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Der neuaramaische Dialekt von Hertevin (Provinz Siirt).

Among today's Semitists who specialize in living Semitic languages, Otto Jastrow has no doubt done most to record and preserve our knowledge of the vanishing dialects of Arabic and Aramaic in the eastern Anatolian and northern Mesopotamian border lands. He has visited the area on numerous occasions and made live recordings in the field, and he has founded a series dedicated exclusively to living Semitic languages, called Semitica Viva. The present work, volume 3 in this series, is a complete monographic description of the eastern Neo-Aramaic dialect of the village Hertevin (Turkish name: Ekinduzu), situated in eastern Turkey near Siirt, south of Lake Van. Jastrow chanced upon it during an expedition in 1970. By now, the Christian speakers of this dialect, who had been the subjects of the local Kurdish chief, have virtually all migrated to other places. It was, therefore, the last opportunity to save this variant of Neo-Aramaic from oblivion.

The monograph is a solid piece of scholarly work based on a corpus of sixty-eight pages of text, recorded from the mouth of a single, but obviously very capable and reliable, informant, and published here with a facing German translation. The first 105 pages contain a thorough grammatical analysis and description, which is matter-of-fact and mercifully free of trendy jargon. The texts are followed by two glossaries, one for verbs and one for the other parts of speech. This reviewer is pleased to say that in method and arrangement this monograph parallels his earlier one on the dialect of Aradhen. This will facilitate future comparisons between them and their use as building blocks for a comparative grammar of Neo-Aramaic.

The small band of scholars who work with Neo-Aramaic are painfully aware that they are working against time and that they are among the few witnesses of a human tragedy that has largely been ignored by politicians and the media. No matter how gratifying the encounters with villagers and informants may be, no matter how satisfying and revealing the scholarly harvest, there is always the knowledge that those people survive not only the hardships of a harsh natural environment, but also persecution, discrimination, and even genocide, inflicted upon them by other members of the human species.

Professor Jastrow has never been reticent in this regard, and he points to it again in the introduction to this book. This reviewer can do no better justice to its author than by omitting a few lines of philological discussion from the limited space allowed, in favor of an attempt to draw the attention of the readers of this journal to the existential plight of human beings in whom we are too easily inclined to see nothing but speakers of a language under study and potential informants. Those who need to be indicted are the ruling classes of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, as well as Western governments, whose policies are often ignorant or criminally condoning. Also to blame are the unenlightened media, whose reporting makes the population of the mountains north of Mosul seem uniformly Kurdish.

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Author:Krotkoff, Georg
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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