that an Iraqi koine based on literary Urmi emerged (Odisho 1988), which now predominates among Assyrian speakers as lišana +sapraya ‘literary language’, which in the eyes of many is more prestigious (+səpya ‘pure’).

Although publications among Iraqi and Iranian Jews were also to be found on a smaller scale during these periods (e.g. Rees 2008), such supradialectal phenomena or levelling of dialectal differences up to koinezation are not known for Jewish communities.

In contrast to NENA, a literary tradition did not develop among Ṭuroyo speakers, although missionary activities did inspire writing on a small scale in the early 19th century (Heinrichs 1990) and orientalists collected sample texts in the Western Syriac alphabet in the last decades of the same century (Bellino and Mengozzi 2016).9 There have been only recent attempts to commit Ṭuroyo to writing on a larger scale using a Latin-based alphabet among communities in Sweden beginning in the 1980s. Recently, an online study program (surayt.com) has been launched under the coordination of Shabo Talay that uses both a Latin-based alphabet and the Western Syriac script.

Because of migrations, especially due to the havoc wreaked by Daesh, considerable dialect mixing has taken place among Christian communities in the cities. Moreover, the spread of literary varieties, increasing standardization and rising nationalistic sentiments have led to the levelling of dialectal differences. This levelling is partly inspired by a growing incentive to unify and purify the language of foreign influence. Most conspicuous is the arbitrary relexification of the language, where more authentic Aramaic lexemes from the Syriac language of the church are felt to be needed to replace those of ultimately non-Aramaic origin.

1.2.4 Converging Neighbors: Areal Factors

Neo-Aramaic cannot be completely disentangled from neighboring languages in the area. As a minority speech community, Neo-Aramaic speakers have faced the daily need of multilingualism. They are at least bilingual and thus, alongside their local Aramaic dialects, some of them speak not only local varieties of Arabic (including Syria and Iranian Khuzestan) and Kurdish (e.g. Kurmanji, Badini, Sorani, Mukri) but also Armenian and Azeri Turkish (e.g. Garbell 1965; Khan 2016). Also, influence from official languages can be expected, such as Persian in the east, Turkish in the west along with Arabic, permeating the area either indirectly as the cultural vehicle of Islam or more directly as the spoken language in the south (cf. Noorlander 2014) and, indirectly, also Russian and English. In particular, Kurdish-Aramaic bilingualism has been prevalent among Eastern Neo-Aramaic speakers, facilitating the recruitment and deep and lasting integration of local Kurdish elements into their Neo-Aramaic speech (Chyet 1995; Noorlander 2014). There has also been considerable influence from Arabic-Aramaic bilingualism, particularly in the cities of Iraq and Ṭur ʿAbdin as well as Syria and the Nineveh Plains nearby Mosul—also referred to as the Mosul Plain.

Another complicating factor is that due to migrations to major cities in West Asia, Israel, the Caucasus or the West, Neo-Aramaic speakers, especially heritage speakers, regularly find themselves in situations where the dominant language may be entirely different from their original homeland. Jewish speakers (kurdim) in Israel, for example, are rapidly undergoing language attrition and shifting to Israeli Hebrew. Even migrations within the Middle East can result in mixing of dialects or interaction with dialects not contiguous to their original home town.

Despite these complicating factors of language endangerment and areal convergence, we will approach Neo-Aramaic somewhat artificially in isolation and mainly from an internal perspective, while leaving a complete systematic overview of the morphosyntactic parallels between Aramaic and its neighbors a future endeavor. Since contact with non-Aramaic speakers has been a daily practice for Neo-Aramaic speakers, all variation is presumed also to be potentially relevant for the relationship between Neo-Aramaic and neighboring languages, for which further documentation of especially Kurdish is required.

1.5 Previous Approaches to Alignment in Eastern Neo-Aramaic

1.5.1 Early Scholarship: Passive or Possessive

Previous synchronic approaches to Eastern Neo-Aramaic alignment have been enveloped in origin debates.10 Scholars have approached the qṭil l- or šmiʿ l-construction as illustrated in (2) at the beginning of this chapter from the perspective of voice, i.e. a passive11 (‘These men were heard by the woman’), or the perspective of possession, i.e. predicative possessors (‘The woman has these men heard’). The development was considered parallel to the so-called manā kartam construction in Old Persian (e.g. Kutscher 1969) and the auxiliary have combined with a perfect participle in well-known European languages such as Germanic and Romance.12 While this book is not intended to be a diachronic study of Aramaic syntax, it is evident the typology of alignment in Neo-Aramaic is a problem that is entrenched in the evolution of the Aramaic verbal system. The historical situation for which we have indirect evidence through Late Antique Aramaic languages like Syriac, Classical Mandaic and Jewish Babylonian Aramaic was considerably complex (Noorlander forthcoming). The following examples serve to illustrate the historical background and to help understand the early approaches to Neo-Aramaic clause structure. Historical hallmarks of the original constructions arguably linger on in modern dialects.13 The inflection of the modern Aramaic verb as given in the beginning of this chapter has no diachronic basis in the prefix- or suffix-conjugation (e.g. ta-ktob ‘She writes’ or katab-at ‘She wrote’) as in closely related Semitic languages such as Hebrew and Arabic. Indeed, these essential components of the West Semitic verbal system have been completely replaced by originally non-finite constructions with a concomitant constructional shift at least historically conditioned by aspect and argument orientation (or diathesis). This pervasive, rigorous restructuring is without parallel among the modern Semitic languages (Hopkins 2005; Gzella 2015, 45). Periphrastic constructions already undergoing increasing grammaticalization in pre-modern Aramaic gave rise to entirely new inflectional paradigms.14

Historically, verbal inflection comprises the direct reflexes of active and resultative participial predicates of the apophonic pattern *CāCiC, such as *kātib- ‘writing’ and *C(a)CīC such as *k(a)tīb- ‘written’ in pre-modern Aramaic, which served as the basis for the imperfective and perfective verbal forms in Neo-Aramaic respectively. The variation in alignment is first and foremost morphologically conditioned by this particular verbal inflectional base15—which we can refer to as qṭil- after the verb q-ṭ-l ‘kill’—that is historically a resultative participle—e.g. *qṭīl- ‘killed’. The distinct morphosyntax in a given dialect is ultimately a reflex of the diachronic development of this resultative participle.

There are two sets of person markers that are crucial in Neo-Aramaic morphosyntax. They occur at least in perfective past constructions similarly to the imperfective present. Their usage differs significantly across Neo-Aramaic languages. These two sets of person affixes that provide the finite morphology for these historically verbal adjectives have distinct origins. The first set will be referred to by the term ‘E-suffixes’ in the present study. It continues diachronically both participial agreement in number and gender (e.g. fsg. and mpl. -īn) and enclitic personal pronouns (e.g. 1sg. -nā, 1pl. -ḥnan). We can still observe, to some extent, in Neo-Aramaic that person markers were added to declined participles through enclitic pronouns (cp. Mlaḥso domx-o-no ‘I (f.) sleep, am sleeping’ and Syriac dāmḵ-ā-nā ‘id.’), which are ultimately phonetically reduced forms of post-predicate independent pronouns (Syriac dāmḵ-ā-nā < *dāmik-ā ʾanā a variant of *ʾanā dāmik-ā). Being verbal adjectives, the participles used to inflect for gender and number like predicative adjectives (e.g. šappīr- ‘beautiful, pleasant’, fsg. šappīr-ā, mpl. šappīr-īn etc.). Synchronically, however, such participles have lost all characteristics of adjectives in Eastern Neo-Aramaic.

The second set, generally designated ‘L-suffixes’, continues diachronically enclitic dative person markers characterized by the originally dative preposition l- denoting recipients, beneficiaries, possessors, experiencers and other indirectly affected participants as well as subject coreferential arguments. A historically stronger link between the preposition l- and the L-suffixes as well as its usage as a dative may also be observed in Neo-Aramaic. Synchronically, the L-suffixes are not prepositional in nature and behave like verbal affixes, but they may still interact with the preposition.16

By way of illustration, the active participles ʾazel ‘going’ of ʾzl ‘go’ in (4a) and ʾāḵel- ‘eating’ of ʾkl ‘eat’ in the Syriac example (4b) below inflect like predicative adjectives and take agreement with the subject and agent. The ending -īn in (4b), for instance, expresses masculine plural agreement with the agent kalbē ‘dogs’. It is the precursor of the E-suffix -i in Neo-Aramaic. The dative person form l-hōn ‘them’ in (4b) expresses the pronominal object, related to the L-suffixes in Neo-Aramaic. Full nominal objects could also be differentially marked by this preposition l-.

(4) Syriac (Aramaic, Northwest Semitic)17

a.

l-aykā

ʾazel--way-t

mār-

to-where

going-ms-were-2sg

master.of:ms-my

‘Where were youSG going to, my lord?’ (3rd c. Wright 1871, 289.23)

b.

ʾāḵl-īn

l-hōn

kalbē

eating-3mpl

dat-mpl

dogs:mpl

‘Dogs eat them.’ (3rd c. Drijvers 1964, 50.24–25)

Intransitive subject-oriented resultative constructions are treated indistinctly from this. The resultative participle ʾazil- of the verb ʾzl ‘go’ in example (4c) below takes feminine singular agreement with the subject.

c.

l-aykā

ʾazīl-ā

māraṯ-ḵōn

to-where

gone-fs

mistress.of:fs-yourMPL

‘Where is yourMPL mistress gone to?’ (3rd c. Wright 1871, 262.16)

Several agent-oriented resultative constructions are found in Syriac and other Late Aramaic languages (Noorlander forthcoming). Although scholars18 widely recognize the primary resultative function of verbal adjectives of belonging to the pattern of qṭīl-, the traditional notion of ‘passive participles with an active sense’ persists in the literature. In Noorlander (forthcoming), I argue that such paradoxical circumlocutions ‘active passive participles?’ rather show the participle is, in fact, not a passive participle, but properly a resultative participle conforming to linguistic typology of resultatives, including the typology of agent-oriented resultatives in Nedjalkov and Jaxontov (1988, 23) and Nedjalkov (2001, 932). In typology, they are also known as possessive resultatives because these verbs often have a connotation of someone holding an item near themselves, a semantic property of predicative possession (Stassen 2009, 15, cf. Heine 1997, 38–39). The verbs like ʾḥd ‘hold’, šql ‘take’, ṭʿn ‘carry’, lbš ‘wear, put on’, ʾsr ‘gird’ and so forth are cross-linguistically common in agent-oriented resultatives. The Latin verb habere was originally combined with resultative of such verbs that typically have a possessive connotation. These verbs follow the same morphosyntax as the active participle in pre-modern Aramaic, where the pronominal object is prepositional. One finds examples like

šqīl

-īn

l-eh

kalbē

taken

-pl

dat-3ms

dog:pl

‘Dogs are carrying it.’

which effectively means literally ‘They keep it taken on’. This is the agent-oriented resultative that developed into the perfect in Western Neo-Aramaic,19 as illustrated below:

(5) Western Neo-Aramaic (Maʿlula; Arnold 1990)

a.

mōn

šqīl-

l-ann

ḏahb-ō

who

taken-3ms

dom-dem:mpl

gold-def:mpl

‘Who has taken the money?’ (Bergsträsser 1915, 13.31)

b.

šqil-il-le

(*< šqil-in-le)

taken-3mpl-3ms

‘TheyM have taken itM.’

The original dative agent resultative construction found in Eastern Aramaic seems similar to these constructions, and yet with inverted role marking. Its emergence ultimately inaugurated completely new constructional splits within Aramaic. The possible breakthrough of non-accusative alignment in the Neo-Aramaic perfective hinges on the development of this new type of perfect (later preterit), based on the resultative participle together with the preposition l- in pre-modern Aramaic, for example:

(6) Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (Talmud, ‘Eruvin 66b(3); Sokoloff 2002, 1159a)

a. ⟨lʾ šmyʿʾ ly hʾ šmʿtʾ⟩

šmīʿ-ā

l-ī

šmaʿtā

neg

heard-fs

dat-1sg

dem:fs

hearing:fs

‘I have not received20 (lit. Me is not heard) this legal tradition.’

The resultative participle šmīʿ of the verb šmʿ takes feminine singular agreement with the patient-like argument, but while the prepositional person marker l-eh denotes the agent-like argument. Since its first manifestations typically involve experiencer predicates, such as šmʿ ‘hear’,21 it seems that it did not mark typical agents from the outset, but indirect affectees of which the coding was extended to unaffected agents22 and intransitive verbs.23 Vestiges of such šmiʿ l-constructions already surface in Imperial Aramaic in the 5th century BC and its development into alignment splits is considered by most scholars to be ultimately due to convergence with Iranian.24 l- can also mark possessors, beneficiaries, goals and recipients, such as l-rāʿayā ‘for the shepherd’ below:

b. ⟨ʿyzy dmsyrn lrwʿh⟩

ʿizz-ē

di-msīr-īn

l-rāʿayā

goat(f)-pl

subr-handed.over-3mpl

dat-shepherd:ms

‘Goats which are handed over to a shepherd.’ (BB 36a(33); Sokoloff 2002, 692a–b)

Early grammatical descriptions of Neo-Aramaic can be taken as an example of the original passive analysis of the šmiʿ l-construction. Nöldeke (1868, 317; tr. mine), for instance, indicates that the “preterit is actually a passive expression whose grammatical subject is the apparent object”. Maclean (1895, 85) states

When the object, as it would be in English, (which is really the subject), is feminine, we should expect the participle to agree with it.

The patient-like argument baxta ‘women’ in Jewish ʿAmedia clauses like šmiʾ-a-li baxta ‘The woman was heard by me’, they argue, is only apparently an object in a logical sense, not in a grammatical sense. On this view, the E-set -a marks the agreement with the subject and L-suffix -li an agent complement. Although the sense is indistinct from the active, the grammatical structure is said to be that of a passive. The viewpoints of these early scholars indicates they analyzed the L-suffixes as the agent complement of an originally passive construction. Similarly, while they differ as to the exact interpretation, both Bar-Asher (2014, 78) and Coghill (2016, 181–197) argue that the initial lexical distribution of the šmīʿ-l-construction in Late Aramaic, particularly two-argument experiencer state verbs like ‘hear’ and ‘see’, indicates that the dative complement (‘It was heard to me’) was reanalyzed as an agent (‘It was heard by me’).

Others have compared the L-suffixes to their use in predicative possession, such as l-ḵōn in (7) below, which continues in Neo-Aramaic.

(7) Syriac

kmā

laḥm-īn

ʾīṯ

l-ḵōn?

how.many

bread-mpl

exst

dat-2mpl

‘How many loaves do youPL have?’ (5th c. Matthew 15:34, Pšiṭta)

Advocates of the possessive view25 have argued that the L-suffixes function similarly to the auxiliary have in Romance and Germanic languages.

In Noorlander (forthcoming), I show that the situation is more complex. Late Antique Aramaic had two types of agent-oriented resultatives at its disposal, which both could be characterized as ‘possessive’. One that is morphosyntactically like the active participial construction (and reminiscent of the be-perfect in Indo-European), the other patient-oriented that is morphosyntactically like the predicative possessor (and reminiscent of the have-perfect):

ʾasīr-

-

ḇ-ḥaṣṣay

hemyånå

(direct affectee)

ʾasīr-

l-ī

ḇ-ḥaṣṣay

hemyånå

(dative affectee)

I have a belt girt around my loins.’

Noorlander (forthcoming) demonstrates how these two types of ‘possessive’ resultatives were involved in the diachronic development of perfects in Aramaic. They are only characterized by possession in so far as that they occur with a verb that has a possessive connotation. Locative-existential possessive constructions have been repeatedly connected with the development of so-called tense-aspect-sensitive types of splits between accusative and ergative alignment, such as the one found in Indo-Iranian languages where the ergative pattern is confined to what can be traced back to patient-oriented resultatives with an oblique agent.26

This does not rule out interaction with the passive voice or with experiencer predicates. The various source constructions, ranging from passive, possessor to experiencer have all been contended for individually. While there is no space to go into details here, Noorlander (forthcoming) provides further arguments why they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The historical situation was more mixed and complex due to the versatile nature of resultative constructions (e.g. Nedjalkov 1988, 2001) and the preposition l- encroaching on other prepositions. Both experiencers and possessors can ultimately be subsumed under the expression of a in the typology of non-canonical subjects from historical datives (e.g. Noorlander 2021).

In conclusion, Neo-Aramaic alignment has most likely been unstable from the very beginning due to the inherent versatile orientations of the resultative participle that all alignment splits are based on. Prepositional affectees denoting possessors and experiencers had syntactic properties of the subject in Syriac (Noorlander 2018). It is plausible such non-canonical subject marking influenced the grammaticalization of other prepositional subject-like arguments such as the šmīʿ l-construction. In the end, there has been a strong emphasis on the diachronic origins of the preterit in analyzing the synchronic modern Aramaic data in relation to Syriac, the better known literary Aramaic language. Later approaches to Neo-Aramaic alignment are more synchronic, grounded in contemporary verbal person and nominal marking typology.

1.5.2 Recent Typological Approaches

More recent typological approaches consider the Neo-Aramaic verbal system an instance of ‘split-ergativity’, albeit from diverging perspectives. Some question the validity of typological terminology like ‘ergative’ (Hemmauer and Waltisberg 2006) or adopt it only for practical reasons (Jastrow 1996, 52–53). Mengozzi (2002b, 37–49), Khan (2007a; 2017), Doron and Khan (2012), Barotto (2015) and Coghill (2016) all compare ergative and accusative alignment properties typologically, but have different approaches and hence diverging conclusions. Several other scholars have also taken generative approaches, such as Hoberman (1989, 95–122) and Kalin and van Ur (2015). The differences among these various approaches as well as the one adopted in this book would require too much detail to fully appreciate here. As will be made clear in the following chapters, they stem from different viewpoints as to how one identifies an alignment pattern. Nonetheless, the following common threads can be discerned in the literature.

Khan (2007a) discusses the ergativity in Southeastern Trans-Zab Jewish varieties and Doron and Khan (2010, 2012) are the first to present an alignment typology of NENA data from recent documentation projects aimed to counter generalizations made in transformational generative grammar. In light of the morphosyntax of the perfective past in the Trans-Zab Jewish dialects, they distinguish three types of Neo-Aramaic dialects (see further below) based on their major morphological alignment pattern in the perfective past: split-s dialects, dynamic-stative dialects and extended ergative dialects. Recently, Khan (2017) expanded on this, adopting a similar typology. Following a view introduced by Khan (2008, 72–75) and later summarized in Khan (2013), Doron and Khan (2010, 2012)’s, main argumentation is that the morphosyntax in these dialects represents different diachronic stages in which the ‘ergative L-suffixes’ were gradually extended to all intransitive verbs. Thus in taking the expression of the a as the ergative subject by means of L-suffixes to be the defining characteristic of ergativity in NENA, Doron and Khan (2012) consider all NENA dialects to display a type of ergativity.

A few classes of intransitive verbs take ‘ergative L-suffixes’ instead of ‘absolutive E-suffixes’ (e.g. nwəx-la ‘ItF barked’ vs. twir-a ‘ItF broke’) in the Jewish dialects such as Sulemaniyya that display the ergative pattern exemplified in (1) at the beginning of this chapter. Since the variation in intransitive subject marking is conditioned by lexical verbal semantics,27 they refer to this as split-s dialects.

In what they call the dynamic-stative type, illustrated by example (8) from Jewish Urmi below, the intransitive subject marking differs depending on grammatical aspect: resultative (stative) or present perfect, marked by the ‘absolutive E-suffixes’, as opposed to perfective past (dynamic), marked by the ‘ergative L-suffixes’. Example (8) below illustrates how the Jewish dialect of Urmi distinguishes between the E-set and L-set in the marking of the subject for the same verb: +dmix-a ‘She has gone to sleep’ (stative) as opposed to +dməx-la ‘She went to sleep’ (dynamic).

(8) J. Urmi (NW Iran; Khan 2008b)28

a.

xəzy-a-le

(transitive perfective)

seePFV-p:3fs-a:3ms

‘He saw her.’

b.

+dmix-a

(intransitive ‘stative’)

sleepPFV-s:3fs

She has gone to sleep.’

c.

xəzy-a-le

(transitive perfective)

seePFV-p:3fs-a:3ms

He saw her.’

d.

+dməx-le

(intransitive ‘dynamic’)

sleepPFV-s:3ms

He went to sleep.’

Khan (2008b, 74, 2013) argues that this dynamic-stative variation is ultimately derived from the lexical semantic variation displayed by the aforementioned split-s dialects. He presupposes the increasing extension of the L-suffixes to intransitives is already manifested in the split-s dialects (nwəx-la ‘ItF barked’, bde-la ‘She began’). He maintains this extension resulted in a shift from preterit to present perfect or resultative of the original form expressing the subject by the E-suffixes (qim-a ‘She rose’ > ‘She has/is risen’), yielding the basis for the dynamic-stative opposition exemplified in (8) above (+dməx-la ‘She rose’ vs. +dmix-a ‘She has gone to sleep’).

The extension is completed in the dialects they refer to as ‘extended ergative’ where the L-suffixes are used to express the subject for all intransitive verbs, such as the s of ‘sleep’ in (9a) just like the a of ‘kill’ (9b) below. Following Dixon (1994), Doron and Khan’s (2012) use the term ‘extended ergative’ to describe this pattern, primarily because they believe the ‘ergative L-suffixes’ have been extended to all intransitive verbs and replaced the original ‘absolutive E-suffixes’ (Khan 2008b, 74).

(9) J. ʿAmedia (NW Iraq; Hoberman 1989, Greenblatt 2011)

a.

dmix-le

(intransitive)

sleepPFV-s:3fs

He went to sleep.’

b.

qṭil-a-le

(transitive)

killPFV-p:3fs-a:3ms

He killed her.’

Recently, Khan (2017) reached a different conclusion regarding the historical relationship of the dialectal microvariation that is similar to my own.29 Nevertheless, his synchronic treatment of the dialects continues the typology he set forth with Doron and he does not explicitly abandon his earlier views. Since the L-suffixes are treated as ‘ergative markers’, presumably because of their prepositional origin, Doron and Khan (2012) subsume all dialects under ergativity.

A similar viewpoint is explored by Mengozzi (2002b, 49, 2005, 2011) and partly also Barotto (2014, 2015) who concentrate on relevant variation in early written sources. They study the phenomena in Neo-Aramaic in light of a so-called “decay of ergativity” in the spirit of a comparable loss of ergativity in Kurdish (Dorleijn 1996). This decay of ergativity is viewed as a symptom and the deviations from the ergative type represented by the Southeastern Trans-Zab Jewish varieties as “antidotes”; cf. “repair mechanisms” in Khan (2017, 897). Barotto considers the ‘extended ergative’ type to be a transition phase towards accusative alignment, under which she subsumes the strategies serving as alternatives to the inverted šmiʾ-a-le-forms (Barotto 2014, 91; 2015, 239–244). The ‘extended ergative’ is viewed as post-ergative by Mengozzi (2002b, 45, fn. 144) and ‘marked nominative’ by Barotto (2015).30 The so-called ‘absolutive E-suffixes’ are gradually replaced by ‘accusative L-suffixes’.

The views represented by Mengozzi (2005, 2011), Doron and Khan (2010), Barotto (2014, 2015) have in in common that the synchronic variation points to a gradual departure from an originally coherent ergative prototype to various constructions that are less typically ergative and/or accusative through the intermediary stage of the dynamic-stative split. The šmiʾ-a-le-form is taken as an ergative construction by definition, and wherever this form is lost, also ergativity is said to be lost.

A general fall of ergativity and rise of accusativitiy also features in Coghill (2016)’s recent, impressive monograph, where her main focus is on the emergence of ergativity and its gradual loss. Her synchronic approach to the data in both Northeastern and Central Neo-Aramaic is comparable to the one adopted here, but there are notable differences. She provides a detailed study of split subject marking from both a typological and areal perspective. Her main argumentation (Coghill 2016, 250–286), however, is similar to the aforementioned authors in that the synchronic variation represents a development away from the ergative alongside an ergative-accusative continuum via the type that corresponds with dynamic-stative in Doron and Khan’s (2012) typology. Coghill, however, makes some additional nuances. She (ibid. 61–62) subsumes the ‘extended ergative’ under accusative alignment, because of the identical marking of the s and a. She (ibid. 55, 250) emphasizes the ergative marking, while apparent, is rather restricted, and while the historical situation betrays “some kind of ergative alignment”, she maintains it was not ergative “in the most precise sense” (ibid. 293).

By contrast, although Jastrow (1996, 52–53) believes no ergative inflection is found in Neo-Aramaic languages, he (1985, 120) uses “ergative Flexion” for the L-set against “prädikative Flexion” for the E-set in describing Ṭuroyo and Mlaḥsó. Talay (2008, 2011) applies the same terminology to his description of NENA dialects from the Khabur valley. Hemmauer and Waltisberg (2006) argue that the perfective past in Ṭuroyo is only superficially ergative, since they believe certain constructional splits point to an underlying accusative pattern similar to the (imperfective) present. Waltisberg (2016)’s recent detailed study of the syntax of Ṭuroyo, marking an impressive advance in research, denies (pp. 20, 176)) any manifestation of ergativity whatsoever in Ṭuroyo.31

1.6 Aims and Scope of This Book

Despite the aforementioned literature on alignment in Eastern Neo-Aramaic, a detailed, systematic overview that takes into account more fine-grained morphosyntactic microvariation is still needed. Moreover, the characterization of this dialectal microvariation in the literature requires a thorough revision. A comprehensive typological approach also includes alignment patterns that are less common, without presupposing they are inherently instable and in the progress of developing along an ergative-accusative continuum. The main aim of this book, therefore, is to compare the typological microvariation in subject, agent and object coding in intransitive and transitive constructions within and across Northeastern Neo-Aramaic and Central Neo-Aramaic.

In addressing this central issue within a Semitic language, a more general goal is to contribute to the typology of argument marking across languages of the world and make Neo-Aramaic not only accessible to Aramaicists or Semitists, but also linguists in general. By the same token, this book aims to highlight the value of linguistic typology for the study of Semitic languages and thereby bridge a gap between traditional Semitistic and general descriptive approaches. Hence, this book provides detailed glossing of examples and refers to comparative data in non-Semitic languages.

Chapter 2 is a general introduction to Neo-Aramaic and its overall typology. It not only presents an overview of the main morphosyntactic features common to the respective languages, but also the primary tools that come with the typological approach taken in this book and how it differs from that found in previous literature. Some scholars take the ergativity of the šmiʿ l-construction simply for granted. Neverthless, when do we speak of ergativity and when not? And what other types of alignment occur, even beyond the accusative alternative? In what respect are the alignment types different and similar from one another within Eastern Neo-Aramaic? Two chapters are devoted to NENA divided dialectologically and one to Central Neo-Aramaic. Chapter 3 discusses the alignment typology in the Trans-Zab Jewish varieties of NENA, focusing on ergativity in particular. Chapter 4 concentrates on the Christian and other Jewish varieties of NENA. Chapter 5 compares these findings with the alignment variation in Ṭuroyo and Mlaḥsó.

Secondly, in what way do different coding strategies interact and what would we expect typologically? Chapter 2 presents the main verbal morphology, the pronominal inventory and prepositional marking of arguments in Neo-Aramaic from a typological perspective. Chapter 3 to 5 include sections on the interaction between prepositional marking and verbal person marking. Chapter 3 in particular relates the general expectations for ergativity found in the functionalist typological literature. To what extent is the ergativity found in Neo-Aramaic typical? Related to this are the conditions for when arguments, if any, are expressed prepositionally and/or expressed by verbal person marking. What conditioning factors can be identified relating to grammatical categories, such as tense, aspect, mood and referential properties, such as animacy, definiteness and person? These observations contribute to the cross-linguistic study of such phenomena and our understanding of argument encoding in general.

Indeed, a more general question is to what extent alignment matters at all to the constructions and their properties that have been conventionalized in these dialects. Can we establish correlations between the properties of the constructions and their occurrence in a particular alignment type? The present study argues that much of the variation is independent of ergativity, or alignment in general, and that the alignment patterns in Eastern Neo-Aramaic need not have sprung from a coherently ergative source construction, contrary to what has been widely accepted.32 It analyzes recent documentation of both Northeastern and Central Neo-Aramaic in a typological perspective to reveal important dialectal microvariation.

Finally, while this study of microvariation is not intended to investigate linguistic universals or areal language features, it contributes to wider cross-linguistic research projects and can offer a starting point for further areal and diachronic studies. A split between accusative and ergative alignment conditioned by tense and/or aspect is not altogether uncommon in languages of the world. In fact, a similar tense-sensitive alignment split occurs in Iranian languages with which Aramaic has been in contact for at least two millennia,33 and similar constructional splits occur in languages of the Caucasus (e.g. Stilo 1981, Meyer 2016) and Indo-Aryan (Verbeke 2013b). In addition, this synchronic study is to serve as a fruitful starting point for further diachronic studies. Aramaic has been documented for a remarkably long period, while little is known about spoken Aramaic before the 16th century. Thus, the modern vernaculars are indispensable for the study of the linguistic evolution of Aramaic.34 As we will see, each dialect (group) may ‘do its own thing’ and sometimes even in opposite ways. This is a fascinating fact about a language where alignment has otherwise been stable for millennia.

1.7 Sources and Transcription Conventions

The various existing grammars, texts and studies serve as a basis for the data cited in this book. Table 1 at the end of this chapter shows which sources were consulted for the relevant dialect. Apart from the sources mentioned in the table, Talay (2008; 2009) includes a vast amount of data on a densely populated dialect bundle in SE Turkey (and NW Iraq), whose speakers took up residence along the Khabur Valley in Syria after WWI. In his extensive grammatical description of these dialects, it is not always clear when he makes general statements about dialects whether this applies to all of them and to what extent this has also been attested in his corpus. Khan’s grammars and especially his comparative excursuses35 offer valuable data and cross-dialectal comparisons. When the source of the data is left uncited, the data have been personally collected in the field often in together with G. Khan and/or D. Molin in Northern Iraq as well as among migrant communities in Israel, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Khan (2011) estimates there are about 150 NENA dialects, some, of which several are still undocumented or only poorly documented. A large number of them are listed on the website of the NENA Database36 at the University of Cambridge, currently under the coordination of G. Khan, D. Molin and the present author. This online website was consulted in 2016 and 2018 for unpublished data collected by G. Khan, R. Borghero, E. Coghill and L. Napiorkowska over the past two decades. Several recordings can also be found in the Semitic Sound Archive (SemArch)37 hosted by the University of Heidelberg.

A methodological issue of fieldwork practice that one should be aware of is that grammatical descriptions and especially data entries in the NENA database often rely on elicited data that do not occur in narrative texts. Elicitation via questionnaires and text collection can show radically different aspects of language usage. When a particular paradigm can or cannot be elicited, this does not always reveal whether a speaker uses this or not. A linguist may well not be able to elicit a particular form, but then it suddenly pops up in a text, or vice versa. Moreover, when speakers become puzzled during elicitation, this does not always mean they cannot deal with such forms in a context in a more routine-driven fashion of speaking. Language attrition may also affect comprehension and production. In addition, since data collection also serves to preserve the speakers’ heritage, most of the narratives deal with life in the town in the past, customs, anecdotes and folklore. Unfortunately, its use in everyday conversations without interviewers being present has generally not been recorded. Furthermore, some of the grammar sketches published in articles do not contain texts at all. Thus when a particular construction is mentioned as (im)possible, this does not always provide us with the complete picture. Moreover, grammars do not always completely discuss all morphology and syntax in detail, not to mention alignment typology. Grammatical descriptions may contain general statements about object marking without giving actual examples and without making clear what types of objects are in view.

The sources also have different conventions for transcriptions and sometimes authors change them over time. For convenience sake, examples from Neo-Aramaic dialects are made uniform as follows. The variable practice of representing the reduced centralized vowel by means of the letters ⟨ı⟩, ⟨ɨ⟩, ⟨ĭ⟩, ⟨e⟩ or ⟨ə⟩ are all unified in the single grapheme ⟨ə⟩ ranging in pronunciation between [ɪ] ~ [ə] (~ [ɯ]). Consistent with practices in Semitics, the voiceless and voiced interdental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ are marked by ⟨ṯ⟩ and ⟨ḏ⟩, respectively, and the pharyngeal /ʕ/ and glottal stop /ʔ/ by the half rings ⟨ʿ⟩ and ⟨ʾ⟩ respectively. Long vowels, if indicated, are distinguished by a macron, e.g. ā instead of a colon /a:/. Moreover, I have taken the liberty to adjust Ritter’s (1967–1971; 1979; 1990) detailed phonetic transcription of Ṭuroyo to a phonological transcription, comparable to Jastrow (1992).

The symbol + indicates suprasegmental pharyngealization of the following word or syllable. I have simplified the detailed transcription of Younansardaroud (2001). Following Khan (2016), the threeway system of emphasis is reduced to a binary one with the symbol + indicating the pharyngealization and a circumflex ◌̭ below or above the segment indicating unaspirated/glottalized articulation, but for ease of comparison the post-velar unvoiced stop () will be transcribed as the uvular one in other dialects, thus

[t]

t

[th]

[p]

p

[ph]

q

[ḵ]

k

[kh]

Front rounded vowels will also be indicated using the umlaut diacritic, thus J. Urmi brona and xalunta in Khan (2008b) correspond to:

bröná

/brøˈna/

xalüntá

/xalynˈta/

Unless otherwise specified, stress is on the penultimate syllable. Intonation group boundaries and secondary stress are omitted in citation.

Using these sources, the alignment patterns are identified, compared and analyzed in this book according to the principles outlined in Chapter 2. The material from the respective source will be presented with morpheme-by-morpheme glossing following the Leipzig Glossing Rules.38 The glossing in examples cited from non-Semitic languages is taken from the respective source, unless indicated otherwise. Finally, throughout this book, when a word or phrase is emphasized in quoted examples, the emphasis is always mine unless indicated otherwise.

1.8 Outline

This book is a journey through the Neo-Aramaic landscape from East to West, from Jewish into Christian communities, investigating the morphosyntactic alignment in their dialects. Chapter 2 starts off with a brief overview of the coding strategies in NENA and Central Neo-Aramaic. It explains the theoretical preliminaries of clause structure and how alignment types can be identified from different angles. A considerable part is devoted to the expression of pronouns and verbal inflection in the imperfective aspect based on the so-called qaṭəl-base common to all of Neo-Arsamaic. This can be taken as a frame of reference for the study of argument marking in other more complex and cross-dialectally diverse constructions.

Chapter 3, 4 and 5 examine the basic morphosyntax of a particular dialect group. The typological background is introduced directly where and when they are of immediate relevance to core issues in the relevant chapter. Chapter 3 concentrates on ergativity and its typology within the Trans-Zab Jewish subgroup. This is not to say that ergativity plays no role in subsequent chapters, but it is part of the two main questions addressed in this chapter, namely to what extent are the properties found for ergativity in this dialect group unexpected typologically, and secondly, to what extent is there a direct correlation between these properties and ergativity in one such group of dialects?

This discussion continues in Chapter 4 with an examination of the remainder of NENA dialects, namely the Jewish varieties west of the Great-Zab river and all the Christian dialects of NENA. The focus here, however, is on the relationship between the verbal person marking in the perfective past and the rest of the system. These dialects may have several transitive perfective past constructions at their disposal that are in competition. Each construction seems to converge to an increasing extent with the dominant morphosyntax of qaṭəl-.

Chapter 5 deals with Central Neo-Aramaic, the Neo-Aramaic varieties of Ṭur ʿAbdin in particular. There are notable differences between NENA and Ṭuroyo, including the richer system of verbal derivation as well as the special verbal base CaCiC-. In other respects, our findings for NENA do have parallels in Ṭuroyo and Mlaḥsó, and similar constructions end up differently in each group.

Finally, Chapter 6 brings all these threads together in a cross-dialectal synopsis with the major conclusions for alignment typology, and Chapter 7 provides a general conclusion and an outlook towards future areal and historical studies with a taxonomy of main alignment types and their properties in Central and Northeastern Neo-Aramaic languages.

Table 1

Table containing most of the dialects investigated for this book and their sources

J./C.

Dialect

Location

Other names

Sources

C.

Alqosh

NW Iraq

Coghill 2003

J.

ʿAmedia

NW Iraq

ʿAmidya, ʿAmadiya, Amêdî

Hoberman 1989; Greenblatt 2011

C.

ʿAnkawa

NE Iraq

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

ʿAqrah

NE Iraq

Akre

Al-Zebari 2018; Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Aradhin

NW Iraq

Krotkoff 1982

J.

Aradhin

NW Iraq

Mutzafi 2002b

J.

Arbel

NE Iraq

Arbil, Erbil, Hewlêr

Khan 1999

C.

Artun

SE Turkey

Hertevin, Ekindüzü

Jastrow 1988; Noorlander field notes

C.

Ashitha

SE Turkey

Aşute, Çiğli

Borghero 2006

C.

Azakh

NW Iraq

Aḏeḥ

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

J.

Başkale

SE Turkey

Bashqala

Garbell 1965

C.

Baṛeṭla

NW Iraq

Baṛṭella

Al-Saka 2018

C.

Barwar

NW Iraq

Barwari (Berwari) Bala, incl. En-Nune, Dure, Dereške, Beshmiyaye, Iyyet, Maye

Khan 2008a

J.

Barzan

NW Iraq

Mutzafi 2002a, 2004c

C.

Baz

SE Turkey

Maha khtaya, Doǧan

Mutzafi 2000

C.

Bebede

NW Iraq

Bebadi

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Bedyal

NE Iraq

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Beṣpen

SE Turkey

Bēṣpən, Bespina, Görümlü

Sinha 2000

J.

Betanure

NW Iraq

Mutzafi 2008a

C.

Billin

SE Turkey

Borghero field notes (NENA Database)

C.

Bne-Lagippa

SE Turkey

Ṭyari

Borghero field notes (NENA Database)

C.

Borb-Ruma

SE Turkey

Bohtan (Ruma, Borb, Shwata)

Fox 2009

J.

Challa

SE Turkey

Çukurca

Fassberg 2011

C.

Challa

SE Turkey

Talay 2008, 2009

J.

Cizre

SE Turkey

Gzira

Nakano 1973

C.

Dehe

NW Iraq

Dehi

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Derabun

NW Iraq

Dayr Abuna

Borghero field notes (NENA Database); Coghill 2009

C.

Dere

NW Iraq

Borghero field notes (NENA Database)

C.

Diyana-Zariwaw

NE Iraq

Soran

Napiorkowska 2015

J.

Dobe

NE Iraq

Mutzafi 2004b

J.

Dohok

NW Iraq

Duhok

Molin 2021; Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Gawar

SE Turkey

Yüksekova

Talay 2008, 2009

J.

Gawar

SE Turkey

Garbell 1965

C.

Gaznakh

SE Turkey

Geznex, Cevizağaçı

Gutman 2015

J.

Ḥalabja

NE Iraq

Khan 2004a

C.

Hamziye

NW Iraq

Hamzik

Coghill field notes (NENA Database); Coghill 2009

C.

Harmashe

NW Iraq

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Haṣṣan

SE Turkey

Hassane, Kösreli

Damsma forthcoming

C.

Hawdiyan

NE Iraq

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Harbole

SE Turkey

Aksu, Şırnak

Khan field notes

C.

Jinnet

SE Turkey

Cinet, Baǧpınar

Noorlander field notes

C.

Jilu

SE Turkey

Ǧilu, Yeşiltaş (Hakkari)

Fox 1997; Talay 2008, 2009

C.

Karamlesh

NW Iraq

Karemlesh

Borghero 2008

J.

Kerend

W Iran

Hopkins 1989a, 2002

C.

Koy Sanjaq

NW Iraq

Koy Sanjak

Mutzafi 2004b

J.

Koy Sanjaq

NE Iraq

Koy Sanjak

Mutzafi 2004a

C.

Lewen

SE Turkey

Talay 2008, 2009

C.

Mangesh

NW Iraq

Sara 1974

C.

Mar Yaqo

NW Iraq

Mar Yaʿqob

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Marga

SE Turkey

Yemişli, Uludere

Khan and Noorlander field notes

C.

Mlaḥsó

SE Turkey

Lice (Diyarbak.)

Jastrow 1994, 1996

C.

Bne-Matha

SE Turkey

Mne-Matha, Ṭyari

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Kharjawa

NW Iraq

Nargezine-Kharjawa

Coghil field notes (NENA Database)

J.

Naghada

NW Iran

Solduz

Garbell 1965; Hopkins 1989b

C.

Nerwa

NW Iraq

Narwa

Talay 2001; Noorlander field notes

J.

Nerwa

NW Iraq

Narwa

Sabar 1976

C.

Peshabur

NW Iraq

Faysh Khabur

Coghill 2013

J.

Qarah Ḥasan

W Iran

Khan 2009

C.

Baghdeda

NW Iraq

Qaraqosh

Khan 2002a

C.

Qodchaneṣ

SE Turkey

Koçanis/Konak, Hakkari

Talay 2008, 2009

C.

Rekan

NW Iraq

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

J.

Rewanduz

NE Iraq

Ruwanduz

Khan 2002b; Mutzafi 2004b

J.

Rustaqa

NE Iraq

Khan 2002b

C.

Salmas

NW Iran

Salamas

Polotsky 1991; Mutzafi 2015; Khan 2016

J.

Salmas

Duval 1883; Mutzafi 2015

C.

Sanandaj

W Iran

Sena, Sina

Panoussi 1990; Khan 2009; Kalin 2014

J.

Sanandaj

W Iran

Khan 2009

C.

Shaqlawa

NE Iraq

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

J.

Shaqlawa

NE Iraq

Mutzafi 2004b

J.

Saqez

W Iran

Saqqiz, Saqiz

Israeli 1998

C.

Sardarid

NW Iran

Sardrud

Younansardaroud 2001

C.

Sat

SE Turkey

İliyaka

Mutzafi 2008c; Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Shemsdin

SE Turkey

Şemdinli; Bne Šammesdin, a.o. Azran Gargarnaye, Nochiya, Iyyəl, Marbisho

Napiorkowska and Borghero field notes (NENA Database)

C.

Sulemaniyya

W Iran

Sulaymaniyya, Silêmanî

Khan 2004a

J.

Sulemaniyya

NE Iraq

Khan 2004a; including Ḥalabja

C.

Ṭal

SE Turkey

Talay 2008, 2009

C.

Telkepe

NW Iraq

Tall Kayf

Coghill 2010, 2014

C.

Ten

NW Iraq

Coghill field notes (NENA Database)

C.

Tella

NW Iraq

Khan, Molin and Noorlander field notes

C.

Tisqopa

NW Iraq

Tall Asqaf

Rubba 1993

C.

Ṭyari

SE Turkey

Upper and Lower Ṭiyari

Talay 2008, 2009

C.

Tkhuma

SE Turkey

Tḥuma, incl. Mazṛa, Matha, Gudektha, Gessa, Berejnaye, Gawaye

Talay 2008, 2009

C.

Ṭuroyo

SE Turkey

Surayt, Suryoyo

Jastrow 1985, 1992; Ritter 1967–1971, 1990

C.

Umṛa

SE Turkey

Dera, Dereköy

Hobrack 2000; Noorlander field notes

C.

Umra d-Shish

NW Iraq

Borghero field notes (NENA Database)

C.

Urmi

NW Iran

Urmia, Ārumiye

Murre-van den Berg 1999; Khan 2016

J.

Urmi

NW Iran

Garbell 1965; Khan 2008b

C.

Zakho

NW Iraq

Hoberman 1993

J.

Zakho

NW Iraq

Sabar 2002; Cohen 2012

1

See Section 2.3. on the methodology for determining alignment patterns and Chapter 3 for a definition and detailed discussion of so-called split ergativity.

2

This term is not to be confused with the ancient, extinct Assyrian dialect of Akkadian, a distinct Semitic language.

3

See Table 1 at the end of this chapter for an overview of the placenames relevant to this book.

4

See also Maps 3–6 in Chapter 4 for further details.

5

Much like Northern and Central Kurdish (Noorlander 2014).

6

See Map 2 at the beginning of Chapter 3.

7

See Jastrow (1985, xvii–xviii, xxi–xxiii), Kim (2008, 507–508).

8

C. Borb-Ruma (Fox 2009) and Jinnet (Noorlander field notes) are interesting exceptions in NENA, e.g. Borb-Ruma xmora, Jinnet ḥmora.

9

I hereby thank the anonymous reviewer for referring me to this publication.

10

Cf. Doron and Khan (2010).

11

See, for example, Nöldeke (1868, 220, 317), Polotsky (1979, 1996), Khan (1999, 94–95, 2002a, 92), Mengozzi (2002b, 43). Cf. Bar-Asher (2008, 2011), Loesov (2012).

12

See, for example, Kutscher (1969), Hopkins (1989a), Goldenberg (1992), Rubin (2005, 30–31); cf. Kirtchuk (2016).

13

See Coghill (2016) and Noorlander (forthcoming) for more detailed discussions regarding the diachronic development of alignment in Neo-Aramaic. Cf. Fassberg (2018).

14

Cf. Noorlander and Stilo (2015).

15

On this point, see already Polotsky (1979, 208). Haig (2008, 9) makes a similar remark regarding Iranian.

16

See Noorlander (2021) for a detailed discussion of the use of L-suffixes and the preposition l- in Neo-Aramaic to mark possessors and experiencers.

17

For the sake of a uniform transcription of Syriac, I follow Beyer’s transcription of the Odes of Solomon in Lattke (2005, XIIIXXXVII).

18

Cf. Nöldeke (1904, 220, § 280), Nöldeke (1875, 379–380, § 262), Goldenberg (1992, 118). See also Kirtchuk (2016) who emphasizes that aspect is primary, not voice.

19

But also in other varieties, see in particular § 4.3.1. and § 4.4.3.2.; Noorlander (forthcoming) discusses the development of resultatives in Neo-Aramaic.

20

šmiʿ l- typically expresses orally imparted information and, thus, what someone has rumors about, knows by report or understands from an authoritative religious tradition (cf. šemʿā ‘hearing; sound, report’, Sokoloff 2009, 1574).

21

Cf. Schlesinger (1928, 45, § 30); Sokoloff (2002, 327b).

22

See Noorlander (2012); Bar-Asher (2014); Coghill (2016). Cf. Haig (2008) on Iranian.

23

See Van Rompay (1999) for examples.

24

See among others Friedrich (1957), Kutscher (1969), Mengozzi (2002b, 37–49), Gzella (2004, 184–194, 2015, 348), Khan (2004b).

25

See Kutscher (1969), Cohen (1984, 515), Hopkins (1989), Goldenberg (1992).

26

See Benveniste (1966), Trask (1979), Bynon (2005), Haig (2008), Jügel (2015).

27

More details will be given in Section 3.5; see also Khan (2007a) and Coghill (2016, 71 f.).

28

The symbol + indicates suprasegmental pharyngealization of the following word.

29

This view is further discussed in Subsection 6.1.2. See Noorlander (forthcoming) for more details.

30

See Section 4.2. for a definition and discussion of marked nominative systems.

31

See Chapter 5 for a more detailed discussion of ergativity in Ṭuroyo.

32

See Noorlander (forthcoming) for the debate of the possible source constructions with references.

33

See, for instance, Stilo (1981, 2004a), Haig (2001, 2008), Kapeliuk (2004), Khan (2004b, 2007b), Noorlander (2014, 2017), Noorlander and Stilo (2015), Stilo and Noorlander (2015).

34

See Beyer (1986, 54), Hopkins (1989a, 413), Jastrow (2008, 1).

35

Khan (2008b, 2–7, 73–75, 146–148; 2009, 5–9, 77–78, 327–329). But also, occasionally, Hopkins (1989a), Israeli (1998), Golbenberg (1992), Pennacchietti (1994) and Mengozzi (2002b, 36–49).

36

nena.ames.cam.ac.uk.

37

semarch.uni-hd.de.

38

The glossing deviates from the Leipzig rules in the following ways: (a) I adopt subscript pfv and ipfv as labels for the different inflectional bases perfective (e.g. qṭil-) and imperfective (e.g. qaṭəl-) respectively and (b) I employ a colon instead of a period to separate abbreviations.

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