Mandāyì, Raṭnā Spoken in: Iran, Iraq, USA Region: Iranian KhūzestānTotal speakers: 100 speakers of Neo-Mandaic Language family: Afro-Asiatic
Mandaic Language codes ISO 639-1: none ISO 639-2: arc ISO 639-3: either:
mid – Modern Mandaic
myz – Classical Mandaic Note: This page may contain IPAphonetic symbols in Unicode.
The Mandaic language is the liturgical language of the Mandaean religion. Classical Mandaic is used by a section of the Mandaean community in liturgical rites. However, a living, vernacular form developed from Classical Mandaic, known either as Neo-Mandaic or Modern Mandaic, is spoken by a small section of the Mandaean community around Ahvaz, Khūzestān, Iran. Speakers of Classical Mandaic are found in Iran, Iraq (particularly the southern portions of the country) and in diaspora (particularly in the United States). It is a variety of Aramaic, notable for its use of vowel letters (see Mandaic alphabet) and the striking amount of Persian influence in its grammar and lexicon.
Classical Mandaic is a Northwest Semitic language of the Eastern Aramaic sub-family, and is closely related to the language of the Aramaic portions of the Babylonian Talmud, as well as the language of the incantation texts found throughout Mesopotamia. It is also related to Syriac, another member of the Eastern Aramaic sub-family, which is the liturgical language of many Christian denominations throughout the Middle East.
Neo-Mandaic represents the latest stage of the phonological and morphological development of Mandaic, a Northwest Semitic language of the Eastern Aramaic sub-family. Along with the other surviving dialects of Aramaic, it is classified as Neo-Aramaic; these form a constellation of dialects ranging from Lake Van and Lake Urmia in the north to Damascus and Ahvaz in the south, clustered in small groups. Having developed in isolation from one another, most Neo-Aramaic dialects are mutually unintelligible and should therefore be considered separate languages; however, determining the exact relationship between the various Neo-Aramaic dialects is a difficult task, fraught with many problems, which arise from our incomplete knowledge of these dialects and their relation to the Aramaic dialects of antiquity.
Aramaic became the lingua franca of the Fertile Crescent largely through the efforts of the Neo-Assyrians (ca. 934–609 BCE) and the Achaemenids (576–330 BCE) after them, who adopted it as an auxiliary language for both international communication and internal administrative use. It gradually came to supplant the native languages of the region, but due to its wide geographic distribution and political circumstances following the collapse of the empire, it soon evolved into two major sub-families—the Western sub-family, comprising Palestinian Talmudic, Christian Palestinian, and Samaritan, and the Eastern sub-family, comprising Late Babylonian, Syriac, and Mandaic.
Although no direct descendants of Syriac or Babylonian Talmudic Aramaic survive today, most of the Neo-Aramaic dialects spoken today belong to the Eastern sub-family; these include Central Neo-Aramaic (Ṭuroyo and Mlaḥsô), Northeastern Neo-Aramaic (the largest Neo-Aramaic group, which includes various Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialects, and the dialects of the Assyrian and Chaldean Christians), and Neo-Mandaic. The only surviving remnant of the Western sub-family is Western Neo-Aramaic, spoken in the villages of Maʿlūla, Bakhʿa, and Jubb ʿAdīn to the northeast of Damascus. Of all of these dialects, Eastern or Western, only Neo-Mandaic can be described with any certainty as the direct descendent of one of the Aramaic dialects attested in Late Antiquity. For this reason, it is potentially of great value in reconstructing the history of this sub-family and the precise genetic relationship of its members to one another.
In terms of its grammar, Neo-Mandaic is the most conservative among the Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects, preserving the old Semitic "suffix" conjugation (or perfect). The phonology, however, has undergone many innovations, the most notable being the loss of the so-called "guttural" consonants.
Neo-Mandaic survives in three subdialects, which arose in the cities of Shûshtar, Shāh Wāli, and Dezful in northern Khūzestān, Iran. The Mandaean communities in these cities fled persecution during the 1880s and settled in the Iranian cities of Ahvaz and Khorramshahr. While Khorramshahr boasted the largest Mandaic-speaking population until the 1980s, the Iran-Iraq War caused many to flee into diaspora, leaving Ahvaz the only remaining Mandaic-speaking community.
- Häberl, Charles. 2006. The Neo-Mandaic Dialect of Khorramshahr. PhD Dissertation, Harvard University.
- Macuch, Rudolf. 1993. Neumandäische Texte im Dialekt von Ahwaz. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz.
- Macuch, Rudolf. 1989. Neumandäische Chrestomathie. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz.
- Macuch, Rudolf. 1965. Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic. Berlin: De Gruyter.
- Drower, Ethel Stefana and Rudolf Macuch. 1963. A Mandaic Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon.
- Nöldeke, Theodor. 1875. Mandäische Grammatik. Halle: Waisenhaus.
- Nöldeke, Theodor. 1862. “Ueber die Mundart der Mandäer.” Abhandlungen der Historisch-Philologischen Classe der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen 10: 81-160.
- Ethnologue report for Classical Mandaic.
- Ethnologue report for Modern Mandaic.
- Semitisches Tonarchiv: Tondokument "Ginza Einleitung" — a recording of the opening of the Ginza Rba spoken by a Mandaean priest.
- Semitisches Tonarchiv: Tondokument "Ahwâz Macuch 01 A Autobiographie" — a recording of autobiographical material by Sâlem Çoheylî in Neo-Mandaic.
- Mandaic.org Information on the Neo-Mandaic Dialect of Khorramshahr.