News > Holy Land Armenians > Austrian researcher to record Kaghakatzi (Jerusalem Armenian) accent
The uniquely mellifluous and lilting Kaghakatzi (Jerusalem Armenian) accent continues to intrigue scholars around the world eager to rescue it from oblivion.
A few years ago, a US professor, Bert Vaux, undertook the onerous task of persuading some of the denizens of the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem to allow him to record their speech. He collected quite some nuggets along the way.
Now a professor from Salzburg university in Austria, has pitched in for another go, using a different and, what she asserts would be, a more professional approach.
Dr. Jasmine Dum-Tragut introduced herself as a self-employed scholar at the Linguistic Department of the university of Salzburg, and as an armenologists specialized in Modern Armenian.
She also heads the head of the department for Armenian Studies at the Mayr-Melnhof-Institute for the Christian East.
She was encouraged to contact the Kaghakatzi Armenian Family Tree project by a staunch friend of ours, professor Michael Stone, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"I have been working in Armenian studies for more than 20 years now," she says.
Last November, she had a short-term visiting professorship at the Hebrew University, and it was there, where my friend and colleague "Michael Stone convinced me to work on the highly endangered Kaghakatzi dialect."
Jasmine concentrates on the languages of endangered minorities. Over the past four years, she has been working on a concise linguistic description of Modern Eastern Armenian as written and spoken in the Motherland, with the support of the Austrian Science Fund, and the result, almost 700 pages, will be published this year by Benjamins, Amsterdam.
"I am really very interested and eager to work on this [Kaghakatzi] dialect," she says.
She will be using the tapes previously recorded by Theo van Lint, but most probably will have to do some more recording and conduct specific interviews.
She will be staying in Jerusalem at least for a month which would give her the opportunity to do some teaching on armenological subjects again at the Hebrew University.
Photo: Dr. Jasmine Dum-Targut (right) and Professor Michael Stone (left)
The Kaghakatzi Armenian Family Tree Project is a non-profit enterprise whose primary aim is to preserve the history and culture of the "Kaghakatzi" Armenian community that has been living in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, for centuries.
Tucked away in a corner of the Old City of Jerusalem lies the Armenian Compound, a sprawling complex housing the Convent (seat of the Armenian Patriarchate) of St James and the meandering Armenian Quarter.
At its peak, the compound was home to over 15,000 souls, mostly genocide survivors or their descendants, but a large part of them the progeny of pilgrims who had settled in Jerusalem centuries before.
These hardy denizens boast two distinct entities each with its own unique culture: the "vanketzis" who live within the precincts of the Convent and the "kaghakatzis" who live in the Quarter.
What makes the "kaghakatzis" special is that they are community that precedes the "vanketzis" by a long stretch of years, having established their home in the twisting alleys of the Old City and "gone native."
But what distinguishes them most is that they hail from a common ancestor, making them all members of a vast extended family where everyone is related to everyone else - a genealogical rarity.
Over the years, attrition has decimated the number of Armenians in the Holy Land - there are less than 2,000 of them left, a few hundred of them still holding the fort in the Quarter.
(According to tradition, Armenians reached Jerusalem between the tenth and sixth centuries BCE, when Dickran [Tigranes] the Great ruled an empire extending from the Caspian Sea to the shores of the Mediterranean).
"Armenians have survived by challenging empires and by scuttling all attempts at assimilation," one researcher notes.
"They believe in the eternality of their race, symbolized by their emblem - the soaring twin peaks of Mount Ararat, traditional site of Noah's stranded ark. The goldsmiths, jewelers, photographers, pharmacists, teachers and potters who pound the ancient cobblestones of the Old City are living proof of Armenian durability," the researcher adds.
Although the Armenian Quarter has produced its share of illuminati, there has been little effort to ensure that its history and culture are preserved.
The Kaghakatzi Family Project aims to redress this imbalance and create a permanent record of the wisdom, culture, history, arts and crafts, and traditions of this community as possible.
Project director: Arthur Hagopian (email)
Arthur Hagopian is a Jerusalem Armenian and has worked at the Patriarchate as Press Officer and personal secretary for His Beatitude Patriarch Manoogian. He has worked for major news organizations like Reuters and AP, and holds a MA in educational administration, authoring, web development.