Neo-Aramaic/Keyboard

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This is our Neo-Aramaic keyboard.

This keyboard is licensed under MIT License from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is an extremely permissive license. We chose this to make our keyboard available to the most number of people possible.

Existing Resources

There are a couple of keyboard options already available for typing in Syriac. One of the standard layouts is the Syriac Phonetic Keyboard, which is based on the US keyboard layout; letters in the Syriac script are roughly mapped to their closest phonetic equivalents in the Latin alphabet. You can view Gareth Hughes' typing guide for this keyboard here.

Another popular option is the Syriac 101 Standard Keyboard. This keyboard is modeled after the standard Arabic keyboard layout, so Syriac letters are mapped to their equivalents in the Arabic script.

In addition to these options, you can download a Syriac/Aramaic keyboard package for Tavultesoft's Keyman Desktop program. In addition to the "Phonetic" and "Arabic" layouts, which appear to be the same as the two mentioned above, this package includes a keyboard based on the standard Hebrew layout, developed by Illan Gonen.

Note that there are several different variations of the Syriac script. Nowadays, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is typically written in the Madnhāyā (or "East Syriac") script. However, at least for some operating systems, the default Syriac font is Estrangelo Edessa, which is in the ʾEsṭrangēlā script. For typing in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, it would probably be best to download the Meltho Fonts package from Beth Mardutho and select one of their East Syriac fonts. The User Guide for Meltho Fonts includes a list of all the different fonts available in the package. It also includes visual guides for both the Syriac 101 Standard Keyboard and the Syriac Phonetic Keyboard layouts.

Many Assyrian Neo-Aramaic speakers live in areas where the more widely-spoken language is Persian, Arabic, or Kurdish, all of which are written in the Arabic script, and they may speak these languages in addition to Neo-Aramaic. The Syriac 101 Standard Keyboard, therefore, may be easier for these populations to use, although it presents the risk of appearing to make Neo-Aramaic subservient to Arabic. The Syriac Phonetic Keyboard would definitely be easier for us to use as we complete this project. It could also be of use to people who grew up in countries where the Latin script is used, including heritage speakers. Again, though, insofar as this imposes the QWERTY layout on a language that that layout was not designed for, this option could send the wrong message to some people. Gonen's Hebrew-based layout could be useful to people who are accustomed to the standard Hebrew keyboard layout, perhaps including scholars of the Bible or of Semitic languages. A few dialects of Neo-Aramaic are spoken largely by Jewish populations, but I do not know how likely they would be to use the standard Hebrew keyboard layout in their daily life.

Linux

If you click on "Other" and scroll down, you can enable the Syriac Phonetic Keyboard.

Windows

In your "Region & language" settings, you can enable both the Syriac Phonetic Keyboard and the Syriac 101 Standard Keyboard.

Mac

In order to type in Syriac on a Mac, you have to download the Meltho fonts and a Syriac keyboard. Beth Mardutho has instructions.

Justification

Since there are already a couple of options for typing in the Syriac script, each with their own advantages, we decided to make a layout for typing Neo-Aramaic in the Latin alphabet, using the standard romanization system found at the Library of Congress.

~
`

!
1

@
2

#
3

$
4

%
5

^
6

&
7

*
8

(
9

)
0

_
-

+
=

       
Q
q

W
w

E
e

R
r

T
t

Y
y

U
u

I
i

O
o

P
p

{
[

}
]

|
\

        
A
a

S
s

D
d

F
f

G
g

H
h

J
j

K
k

L
l

:
;

"
'

           
Z
z

X
x

C
c

V
v

B
b

N
n

M
m

<
,

>
.

?
/

The layout is basically the same as the U.S. English layout. We did not use AltGr to access a third or fourth row. Instead, letters with diacritics are entered using combinations of keystrokes:

s ~ = š

s . =

h . =

t . =

a - = ā

e ' = é

i ' = í

u ' = ú

(and so on for the capital letters)

Of course, sometimes you may wish to just have a plain s followed by a period or something of that nature. In that case, typing the second key twice "neutralizes" the diacritic. For example:

s . . = s.

However, if you type a letter with a diacritic and then press space, the diacritic will be "locked in" and will not be neutralized. So if you want to type followed by a period, you can type:

s . space . = ṣ.

In addition to this, you can use ` to type ʾ and ' to type ʿ, two special characters used in the romanization of Syriac text. As before, hitting the key twice "neutralizes" the special character. That is:

` ` = `

This layout has many advantages, including

  • Being easy to switch between Neo-Aramaic and English
  • Encouraging younger generations to use their language
  • Being more suitable for some forms of online communication (compare to the Arabic chat alphabet )

We also acknowledge the disadvantages inherent to this approach, including

  • Turning away from an already much-endangered script
  • Treating Neo-Aramaic as a language "secondary" to English

Because we don't have a strong grasp on Neo-Aramaic usage and specifically which characters are used most often by speakers, this keyboard may also be a burden if characters like š, , , , and others are used more frequently than we predicted.

Installation

Download the syrc-romn.mim file from our Github repository here.

  1. If you don't already have IBus installed and running, go to the Using IBus m17n page and follow instructions for installing and enabling IBus on your desktop.
    1. Open a Linux command line terminal and run the line mkdir ~/.m17n.d/ .
      1. Copy your syrc-romn.mim file into this new directory.
        1. Restart your computer.
          1. Find IBus (it should be running as a very small icon in the top left corner of your desktop) and go to preferences.
            1. Click add, scroll down to other, and fine your syrc-romn keyboard.
              1. You should now be able to toggle between your Romanized Syriac keyboard and others in Ibus!