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  • Uploaded on Avrix mi galanica, que ya va’amanecer / Avrix mi galanica, que ya va’amanecer / Avrir yo vos avro, mi lindo amor / La noche yo no durmo, pensando en vos // Mi padre’sta meldando, mos oyerá / Mi padre’sta meldando, mos oyerá /

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judeo spanish

Avrix mi galanica, que ya va’amanecer /

Avrix mi galanica, que ya va’amanecer /

Avrir yo vos avro, mi lindo amor /

La noche yo no durmo, pensando en vos //

Mi padre’sta meldando, mos oyerá /

Mi padre’sta meldando, mos oyerá /

Amatalde la luzezica’si se dormirá /

Amatalde la luzezica’si s’echará //

Judeo Spanish

Heather Clarke, Rachel Hopkinson, Christian Kusi-Obodum and Gina Sterling

theory of language death

Theory of Language death

Rachel Hopkinson

what is language death exactly
What is ‘language death’ exactly?
  • ‘A language dies when nobody speaks it anymore.’ (Crystal, D. p.1, 2002)
  • ‘If you are the last speaker of a language, your language- viewed as a tool of communication- is already dead. For a language is really alive only as long as there is someone to speak it to. When you are the only one left, your knowledge of your language is like a repository, or archive, of your people’s spoken linguistic past.’

Importance of recording the language.

  • When the last speaker dies, the language dies along with them.
  • ‘When a language dies which has never been recorded in some way, it is as if it has never been.’ (Crystal, p.2, 2002)

Harrison (p.23, 2007) claims that the languages that are merely oral, and never written down, die out the fastest.

contributory factors to language death
Contributory factors to language death
  • ‘The search for a single cause which inevitably leads to language death is futile.’ (Crystal, p.70, 2002)
c ontributing factors to language death
Contributing factors to language death.
  • ‘The massive die-off we now face is one of the greatest results of colonialism- the grand project to govern, control, […] But the die-off is also the result of natural demographic factors.’ (Harrison, p.21, 2007).
  • Also, people’s voluntary migration to cities for better way of life, in which it is more beneficial to speak the language of the majority. (Harrison, p.21, 2007)
contributory factors
Contributory factors
  • Crystal, (p.11, 2002), points out problem when language not passed on to younger generations.
  • When the speakers are in physical danger- natural disasters, etc. (Crystal, p.70).
  • Or political situation. (Crystal, p.75).
  • ‘Cultural assimilation’.
t he 3 stages of language death
The 3 Stages of language death:
  • 1) Pressure on the people to speak the dominant language. ‘Top down’= from the government, ‘bottom up’= from the people themselves.
  • 2) Period of Bilingualism. This deteriorates eventually.
  • 3) Lack of interest by younger generation.

(Crystal, p.78, 2002)

what can be done
What can be done?
  • According to Crystal, (2002), stage 2 is the most pivotal in terms of reversing the language degeneration.

Aims to raise the prestige of the language in various movements around the world.

  • The need for funds.
  • Importance of political cooperation.
  • Awareness of linguistic diversity.
  • In Europe, est. 1982: ‘The European Bureau of Lesser Used Languages.’ with its news bulletin ‘Contact’.
w ays of promoting the endangered language
Ways of promoting the endangered language
  • Plays, literature, poetry- even other forms of art. (Crystal, p.98, 2002).
  • Education.
  • ‘Because bilingual education is expensive, it is under constant threat.’ (Crystal, p.101, 2002)
  • This draws attention to the importance in political funding in maintaining a language in danger.
f or a language to remain the following is necessary
For a language to remain, the following is necessary:
  • That the speech community be interested, and to accept the help.
  • ‘A positive political climate, committed to the preservation of ethnic identity and cultural rights, prepared to put some money where its principles are’.
  • Available professionals to help in teaching, recording and analysis of the language.

Example of success of revival of Hebrew in modern Israel, due to political and religious factors. (Crystal, p.127, 2002).

  • Also, linguistic tolerance in the territory is required. (Crystal, p.128, 2002).
m ost important factors in language death
Most important factors in language death:
  • Lack of intergenerational language transmission.
  • Lack of government funding to support the language.
  • Lack of prestige even within the speech community of the language in danger.
  • Dilution of the speech community within a larger community (eg. A city) in which it is more beneficial to speak the main language, for career opportunities etc.
  • ‘On the one hand, especially in recent decades, we find voices that present Spanish as a powerful homogenizing force that threatens to rease linguistic and cultural diversity.’ (Duchene, A. and Monica Heller, p.242, 2007).
  • Crystal, D. (2002) Language Death. Cambridge University Press, New York.
  • Duchene, A. and Monica Heller (eds.) (2007) Discourses of Endangerment. Continuum, New York.
  • Harrison, K.D. (2007) When Languages Die: the extinction of the world’s languages. Oxford University Press, New York.

Contains elements of 14th and 15th century Castilian.

  • Eastern Judeo-Spanish: spoken in Eastern Bulgaria, Turkey and the Greek island of Rhodes: (reflects Castilian Spanish)
  • Western Judeo-Spanish: spoken in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, western Bulgaria: (reflects characteristics of north-western part of the Iberian peninsula)

The Spanish Jews integrated into existing Jewish communities and adopted their language after a period of time.

  • In north Morocco and in the Ottoman Empire they retained their spanish language and even imposed it.
  • As culture and language of Spanish jews evolved outside Spain, archaic 15th C Castilian son considered Jewish.
  • Judeo-Spanish

According to linguist B. Pottier Jewish people expelled from Spain in 1492, took varieties of Spanish with them. Leonese, Aragonese and Castilian.

  • These form base of what would become Judeo-Spanish vernacular around 1620.
  • 1620 = around the date which travellers from Spain stopped being able to understand the ancestor of their language in the Spanish spoken by the descendants who were expelled.

Judeo-Spanish = language of fusión. Essientially 15th C Castilian, initially influenced by regionalisms and hispanic Arabicisms and after 149 by Moroccan, Turkish, Italian etc

  • 1492 (date of Jewish expulsión) Castilian had not yet undergone silencing of voiced sibilants or the birth of the jota.
  • Don Quixote now written Don Quijote arrived in France as Don Quichotte.

Develop interesting strategies for “hispanisizing” various loan words.

  • Eg continued use of the frequentative verbal ending ear, as verbal hispanisizer for all loan words from the Turkish, Arabic, Bulgarian, Greek etc
  • Those from French take -ar ending.

Vocabulary and Semantics (Spanish archaic usages)

  • Genuine lexical creations based on Ladino (Judeo- Spanish calque) go back to 12th/13th century.
  • Therefore language of fusión. 4% of loan words come from Hebrew, 15% from Turkish, 20% from French etc… all these built on 15th C foundation of Spanish.

Dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire – contributed to the Judeo-Spanish emigrating from the Levant and in Morocco to Europe and the Americas starting in the 19th C.

  • World War II and the Holocaust decimate the Judeo-Spanish population.
  • Jewish people who emigrated within Europe, where Nazi occupation took them by surprise- many died.
judeo spanish today

Judeo-Spanish Today

Heather Clarke

number of speakers
Number of speakers
  • Lack of official statistics makes it difficult to know the exact number of speakers of Judeo-Spanish
  • Renard (1966) estimate: 360,000
  • Harris (1979) estimate: 160,000
  • Harris (1994) estimate: 60,000
  • Number of speakers is constantly decreasing
varieties of judeo spanish
Varieties of Judeo-Spanish
  • Contains elements of 14th and 15th century Castilian.
  • Eastern Judeo-Spanish: spoken in Eastern Bulgaria, Turkey and the Greek island of Rhodes: (reflects Castilian Spanish)
  • Western Judeo-Spanish: spoken in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, western Bulgaria: (reflects characteristics of north-western part of the Iberian peninsula)
  • In 1978 and 1985, Harris (1994) conducted research in the Sephardic communities in New York, Israel and Los Angeles.
  • Total of 91 Judeo-Spanish speakers were interviewed:
  • 28 from New York
  • 28 from Israel
  • 35 from Los Angeles
  • Results
  • Reading: 81/91 can read Judeo-Spanish (mostly letters from Sephardic relatives in other parts of the world, ballads etc)
  • Writing: 63/91 can write Judeo-Spanish using the Roman alphabet (use the language to write to Sephardic relatives.) Many people could write in the language many years ago but are out of practice now.
  • Speaking: 91/91 can speak confidently in Judeo-Spanish. 77/91 use the language when speaking to grandparents (the rest did not have the opportunity to speak to their grandparents.) This number progressively decreases when moving down the age scale.
current uses of judeo spanish
Current uses of Judeo-Spanish
  • Language used with older people
  • “People under 50 years of age generally do not speak Judeo-Spanish but they can understand it. People 20 years old and younger don’t even understand the language.” Harris (1994:167)
  • Judeo-Spanish as a secret language
  • Humour and expressive purposes
  • Common language among Sephardim
  • Occasional use at work (e.g. with colleagues of Puerto Rican origin)
  • Current domains are limited.
  • No one reads, writes or speaks Judeo-Spanish on a regular basis.
  • Language of the older generation which is not being passed on to the younger generations.
reasons for the decline of judeo spanish
Reasons for the decline of Judeo-Spanish
  • Nationalism in the Balkans
  • Loss of prestige
  • Assimilation of speakers
  • Americanization
  • Hebrew is reinforced as the language of religion
  • No Sephardic schools
  • No language academy
  • No prestigious Judeo-Spanish literature
  • No ‘homeland’ and lack of newly arriving immigrants
  • Reduction of language domains
signs of impending language death
Signs of impending language death
  • Diminishing domains of use
  • Very small number of speakers
  • No young speakers
  • No monolingual speakers
  • Lack of institutional / community support
  • Signs of decay within the language
  • Individual variation
  • Borrowing
  • Hesitations, halting speech and fear of making mistakes (Sala 1970)
the likely future of judeo spanish
The likely future of Judeo-Spanish
  • The number of speakers is likely to continue to decrease as the older generations pass away.
  • Judeo-Spanish is not taught in schools so the younger generations are not likely to learn it.
  • Difficult to find native speakers under 55.
  • It is no longer a language of trade and so has lost its prestige. This dissuades people from using Judeo-Spanish, even if they are capable of doing so.
  • Harris (1994) ‘Do you consider Judeo-Spanish to be a dying language?’ 79/91 said yes.
  • Estimated that Judeo-Spanish will have disappeared within 3 generations.
  • It is likely that the language will disappear as a living language / for purposes of communication.
  • Harris, T (1994) Death of a Language, London and Toronto: Associated University Presses
  • Renard, R (1966) Sépharad: le monde et la langue judéo-espagnol des Séhardim, Belgium: Annales Universiatires de Mons
  • Sala, M (1970) ‘Observaciones sobre la desaparición de las lenguas’ InEtudios sobre el judeoespañol de Bucarest, 9-45. Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autonoma
interpretation of research

Interpretation of Research

Christian Kusi-Obodum


Interpretation of Research


Number of speakers

Generational transmission


Linguistic community and identity