Penn State

Aaron Rubin - Malvin E. and Lea P. Bank Professor of Jewish Studies, Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, and Linguistics, Penn State University Park

Book Title: A Grammar of Neo-Aramaic: The Dialect of the Jews of Arbel

Author: Geoffrey Khan

Book Description:

This book is just one – the shortest one – of four such grammars of a modern Aramaic dialect published by this author. Besides its value to linguists and other scholars, the book is a valuable historical record of a community that no longer exists.

Prof. Khan has been a pioneer in the study of Neo-Aramaic dialects, and his work inspired me to learn more about the many living Semitic languages that are endangered and poorly described. For the last eight years, I have been studying some of the unwritten Semitic languages spoken in southern Arabia. I have published comprehensive descriptions of two such languages, Mehri and Jibbali. My earlier research focused mostly on ancient languages, and so working with living native speakers, collecting new data and texts, and analyzing a grammatical system from scratch was a wonderful new experience.

One of my main interests has always been the comparative study of the Semitic languages, tracing the development of the individual languages from a common ancestor. Each newly described language, whether a Neo-Aramaic dialect, one of the south Arabian languages, one of the poorly known Semitic languages of Ethiopia, or a previously unknown ancient language discovered at an archeological site, adds new data and sheds new light on the language family as a whole, as well as on the speakers.


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