nl en

Introduction to Neo-Aramaic Linguistics


Admission requirements

Regular MA-requirements. Students with a background in Aramaic or another Semitic language will have an advantage. Students without any background though with a keen interest in linguistics or philology are also more than welcome to join, but can expect a heavier workload.


Aramaic is a Semitic language and once was the official lingua franca of West Asia, encompassing an area from Egypt into India. The Aramaic heritage of this continuously attested history of over 3000 years still lives on today in the endangered Neo-Aramaic dialects of mainly Jewish and Christian minorities in the Middle East and beyond.
This course offers a typological overview of the basic structure of these dialects and explores the linguistic diversity of modern Aramaic both synchronically and diachronically. After an introduction to the elementary grammar, we will soon study a selection of text specimens of early Neo-Aramaic literature, from the 16th century to the most recent grammar sketches. We will discuss a number of topics within Neo-Aramaic studies, which can vary depending on the students’ interests.
As the astonishing diversity of the modern Aramaic dialects unfolds, from the western dialects in Syria to the eastern dialects in Iran, students will discover how the multilingualism of their speakers, from Arabic, Kurdish, Persian to Turkish, shapes their cultural identity and linguistic creativity..

Course objectives

During this course, students will become acquainted with several types of dialects of modern Aramaic in past and present. Upon completing this course, students will be able to:

  • independently study and analyze grammatically texts in Ṭuroyo and a Jewish variety with the aid of a grammar and/or glossary or dictionary;

  • to apply the basic skills of historical-comparative linguistics, such as sound laws and sound correspondences, and to critically evaluate linguistic arguments;

  • to map dialectological hallmarks of Neo-Aramaic, to compare them and relate them to one another;

  • to contextualize sociolinguistically the role of Neo-Aramaic and its contact with neighboring languages.


Please consult the timetable on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load is 280 hours (10 ec):

  • 13 tutorials of about 2 hours (26 hours)

  • Preparing lectures, including reading and assignments (44 hours)

  • Preparing oral presentation (70 hours)

  • Preparing written exam or writing a paper (140 hours)

Assessment method

  1. Active participation during lectures and weekly assignments (20%);
    1. Presentation on a Neo-Aramaic dialect (30%);
    2. A written exam (50%) or paper (50%) on a topic of the student’s choice in consultation with the teacher, such as, for example, the dialectological position or historical development of a Neo-Aramaic dialect, the emergence of Neo-Aramaic writing, the relationship between classical Aramaic and Neo-Aramaic or contact between Aramaic and Persian, Kurdish or Arabic.

Reading list

Readings will be determined during the course.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Dhr. P.M. Noorlander


This course will only proceed if there is sufficient interest.