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A Grammar of the Christian Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Diyana-Zariwaw.

A Grammar of the Christian Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Diyana-Zariwaw. By LIDIA NAPIORKOWSKA. Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics, vol. 81. Leiden: BRILL, 2015. Pp. xiv + 600. $234, [euro]181.

This book demonstrates that Neo-Aramaic dialectology is a mature field of investigation, covering a wide range of dialectal variation, that is firmly rooted in and makes an original contribution to Semitic and general linguistics. It is part of the Brill series "Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics," which hosts a number of important contributions to the field, such as the four-volume The Neo-Aramaic Dialect of the Assyrian Christians of Urmi by Geoffrey Khan (vol. 86, 2016), Comparative Lexical Studies in Neo-Mandaic by Hezy Mutzafi (vol. 73, 2014), The Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Amedya by Jared Greenblatt (vol. 61, 2010), The Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Challa by Steven E. Fassberg (vol. 54, 2009), The Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Sulemaniyya and Halabja by Geoffrey Khan (vol. 44, 2004), and The Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Qaraqosh by Geoffrey Khan (vol. 36, 2002).

The descriptive format is that of the Cambridge school of Neo-Aramaic studies led by Geoffrey Khan. In comparison with other works from the same research team, however, the language description is interspersed with much more precise and instructive references to classics of general and typological linguistics, especially of the 1970s to 1980s, such as Bybee, Comrie, Givon, Ladefoged, and Lyons. Based on the author's Ph.D dissertation, the book under review contains a detailed description of the dialect on the three main levels of linguistic analysis (phonology, morphology, and syntax), a rich corpus in phonological transcription and English translation, and an Aramaic-English and English-Aramaic glossary, in which verbs are listed separately from other parts of speech. An impressive bibliography and two indexes complete the volume. A geographical map would have probably proved more useful to the reader than the index of geographical names.

The grammar describes the dialect(s) of Christian Assyrians of the town Diyana (or Diana), located to the north of the better-known Rawandiz and today belonging to the Erbil Governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan. Distinct dialectal features of speakers whose ancestors migrated to Diyana from the more northern villages of Zariwaw, Riccawa, and Seru or western Harir are also taken into consideration. Therefore, the grammar contributes "data of a geolect variety rather than a homogenous dialect" (p. 5). The villages are now deserted and Diyana is a middle-sized fast-developing Kurdish town, known by the same name of the district: Soran. Napiorkowska's informants live in Sweden or in the UK; one speaker was recorded and consulted by Khan in Diyana. The texts are precious contributions to the oral history, hence the historical memory, of the migrated, displaced, or indeed dying-out Aramaic-speaking communities.

The book brings attention to a poorly investigated and little-known area on the map of the vast North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA) territory. The author's approach is comparative in that she refers to grammars or grammatical sketches of more than thirty NENA dialects. Sketches are drawn from the Cambridge NENA Database (, where two pictures of the town and an audio sample of the dialect can be found. Thanks to the grammars of Neo-Aramaic dialects published so far and the British (Cambridge) and German projects (Semitica Viva and Semitisches Tonarchiv), the endangered Neo-Aramaic tongues are one of the better-described sub-groups of the Semitic languages.

Napiorkowska offers the reader a very clear and sound treatment of emphasis, distinguishing emphasis spread and synharmonism, as bound to the phonetic domains of syllables and whole words respectively, and describes the two phenomena as occurring in the language groups of the region: Arabic, Aramaic, Kurdish, and Turkish. Emphasis spread and synharmonism are intertwined processes that form a continuum, "having on the one hand of the spectrum the dialects like Txuma, with clearly segmental emphasis, and the harmonic system like the one in CU [Christian Urmi], on the other" (p. 55). The Christian dialect of Diyana takes an intermediate position, closer to Urmi synharmonism.

The author tests the distribution of emphasis with an instrumental acoustic approach involving the use of the software Praat. From a phonetic point of view, the results suggest that "emphasis in this dialect consists mainly in pharyngealization, with a number of words thoroughly velarized" (p. 50). Since the phonological system of the dialect exhibits transitory

features, and various subsets of the phonological inventory (dental emphatics, pharyngeal [??]ayn, liquids, and bilabials) have various effects on the distribution of emphasis, both the diachronic and synchronic perspectives are taken so as to account for the occurrence of emphatic allophones, vowels, and consonants. On the synchronic level, rather than forming polar pairs (emphatic vs. non-emphatic sounds), phonemes can be described as possibly vs. never emphatic segments.

In the description of verb morphology, Napiorkowska singles out the main lines of structural developments, such as the similarity between inflectional endings of the copula and the nominative pronominal endings (pp. 171, 194); the tendency to preserve number over gender (p. 180); the morphophonological motivation rather than semantic and functional nature of derived stems (p. 185); the extension of the vowel /e/ from final /y/ to strong verbs (xazewa 'they used to see' || patxewa [expected patxi-wa] 'they used to open', p. 197; in the bibliography I missed R. Voigt, in Orientalia Suecana 43-44 [1994-1995]); and the merging of Aramaic forms derived from initial /y/, initial /[??]/, and middle /y/ roots (p. 267).

Thanks to her comparative and diachronic approach, Napiorkowska often gives intriguing and plausible historical reconstructions of forms, whether sounds, morphemes, or borrowed lexemes. In the reflexes of historical BGDKPT consonants, I wonder if /p/ ever spirantized to [f] in many NENA dialects, where it is regularly pronounced as a stop, and it is therefore necessary to assume with Napiorkowska (p. 28) that it shifted back to plosive /p/.

Mandaic and NENA plurals with reduplication of the third radical consonant (e.g., t[??]lpape 'eyelashes' < t[??]lpa) were already described in Brockelmann's Grundriss (1908-1913: 440). They represent an innovative development, attested also in other Afro-Asiatic languages, and should not be confused with the early Aramaic anomalous plural forms of the adjectives rabrebin (rabrebin, with final m on p. 121) 'big' and daqd?qe 'small' (see R. R. Ratcliffe, The "Broken" Plural Problem in Arabic and Comparative Semitic [Amsterdam, 1998], 160-62).

As in most NENA dialects, the possibility of incorporating a pronominal object within the ergative paradigm of the preterit is confined in Diyana to the 3rd person: sud[??]rre 'he sent him', sudrale 'he sent her', sudrele 'he sent them'. According to the author, this would be a conservative feature of Diyana in comparison with other dialects in which incorporated forms are mandatory (e.g., Jewish Challa) or available (Christian Urmi) for pronominal objects of all persons (p. 210). On the contrary, the geographical and historical distributions of NENA preterit forms with pronominal objects demonstrate that the intraconjugational object representation of all persons (priqexle 'he saved us') is an archaic feature and that the competing/complementary paradigm with prefixed qam- / kem- and extraconjugational prepositional objects, introduced by l- and used especially for 1st and 2nd person pronouns (kempareqlan 'he saved us'), is a relatively late development (see F. A. Pennacchietti, in ZDMG 144 [1994], listed in Napiorkowska's bibliography, and my article in ARAM 24 [2012]: 25-40). Both the creation of the qam-paradigm and the limitation of intraconjugational indexing of the object to 3rd person pronouns can be interpreted as structural developments linked to the "loss of ergativity": the qam- forms paradigmatically restore nominative-accusative alignment, while the occurrence of a split ergative feature, such as the intraconjugational object indexing by means of subject pronominal endings, is limited to the person that occupies a lower position in the animacy hierarchy.

The book is well written and reads easily, notwithstanding the technical nature of the contents. Layout and graphics are clear. I was able to detect only a few slip-ups: Payne (2005) instead of Payne (1997) (p. 6), "maker of the pl." for "marker of the pl." (p. 101), and Fassber for Fassberg (p. 199 n. 2). In the verb paradigms I am not sure whether ptixen should be ptixten as fem. sg. resultative participle + 1st person ending of the copula (p. 193) and sudertit should, in fact, be suderti 'you (sg.f.) have sent me' (p. 211).



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Author:Mengozzi, Alessandro
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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