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Assyrian language: Past and Present

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William Wardateam

 
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Assyrian language: Past and Present

Feb-03-2012 at 07:13 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

Last edited on 02/04/2012 at 08:36 PM (UTC3 Assyria)
 
Assyrian Scribes, Panel of Sennacherib (704-681 BC)
Nineveh, northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, about 640-615 BC
Artifact location: British Museum

One scribe hold a hinged writing board covered in wax. Actual examples of the boards have been excavated at the Assyrian city of Nimrud. Information could be recorded and then the wax melted and reused. The bearded man is writing in a scroll, probably in Aramaic - the main spoken language of the Near East. Alternatively, he may be a war artist, recording details of the campaign for use by sculptors creating reliefs such as this one back in Nineveh.

Bronze Lions
Excavated/Findspot: North West Palace, Room B
(Asia, Iraq, North Iraq, Nimrud (Kalhu), North West Palace)
Artifact location: British Museum
Date: 726BC-722BC
Period/Culture: Neo-Assyrian
Authority: Ruler Shalmaneser V

Small bronze lion shaped measuring-weight with ring: inscribed in Assyrian and in Aramaic. Five lines are incised on the flank of the lion, presumably to represent 'one-fifth'. The lion, when originally cast, was too light, and the ring around its neck brought its weight up to the desired amount.

Inscriptions
Inscription Type: inscription
Inscription Script: cuneiform
Inscription Language: Assyrian
Inscription Translation: Palace of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria; one fifth of a mina of the king.
Inscription Comment: Incised.

Inscription Type: inscription
Inscription Language: Aramaic
Inscription Translation: one fifth
Inscription Comment: Incised.

Magic Bowls
Kelsey Museum 19503

Seleucia-on-Tigris
6th or 7th century A.D.
Clay

This bowl is "written" in a pseudo-script, clearly meant to imitate Syriac (an Aramaic dialect and alphabet, used on many demon-bowls).

Bibl.: Unpublished.

Magic Bowls
Kelsey Museum 19504

Seleucia-on-Tigris
6th or 7th century A.D.
Clay

The text is written in Mandaic, an Eastern Aramaic dialect and script, in three wedge-shaped panels, each panel beginning on the bowl's rim and moving inward. The text itself is a copy of a long spell which appears on several such bowls, and into which the client's name -- in this case Negray daughter of Denday -- was inserted in the proper places. It was meant as a counter-spell, to protect the client against all her enemies' curses, whatever they may have been.

Bibl.: Unpublished. The translation and notes were provided by Timothy La Vallee, who is preparing these bowls for publication.

Assyrian language: Past and Present
Akkadean English and Syriac dictionary
by William Warda

The ancient Assyrian language is classified as Akkadian, the language of a people who together with Sumerians became the predecessors of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians. To facilitate administrative tasks of the Assyrian Empire long before the fall of Nineveh the use of the Aramaic was sanctioned by the government because in distant part of the empire the Aramaic language was far better known than the Akkadian.

The empire chancelleries adopted a simple standard form of the Aramaic for correspondence with such areas " In the hearth of the Empire "Aramaic "dockets" were attached to the cuneiform tablets. Such dockets gave brief indication of names and dates and a summary of the contents which were useful to merchants. This is classified as "Official Aramaic". Many Assyrian tablets have been found with Aramaic incised on them. Assyrian scribes are often depicted in pairs. One writing in Akkadian on the cuneiform tablet, the other writing in Aramaic on the parchment or papyrus.

Among several bronze lion-weights found at Nineveh some had both the Akkadian and Aramaic text inscribed on them . They bore the names of the Assyrian kings at the time of use which included Shalmansser III (858-824), Sargon (721-705), Sennacherib (704-681) .The Official Aramaic later became accepted as the standard form of literary communication by the Aramaic speaking people in various part of the Empire.

Bronze Lion weight inscribed in Assyrian; "palace of Shalmanser, King of Assyria , two third of a mina of the king' , and in Aramaic "Two thirds ( of a mina) of the Land".

According to the Old Testament, "in 701 B.C. when official of Sennacherib appeared before the walls of Jerusalem, and the Rab-Shakeh spoke in Hebrew to the officers of King Hezekiah, these latter begged him to speak rather in Aramaic, for they understood this official tongue and did not want the populace to hear the humiliating demand for submission made in Hebrew." In later centuries Aramaic replaced Hebrew even in Israel. During their exile years in Babylon the Jews adopted the Square Assyrian script which was commonly known to them as Ketav Ashuri or the Assyrian text. The law demands that a Torah scroll be written with the " ketav Ashuri" so called after its place of origin.

In time Aramaic became spoken in Mesopotamia also and gradually replacing the Akkadian language. The transition was made possible because the 22 letters Aramaic alphabet was much easier to master than the 600 or so signs of the cuneiform. The evidence of side by side existance of the two langauges at 4th century B.C. is an Aramic document from Urk which has been written in cuneiform. The Akkadian Language continued to be used for astronomical texts down to the time of christ. Administrative text in Akkadian language from Babylon about the activities of Mardukh temple continued till 92 B.C., astronomical chronicles have been found which date to 76 A.D.. The 2nd century A.D. novelist Iamblichus reported that the Akkadian language was spoken along with the Aramaic at his time.

Most old langauges for different reasons have gone through drastic changes from time to time. For example the Old English language has changed greatly from what it was at early Christian centuries. Present day English reader will have dificaulty reading and undrestanding the Lord's prayer as written at that time as seen below.

"Feder Ure bu be eart on hefonum, si bin nama gehalgod. To becume bin rice. Gewurbe Oin willa on Eoroan swa swa on heoronum. ..."

Today's Persian language has no similarity to what was spoken by the Achaemenian Persians. The Greek and the Armenian languages have changed greatly since the ancient times.

The contemporary Assyrians use thousands of word in their daily conversation which are clearly Akkadian . The Syriac, another name for the Christian Assyrian language, was perhaps in use as a literary language in northern Mesopotamia before the Christian era but only a few written examples of it have survived from the first century A.D. It developed as a literary language of some importance in Edessa after a christian school succeeded a pagan learning center. Gradually it was accepted as the ecclesiastical and cultural language of Assyrian Christians. It is often wrongly called Aramaic but in reality it is a different langauge though related to it just as the European langauges are related to Latin but are not exactly the same. Currently there are two slightly different dialects of the Syriac language called Eastern and Western, i.e. Suryaye and Suryoye.

Some differences in pronunciation between the ancient and the present day Assyrian words may be due to mispronunciation of the Cuneiform signs by the translators. Some Akkadian signs can be vocalized in more than one way. The same word is often ponounced slightly differently by different scholars. Some Syriac words have gone through varriation in pronounciation because of peuliarity of how the Syriac words are accented compared to the Akkadian language, also during the last two thousand years some words have gone through slight modification. In some words the letter B is pronounced as V. For example the Akkadian Abu for father is pronounced as Ava-ha for parent. The Akkadian Q at times is softened into khap in the Syriac language. The contemporary Eastern Syriac words presented here belong to the Urmi Dialect which may be slightly different than that of the northern Iraq or the north of Mosul Mountain accents still spoken in some places.

The presence of the Akkdian Words in Syriac does not seem accidental because of their greater number, and that they are scattered evenly along the entire alphabet and all sorts of subjects. Because the present Syriac to English and vs-versa dictionaries are inadequate, the extent of the Akkadian words in this language is difficult to ascertain.

It should be noted that while the ancient Assyrian words universaly ended in "U" the contemporary Eastern Assyrian words in their basic form end in "A". The vowel "A" of Eastern dialect in all cases is pronounced as "O" in the western Assyrian/Syriac speech of today.

The vocabulary presented here consists mostly of single words without their usual derivatives and inflected forms such as verb tense, adjectives, adverbs , plural and gender forms and others. With the addition of these variations and further finds this list can grow into thousands of entries.

One hundred words of this concordance was compiled by Peter Bet Basso from the "State Archives of Assyria, Volume III: Court Poetry and Literary Miscellanea", by Alasdair Livingstone, Helsinki University Press. The balance was added by William Warda from the glossaries contained in the following sources.

Samuel A.B. Mercer, "Assyrian Grammar with Chrestomathy and Glossary" Frederick Ungar Publishing, New York, 1961

Simo Parpola ed. "Neo-Assyrian Dictionary, English Assyrian, Assyrians English", Mesopotamian Museum of Chicago, 2002

Samuel A.B. Mercer, "Assyrian Grammar" London 1921

Only the first two pages of this list has been updated to include a greater number of words common between the two languages but these are by no mean all.

The Eastern Assyrian Dictionary used to verify the pronunciation and the meaning of the contemporary Assyrian words is: Oraham's Dictionary of the stabilized and enriched Assyrian Language and English, Chicago Ill. 1943

The western Assyrian/Syriac pronunciation of these words was provided by Gowriel.

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Atouradmin

 
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1. RE: Assyrian language: Past and Present

Feb-03-2012 at 10:17 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

In reply to message #0
 
Assyrian language: Past and Present
http://www.atour.com/education/20120203a.html

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Assyria \ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)   1:  an ancient empire of Ashur   2:  a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)   3:  a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender   4:  a democratic state that believes in the freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the principles of the United Nations Charter — Atour synonym

Ethnicity, Religion, Language
» Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
» Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
» Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
Assyrian \ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)   1:  descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur   2:  the Assyrians, although representing but one single nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.  These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the Christian Era.  No one can coherently understand the Assyrians as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control, religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a criterion of nationality.   3:  the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya, Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean, Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu, Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye, Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. — Assyrianism verb

Aramaic \ar-é-'máik\ n (1998)   1:  a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.   2:  has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.

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