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Lraper: Jerusalem Dialect Being Studied

The Armenian Studies Department of the Hebrwy University of Jerusalem reports that the project of recording and preserving a record of a unique dialect of Armenian spoken in Jerusalem for centuries took a major step this summer. This project was initiated at a meeting held in 1999 between Professor Y. Ziv, President of the Israel Academy of Sciences; Professor Georg Brutian, Vice President of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences and Professor Michael E. Stone, Professor of Armenian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The kaghakatsi dialect, still spoken only by the few surviving senior members of the Jerusalem Armenian community, was the form of Armenian spoken by the old community of Jerusalem, whose roots were to be found in the ancient past. Its role was gradually reduced after the Genocide, when tens of thousands of refugees came to the Holy Land. An Armenian school was established, the Sourp Targmanchatz school, at which “standard” Western Armenian was talked, and this became the language of the younger generation. The ancient kaghakatsi dialect was displaced and is now almost extinct.

The project is jointly sponsored by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the National Armenian Academy of Sciences and the Armenian Studies Program of the Hebrew University. It has the welcome support of H.B. Torkom II, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem.

The first step was an initial report prepared by the distinguished Armenian dialect expert, Dr. Bert Vaux, whose three-week survey produced a report that is being published in the volume Armenians in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, that is now in press as part of the Hebrew University Armenian Series.

This summer’s work was carried out by Armenologist Dr. Th.M. van Lint. Living in the Armenian Quarter, as guest of the Patriarch, he conducted tens of interviews with the kaghakatsi speakers still alive in the Armenian Quarter. These were recorded on audio disks, and are, together with Dr. van Lint’s report, being forwarded to Dr. Vaux for study and analysis.

Although the project is not complete, the material assembled by van Lint and Vaux guarantees the preservation of the basis of this Armenian dialect, part of the history of this unique community. It has never previously been studied.

Further information is posted on: http://unixware.mscc.huji.ac.il/~armenia

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