Friday, June 10, 2016


MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: Chicago's Assyrians Embrace New Technology to Save Ancient Language (AINA reprint, Alex Shams,
Rinyo was founded in 2011, when physician Robby Edo was visiting his family in Qamishli, a town in Syria near the Iraqi border with a large Assyrian population. He noticed that despite the long history of Syriac literature, few books or materials were published in the language anymore. Similar to neighbouring Iraq, the Syrian government has long emphasised Arabic as a national language at the expense of minority languages like Syriac and Kurdish.

Robby spoke to his brother Hedro, a software designer, about the need for more written materials in Syriac to help the younger generation learn, and they began working on a short cartoon.

"We found people who were thinking like us and wanted to produce materials to help the language live," Hedro told Middle East Eye. "And now we have Rinyo: a multi-dialect and multicultural global entity."

Rinyo has since developed interactive storybooks and alphabet lessons that have reached all corners of the Syriac universe. The group conducted numerous tours visiting Syriac-speaking communities in Iraq and Syria, as well as in the diaspora in Sweden, Germany and many US states.

Rinyo even set up a technology lab in Qamishli, employing 10 people on behind-the-scenes technical aspects of the applications. Not only has Rinyo revived interest in Syriac, it is also creating jobs in a war-torn country where the economic situation and political uncertainty have driven many Syrians, especially from the Assyrian minority, to emigrate.
And I found this particularly interesting:
For Rinyo, the language challenge is complex. Syriac has two main dialects - Eastern and Western - and most applications are in both. But each dialect has numerous sub-dialects, not all of which are totally mutually comprehensible, and all of these dialects are only spoken. There is a shared classical written version, but it is never spoken except in formal settings.

As a result, Rinyo members are constantly debating what word to use in the apps. In the process they are developing a standardised spoken variant of the language where none previously existed.
Developing a standardized modern Aramaic language could do a lot to expand its reach and make it more durable. More power to them.

Cross-file under Syriac Watch and Technology Watch.