We are in company of Father Yakup Aydin, priest of the Syriac Orthodox church of Antakya in France, established in Montfermeil near Paris.
Born in the Tur-Abdin region of southeast Turkey, Father Yakup Aydin speaks his mother language everyday, Toroyo, one of the languages descended from ancient Aramaic, which was spoken by Jesus Christ some 2,000 years ago.
He also speaks Syriac, another descendant of ancient Aramaic, nowadays essentially spoken in the liturgical context.
In the following video, Father Aydin gives us the days of the weeks in this language…
Aramaic is a Semitic language that was officially recognized over 2,500 years ago! Aramaic became the administrative language of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the 7th century B.C., followed by the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Empires, thus becoming the common language of the Middle East. Aramaic already included several dialects prior to the Christian era. And one of these was the language Jesus Christ used to preach in.
Nowadays, the remaining of what has become a group of languages are Syriac, the classical and liturgical variation (such as Latin for Romance languages); Sureth, spoken in Iraq (and a few villages of North-East Syria) and in Hakkari (South-East Turkey); Toroyo, in southeastern Turkey, the language of Ma’loula, spoken by Greek Melkite Christians and even some Muslims in villages around Damascus; and Mandaic, severely endangered.
As for the similarities between these different Neo-Aramaic languages, according to linguist Jean Sibille, the gap between Sureth and Toroyo is comparable to that between, for example, Italian and Portuguese. Mandaic slightly diverges from Sureth and Toroyo. Ma’loula, of west Aramaic extraction, is very different (as for example, French and Romanian).
Father Aydin’s language, Toroyo, still gathers around 50,000 speakers living between the Tur-Abdin (“Mountain of the Servants of God”) region of Turkey, the city of Qamishli in Syria, and a diaspora mostly settled in northern Europe. In France, some of them live near Paris, in Montfermeil and its surroundings. The near 500 of them all arrived in the 70s and 80s.
Special thanks to linguist Jean Sibille for the precious data he has provided.
Sorosoro is a program carried by the WOLACO Association (World Languages Conservancy) and supported by the Laboratory of Excellence ASLAN (Advanced Studies on language complexity) from the University of Lyon.