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Documentary to showcase endangered Cypriot Maronite Arabic language

maronite catholic nuns attend a liturgy at the church of st. george in kormakitis
Maronite Catholic Nuns attend a liturgy at the Church of St. George in Kormakitis

A documentary on Sanna, a language considered ‘severely endangered’ by Unesco since 2002, will have its first screening on Monday.

The event aims to support the revival of the Cypriot Maronite Arabic language, and is co-organised by the ministry of education, the Cyprus Radio Foundation, Maronite representatives, and CyBC.

Sanna is a language that is a mix of Arabic and ancient Aramaic, brought to Cyprus by Maronites fleeing religious persecution in Lebanon 700 years ago.

The language was extensively restructured through contact with Cypriot Greek, acquiring numerous features and constraints not typical of Arabic, and is essentially unintelligible to mainland Arabic speakers.

According to statistics, only 170 Maronite Cypriots speak Sanna today. The documentary features 25 interviews with native speakers of the language, linguists, researchers, students, teachers, community members, and institutions, aiming to record Sanna’s history.

Directed by Tasos Mourtouvanis and written and edited by Michalis Terzis, the documentary’s first screening will take place at the RIK Archive/Cyprus Radio Foundation on Monday at 7.00pm.

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