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What are the rules for the pronunciation of phonemic stress (milel and milra) in the Aramaic of the Bavli, and how do they differ from Hebrew and/or the Aramaic of the Targums (if at all)? None of the grammar books I've read address this question head on; anyone know of a source that does?

  • Welcome to MiYodeya and thanks for this first question. Since MY is different from other sites you might be used to, see here for a guide which might help understand the site. See in particular which questions are in scope for the site, it is possible your question gets closed but please don't let this deter to return. Great to have you learn with us! – mbloch Mar 17 at 18:19
  • Have you tried J. N. Epstein’s ‘Dikduk Aramit Bavlit’? – Oliver Mar 17 at 21:45
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I would take an example from the book of Daniel, which has a lot of Aramaic. Luckily Keter Aram Tzova exists for this book (and the people of Aram Tzova spoke Aramaic). And Keter Aram Tzova has the "stresses" (milel/milra) annotated. See, for example, Daniel perek gimel (chapter 3)

https://www.mgketer.org/mikra/35/3/1

Under these assumptions, milra wins :)

  • The Keter is entirely missing for Daniel, Kohelet, Esther, Eikha and Ezra. – Double AA Oct 7 at 21:40
  • Welcome to MiYodeya student and thanks for this first answer. Since MY is different from other sites you might be used to, see here for a guide which might help understand the site. Great to have you learn with us! – mbloch Oct 8 at 5:26
  • The Aramaic of Tanakh is very different from the Aramaic of the Bavli (and of the Targumim). It's hard to claim that stress certainly remained unchanged from Hellenistic and Babylonian times up until the 6th century CE. – Argon Nov 17 at 22:26
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In his seminal book Introduction to the Grammar of Jewish-Babylonian Aramaic, E. Bar Asher Segal writes that it "is almost impossible to reconstruct [...] the position of the stress."

He cites S. Morag's Babylonian Aramaic: The Yemenite Tradition (1988: 117-119) who "argues that it is difficult to propose consistent rules even within the Yemenite tradition", a tradition with the highest historical fidelity among all living Aramaic reading traditions.

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Having studied a bit with a native Aramaic speaker (Kurdish/Assyrian Jew) and from having Aramean Christians marry intermarry into my family I have come to the following conclusion. Aramaic is similar to Hebrew when it comes to emphasis. Which means most words should have emphasis on the final syllable. However, like Arabic it has more exceptions for earlier emphasis, but still nowhere near as much as is done by Ashkenazim.

  • This is really helpful lemaaseh, thank you. This is how I tend to pronounce it (as a Hebrew speaker), but maybe here in the US, I tend to hear Aramaic pronounced with an Ashkenazi/European stress pattern. – Ahat haAm Mar 18 at 18:11
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    @AhathaAm Have fun youtube.com/channel/UCcRtCpoZnUzyegvpQfdp2AQ – Aaron Mar 18 at 18:14
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I don't think there is a written Masorah for the Bavli's pronunciation. However, I live in Detroit suburbs where there are a lot of native neo-Aramaic speakers and they generally pronounce the language mille'el i.e., penultimate stress. This is obviously not like Biblical Aramaic, which is mille'ra. For example, one guy told me that "I hate" would be pronounced qsaNIne.

  • Could you give some more details on which words are stressed mile'el? Is it every word or are there exceptions? The Biblical Aramaic translation of qsaNIne would probably be two words, like שָֹנֵא אֲנָא, so there's not really an easy comparison there. – b a Apr 17 at 8:24
  • To be honest, I think youtube is the best source. Here's the modern language: youtube.com/watch?v=6y5HaDwil1E&t=521s. Here's the classical church language: youtube.com/watch?v=QqLZr11JhMM. The modern appears to be mille'el; the classical appears to be mille'ra. – pandichef Apr 18 at 3:25
  • My understanding is that qsaNIne is similar to the Bavli's dialect: קשֹנינא. It's written like one word, but it's actually three words: קא שֹני אנא. – pandichef Apr 18 at 3:37

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