Jewish Aramaic

The language of the Talmud, Jesus, and today's Jewish Kurds.

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The Jewish Neo-Aramaic texts are written in a Hebrew alphabet, like most Jewish languages, but the spelling is phonetic, rather than etymological (e.g. כמשא 'five', rather than חמשא, and שואא 'seven', instead of  שבעא). As in other Jewish languages, many Judaic and even some secular terms are borrowed from Hebrew, rather than being inherited from traditional Jewish Aramaic, e.g., Hebrew עולם 'world', rather than Aramaic עלמא.

The Hebrew loanwords were one of the major features that distinguished Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialects from their Christian counterparts, in addition to minor or quite major grammatical differences. Yet what may be a typical grammatical or lexical feature of a Jewish dialect in one place may be known elsewhere as a Christian feature.

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Yona Sabar

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew language at UCLA and an expert in Jewish Aramaic language, literature and folklore.