The North Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects form a very diverse group of Aramaicdialects that were spoken until modern times in Northern Iraq, North West Iran andSouth Eastern Turkey by Christian and Jewish communities. These are among thelasting remaining living vestiges of the Aramaic language, which was one of themajor languages of the region in antiquity. Over the last few decades most of thespeakers of these dialects have been forced to leave their places of residence and havesettled in numerous émigré communities throughout the world. The youngergenerations of these communities are increasingly losing competence in these dialectsand as a result most of the dialects are now in danger of extinction. It is an urgent task for Semitic philology to study and document the dialects while competent speakerscan still be located. The aim of the project, which is funded by the Arts andHumanities Research Council (AHRC), is to undertake a systematic documentation of all the surviving dialects of the group and publish their descriptions, together withaudio recordings, on a database accessible on the web.*****************************************Aramaic has one of the longest recorded histories of any of the world’s languages.The earliest surviving texts are inscriptions datable to around 1000 BCE. After thisdate it was used as literary language continuously down to modern times. During theAchaemenid period in the Near East (5
centuries BCE) Aramaic was the officiallingua franca and was used in administrative documents across an area extendingfrom Egypt to India. Aramaic was the language of various texts that have a centralimportance in Near Eastern religious traditions, such as the Babylonian andPalestinian Talmuds and sections of the books of Daniel and Ezra in the Bible. Aswell as being a literary language, Aramaic has been spoken as a vernacular over thecenturies and still exists today in numerous dialects spoken mainly by Christian andJewish communities. These spoken dialects, most of which are now endangered,preserve many ancient features that are not found in the literary languages. In sum,Aramaic is a fascinating field of study for anybody interested in Near Easternliteratures and religion and Semitic linguistics.