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Judeo-Arabic languages: Wikis

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Judeo-Arabic
Spoken in
Region
Total speakers
Language family Afro-Asiatic
Writing system Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 jrb
ISO 639-3 variously:
jrb – Judeo-Arabic macrolanguage
yhd – Judeo-Iraqi Arabic
aju – Judeo-Moroccan Arabic
yud – Judeo-Tripolitanian Arabic
ajt – Judeo-Tunisian Arabic
jye – Judeo-Yemeni Arabic
A page from the Cairo Geniza, part of which is written in the Judeo-Arabic language

The Judæo-Arabic languages are a collection of Arabic dialects spoken by Jews living or formerly living in the Arab world; the term also refers to more or less classical Arabic written in the Hebrew script, particularly in the Middle Ages. Just as with the rest of the Arab world, Arabic-speaking Jews had different dialects depending on where they lived. This phenomenon may be compared to cases such as different forms of Yiddish (Judæo-German) such as Western Yiddish and Eastern Yiddish, or forms of Ladino (Judæo-Spanish) in areas such as the Balkans, Thessaloníki/Istanbul, Morocco, etc.

Contents

Characteristics

The Arabic spoken by Jewish communities in the Arab world differed slightly from the Arabic of their Arab neighbours. These differences were partly due to the incorporation of some words from Hebrew and other languages and partly geographical, in a way that may reflect a history of migration. For example, the Judeo-Arabic of Egypt, including in the Cairo community, resembled the dialect of Alexandria rather than that of Cairo (Blau).[1] Similarly the Jewish Iraqi Arabic of Baghdad was found reminiscent of the dialect of Mosul.[2] Many Jews in Arab countries were bilingual in Judeo-Arabic and the dialect of the Arab majority.

Like other Jewish languages and dialects, Judeo-Arabic languages contain borrowings from Hebrew and Aramaic. This feature is less marked in the traditional Judeo-Arabic translations of the Bible, as the authors clearly took the view that the business of a translator is to translate.[3]

History

Jews in Arab countries wrote—sometimes in their dialects, sometimes in a more classical style—in a mildly adapted Hebrew script (rather than using Arabic script), often including consonant dots from the Arabic alphabet to accommodate phonemes that did not exist in the Hebrew alphabet.

Some of the most important books of medieval Jewish thought were originally written in medieval Judæo-Arabic, as well as certain halakhic works and biblical commentaries. Only later were they translated into medieval Hebrew so that they could be read by the Ashkenazi Jews of Europe. These include:

Most communities also had a traditional translation of the Bible into Judeo-Arabic, known as a sharħ (meaning): for more detail, see Bible translations (Arabic). The term sharħ sometimes came to mean "Judeo-Arabic" as such, in the same way that "Targum" was sometimes used to mean Aramaic.

Present day

In the years following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, most Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews in Arab countries became Jewish refugees, fleeing mainly to France and Israel. Their dialects of Arabic did not thrive in either country, and most of their descendants now speak French or Modern Hebrew; as a result, the Judæo-Arabic dialects are now considered endangered languages.

See also

Endnotes

  1. ^ For example, in Cairene Arabic, as in Classical Arabic, "I write" is aktub. In Egyptian Judeo-Arabic, in western Alexandrian Arabic and in the Maghrebi Arabic dialects (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian) it is nektob, resembling a first person plural.
  2. ^ For example, "I said" is qeltu in the speech of Baghdadi Jews and Christians, as well as in Mosul and Syria, as against Muslim Baghdadi gilit. This however may reflect not southward migration from Mosul on the part of the Jews, but rather the influence of Gulf Arabic on the dialect of the Muslims.
  3. ^ Avishur, Studies in Judaeo-Arabic Translations of the Bible.

Bibliography

External links

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Simple English

Judeo-Arabic languages are a collection of Arabic language dialects spoken by Jews living or formerly living in Arabic-speaking countries. Just as with the rest of the Arab world, Arabic-speaking Jews had different dialects for the different regions where they lived. Most Judæo-Arabic dialects were written in modified forms of the Hebrew alphabet, often including consonant dots from the Arabic alphabet to accommodate phonemes that did not exist in the Hebrew alphabet.

In retaliation for 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jews in Arab countries became subject to increasingly insufferable discrimination and violence, causing virtually all of them to flee en masse to Israel. Their dialects of Arabic did not thrive in Israel, and most became extinct, replaced by the Modern Hebrew language.

In the Middle Ages, Jews in the Islamic diaspora spoke a dialect of Arabic, which they wrote in a mildly adapted Hebrew script (rather than using Arabic script).

This phenomenon is called Judaeo-Arabic and may be compared to both Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish) and Yiddish (Judaeo-German).

Some of the most important books of medieval Jewish though were originally written in Judaeo-Arabic, as well as certain halakhic works and biblical commentary. Only later were they translated into medieval scientific Hebrew so that they could be read by the Ashkenazic Jews of Europe. These include:

  • Saadia Gaon's Emunot ve-Deot, his Tafsir (biblical commentary and translation), and his siddur (the explanatory parts, not the prayers themselves)
  • Solomon ibn Gabirol's Tikkun Middot ha-Nefesh
  • Bahya ibn Pakuda's Hovot ha-Levavot
  • Judah Halevi's Kuzari
  • Maimonides' Commentary on the Mishnah, Sefer ha-Mitzvot, Guide to the Perplexed, and many of his letters and shorter essays.


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