The third phase of an ambitious project to preserve the Cypriot Maronite Arabic (CMA) language was launched by the ministry of education and culture on Thursday.
This phase concerns the recording and encoding of the language.
Since 2002, CMA has been included in UNESCO’s list of severely endangered languages. It has been spoken in Cyprus since the 8th century by Maronites who lived mainly in the village of Kormakitis. Due to the events of 1974, most of its speakers were displaced and scattered, leading to a gradual but ongoing extinction of the language.
It was recognised as an official language by the Republic of Cyprus in 2008, and the education ministry has been an active contributor to its salvation.
The research project started in 2009 with the establishment of a committee of experts on the Cypriot Maronite Arabic language which is led by chief education officer Kyprianos Louis.
In his address at the presentation of the project Education Minister Costas Kadis said that the investigation was based so far on 44 interviews of native speakers of Maronite Arabic, noting that “the process is long and arduous, supported by researchers, native speakers of Cypriot Maronite Arabic, linguists and other experts.”
“The training of researchers in the written version of the Cypriot Arabic,” he continued, “was made during the two-day seminar was organised in 2013 with the participation of Alexander Borg, professor emeritus at Ben Gurion University in Israel. It is expected that the fourth phase of the investigation will be completed in 2016.”
“For the linguists it was a big challenge, but for the Maronite Community it is a huge step, because the language has now been given an alphabet and a grammar and cannot only be maintained, but also be taught to new generations,” representative of the Maronite community Antonis Hadjiroussos commented.