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The Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Maha Khtaya D-Baz; Phonology, Morphology and Texts

Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2001 at 01:25 PM CT


“Since the beginning of scholarly activity in the field of Neo-Aramaic in the first half of the nineteenth century, the type of Aramaic spoken by the Assyrian tribe of Baz (bāz) has remained all but ignored. Not only are the published data on bāziyāna, the language of Baz, extremely scanty and sporadic, but even this meager amount of data is partly marred by non-linguistic transcription and inaccurate details. In the early years of the twentieth century the Bazi Assyrians (calling themselves baznāyē, baznáy or bazné according to dialect) resided in six villages along the narrow valley of Baz in the Ottoman vilayet of Hakkâri, about fifteen kilometers south-east of the town Julamerk (called Jurmal by the Assyrians; present-day Hakkâri, Turkey). The principal village of Baz was Maha Khtaya (i.e. ‘the lower village’) situated at 37º27 N, 43º53 E; and the other Bazi villages were Shwawwa, Irgab, Be-Selim, Arutus and Qojij. The people of Baz were mostly farmers, shepherds, builders and blacksmiths. Many Bazi tribesmen used to earn their livelihood during wintertime as hired laborers in the vilayet of Mosul.

“During World War I the Bazis, numbering several thousand, shared the tragic fate of the entire Assyrian people, whose leaders sided with the allied powers. In September 1915 overwhelming Kurdish f loyal to the Ottoman regime poured into Baz; and the surviving Bazis, defended by their retreating combatants, had to flee their ravaged homeland. Three years later, after a lengthy ordeal, they were resettled in Iraq by the British authorities, first in a refugee camp, later in the vicinities of Dohuk and Amadiyua, in villages where often the entire population was not only Bazi, but originated from a certain Bazi village.

“Oppression, wars and political upheavals prompted almost all rural Assyrians of northern Iraq to leave their villages, some families crossing to Syria already in 1934, others moving to the large urban centers of Iraq and later emigrating in great numbers to North America, Europe and Australia. In the urban Assyrian communities, Baziyana, like the other Neo-Aramaic varieties of Hakkâri, is being rapidly effaced by the Urmi-based Koine.

“Although the data at my disposal on Bazi varieties other than that of Maha Khtaya d-Baz are very limited, it is safe to determine that the Neo-Aramaic of Baz is a cluster of highly interrelated and completely interintelligible dialects, and that many if not most of the salient features of M-Baz described here apply to the Baziyana language as a whole.”

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