A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lebanese Singer on Keeping Syriac Alive

Last summer in a series of posts on Syriac/Aramaic I talked about the survivals of the language today, both in the Western variety of "Neo-Aramaic" spoken in a few Syrian villages, and the eastern variety which survives in various communities in Iraq, Turkey and neighboring countries. Though linguists call these Neo-Aramaic they generally call themselves Syriac.

The current issue of World Policy Journal deals with issues relating to language, and has an essay by Lebanese singer Ghada Shbeir, who sings in Syriac, on efforts to keep the language alive.

So add this to my occasional posts on minority languages and on the rich legacies of Aramaic/Syriac. When  Pope Shenouda died, one of my commenters asked in a comment why spoken Coptic had disappeared except as a liturgical language, while other minority languages survived (like these islands of Syriac, or the larger blocs of Berber/Amazigh, Kurdish, Nubian, etc.). The short answer is that's a very good question and one that I've wrestled with occasionally. The long answer will show up one of these days in a blog post.