Documentation of the Beth Qustan Dialect of the Central Neo-Aramaic language, Turoyo

Documentation of the Beth Qustan Dialect of the Central Neo-Aramaic language, Turoyo

Language: Turoyo (ISO639-3:tru)
Depositor: Mikael Oez
Location: Turkey
Deposit Id: 0433
ELDP Id: IPF0244
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit
The Beth Qustan dialect of the Central Neo-Aramaic, Turoyo, which is the language of Tur 'Abdin, South Eastern Turkey, with an estimated 20 families remaining in the village. This project will document socio-cultural practices of the Turoyo speaking community in Tur 'Abdin, focusing on vernacular tales, particularly those that demonstrate cultural interaction between Muslims and Christians, including Muslim visitations to the shrines of Christian saints, and consultation of soothsayers by Christians.

Group represented

This deposit focuses on speakers of North-Western Neo-Aramaic dialect of the Beth Qustan village of Tur 'Abdin in South Eastern Turkey, who have immigrated and settled in diaspora. These are among the last remaining inheritors of the Aramaic language, which was the lingua franca from ca 600 BC until 200 BC. It was the official language of the Achaemenian Persian dynasty, 559-330 BC. The Aramaic language was replaced by Greek following the conquests of Alexander the Great, who reigned 336–323 BC, and it became the official language throughout the former Persian empire. Nevertheless, the Aramaic language continued to be widely used until it was replaced by Arabic ca 650 AD.

Over the last few decades most of the speakers of these dialects have been forced, for many reasons, to abandon their original homelands and have settled down in diaspora. The younger generations of these communities are increasingly losing competence in these dialects due to their newly adopted homeland, culture and language. Consequently, all Aramaic dialects are now in danger of extinction.

Language information

The Modern Aramaic language of the mountainous region of Tur 'Abdin (literally in Syriac, ‘the mountain of worshippers’), South Eastern Turkey, is known to its native-speakers as Surayt or Turoyo, that is, ‘the language of the Tur 'Abdin’. It belongs to the Central Neo-Aramaic (CNA) language group. This group of languages is sometimes also referred to as North Western Neo-Aramaic (NWNA).

The Turoyo dialect of Central Neo-Aramaic has been spoken by Christians living in Tur 'Abdin and the surrounding areas. Spoken or vernacular dialects are, by definition, not written down (until modern times). It is only recently that scholars have started to look for evidence of its earlier use. Therefore, it is rather difficult to ascertain precisely how far back Turoyo was being spoken as a distinct language. Turoyo is related to the North Eastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA) dialects spoken by other ancient Christian and Jewish communities of Eastern Turkey, Northern Iraq, and North Western Iran. Speakers of Central Neo-Aramaic cannot easily understand speakers of North Eastern Neo-Aramaic.

Other languages sporadically included in the material are Syriac, German, Kurdish, Turkish and Arabic.

Special characteristics

There is currently a fierce debate in some parts of the diaspora over the question of which script should be used to write Turoyo - the traditional Syriac alphabet of 22 consonants and 5 vowels, written from right to left, or a modification of the European 'Latin' alphabet, written from left to right.

In my opinion, there is no need for resentment, hostility, and confrontation. The glory of Classical Syriac will never diminish. It is the language of the Scriptures and of the liturgy of the Syriac churches; it is the literary language of the Syriac intelligentsia and has been chosen and used by the greatest writers, poets, and thinkers among the Aramaic-speaking people. The status of the Syriac script is guaranteed by its continued use in the liturgy. The language will not be threatened by the adoption of the Latin script for Turoyo. The Latin alphabet is more familiar than any other alphabet for members of the Syriac communities, both in Tur 'Abdin and in the diaspora. Therefore, the use of the Latin alphabet would greatly help their learning of the language, and will also encourage them to use Turoyo in written communication: letters, emails, SMS texts and social media.

A modified Latin alphabet has been used to transcribe the recordings of this documentation. The specific alphabet used was designed for Oez Mikael, Modern Aramaic in Practice: Turoyo: The Language of Tur ‘Abdin, Modern Aramaic Press 2014. Click here to view the Alphabet and its Pronunciation consulted for the transcriptions of this project.

Deposit contents
Each bundle contains a video and an audio recording with picture(s), ELAN files, and PDF consent document(s). All video recordings of the Beth Qustan deposit have been segmented. Forthcoming: Transcribed... Translated... Annotated...

Deposit history
The data for this deposit was collected during the postdoctoral research of Mikael Oez, the principal investigator. The data was collected in August and September 2016, when Mikael Oez went on fieldwork in Gütersloh and Kirchardt in Germany.

Other information
None of the data in this collection may be used as evidence in court.


Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge Mikael Oez as the principal investigator, the data collector and the researcher. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) as the funder of the project. Individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by respective name(s). Any other contributor who has collected, transcribed or translated the data or was involved in any other way should be acknowledged by name. All information on contributors is available in the metadata.

To refer to any data from the corpus, please cite as follows:

Oez, Mikael. 2017. Documentation of the Beth Qustan Dialect of the Central Neo-Aramaic language, Turoyo. ID: Qustan[insert ID number here]. London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: Accessed on [insert date here]


Resources online and curated


Mikael Oez
Responsive image
Affiliation: SOAS University of London

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2017 March 23 to 2017 March 23
Deposit hits:39
Files downloaded:
Without statistics

Showing 1 - 10 of 667 Items

Suleyman explains that a man called Simon would be taken by the djinns for weeks. They would provide him food and drink. He would even dance with them. He then went to sorcerers to have writings composed so that the djinns would no longer come near him.

Recorded on: 2016-09-01

Lahdo tells us about a man he met from the village of Zaz who told him that the Djinns used to abduct him.

Recorded on: 2016-09-05


Recorded on: 2016-09-04

Isa tells us about the hardships they faced in the diaspora. Amongst are the language, the culture and the food. It took them a long time to adapt to the changes.

Recorded on: 2016-09-05


Recorded on: 2016-09-04

Iskender tells us about the advice of the elderly. He says that this was very important, however, he disagrees with curses they used to employ when telling off other for their mistakes.

Recorded on: 2016-08-31

Iskender advises on how people should be good. He explains that good people are always cared for by God, however, evil people will always be insufficient and in need of more to survive.

Recorded on: 2016-08-31

Musa tells us that he recals shepherds speaking an alien language in 1964/5. He does not know the name of the language. One day after the prayer, the villagers told the priest about this alien language as they were worried that their own language would be harmed or forgotten. The priest preached in the church the following Sunday banning this alien language to spoken.

Recorded on: 2016-09-02


Recorded on: 2016-09-05

Keywords: Turoyo - Unspecified - Isa Oeztas

Lahdo explains how amulets were used for healing at his time. He also speaks of the healing of children falling on the moon, and children breaking their spines. His mother was one of the healers in the village of Beth Qustan.

Recorded on: 2016-08-28