Werner Arnold

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2012/2013
discipline Linguistics
Professor of Semitic Languages at Heidelberg University

Research project

A Dictionary of Western Neo-Aramaic


Western Neo-Aramaic (WNA) is spoken in the three mountain villages of Ma‘lūla, Bax‘a, and Jubb‘adīn, which are located in the Antilibanon, north-east of Damascus. These represent the last remaining speech islands of Western Aramaic. Many speakers of WNA live outside the three villages, mainly in Damascus and Beirut. Today the language is spoken at most by 15,000 people, all of whom speak Arabic as a second mother tongue. WNA is an unwritten vernacular, spoken only in everyday life, within the village and the families. The language of instruction and worship is Arabic. Although the three villages are situated only at a slight distance from each other, there are remarkable differences in the language, so that one can speak of three different dialects. Western Neo-Aramaic has been an object of philological studies since the 19th century. This is due to its unique position as the only continuation of the Western Aramaic dialects of antiquity. In recent years I have published a large corpus of texts in 4 volumes, a comparative grammar and a primer for learning the language. The most important desideratum is a comprehensive dictionary.


This is a project on which I have been working intermittently for several years. The dictionary is comparative as it contains the data from all the three dialects. It is also etymological and will contain references to cognates in all the major varieties of Aramaic. The stay at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University enables me to discuss all etymological problems with my eminent colleagues from Jerusalem working in the field of Neo-Aramaic, to complete the etymological section, to incorporate all the remaining data and to finalize the dictionary and produce a publishable copy.



Arnold Werner is Professor of Semitic Languages at Heidelberg University. He holds a Ph.D. in Semitic Philology and Islamic Studies from the University of Erlangen-Nüremberg, and a Post-doctoral thesis (Habilitation) on the Arabic dialects of Antiochia from the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg.

Selected publications


‘Relative Clauses in Western Neo-Aramaic’, in J. C.E. Watson and J. Retsö (eds), Relative Clauses and Genitive Constructions in Semitic, Oxford, 2009, pp. 65-68.


‘The Begadkefat in Western Neo-Aramaic’, in G. Khan (ed.), Neo-Aramaic Dialect Studies, vol. 1, Piscataway, 2008, pp. 171-176.


‘The Roots qrṭ and qrṣ in Western Neo-Aramaic’, in H. Gzella and M. L. Folmer (eds), Aramaic in its Historical and Linguistic Setting, Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz/Wiesbaden, 2008, pp. 305-311.


‘Gott und der Teufel in den aramäischen Sprichwörtern aus Ma‘lūla’, in O. Jastrow, S. Talay and H. Hafenrichter (eds), Studien zur Semitistik und Arabistik. Festschrift für Hartmut Bobzin zum 60, Geburtstag, Wiesbaden, 2008, pp. 9-14.


‘Arabic grammatical borrowing in Western Neo-Aramaic, in Y. Matras and J. Sakel (eds), Grammatical Borrowing in Cross-Linguistic Perspective, Berlin – New York, 2007.


Lehrbuch des Neuwestaramäischen, Semitica Viva, Wiesbaden, 2006.


Malula und Mallōy. Erzählungen aus einem syrischen Dorf, with A. Escher and C. Pfa!enbach, Bibliotheca academica, Reihe Orientalistik, Würzburg, 2004.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline Archaeology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline Religious Studies