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A Field-Work on the Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Saqqiz, South Kurdistan By: Noam Faust Submitted to: Prof. Charles Kisseberth 3.07.05 Department of Linguistics Tel Aviv University

1. Introduction In this paper I provide generalizations about the New-Aramaic dialect spoken in the city of saqqiz, south Kurdistan and in the surrounding area. The paper is the result of about 20 sessions with a speaker of the language living in Israel. During these sessions, I concentrated on the verbal system. However, generalizations about the syntax and nominal classes of the language have also been attained and are presented as well. The paper is organized in the following manner: first, I present non-linguistic information about my informant and her community, along with some geographic information. I proceed to describe general, basic information on the language (phonemes, syllables etc.). Third, I describe the language's nominal morphology and some other non-verbal information. A more detailed description of the verbal system follows. Finally, I discuss briefly the proper analysis for it and pose some questions for further research.

Many questions arose during my collection of data and while I was arranging it for the present purpose, and I could not follow the lead on each question. As a result, this paper contains many open ends, in matters whose systematicty I could not find for lack of sufficient data. I made it a principle not to seek help in other investigations on the language (which my informant said were not percise). Finally, I would like to thank Ester Aharoni of Jerusalem, who agreed to have me bug her with all kinds of conjugations and repetitive interrogation.

2. General Information 2.1. Ester and her family My informant throughout the work was Ester Aharoni. She was born in Saqqiz, south Kurdistan, in an area that belonged (and still belongs) to Iran. In her early teens, in 1950, she immigrated to Israel with her whole family and most of the town's jewish community. The Neo-Aramaic dialect spoken by that community (henceforth SNA: Saqqiz Neo-Aramaic) is the topic of this field-research paper. Her family settled in Jerusalem. Ester studied in an Israeli junior-high school, and left her studies at the age of 16. She married and became a housewife. Her children grown, she started working for a health center, where she works until today. In the course of her lifetime, she had acquired knowledge of many languages: besides her Neo-Aramaic mother-tounge, she speaks very natural Hebrew, good Persian, and basic English, along with an excellent knowledge of both the Palestinian and Moroccan dialects of Arabic. She married a man of Persian origins but from a different community. As a result, her Israeli-born children, do not speak or understand Neo-Aramaic.

Ester does not speak the language with anybody but her brothers and sisters and the occasional compatriot. Her knowledge of it is thus confined to whatever the topics of her conversations with her family were here and in Kurdistan, and many common words or expressions in Hebrew do not find translations in her native dialect. 2.2. Visits and methodology During approximately 6 months, I visited Ester weekly in her working place (she said she had no time to meet me at home), where she worked as a reception clerk. Visits were 2 to 3 hours long. I posed my question to her inbetween the phone calls she had to answer and the customers she had to attend. Owing to these inconveniences, transcriptions were made on the spot and recording was not possible. Nevertheless, I tried to transcribe in the most accurate way, and whenever I had doubts as to some word, I asked her to repeat it, which she gladly did. Our mutual language being Hebrew, most words were translated into Hebrew by her, and at times she noted the fact that some word is not exactly like its Hebrew translation. Furthermore, I tried to avoid influencing data collection with the Hebrew language structure; I think I succeeded in that at least to a certain extent. I have come to recognize, however, the inevitability of such an influence.

3. General Information: Saqqiz Neo-Aramaic 3.1. Geography Saqqiz is a town in south Kurdistan, which had a large Jewish community. The dialect spoken in that community is also spoken by jews in other geographically close communities. The dotted area in the following map describes the relevant area.

Geographic map of Kurdistan and its environs

Other related dialects are spoken in the surrounding areas, both by jews and by christians. SNA, like any other language, was subject to many influences of the surrounding languages, especially so because it was spoken by closed communities, which came in contact with the surrounding population. Saqqiz was in Islamic Iranian territory, near the border with Iraq; its Neo-Aramaic dialect was thus much influenced by both Arabic and Persian. In addition, like all Jewish dialects spoken by traditional communities, SNA has many Hebrew words that have to do with Jewish tradition and religion. But the influence of Hebrew is mainly at the lexical level, and does not penetrate grammar or phonology. Still, being a Modern Hebrew speaker, the resemblence of SNA to

Hebrew was very apparent to me, and through the research I noted many possible systematic generalizations about this relation.

3.2. Speakers: their attitude towards the language and other dialects. My informant of SNA referred to the language as liSanán 'our language' or hulawlá 'Jewish' (as opposed to Hebrew which was called laSón kódeS 'holy tounge'). She noted that people from other places speak other dialects of the language, which she can understand. Her dialect is charcterized, according to her, "by the ke's that appear everywhere" (later this turned out to be a definitive marker unique to the dialect). She also translated for me some texts I read to her from other dialects (such as that of Iraqi Kurdistan). SNA had no stable writing system, but (usually male) children did learn to write it using the Hebrew "Rashi" orthography. Very few written documents of the language exist.

4. General Linguistic Information 4.1. Phonological inventory The table in (2) shows what I could percieve as phonemes: (2) Phonemic inventory- consonants Stops Fricatives Labial p b Labio-Dental f ? Alveolar t(t ) d s (s?) z PalatoS Alveolar Velar k g x Uvular Pharyngeal q ð À Glottal ? h




nasals m




SNA also has the semi-vowels /y/, /w/. The latter sometimes alternates with [v] and [f], according to sources other than mine. Emphatic {s?,r?,t?} consonants are in parentheses, because I did not hear them but did hear their effects, as will be made clear later on. My informant, however pointed their difference from regular consonants. In my documentation, I did not divide the words according to historical origins. However, the frequency of the gutturals {ð,?,À,h} and the affricates {cà,jà} turned out to be very low, which suggests that they appear only in words of Hebrew/Arabic (gutturals) or Persian/Turkish (affricates) origin. Note that, in contrast, the pharyngeal q is very common. At any rate, for the present purpose these six low frequency consonants are phonemes in the language. Alongside a common 5-vowel system, SNA also has schwas and lax [i]. (3) Phonemic inventory- vowels i, I


e, «

o a

Although I and « seem to be epenthetic vowels, they do not stand in complementary distribution. They can be either stressed or not. At times, I heard variation between the two (examples (v) and (vi)): (4)

e and I: i. ?«srá ii. m«sí-Âi variation:

'ten' iii. tIltasár 'thirteen' 'I listened' iv. mIlíp-li 'I taught' v. n«g« z-li ~ n«gI z-li 'I bit' vi. a. t« rq-li 'I slammed' b. trI q-lox 'you slammed' Minimal pairs also exist with « appearing unmotivatedly. For example, the imperative 'pray!' is s«lu for the sg. forms and slumnun for the pl. forms, whereeas other singularar forms may be monosyllabic.

4.2. Length Vowel length is somewhat predictable in the nominal and adjectival system. Every first open syllable in a disyllabic stem CVCV is lengthened (examples (5a)). Each of the five vowels may be long. This lengthening, however, does not occur in the verbal system (5b): (5)

Vowel length a. i. me:dá ii. si:wa b. i. toré ii. Saté

'fruit (mass)' iii. na:Se 'stick' iv. qa:tu 'he (will) break (acc.)' 'he (will) drink'

'people (mass)' 'cat'

Nevertheless, many nouns of the form in (5b) were transcribed by me with no length distinction (tora 'bull'). This may be a result of my shortcoming in distinguishing length. In addition, I found that length persists when the prosody changes, in cases such as zo:ra 'little (m.)', zo:r-ta 'little (f.)'. This leads me to assume that whereas length may have been predictable at a certain point, it is now distinctive, at least to a degree (maybe there is some template CVVCV ). Some diphthongs were observed, though very rarely. I found three diphthongs: [ay] in words like Àayzáy 'good', gáyti 'maybe', ay 'this'; [aw] in dawrí 'plate'; and [iw] in hiwli 'I gave'. Geminate consonants surface rarely. Some words are pronounced with geminates, such as the city's, saqq«z. However, gemination does not surface in many environments where it could be predicted: (6)

non-surfacing Geminates i. sk« r-li => skeri 'I got drunk' (*sk« rri, * sk« lli) ii. m«síÂ-li => m«síÂi 'I listened' (*m«sílli, *m«síÂÂi)

The stem Skal- 'buy', when added the same suffix -li, was transcribed once with the geminate Skalli and other times with no geminate. This geminate may have been the result of careful pronunciation. Otherwise, no geminates were recorded; this leads to the fact that there are no real underlying geminates. 4.3. Syllable structure Syllables in SNA may appear with no onsest akubrá 'mouse'; consonant clusters abound in onsets. These are mostly sequences of two consonants (gbéna 'he wants'), and more seldom of three (psra 'meat'). An onset sequence of two sonorants displays epenthesis (mInef 'with him', mIlípli 'I taught'); this epenthesis disappears in fast speech. The flap /R/ is not considered a sonorant in this respect (mrocàá). Consonant clusters also disregard guttural effects, present in other related languages (such as Tiberian Hebrew and Classical Arabic): hbéli 'I wanted', ðqéli 'I talked', hr« qli 'I ran' and even the triconsonantal onset càqyán 'I(f.) tear'. In coda position, I detected only a few clusters. One was in the word xwaySt 'she asked.' But this is an odd word, since it doesn't show the feminine morphology la, which appeared in all other verbs. Two other coda clusters appeared in the complex verb zangdíli 'I rang' (literally 'I made zang'), and in a variating form terqli~treqli 'I slammed shut' (but syllabification in this case is not clear. In addition, all other forms of the verb did not display the coda cluster). In Addition, no words with a diphtong had a final coda consonants, i.e. a stucture *CVy/wC. In short, it is only very seldom that a coda cluster surfaces. Two words, in fast speech, had what sounded to me as syllabic consonants: xámn`dix 'something' and km`réxwa 'we were saying.'

4. 5. Nominal Morphology

5.1. General In my interviews, I concentrated on verbs and their morphology. However, when conjugating was too tiresome, we looked at other phenomena. In this section I present my findings. These are more insights than in-depth explorations. 5.2. Nouns Most of the nouns I encountered were disyllabic, vowel-final and bear final stress. The noun form CV:CV is by far the most pervasive in SNA (xi:wá 'snake', xa:lá 'food', me:dá 'fruit', xa:Só 'week', ya:lá 'boy'). Other nouns may have initial clusters (pyalá 'glass', broná 'kid'); medial clusters (?arbá 'goat', xalwá 'milk'); or final codas (qapál 'a bite', càuwáb 'answer'). Some rare nouns are monosyllabic (psrá 'meat', pmé 'mouth', and the loanword mez 'table'). Nouns that deviate from the disyllabic, iambic pattern are probably loanwords; still, they exist. Nouns like xalxaloká 'beetle' and karaSél 'cock' have more than two syllables; ?ák«s 'picture' is trochaic. Nevertheless, these nouns are much less frequent than the disyllabic, iambic ones. 5.2.1. Gender distinctions SNA has a two-way gender distinction in sungular nouns. Other than the suffix -tá, which yields some feminine nouns (to:rá 'bull', tortá 'cow), this distinction is not apparent morphologically. In other words, any noun can be either masculine or feminine, and there's no morphological clue. For example, ta:rá 'door' is masculine, but be:tá 'egg' is feminine; susí 'horse' is masculine, but qa:lí 'rug' is feminine. Sometimes a feminine suffix -a is recognizable. Words like qatwa 'female cat' are saliently feminine only because of the existence of qa:tu 'male cat'. Otherwise, nouns are to be distinguished only through adjectives, where the masculine-feminine distinction is systematic and clean-cut.

5.2.2. Plural formation The same plural suffix, -e, is added on to both masculine and feminine bare noun stems, i.e. without the final vowel or feminine suffix. (7) illustrates: (7)

The plural suffix Masculine sg. kalb 'dog' tará 'door' lexmá 'bread' pandZará 'window'

pl. kalbé taré lexmé pandZaré

Feminine sg. tortá 'cow' akleltá 'hen' betá 'egg' sIsergá 'lizard'

pl. toré aklé beé sIsergé

Words ending with high vowels do not lose them in the plural form: qa:lí-e =>qalye 'rugs'. I assume that the same happens with words that end with the vowel u, although I haven't seen an example. Interestingly, this state-of-affairs leads to ambiguities: the word toré can be either 'bulls' (/to:r-a-e/) or cows (/tor-ta-e/). Of course, this happens only when the feminine form is derived from a masculine form that doesn't end with a high vowel. 5.3. Adjectives I did not get into forms of adjectives in SNA. Following is what I can say from the little I have seen (with some help from another research for affirmation only): First, adjectives always follow the noun. Second, the size restrictions on nouns hold for adjectives similarly. Third, unlike Arabic and Hebrew, there is no definitive agreement btween the adjective and the noun - there never is a definiteness marker on the adjective. Fourth, feminine adjectives, like the predictable feminine noun group, are achieved through affixation of -ta to masculine nouns. The plural adjective is achieved through suffixation of -e to the bare masculine stem. (8) exemplifies: (8)

Masculine, feminine and plural adjectives noun noun+adjective tará 'door (m.)' qa:lí 'rug (f.)'

tará Àiká 'narrow door' qa:lí Àiktá 'narrow rug'

plural noun+plural adjective taré Àiké qalye Àiké

(Note that the plural adjective is not marked for gender) Sometimes the feminine adjectival suffix is not -ta, but rather -lta or -la. 5.4. Pronouns and Prepositions The set of pronouns in SNA is more limited than the verbal inflection system, as it does not mark gender. Stress is not uniform: (9)

Prounouns sg. pl.

1pr. aná axní

2pr. at atún

3pr. o óni

Direct objects and pronominal prepsitions inflect through the same system of suffixes, which is marked for person, number and gender. Some prepsositions are xe:ta 'of', men- 'with', lag- 'at', ba:q- 'to (person)', ga 'in' etc. Direct object pronouns have an overt marker ?il-. The following table shows all possible suffixes for men- 'with'. Note that stress never falls on the suffix. (10)

Inflection of prepsitions 1pr. sg. m. mén-i f. mén-an pl.

2pr. mÍn-ox mÍn-ax mÍn-axun

3pr. mÍn-ef mÍn-af mÍn-u

5.4. Possessive A Possessive phrase is formed by the bare noun stem plus one of the suffixes from the suffix system in (10). Like some plural cases, possessive phrases display an interesting ambiguity: a simplex noun (i.e. one without an explicit feminine suffix) looks the same in both the singular and plural forms (i.-iii.); coplex nouns are not ambiguous (iv. and v.): (11)

Possessive phrases sg. i. akubrá 'mouse'

pl. akubr-é 'his X' akubr-éf 'his Xs' akubr-éf

ii. susí 'horse' iii. wiStér 'elephant' iv. nuni-ltá 'fish' v. tor-tá 'cow'

susy-é wiStr-é

susy-éf wiStr-éf

susy-éf wiStr-éf

nuny-é to:r-é

nuni-lt-éf tor-t-éf

nuny-éf tor-éf

5.5. Definiteness According to my informant, her dialect in especially charcterised by speakers of other dialects "because we always say 'ke'." In fact, the suffix is -ake and it is the simply the definite marker. This is not clear from forms like bronaké 'the boy' kalbaké 'the dog' etc. because the stems themselves end with the vowel a. However the stems dáe 'mother' and aklé 'hens' are daake and aklaké when the definite suffix is added; consonant-final stems like karaSel 'cock' are added a definite suffix -ake (karaSelaké). Sometimes rendering a noun definite involved only adding o in front of it (o

Sex 'the sheik', o broná 'the boy); this form was used also as the demonstrative 'this' or 'that'. But then also '?ildo' served as the 'this' demonstrative. I got confused and went on; an independent source states the ever-stress-bearing -aké to be the definite marker.

5.6. "too" Along with V-initial suffixes like definite -ake and C-initial feminine suffix -ta, there is also a C-suffix -S 'too': xala 'food', xalaS 'also food' ; xalaké 'the food', xalakéS 'also the food'; qa:túS 'also a cat' etc. Oddly enough, the informant judged -S addition to C-final stems to impossible, neither with nor without epenthesis (*karaSelS, *karaSeliS). I did not go deeper into this topic.

6. The Verbal System Most of my explorations in SNA were dedicated to finding systematicity in the verbal system. I simply asked my informant "how do you say X in your language?" and asked her to conjugate the verb according to gender, person and number, in what I found to be the imperative, the perfective and the imperfective tenses. 6.1. General description A verb-stem in SNA is usually triconsonantal. It is inflected in two main tenses, the perfective and the imperfective, and also has an imperative form. Marking is for person, gender, and number, except in the perfective 1sg., where theres is no gender marking. Each of these three tenses has its own suffix system. The imperative and perfective tenses have a Vocalic Pattern (i.e. a stem-internal vowel that is a tense marker; henceforth VP). The vowel of the perfective stem may be any vowel, whereas the imperfective has the vowel a in the VP. The imperative has the vowel u (these generalizations hold for "sound", i.e. regular, verbs; others may differ). The only unsuffixed forms are the imperfective 3sg.m and the imperative 2sg.m. These are also the only predictable forms, since they have a set VP. Some examples follow:


Regular Verbs- 3sg.m. Imperfective (3sg.m) Perfective (3sg.m) Saqél Sq« l-le nagéz n«g« z-le dabéð dIb« ð-le taméÀa tmáÀ-le 'taste' ðaqé ðqé-le paléx plíx-le

Impertaive Sqúl n«gúz dbúð


ðqú plúx

'talk' 'open'

'buy' 'bite' 'slaughter' tmúÀ

It is important to note that these stem vowels do not alter through inflection, which is done simply by attaching different suffixes to the stem. Some of the vowels are deleted owing to size restrictions. Another generalization can be made about the prosody of the two main tenses: the perfective prosody is usually CCVC-, whereas the imperfective prosody is CaC(e)C. The SNA verb system has no real binyanim, like those in Hebrew and Arabic: no special verb group seems to be distinguishable from another through a specific vocalic pattern (like in Hebrew) or different prosody (like in both Hebrew and Arabic). What SNA does have is an accusative-unaccusative distinction, and a causative prefix m-. I did not explore the morphological process through which a verb can become unaccusative for lack of time, and have only two examples: torá 'break (acc.)' is twira 'break (unacc.)', and càaqe 'tear (acc.) is càqe 'tear (unacc.)' (both are in the imperfective 3sg.m). Prefixation of m- to a stem yields a causative verb. -m can be attached to stems in both main tenses. (13) exemplifies:


causativisation: Imperfective accusative yalép 'study' naxér 'to fall (like a leaf)'

causative m-alép 'teach' m-anxér 'to cause to fall like a leaf'

Perfective accusative ilíp-le n«xér-e

causative m-Ilíp-li m«nxér-e

But not all causative verbs have the m- prefix; the verb for 'to roll (caus.)', for example, is galgél. In fact, I have very few exmples of m- prefixation, which renders my generalization here only tentative. Much more fieldwork is needed to fully understand the verb system and correctly characterize stem morphology. In the following subsections, I provide further generalizations I arrived at on the basis of the data I collected. 6.2. Tenses The forms of all tenses are presented in (14), for the regular verb paléx 'to open'. (14)

Full form inventory Perf.



pl. sg.


pl. sg. pl.

m. f. m. f.

1pr. plíx-li plíx-lan paléx-na palx-án palx-éx

2pr. plíx-lox plíx-lax plíx-laxun palx-ét palx-át palx-étun plúx plúx-un

3pr. plíx-le plíx-la plíx-li paléx palx-á palx-í

Two more tenses are achieved through the suffix -wa; a past perfect tense is achieved through suffixation to the perfect paradigm, wherein -wa is inserted between the stem and the suffix plix-wa-lox, plíx-wa-laxun etc. An habitual past is achieved when -wa is suffixed to the imperfect palxét-wa, palxétun-wa etc. A slightly different suffix system surfaces in the imperfective in one defective paradigm, which arguably has a final consonant y. (15) exemplifies for the verb damé 'think': (15)

y-final verbs - suffixes 1pr. Imperf. pl. dam-éx-in (*daméx) Imperat. sg. pl.

2pr. dam-étun dmú dmú-mun (*dmun)

3pr. damé-n(i) (*damí)

This fact is mentioned because there is no apparent motivation for these deviations, as opposed to other effects of these defective verbs.

6.3. Defective Stems Like in Other semitic languages, there is a distinction in SNA between sound and defective verbs. The former contain consonants which have no effect on the prosody of the verb stem or its VP; the latter deviate from these as a result of some problematic consonant. This does not mean that sound verbs are more present in the system than defective ones. In fact, my querries brought up significantly more defective verbs than they did whole ones; the verbs presented in (12) above were almost the only non-defective, sound verb stems, and constitute about a fourth of the verbs collected. 6.3.1 Stems with a high front glide One such defective paradigm, namely the y-final one, was already partially presented in (15) above. This paradigm has many members, as far as I can judge. The table in (16) shows the the various forms of this paradigm for the verb damé 'think'. The imperfective tense paradigm proves these to be y-final (compare the feminine forms to those in (14)):


Full defective paradigm - y-final 1pr. Perf. sg. m. dmí-li f. pl. dmí-lan Imperf. sg. m. damé-na f. damy-án

2pr. dmí-lox dmí-lax dmí-laxun dam-ét damy-át

3pr. dmí-le dmí-la dmí-li damé palx-á

Imperf. Imperat.

pl. sg. pl.


dam-étun dmú dmú-mun


Besides the emergant y in the imperfective feminine, the i in the perfective stem may also be considered a manifestation of an underlying high front vowel. However, like sound stems, the perfective vowel varies in the y-final paradigm as well. Other verbs which have a surface y in the feminine imperfective have another vowel, not i, in the perfective stem. Such perfective stems are bxe- 'cry' and sÂe- 'pray' which have an e there; but also càqya-, 'tear' with a vowel a and a glide y that always surfaces in the perfective, but surfaces only in the feminine imperfective, like the verb in (16). What of verbs with initial y? The tendency towards onset clusters in the perfective is predicted to yield a stem prosody yCVC-. This is quite the way it is, only the glide becomes a vowel and the stem is vowel initial. One such stem is the imperfective ilip- 'to learn (perf.)'; in its perfective form, where the vowel a is inserted, the stem is yalep. Note that, as demonstrated earlier for other purposes, this glide disappears entirely when causative m- is attached, yielding malép. This verb is reminiscent of the Hebrew verb ?iléf 'train' and the first letter of the Hebrew alphabeth, ?álef. Monosyllabic stems emerge when the second consonant of the stem is the high front vowel. But this is not so easy to prove, since this consonant never surfaces as a glide; moreover, this stem seems to take the imperfective suffix system in both tenses, leaning on the different stem vowels for the tense distinction. This is presented for the stem qem 'wake, rise' (I found one other stem with the same behaviour, mel 'die'): (17)

Full defective paradigm - y-medial 1pr. Perf. sg. m. qím-an f. -

2pr. qím-et qím-at

3pr. qím qím-a



pl. sg.

m. f.

pl. sg. pl.

qím-ex qém-na qé:m-an qé:m-ex

qím-etun qém-et qém-at qém-at qu qumun

qím-i qém qém-a qém-i

The only thing to hint that the perfective i is not only the vowel of the stem, but also a "root" consonants, is that the imperfective stem does not have a vowel a, presumably to preserve a feature [-LOW]. This i~e is the equivalent of the regular perfectiveimperfective V~a distinction. The lengthened vowels probably follow from size restrictions. Other irregularities are stress (always on the stem, even in the vowel initial suffix cases, where other stems have it on the suffix) and deletion of the final consonant m in the imperative (for which I see no real motivation, except maybe some interaction with the plural imperative suffix -mun).

6.3.2. Stems with a high back, rounded glide Back glides cause other oddities in the verbal system. I chanced upon two stems with the round vowels {o,u}, which were reminiscent of Hebrew verbs with [v] as their second consonant. One of these was loS 'wear', whose perfective stem was luS-; the Hebrew past verb is lavaS 'wear' . The other was torá 'break', with perfective stem tura-, parallel to Hebrew Savar 'break.' Their paradigms are presented in (17):


Stems with a medial rounded vowel 1pr. Perf. sg. m. lúS-li turá-li f. pl. Imperf.



lúS-lan turá-lan lóS-na

2pr. lúS-lox turá-lox lúS-lax turá-lax lúS-laxun turá-laxun loS-ét

3pr. lúS-le turá-le lúS-la turá-la lúS-lu turá-lu loS

f. pl.

tór-naf loS-án tor-áf loS-éx tor-éxina

tor-éta loS-át tor-áte loS-étun tor-étuna

torá loS-á torá-la loS-í tur-íla

These two are clearly a minimal pair. They are similar in that both contain u in the perfective and o in the imperfective. This is the rounded equivalent of the regular stems' perfective i~e and imperfective a (eg. plix-le, paléx 'open'). These two stems differ, however, in size: the stem loS 'wear' is always monosyllabic, whereas the stem torá 'break' is always disyllabic, with a vowel a always surfacing somehow. There are other monosyllabic verbs, but I found no other verb which also has an ever-emergent final vowel of any quality, and this remains unclear to me. When the requirement for this surfacing of a causes hiatus, an epenthetic l surfaces. This uncommon lepenthesis may have a historical explanation, since some historic unmarked consonant t's became l's (see section (9) on comparison with Hebrew). Moreover, torá seems to have a different set of suffixes in the 1pr. I asked my informant about it and she translated the word tornáf as 'break+accusative' (in our mutual language of Hebrew there is an overt accusative marker). These different suffixes surfaced in other verbs as well. I concluded that there might be some group of transitive verbs which appear with a special set of prefixes. Note that it is not true for all transitive verbs, as loS 'wear' proves. Do these round vowels ever surface differently? Yes. when causative mattaches to luS- 'wear', we get malbiS-. For lack of further evidence, I find it hard to believe that there is some productive u~b alternation in SNA, and conclude that these forms are lexicalized separately. More probable is what happens in the unaccusative form of 'break', which surfaces as twíre. Still, much more data is needed to judge in this matter.

Another slightly defective group emerges when the final segment is a glide/ vowel u. The two verbs I found from this paradigm are also reminiscent of Hebrew verbs with the final consonant [v]: ganú 'steal' (Hebrew ganáv 'steal') and kalú 'write' (hebrew katav 'write'). The inflection of these verbs is more straightforward, with the u forming a glide in onset position and no effect on the VP. The paradigm of kalú is presented in (18): (18)

Stems with a final rounded vowel 1pr. Perf. sg. m. klú-li f. pl. klú-lan Imperf. sg. m. kalú-na f. kalw-án pl. kalw-éx

2pr. klú-lox klú-lax klú-laxun kalw-ét kalw-at kalw-étun

3pr. klú-le klú-la klú-lu kalú kalw-á kalw-í

6.2.3. Other oddities Some other deviations from the patterns presented above were recorded. These differed in size and in the number of consonants in the stem. I present here a few of these stems, the derivation and inflection of which is not clear to me. One such stem is xé 'live'. For this verb, the perfective stem is xe.é- (contrasted with xe:). Suffixation is regular and doesn't change the stem. Stress is always on the second e. The imperfective stem is xe (no a in the imperfective). here suffixation is also totally regular (xe-á, xe-í, xe-et, xe-at, xe-án etc.). The imperative form has y, for some reason: xyu!, xyu-mun! 'live!'. In short, xe is regular in all aspects, except the fact that it has but one distinctive consnant, and its imperfective stems have no a. Another deviant stem with unclear motivation is dal 'hit, punch'. This verb has a monosyllabic stem dil- in the perfective stem, which attaches regularly to all the suffixes (with no gemination). But the imperfective paradigm was not uniform: it

sometimes has the vowel e, like qim- above, but other times the vowel a surfaces, so the stem is either de- or da-: (19)

non-uniform stem- imperfective dal 'hit' 1pr. Imperf. sg. m. dán-na f. dé-án pl. dé-éx

2pr. de-ét de-át de-étun

3pr. dal de-á da-í

Some irregular stems have consonants that surface only in one of the tenses. Two stems had a k at the left edge of the imperfective stem that didn't appear in the perfective. One of these was the (probably y-medial) verb 'to give', whose perfective stem was always hiw- and whose perfective stem was kwe-. This could be considered some stop-fricative alternation, if not for the verb 'to say', which has a perfective stem mir- and an imperfective kmir. There might still be salvation for a glottal-fricative analysis in the historical fact that this stem had a initial glottal stop (the Hebrew verb is ?amar 'say'). Finally, another such irregularity is presented in pil 'fall'. This verb is monosyllabic in the perfective, but disyllabic in the imperfective, with an initial l that's not there in the perfective. Moreover, like qim above, both tenses attach to the same suffix set:


Full defective paradigm - pil 'to fall' 1pr. Perf. sg. m. píl-an f. pl. píl-ex Imperf. sg. m. lap« n-na f. lapl-án pl. lapl-éx Imperat. sg. pl.

2pr. píl-et píl-at píl-etun lapl-ét lapl-át lapl-étun pul púl-mun

3pr. píl píl-a píl-i lap« l lapl-á lapl-í

If so, this verb belongs to the y-medial paradigm in its perfective form, and to the regular paradigm in its imperfective form. 6.3. Stress in the verbal system As to stress, the verbal system of SNA is pretty much organized. Stress is assigned to the first vowel of vowel-initial suffixes, and assignment disregards consonant-initial suffixes. This can be explained if we asume that vowel-initial suffixes are stem internal (since they have a stem onset), and some constraint for final stress interacts with a constraint for no stress outside the stem. The only exception to this generalization is found in monosyllabic stems, some of which - though not all, as demonstrated above - keep the stress even in vowel-initial suffixes. This might be caused by some sort of tendency for paradigm differentiation, but more data is needed to explain them. 6.4. A note about Composite verbs Some verbs appeared to be composed of a noun and a basic verb such as mir 'say', dil 'hit' or wil 'make'. These seem to form one prosodic word together with the preceding noun, with stress falling on the noun. Examples (in the perfective 3sg.m.) are zángdile 'ring (lit. zang he hit)', qapáldile 'bite (food) (lit.bite he hit)', dugléwile 'lie (lit. make a lie), harharáwile 'make noise (lit. noise he made)', and gornyémire 'sing (lit. song he said). 7. Some phonology During my sessions with the informant, I detected many morphological and phonological phenomena. Some of the phonological phenomena were already presented. Here I mention only two segmental phenomena, emphaticization and assimilation.

7.1. Assimilation The l of consonant initial suffixes assimilate with other coronal sonorants, when these are the last stem segments. In the case of r this assimilation never yields a geminate: /mír-li/ => míri 'I said', /manhér-li/ => manhéri 'I lit (trans.)'. As mentioned earlier, when the last consonant of the stem is l, suffixation of linitial suffixes may yiled a geminate, but not always. I had no stems with a final n to verify the prediction of assimilation. The suffix -na (1sg,m. Imperfective) sometimes surfaced as a geminate in interaction with a stem final l: lapel-na => lap« n-na 'fall', dal-na =>dán-na 'hit', but also gilgíl-na =>gilgílna 'roll' and pílna 'fall'. The sonorant r did not assimilate with the suffix -na: mír-na 'say', for example. 7.2. Emphaticization Emphatic consonants in general were very hard for me to hear. I ended up with a phoneme-like distribution of what I heard was a dark Â. A book about the dialect revealed a different state-of-affairs: the  was described an allophone of l that surfaces next to the emphatic t? and s?. I went back to my data and saw that indeed every such  was preceded by either a t or an s. When I asked my informant if these were regular t's and s's, she said that they were "deeper" then regular consonants. In Addition, using the same method, I found another emphatic consonant r? that also caused Â, for example in the word r?oÂa 'soul.' It is probable that I have not heard the emphatic consonants; but the grammar book also stated that some speakers of SNA in Israel do not pronounce them (probably because of the influence of Hebrew). My informant clearly pronounced the

Â's, at any rate. Still, I could also note the phenomenon of emphaticization, whereby

when one consonant in the stem was Â, the l of the suffix was also Â: in the stem saÂé 'pray', for example, the perfective 3sg.m. was sÂé-Âe. 8. A note about Syntax I did not look deep into the syntactic structure of SNA. What I did note follows. SNA is an SOV language; the direct object always precedes the verb (examples a-d). Indirect objects, however, follow the verb (examples d-e): (21)

Some sentences a. me:dá xíli 'I ate fruit' b. qatwake xalwá Stéla 'the cat drank milk' fruit I-ate the-cat(f.) milk drank c. tré na:Sé zíli lága rav, hítwalu xáx«bra baqrí mnef. three people went at rabbi they-had something ask(pl.imp.) of him 'three people went to the rabii, they had something to ask him' d. me:dá Saqéna kéli ga-tka:ná fruit buy(1sg.m.imp.) can (1sg.m.perf.) in store 'I can buy fruit at the store' e. da:kí payáxira ga-dáy yomá my mother born (3sg.f.per) in-this day 'my mother was born today'

Embedded clauses have the same structure (22a and b), and so do questions (22c): (22)

Embedded clauses and questions a. xzéli qa:tú xalwa Satya 'I saw a cat drinking milk' I saw a cat milk drink(3sg.m.imperf.) b. ana gbéna o o me:da Saqél 'I want him to buy fruit' I want(1sg.m.) that he fruit buy(3sg.m.imperf.) c. galéka kéli me:da Saqena? 'where can I buy fruit?" where can(1sg.perf.) fruit buy(1sg.m.imperf.)

Finally, negation la always precedes the verb: me:da la taðét 'you won't find fruit (lit. fruit not find(2sg.m.imperf.)).'

9. Comparing to Hebrew It was really amazing to find how much SNA resembles Hebrew. In the verbal system, a vast majority of the verbs I encountered bore resemblence to some verb in Hebrew, although the languages parted nearly two thousand years ago. A few generalizations came to me about the differences betweent the languages:

1) Biblical Hebrew (BH) had a stop-fricative alternation, whereby {b,g,d,k,p,t} had the respective allophones {v,F,D,x,f,T}. Where BH had a consonant b, SNA also has it (BH baxa, SNA bxe 'cry'); where this b was spirantized SNA has a rounded glide (BH ganav SNA ganu 'steal'). Where BH had T, SNA has l (BH kaTav SNA kalu 'write'). This is also true of all the l-initial suffixes in SNA; BH had a very similar suffix system, with t~T instead of l. 2) Some BH ð's disappear in SNA (BH iðlíq SNA iléq-le 'light (caus.)'); because of this deletion, SNA treats these stems as y-initial (SNA yaléq BH dolék 'light (unacc.)'). Other BH d's persisted change (BH dimí-ti SNA dmí-li 'think'). Other similarities were detected, but were less systematic and too little information was recorded.

7. A problem - Root or stem? In the last 20 years or so, there has been an academic discussion around the question of how to analyze semitic systems. Linguists were parted between a multitiered root-and-template approach (McCarthy 79, 81), which claimed that stems have a root that may be extracted and placed in a template with prosody and vocalic pattern; and a surface stem approach (Bat-El 94), which said that there is a stem whose vowels are changed through a process of Stem Modification (Steriade 88), and prosody differences follow from affix-stem interaction. What does SNA have to offer to this discussion? First, it is clear that SNA, like all Neo-Aramaic dialects, has a verbal system which is very poor in templates when compare to the Arabic and Hebrew binyan system. One of the arguments in favour of the root-and-template approach was that a root may appear in more than one template, with a different VP, and have different semantics in terms of

subcategorization parameters. In SNA, the only systematic process that fits this description is causativisation, which does not include any stem modification, only prefixation of m-; thus, no extraction is needed to account for it. A stable VP exists in SNA only in the imperfective stem, where most stems have a VP {a,(e)}, and those that do not have the vowel a have a lowered vowel relative to the perfective stem's vowel. The latter, however may be any vowel of the seven vowels in the system except a. Moreover, excluding size phenomena, the vowels of the respective tenses do not change through inflection. Because of the great variety of perfective stem, it is hard to say that there is one unique perfective VP; because the stem does not change through inflection it is simpler, in my opinion, to assume a surface approach. Under this approach a perfective stem is lexical, and the imperfective stem is derived from it through the abovementioned process of stem modification. For example, a perfective stem plix'open' is lexical, and insertion of a VP {a,e} yields palex, the imperfective stem. On the othe hand, if there are no templates, why is the prosody of the perfective stem so very stably CCVC-? This is, in my opinion, a template of sorts. Still, there are many deviations from it, as shown above, and the mere existence of a template is not enough to clame that there is a root, let alone a process of rootextraction. What may support the root and template approach is the fact that stems with underlying glides surface with these as either vowels or glides, according to prosody. But here we find confusing evidence. Consider the perfective stem luS- 'wear'; if there is some extraction of a root {l,w,S}, why isn't the imperfective stem *lawe but rather loS? If there were no access to a base, there would be no reason for the ungrammaticality of lawĂŠ. On the other hand, what of stems like perfective bxe- 'cry' ,

whose feminine imperfective stem is always baxy- (similar to (16) above)? If there were only some Melodic Overwriting of an existing base, much manoevers would have to be made on that stem in order to make this move. This would have been ignorable if the paradigm had been marginal in the language, like in Hebrew, but it is actually quite central: about 20 percent of the stems I collected. To conclude, SNA may provide evidence for either side of the discussion. Further data is needed in order to decide in favor of one side or the other, at least for SNA.

8. Points for further research The main interest that may be aroused by SNA is morphological. An account for all the different deviations from the regular pattern necessitates much more data than what I collected. Other interesting questions: 1) What determines the nature of the epenthetic vowel, which may either be I or ÂŤ? 2) Why are some verbs inflected in both tenses with the same suffix set? What determines the suffix set that a verb takes? Is there a form for these verbs with the suffix system they didn't take (although my informant said "no")? Why? 3) Not all verbs that could have an unaccusative form have one. How many such forms exist? Is it a closed group? What determines a verb will have an ergative paradigm? 4) What determines if a verb must surface with an accusative suffix? 5) Are there really just emphatic Ă‚'s and no other emphatic consonants? 6) Are long vowels really phonemic? 7) What are the demonstratives in the language, and what is the definite marker? Of course, many other questions may be asked. Maybe I will return to this project in the future.

9. Conclusion In this paper, I have presented some generalization on the Neo-Aramaic dialect of the Jews of south Kurdistan, specifically that of the city of Saqqiz and its environs. The data that lead to theses generalizations were the fruit of many seessions with a native speaker of this language. I provided a short account of nominal morphology, including adjectives and some other items, and proceeded to describe, however partially, the Saqqiz NeoAramaic verbal system. In the verbal system, a general systematicity in terms of size, shape and inflection was presented, alongside many deviations from regular patterns. I did not go into analysis of the different phenomena, but rather just mentioned possible analyses when I saw fit. This I did for lack of both space and data. To end on a more personal note, during my work with the informant I understood the difficult task that field work in linguistics is. A great many loose ends were not tied, and many generalizations were lost for want of sufficient evidence. A few phonetic distinctions were (probably) unheard by me, which rendered the data more complicated - or even enigmatic - than it is. In field work, I understood, the interaction with the informant should be more elaborate than "how do you say this in your language?"

References -Bat-El, O.: 1994 'Stem Modification and Cluster Transfer in Modern Hebrew' NLLT 12 pp. 571-596

-Bat-El, O.: 2002 'Semitic Verb Structure with a Universal Perspective' in Shimron, J. (ed.) Language and Acquisition in Languages of Semitic, Root-Based Morphology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 29-59 -McCarthy, John. 1979. Formal Problems in Semitic Phonology and Morphology. PhD. dissertation. MIT. -McCarthy, John. 1981. A prosodic theory of non-concatenative morphology. Linguistic Inquiry 12: 373-418. -Steriade, D. (1988) 'Reduplication and Syllable Transfer in Sanskrit and Elswhere', Phonology 5 v.1 73-155 -Khan. G.: (2004) The Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Sulemaniyya and Halabja Leiden, Brill. -Yisraeli, Y.: (1998) The Jewish Neo-Aramaic language of Saqqiz (South Kurdistan) PhD. dissertation. Hebrew University.


neo-aramaic dialect


neo-aramaic dialect