Tittle: Jewish Languages, Past and Present

Abstract: This presentation is devoted to the rich array of languages other than Hebrew that have been written and spoken by Jewish communities throughout history. Jewish languages are genealogically very diverse, with representatives from the Germanic, Romance, Slavic, Hellenic, Indo-Aryan, Semitic, Dravidian, Caucasian, and Berber language families. They include ancient languages such as Judeo-Aramaic and Judeo-Greek, medieval varieties such as Judeo-French and Judeo-Portuguese, and newly emerging ones such as Jewish Amharic, Jewish English, and Jewish Swedish. Some Jewish languages (such as Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, Ladino, and Yiddish) have substantial written traditions in the Hebrew script, while others (such as Judeo-Malayalam and Jewish Berber) are or were primarily spoken varieties. While the degree of difference between a Jewish language and its non-Jewish equivalent can vary considerably, they typically have a Hebrew and Aramaic lexical component, and most of them exhibit certain phonological, morphological, and syntactic differences from their non-Jewish sister languages. The presentation will provide historical and sociolinguistic introductions to these fascinating language varieties and will survey some of their most characteristic features.