Oz Aloni is a visiting assistant professor of Modern Hebrew at Middlebury College. He is also a PhD candidate in Semitic linguistics, under the supervision of Professor Geoffrey Khan at the University of Cambridge. The topic of his doctoral dissertation is the oral culture of the Northeastern Neo-Aramaic speaking Jewish community of Zakho, Kurdistan.


Neo-Aramaic Enriched Biblical Narratives

The North Eastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA) dialects are spoken by Jewish and Assyrian-Christian communities that originate from Kurdistan. Major upheavals of the 20th century brought about the dispersion of the NENA speaking communities. All of the Jews of Kurdistan immigrated collectively to Israel in 1951. NENA presents exceptionally wide dialectal diversity: about 150 dialects are known to exist. The NENA speaking region is exceptionally diverse not only linguistically, but also religiously and ethnically. It is a rich “laboratory” for the research of both language contact and linguistic change, and the mutual influence of social and cultural patterns. This talk will provide background about the Jews of Kurdistan and their culture, and will move on to explore one genre of their oral culture: the enriched biblical epic. It will focus on examples recorded from speakers of the Jewish NENA dialect of Zakho (North Iraq), living now in Jerusalem.

Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs
Robert A. Jones 59 House
148 Hillcrest Road
Middlebury, VT 05753