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Echoes of Vanishing Voices in the Mountains: A Linguistic History of Minorities in the Near East

Objective

Mesopotamia is the home of remarkably diverse ethnoreligious and linguistic microcommunities with historical roots in the ancient Near East. Jewish and Christian minorities with their own unique Ara-maic traditions have co-existed alongside mainly Iranian speech communities for millennia. Today the origin and development of this rich cultural-linguistic mosaic remains elusive due to superimposed nationalisms and paucity of historical records. ALHOME aims to reconstruct the complex, socioreligious past of the disappearing indigenous communities who were once more widespread across West Asian from the first millennium BC well into the Islamic period. Studying their genetic and social interrelations through their linguistic traditions will radically change our ideas about their origins. Using linguistic evidence hitherto untapped for this aim, we can untangle the intertwined his-tories of Jewish, Christian and Kurdish (i.e. Iranian) communities. This evidence comes from the recently richly enhanced database of spoken Neo-Aramaic languages which stretch back 3,000 years. This promises to mark a sea change in linguistic studies which have focused on the documentation of endangered languages as well as in sociological studies that have focused on the historical context giving rise to nationalisms. For the first time an interdisciplinary team of both Aramaic and Iranian specialists and computational linguists will study the interactions between two speech communities. We will apply groundbreaking quantitative, phylogenetic models to unearth relations between speech communities over millennia. Studying this period of multiculturalism and multilingualism of virtually unparalleled duration promises to challenge existing models of contact. Aramaic-Iranian exchanges fit into models based neither purely on linguistic-cultural prestige nor on agentivity of a single language. Thus ALHOME will have major implications for our understanding of areal convergence and contact.

Call for proposal

ERC-2020-ADG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-ADG - Advanced Grant

Host institution

THE CHANCELLOR MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
Address
Trinity Lane The Old Schools
CB2 1TN Cambridge
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 997 800

Beneficiaries (1)

THE CHANCELLOR MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 1 997 800
Address
Trinity Lane The Old Schools
CB2 1TN Cambridge
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments