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Judeo-Spanish (Judezmo, Ladino)locked

Judeo-Spanish (Judezmo, Ladino)locked

  • David M. BunisDavid M. BunisHebrew University of Jerusalem


The Ibero-Romance-speaking Jews of medieval Christian Iberia were linguistically distinct from their non-Jewish neighbors primarily as a result of their language’s unique Hebrew-Aramaic component; preservations from older Jewish Greek, Latin, and Arabic; a tradition of translating sacred Hebrew and Aramaic texts into their language using archaisms and Hebrew-Aramaic rather than Hispanic syntax; and their Hebrew-letter writing system. With the expulsions from Iberia in the late 15th century, most of the Sephardim who continued to maintain their Iberian-origin language resettled in the Ottoman Empire, with smaller numbers in North Africa and Italy. Their forced migration, and perhaps a conscious choice, essentially disconnected the Sephardim from the Spanish language as it developed in Iberia and Latin America, causing their language—which they came to call laðino ‘Romance’, ʤuðezmo or ʤuðjó ‘Jewish, Judezmo’, and more recently (ʤudeo)espaɲol ‘Judeo-Spanish’—to appear archaic when compared with modern Spanish. In their new locales the Sephardim developed the Hispanic component of their language along independent lines, resulting in further differentiation from Spanish. Divergence was intensified through borrowing from contact languages of the Ottoman Empire such as Turkish, Greek, and South Slavic. Especially from the late 18th century, factors such as the colonializing interests of France, Italy, and Austro-Hungary in the region led to considerable influence of their languages on Judezmo. In the 19th century, the dismemberment of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires and their replacement by highly nationalistic states resulted in a massive language shift to the local languages; that factor, followed by large speech-population losses during World War II and immigration to countries stressing linguistic homogeneity, have in recent years made Judezmo an endangered language.


  • Historical Linguistics
  • Language Families/Areas/Contact
  • Morphology
  • Phonetics/Phonology
  • Sociolinguistics

1. Old Sephardic La‘az (or Old Judezmo, rise of Jewish Ibero-Romance–1492)

The history of Judezmo may be divided roughly into Old, Middle, and Modern phases (discussion in Bunis, 1993a, pp. 15–47, 2016; Vàrvaro & Minervini, 2007). The varieties of language used by Jews during this phase as documented in Hebrew-letter sources are diverse (Bunis, 1992, 2004a, 2015; Minervini, 1992). The entire corpus of Jewish Ibero-Romance texts from before the expulsions—from Castilla and Aragón in 1492, from Portugal in 1497—suggests the existence of a medieval Jewish Ibero-Romance dialect geography, as well as internal diversity within each region according to historical period, social stratum, and stylistic register; but the few extant texts make it difficult to understand the exact dynamics (Blasco Orellana et al., 2012).

1.1 Phonology and Graphemics

Our knowledge of Old Judezmo is based almost entirely on documents written in the Hebrew alphabet, necessitating an understanding of the connection between the Hebrew-letter graphemes used by the Sephardim (here presented in romanization) and the phonemes (in italics) they reflect. The phoneme inventory of medieval Jewish Ibero-Romance in Castile and the graphemes used to depict them in lexemes of Hispanic/Ibero-Arabic origin can be seen in Table 1 (Bunis, 2005a).

Table 1. Phonemes of Old Sephardic La‘az (or Old Judezmo)




i y

u w

j y(y)

w w

p p


(θ or s) s, ṣ/-ṣ́

ʧ ġ

k q

e y

o w

b b

d d

ð d

ʤ ġ

g g


(-)ʔ(-), -h


s ś

ʃ ṡ, ś, ġ

χ ḥ, k/-ḱ

h h

() (ḥ)

v ḃ, w

z ś

ʒ ġ

γ g

(ʕ) (ʕ)

ɾ r

r r

l l

ʎ ly(y)



n n/-ń

ɲ ny(y)

Except for modifications over time, this phoneme inventory, and the graphemes depicting it, will continue to characterize the language into the 21st century, including the presence of the phones [ʤ‎], [ʒ‎], and [ʃ‎] (e.g., Old Judezmo ʤente ‘people’, muʒer ‘woman’, ʃavón ‘soap’, all realized as [χ‎] in later Spanish); an opposition between distinct /b/ and /v/ phonemes (merging as /b/ in later Spanish); the reflection of at least a nonvoiced versus voiced pair, /s/ (perhaps vs. /ç/) and /z/ (perhaps vs. /z̦/) (later Castilian /s/ vs. /θ‎/); the depiction of word-initial (γ‎)wV- (e.g., γ‎werta ‘garden’, Sp. huerta); and the regional preservation (e.g., in Salonika) of Latin initial f as /f/ (e.g., Salonika fazer vs. Istanbul azer ‘do’). Unlike the essentially consonant-indicating orthography used in the harchas or final stanzas in Romance at the end of Hebrew or Judeo-Arabic muwaššaḥāt (strophic verses) from Muslim Spain (Stern, 1949), the orthography of the Jews of later Christian Spain tends to depict all vowels, as well as consonants (Bunis, 1974, 2015). The vowels are represented by matres lectionis (e.g., <mʔnyrh> manera ‘way’).

The Old Sephardic La‘az phoneme inventory diverges from that of Christian Old Spanish in that it apparently distinguishes the voiceless glottal fricative [h] (or in fact, perhaps phonological zero) from the voiceless velar fricative [χ‎] (vs. Old Spanish voiceless glottal fricative [h] only); as a result of the incorporation of Semitisms, permits [ʤ‎], [f], [g], [γ‎], [χ‎], [k], [m], [t], and [v] in word-final position (e.g., χ‎araʤ ‘tax’ < Ar. ḥarāj; álef ‘Hebrew letter alef’, dajanim ‘Jewish judges’ < Heb. alef, dayyanim); and perhaps retains from the Judeo-Arabic prelanguage the phones [‎] and [ʕ‎] (absent in Old Spanish) in Arabisms, as found in a few lexemes in texts from the 15th and 16th centuries. Since the Old Judezmo sounds corresponding to the Old Castilian sounds represented in Old Spanish orthography by <ç> versus <s> are not systematically distinguished in the writings of the first generation of Judezmo speakers born in the Ottoman Empire following the expulsions, sometimes being denoted alternately by śin, samax, or ṣadi (e.g., <ʔwṗysyw/-ṣyw> probably ofísio ‘official’, <śyn> sin ‘without’), perhaps speakers of Old Sephardic La‘az do not actually distinguish these sounds, realizing both as s, as in modern Andalusia and in the post-expulsion varieties of Judezmo. The phonology represented by the graphemes <lyy> and <yy> in pre-16th-century texts is unclear: their use seems respectively to parallel that of <ll> versus consonantal <y> in Old Castilian; but in early post-expulsion texts there are already instances of <lyy> and <yy> vacillation, so perhaps both correspond to spoken [j], as in post-expulsion Judezmo, rather than <lyy> being realized as [ʎ‎]. The Jewish analogue of Spanish word-final -V́i̭s is -V́ʃ, for example, <śyṡ> seʃ ‘six’ (cf. OSp. variants <seis/sex>). As a result of the Old Sephardic La‘az elements of Semitic origin (Bunis, 2015), the sounds [d] versus [ð‎], and [g] versus [γ‎], are already distinct phonemes, both of whose members can appear between vowels (e.g., [nidá] ‘menstruation’ vs. [niðo] ‘nest’, [pigul] ‘abomination’ vs. [peγ‎ar] ‘to stick’; H. nidda, piggul, OSp. nido, pegar; on the possibility of phonemic status without the existence of minimal pairs, see Gordon, 2019; in later Judezmo, minimal pairs will include Ida ‘feminine personal name’ vs. iða ‘a going’, agá ‘proofreading’ [H. haggaha] vs. aγá ‘Ottoman agha’ [T. ağa]). Since the surviving texts from this period seem to reflect influence from non-Jewish Castilian literary tendencies, it is difficult to rely on them in order to assess the popular phonology and morphology of most speakers. Insights are best gained from their apparent reflections in documents written by the first generations of Judezmo speakers born after the expulsions, in which the language seems to better reflect the actual spoken language (see section 2).

1.2 Syntax, Morphology, and Lexicon

Syntactically, over the history of the language, there has been significant divergence from Spanish in the traditional calque language used in all periods to translate sacred Hebrew and Aramaic texts (see section 1.3, and Schwarzwald, 1989, 2010; Sephiha, 1973); and in the modern period, the varieties of language highly influenced by French (on which, see Sephiha, 1976) and Italian (on which, see Minervini, 2008) have also shown some significant syntactic distancing from Spanish (see section 3.2). But overall, the syntax of the natural language used by the majority of speakers has not diverged considerably from that of Spanish.

Since the few surviving texts seem to reflect the norms of contemporaneous literary Castilian, there is little evidence of a distinctive Romance component before the period following the expulsions. Nevertheless, since the works produced by the first generation of speakers born in the Ottoman Empire already incorporate distinctive Romance-origin elements (e.g., el Djo ‘God’, Sp. Dios; ʤuðjó ‘Jew’, Sp. judío; ʤuðezmo ‘Judaism’, Sp. judaísmo rather than pre-expulsion variants such as ʤuðío ‘Jew’; see section 1.3); elements typical of archaic, especially popular medieval Spanish that were ultimately rejected in later Spanish (e.g., buʃkar ‘seek’, OSp. bus‑/buxcar > MSp. buscar; devda ‘debt’, OSp. dev-/deuda > MSp. deuda); and the use of both tener and aver (Sp. haber) as alternate auxiliary verbs in compound past tenses (e.g., tengo/e γ‎astaðo ‘I have spent’), as well as elements derived from Jewish Greek (through Jewish Latin, the two languages evidently being prelanguages of Old Sephardic La‘az; e.g., meldar ‘to read’ < meletāre < meletaō), it must be assumed that they were already enjoying popular use among the majority of Jews before the expulsions.

Texts such as the communal regulations of Valladolid (1432) incorporate an abundant Hebrew-Aramaic component (Bunis, 1993a, pp. 17–19, 2015; Minervini, 1992); many of its elements will continue to enjoy use in the spoken and written language into the modern era, for example, substantives such as beraχá (Heb. bĕraxa) ‘benediction’, baalé batim (ba‘ale batim) ‘househoulders’, adjectives such as kaʃer (kašer) ‘fit for Jewish consumption or use’, and adverbial phrases such as baavonoð (ba-‘awonot) ‘because of our sins’. As in analogous constructions in Hebrew and Spanish, the verbal participles employed in analytic constructions with auxiliary copula ser agree in number and gender with the subject, for example, 3pl.prs.subj used with a masculine plural subject:

Numerous other Hispanic-origin auxiliaries are also found, for example, fazer ʃevuá ‘swear’ (literally, ‘make oath’). Synthetic verbs show Hebrew stems and Hispanic-origin verbal affixes and the verbalizer -ar, for example, malsin-ar ‘inform against’ (< malsín ‘informer’, Heb. malšin), en-χ‎erem-ar ‘excommunicate’ (< χé‎rem ‘excommunication’, Heb. ḥerem). The use of Hebraisms in Jewish speech is recognized by contemporaneous Christian Spanish authors and illustrated in passages portraying the speech of Jews (e.g., the rabbi in Dança de la Muerte; Bunis, 2019a). The texts also illustrate elements preserved from Judeo-Arabic in Ibero-Romance Jewish speech after the Reconquista, some of them absent from the Spanish of Christians, for example, alχ‎að ‘Sunday’ (to avoid domingo < dŏmĭnĭcus, with its allusion to Jesus as ‘Lord’) and personal names and surnames such as feminine ʤamila (Ar. jamīla ‘beautiful’) and the family-name ḥ-/χ‎abib (Ar. ḥabīb ‘beloved’). Even some Arabisms shared by Jews and Christians show formal or semantic divergence: for example, Jewish alkuɲa ‘surname’ corresponds formally and semantically to Arabic al-kunya, whereas Old Spanish uses divergent reflexes, for example, alcornia denoting ‘pedigree’; the -ḥ- of medieval Hispano-Arabic ṭarīḥa is reflected as -χ- in Jewish tareχ‎a ‘task’ but has no consonantal counterpart in cognate Spanish tarea. This phenomenon perhaps implies a better knowledge and realization of Arabic among Spanish Jews than among Spanish Christians, possibly reinforced by the existence of cognate phones and lexemes in Hebrew (Bunis, 2015; Minervini, 2011).

1.3 Register of Sacred-Text Translation

Ever since the Middle Ages, the Sephardim have used an especially archaic register of their language, sometimes referred to as Ladino (laðino), in highly literal calque translations of the Hebrew Bible and other sacred Hebrew and Aramaic texts.1 Rabbinical responsa (e.g., those of Isaac Bar Šešet and Jonah Gerondi) contain references to the use of such translations in parts of Iberia before the expulsions (see Bunis, 2004a), and that register is an integral component in the total linguistic repertoire of the Iberian Jews. The oldest surviving extensive examples are from the mid-16th century: a translation of Psalms (Constantinople, ca. 1540), and the trilingual Hebrew/Ladino/Judeo-Greek Pentateuch published in Constantinople, 1547 (Sephiha, 1973; for Arabisms incorporated, see Bunis, 2017b). The pre-expulsion sacred-text translations probably resembled these. Post-expulsion translations in this register include antiquated and artificially constructed lexemes ordinarily absent from everyday speech; for example, substantives such as Hispanic-origin dolaðizo ‘idol’, Hispano-Arabic-origin barvakana ‘castle wall’ (< Ar. bab al-baqqara), and the Arabicized Hispanism almena ‘fortress wall prism’ (< Ar. al- + Lat. minae); verbs such as aboniγ‎war ‘do good’ and ermojeser ‘germinate’; and adjectives such as bjen aventuraðo ‘content’ and doljente ‘ill’. The register systematically incorporates antiquated morphosyntax such as the apocopated present participle, translating biblical singular present participles, for example, sg dizjén ‘say(s)’ (Heb. omer), and synthetic future verb forms displaying the insertion of reflexive and object pronouns between the infinitive and the future-denoting inflections derived from aver ‘have’ (OSp. haver), for example, apaziγ‎warseán ‘they will (or, may they) prosper/have peace’, showing the insertion of pronominal 3sg/pl se. Many of the translation structures artificially mirror morphosyntactic constructions in the original Hebrew text, for example, plural fas-es ‘face’, calquing the Hebrew pluralis tantum pan-im ‘face’, employed instead of usual spoken and written singular kara and synonyms, and the translation of the Hebrew jussive and the future used in a jussive sense by the Judezmo future rather than the subjunctive, for example, yĕhi-šalom (‘may there be peace’) = será paz (‘there will be peace’). The highly literal nature of the sacred-text translation register is well illustrated in Table 2 in the rendition of Hebrew Psalms 122:2–3 published in Constantinople, ca. 1540 (the translation is Romanized here from the original Hebrew-letter text), as contrasted with the Reina-Valera Spanish version:

Table 2. Traditional Judezmo Calque Translation vs. Spanish Translation of Psalms 122:2–3





















[Jewish Publication Society English] ‘Our feet are standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem’;

[Reina-Valera Spanish] Nuestros pies estuvieron en tus puertas, oh Jerusalem;















Jerusalem pst.ptcp-



[Jewish Publication Society English] ‘Jerusalem, that art builded as a city that is compact together’

[Reina-Valera Spanish] Jerusalem, que se ha edificado como una ciudad que está bien unida entre sí.

a The symbol # here denotes a word boundary in the translation corresponding to a morpheme boundary in Hebrew.

In this register Hebraisms are few, the objective being to translate from the ‘Holy Tongue’ (Hebrew) into ‘La‘az’ (Romance); those that appear in such texts are mostly proper nouns and culture-specific terms untranslatable in a single word, for example, ʃofar ‘ram’s horn’ (Heb. šofar).

2. Middle Judezmo (ca. 1493–1796)

Arriving in the Ottoman Empire after the expulsions from Iberia, the Sephardim encounter a linguistic reality different from that which they had known in Iberia: Rather than considerable local linguistic homogeneity, with all residents of their particular region speaking rather close varieties of the same local Ibero-Romance language (although with some divergence between members of different social sectors and religious groups), they now find diverse ethnic and religious groups speaking different, often genetically unrelated languages intracommunally, and Turkish as a kind of lingua franca intercommunally and for communication with the authorities. Accommodating to the local mold, the Jews continue to maintain and develop their native Jewish Ibero-Romance, which comes to be perceived by their neighbors as well as themselves as the ‘Jewish language’ (Bunis, 2011a). Nevertheless, the first generation of Ottoman-born rabbis, and their spiritual heirs into the modern era, express dissatisfaction over having to use a ‘foreign language’ rather than Hebrew (Bunis, 2011b).

The intensive interaction in the empire’s major cities between the majority of Iberian Jews, who reached the empire speaking popular Jewish Castilian, and a smaller number of exiles from other regions of Iberia, who arrived speaking popular Jewish versions of other local Ibero-Romance varieties, leads within a relatively short time to the koineization of the varieties in contact and their crystallization into incipient ‘Ottoman Judezmo’ (Wagner, 1930). Its Romance component is predominantly popular Jewish Castilian, with some influences from other regional varieties of Jewish Ibero-Romance, particularly Aragonese, Leonese, Andalusian, Portuguese, and Catalan. The Ibero-Romance component of Ottoman Judezmo increasingly develops according to its own internal tendencies, including: the decline and disappearance of features restricted to the speech of a small elite, and their usurpation by their popular Jewish correlates; analogical leveling and simplification of structural paradigms; and lexical innovation utilizing preexisting and locally borrowed elements. The speech community also rejects innovations that had occurred in peninsular Spanish after the expulsions, to which they are exposed indirectly through the speech of immigrant conversos joining the Ottoman communities after 1492 as part of their return to Judaism: The former conversos arrive using 16th17th-century Spanish as spoken by their non-Jewish Iberian neighbors, but as part of their re-Judaization they or their descendants gradually assimilate to the speech of the more veteran Iberian Jewish immigrants.

Incipient Ottoman Judezmo also undergoes modification through an expansion of its Hebrew and Aramaic components, and through borrowings, mostly lexical, from the Jewish Greek of the more veteran Romaniote or Byzantine Jews of the empire and the languages of indigenous non-Jews, especially speakers of Turkish, Greek, and South Slavic. In a letter written in Constantinople on June 13, 1615, Pietro della Valle (1586–1652), an Italian pilgrim, describes his difficulty in communicating with one of the city’s Jews, since ‘the Spanish all the Jews here speak . . . is highly corrupt . . . and half in Hispanized Turkish’ (“la lingua Spagnuola, que parlano quì tutti gli Ebrei. . . è corrottissima. . . e mezzo in Turco Spagnuolato”) (della Valle, 1650, pp. 259–260). Already during this period, as corroborated in responsa passages (e.g., Benaim, 2011), the process of linguistic fusion of native and borrowed elements is well under way.

2.1 Early Middle Judezmo (ca. 1493–1728)

2.1.1 Linguistic Registers and Language Names

Throughout the Middle Judezmo period, Judezmo is documented primarily in texts connected with Jewish religion and traditions published in the two major Ottoman cities having Jewish presses, Constantinople and Salonika, as well as in Venice (see online Bibliography of the Hebrew Book 1470–1960, The National Library of Israel). Most of these are translations, including highly literal calque translations of biblical texts (e.g., Constantinople Trilingual Pentateuch, 1547), and adaptations of Hebrew rabbinic works such as parts of Yosef Karo’s Jewish legal codex, Šulḥan ‘arux, translated by Me’ir [Benveniste] as Šulḥan ha-panim, o meza de el alma (Salonika, 1568), and Baḥye Ibn Paquda’s ethical classic, Ḥovat ha-lĕvavot (tr. Ṣaddiq Formón, Salonika, 1568), the latter two translated much less literally, using a variety of Rabbinic Judezmo closer to the spoken language of the period, with an extensive Hebrew component and some Turkisms. The rabbinic-oriented authors of these texts conceive of their vernacular as standing in opposition to the Holy Tongue, Hebrew, which was their more usual, and preferred, literary language; and thus they most often denote their vernacular by the name ordinarily used by speakers in that context of opposition, Laðino (cf. Sp. ladino < Lat. latinus), as opposed to Laʃón akóðeʃ (Heb. lĕšon ha-qodeš) ‘language of holiness (i.e., Hebrew)’ (Bunis, 2008a). Since the vernacular versus Hebrew opposition was relevant with respect to most Judezmo books published into the 19th century, almost all having a religious orientation, Laðino is the name for the vernacular which will predominate in them. It should be noted that, upon their arrival in the empire, the Jews were apparently perceived by residents of the Ottoman Empire as Jewish frenkler, or ‘natives of Western Europe’ (Ottoman Frengistan), and thus their language is probably conceived of as a variety of frenkçe, or ‘Western European’, which seems to motivate the native Jewish lexical innovation documented in some original texts from the mid-16th century (e.g., Moše Almosnino; cf. Romeu Ferré, 1998, p. 303) into the modern era, in which speaking ‘in Judezmo’ was referred to as en franko. The language of the few 16th-century authors who seem to have accepted much of the norms of 15th16th-century literary Christian Spanish (e.g., Moše Almosnino, in Hanhagat ha-ḥayyim. . . reʒimjento de la viða, Salonika, 1564) diverges significantly from contemporaneous popular Jewish use; in their works the language is usually denoted as romance, as common in Christian Spanish; but that name, like the literary style used in their works, does not survive beyond the 16th century.

2.1.2 Phonology and Orthography

Features characteristic of this period include the occasional representation of the correspondents of both Old Castilian phonemes /ç/ versus /s/ by the free variants śin (e.g., <qwnwśyr> konoser ‘know’, OSp. conocer) and samax (e.g., <syrwyr> servir ‘serve’, Sp. servir), implying that the Judezmo sound corresponding both to Old Spanish /ç/ and /s/ is uniformly [s]. Judezmo intervocalic [z] corresponding to Old Castilian <VsV> [z] is no longer systematically represented by śin; rather, Judezmo [z] reflecting both Old Castilian /z/ (orthographically, <VsV>) and /d͡z̻/ (<z>) is universally represented by zayin, implying universal realization of the correspondents of both historical phonemes as uniform [z], for example, <nwzwṭros> nozotros ‘we’, OSp. <nosotros>; <dyzyr> dezir ‘say’, OSp. <dezir>. The Judezmo correspondents of Old Spanish f- (< Lat. f) are represented alternately by pe+diacritic and he (resembling later premodern Spanish <f/h> vacillation), for example, <ṗ-/hʔzyr> f-/(h)azer ‘do’; however, Judezmo he may simply be a spelling convention actually denoting phonological zero, since in the transcription of some Turkisms in Judezmo of this period, Turkish [h] is reflected in Judezmo as zero-indicating alef rather than he, for example, <myʔymyṭ> Meemet ‘Mehmet’ (cf. Ottoman Meḥmed < Ar. Maḥmad). The phones [ʤ‎] and [ʒ‎] are probably distinct phonemes in Judezmo by this period; they are both represented by gemal+diacritic, but based on their realization in later Judezmo, it may be assumed that in intervocalic position both phones can occur, for example, [ʤ‎] in <ʔġwsṭʔr> aʤustar ‘add’ (Sp. ajustar), <ʔġb> aʤabá ‘I wonder’ (Trk. acaba) versus [ʒ‎] in <ʔġw> aʒo ‘garlic’ (OSp. ajo). The use of <lyy> and <yy> often parallels that of Old Castilian <ll> versus consonantal <y> and consonant-denoting ; but a merger of the two phones as [j], as in modern Judezmo, is suggested by instances of <lyy/yy> vacillation, for example, 16th-century <lyywgw/yywgw> both apparently denoting juγ‎o ‘yoke’ (cf. Sp. yugo), 17th-century <ʔyśṭrylyyh/ʔyśṭryyʔ> both apparently representing Estreja ‘(feminine personal name)’ (Sp. estrella ‘star’). The glide [j] and an adjacent [e] are more systematically denoted by double yod, for example, <byyń> bjen ‘well’ (Sp. bien); and [ɲ‎] is sometimes denoted by <nyy>, for example, <ʔnyyw> aɲo ‘year’ (Sp. año). Vocalized Hebrew-letter texts reveal vacillation between nonstressed [e] and [i], both denoted by yod, variously punctuated with the segol, ṣere, or ḥiriq vowel points, and between [o] and [u], denoted by waw punctuated with ḥolam, šuruq, or qubbuṣ vowel signs. The texts also show metathesis involving the liquids l and r which would become especially typical of Judezmo, for example, porpózito ‘purpose’ (Sp. propósito), motlepikava (3sg.impf.ind) ‘multiplied’ (OSp. multiplicava). Certain popular features which were probably used earlier on but were previously undocumented begin to appear in texts; for example, in representations of speech from the early 17th century, etymological [f] when preceding the labiovelar glide [w] is occasionally depicted as velar [χ‎], through assimilation to the velarity of the glide, for example, Salonika <ḥwʔymwś> χ‎wimos/χ‎wemos (1pl.pst. ind) ‘we went’ (cf. Sp. fuimos, Andalusian and Latin American substandard juimos), Istanbul <ḥwʔyrws> χ‎weros ‘statutes’ (cf. Sp. fueros). Through assimilation to the labiality of the w glide, a preceding n tends to become m, for example, our’ (Sp. nuestro).

2.1.3 Morphosyntax

Features first documented in this period had probably been used in popular speech before the expulsions but, under the influence of the evolving norms in the literary language of neighboring non-Jews, did not make their way into formal writing before now. Alternants rejected in post-expulsion Spanish are often the ones which in Judezmo became normative—for example, in the verb morphology, 1sg present indicative forms with regular -o, for example, do ‘I give’, vo ‘I go’ (Sp. doy, voy); irregular preterit stems such as kiʒ- (< k[j]erer ‘want’; Sp. quis- < querer), truʃ- (< tra[j]er ‘bring’; Sp. traj- < traer); future and conditional stems with consonant metathesis, for example, tern- (< tener ‘have’; Sp. tendr-), sarl- (< salir ‘go out’; Sp. saldr-); and gerunds such as indo ‘going’ (< ir, Sp. yendo, Pt. indo) and gerunds and past participles with preterite stems, such as tuvjendo ‘having’, tuviðo ‘had’ (< tener, Sp. teniendo, tenido). In some instances, such forms survive as alternants, for example, ía/iva ‘(3sg imperfect) went, was going’ (< ir; Sp. iba). Stem allomorphy occurs, sometimes regionally, in finite verb forms, as well as in infinitives, past participles, and gerunds, with diphthongization (e.g., e > je) in verbs such as kjerer ‘want’, 1pl present indicative kjeremos, ɲeγ‎ar ‘deny’, 1pl present subjunctive ɲeγ‎emos (Sp. querer, queremos, negar, neguemos), and absence of stressed-vowel diphthongization where present in Spanish, for example, empesan ‘they begin’ (Sp. empiezan). 1pl -ar verbs in the preterit indicative often show -emos (e.g., favlemos ‘we spoke’; OSp. fablamos), thus marking an overt distinction between them and the corresponding present indicative (e.g., favlamos ‘we speak’). As in Spanish during this period, the second person singular preterit indicative inflection is usually -ste, and its plural analogue -stes, for example, 2sg amaste, 2pl amastes ‘you loved’ (OSp. amaste, amaste[i]s). Some regular conjugations are preferred over their irregular alternants, for example, aver ‘have’: ave, aves, ave, avemos, avéʃ, aven (Sp. haber: he, has, ha, hemos, hais, han). The 2pl marker -V́ʃ (corresponding to Spanish -V́is) begins to become systematic in all tenses and modes: for example, soʃ (2pl.ind) ‘you are’ (Sp. sois). There are diverse metatheses involving the infinitive and a third person object pronoun (e.g., resevilda ‘to receive it(f)’, Sp. recibirla) and a 2pl imperative and an object pronoun (e.g., dezímeldo ‘tell it to me’, Sp. decídmelo). Innovative morphological derivation develops rapidly from this period, mostly as a result of the suffixation of Hispanic-origin morphemes to bases of diverse linguistic origins. Previously undocumented synthetic verbs include some showing bases of Hebrew origin and the verbalizing suffix -(e)ar, as in deverbal baðkar ‘search, examine’ (Heb. b-d-q + Sp. -ar), darsar ‘preach’ (Heb. d-r-š), kafrar ‘curse, deny (the existence of God)’ (Heb. k-f-r), denominal (with Hispanic-origin inchoative a-) (a)soχ‎að‎ear ‘to bribe’ (sóχ‎að ‘bribe’, Heb. šoḥad), and deadjectival kaʃerar ‘render (food, utensils) fit for Jewish use’ (kaʃer, Heb. kašer ‘kosher, fit’). The (pronominal) verbalizer -ear(se) is also used to incorporate Turkish and Balkansprachbund-language verbal or nominal bases with a final consonant or unstressed vowel, for example, dajanear ‘hold on, support’ (Trk. dayan-), ʃaʃear ‘bewilder, surprise’ (Trk. şaş‑, şaşır‑), batirearse ‘sink, go down’ (Trk. batır-; cf. Sp. pronominal hundirse), pizmear ‘be stubborn’ (pizma ‘stubbornness’ < Grk. peîsma ‘obstinacy’). In this period, the -ear verbalizer is used with some bases having a final stressed vowel, for example, imzalear ‘sign (esp. an official document)’ (Trk. imzala- < Ar. imḍā); but increasingly, the verbalizer -dear (< Trk. 3sg simple past tense ‑dı + Sp. -ear) is added instead, for example, jamaladear ‘plunder’ (Trk. yağmaladı ‘plundered(3sg)’ < yağmala- < yağma ‘plunder’). The 16th-century texts also include numerous analytic verbs with a Hebrew-origin invariant element and a conjugated Hispanic-origin auxiliary, for example, (h)azer ‘do’ / dezir ‘say’ + tefilá ‘prayer’ > ‘pray’ (OSp. fazer/dezir [oración], Heb. tĕfilla ‘prayer’), dar ‘give’ + ʃalom ‘peace’ > ‘greet’ (Sp. dar, Heb. šalom ‘peace’), tomar ‘take’ + sáar ‘grief’ > ‘grieve’ (Sp. tomar, Heb. ṣa‘ar ‘grief’). Some are analogues of analytic verbs of Turkish and Balkan-language origin such as (h)azer teftiʃ ‘investigate’ (Trk. teftiş [< Ar. taftīš] et-), (h)azer raet ‘show consideration, entertain’ (Trk. riayet [< Ar. ri‘āyat] et-).

As concerns the pronominal system, mozotros appears as a variant 1pl subject pronoun (Sp. nosotros), and mos as the corresponding object/reflexive pronoun (Sp. nos). Vos/vozotros often appears as a 2pl subject pronoun, with vos as the corresponding object/reflexive pronoun (Sp. os). The 3pl reflexive marker -sen is sometimes attached to infinitives, gerunds, and imperatives, for example, lavarsen ‘wash themselves’ (normative Sp. ‑se). In double object pronouns consisting of a first or second person indirect object pronoun and the pronoun se, the indirect pronoun precedes se:


Third person singular su merseð and plural sus merseðes are polite forms of address. There is vacillation between the 1pl possessive adjectives nwestro/nweso and the 2pl possessive adjectives vwestro/vweso (Sp. nuestro, vuestro); the latter forms later disappear. The predominant indefinite pronouns are alγ‎uno ‘someone’ (Sp. alguien), animate negative ninguno ‘no one, no person’ (Sp. ninguno; by 1737 the alternate negative adjective form dinguno ‘none’ appears; nadie was not used after the 16th century); and the pronoun kwal ‘which’ takes the form of a regular adjective: kwalo, -a, -os, -as (Sp. sg cual vs. pl cuales). The predominant interrogative pronoun is kwalo? ‘what? which?’ (Sp. ¿qué? ¿cual?).

The nominal system shows increasing divergence from the evolving normative Spanish. The feminine singular definite article la precedes feminine nouns, including those with initial stressed a-, for example, la aγ‎wa ‘the water’ (Sp. el/la agua > literary el agua), and Hispanisms with final -or, for example, la dolor ‘the pain’ (Sp. el/la dolor > literary el dolor). Borrowings from Hebrew, Turkish, and Balkansprachbund languages such as Greek and South Slavic are assigned grammatical gender based on the natural gender of their referents, or their final sounds: for example, masculine gender is assigned to masculine referents regardless of their final sounds, such as m raʃá ‘evil-doer’ (Heb. raša‘), and to nouns ending in a consonant or -í/-ú (e.g., m galuð ‘exile’ [Heb. galut], which is feminine in classical Hebrew proper; truʃí ‘brine’ [Trk. turşu]); while feminine gender is assigned to feminine referents and substantives ending in -a and, in the case of Turkish-Balkanisms, often (e.g., f ʃemá ‘the Hear O Israel prayer’ [Heb. 2sg imperative šĕma‘ ‘hear!’], kavané ‘coffeehouse’ [Trk. kahvehane]). Aramaic-origin -tá is preferred to Hebrew in χ‎amortá ‘female ass’ (Aram. ḥamorĕta, Heb. ḥamora). Some feminines are created by adding Romance-origin -a or -isa to nouns of Hebrew origin, for example, samasa/ʃamaʃa ‘wife of the synagogue beadle’ < m samás/ʃamaʃ ‘synagogue beadle’, Heb. šammaš; apotroposa/apotropa ‘female guardian’ < m apotropós (Grk. építropos), rubisa ‘rabbi’s wife’ < m rubí (cf. Sephardic Heb. ri‑/rebbi ‘rabbi’; on the morphological integration of elements of Hebrew and Aramaic origin see Bunis, 2004b, 2005b, 2006–2007, 2007, 2009). As elements of Turkish and other local origins begin to be adopted by the first generation born in the Ottoman Empire, innovative derivatives are created by attaching suffixes of Hispanic origin such as actor-denoting -ero, for example, χ‎araʧ‎ero ‘tax-collector’ (χ‎araʧ ‘tax’ < Trk. Haraç < Ar. xarāj), -baʃí: kabarbaʃí ‘chief gravedigger’ (cf. kabar ‘gravedigger’ < Heb. qabbar, Trk. başı ‘its head’). Greek-origin feminine hypocoristic -ula (Grk. ‑óula) is added to feminine personal names of diverse origins, for example, Siɲorula (< Hispanic-origin Siɲora [Sp. señora]); the innovative masculine analogue, -ulo is also documented, for example, Sabatulo (given to one born on sabað ‘Sabbath’ < Heb. šabbat) (on the incorporation of Turkish and Balkan-language elements during this period, see Bunis, 2001, 2008b, 2013a, 2017a).

Diminutive/hypocoristic creation patterns include the default suffix -iko/-ika (e.g., livriko < livr-o ‘book’, cf. Sp. librito; m personal name Moʃiko < Moʃ-é, Heb. Moše; ʧenbeliko < ʧtenbel ‘head scarf’, Trk. çember); -ito/-ita, added to velar-final bases (e.g., roskita < rosk-a ‘rusk’, Sp. rosquilla; f personal name Χ‎anukita ‘[name given to a girl born during Hanukkah]’ < χ‎anuk-á, cf. Heb. ḥanukka; ʧardakito < ʧardak(-e) ‘gazebo’, Trk. çardak); and -eziko/-ezika, attaching to nonhuman monosyllabics (e.g., χ‎aneziko < χ‎an ‘inn’, Trk. han; soleziko < sol ‘sun’ vs. Solika ‘little girl named Sol’), words with final -e (e.g., oðreziko < oðr-e ‘wineskin’, Sp. odre), and lexemes with a glide (e.g., pjeðrezika < pjeðr-a ‘stone’, cf. Sp. piedrita; γ‎wertezika < γ‎wert-a ‘garden’, cf. Sp. huertilla/-tita/-tecita) (Bunis, 2004b). The plural of elements of Hispanic origin, as well as those borrowed from Turkish and other contact languages, generally show Hispanic-origin -(e)s, for example, kaza-s ‘houses’ (OSp. casa-s), saraf-es ‘money-changers’ (Trk. sarraf-lar), whereas, especially in rabbinic texts, most plural forms of Hebrew elements resemble their Hebrew correspondents, showing Hebrew-origin plural morphemes, for example, sg din ‘(Jewish) law’ > pl dinim/‑ín (Heb. din, dinim/‑in), sg séfer ‘Torah scroll’ > pl sefarim/-ín (Heb. sefer, sĕfarim), sg sibá ‘reason’ > pl siboð (Heb. sg sibba, pl sibbot), with innovative toγ‎armim ‘Turks’ from the semantic shift Toγ‎armá ‘[Biblical toponym, Genesis 10:3] > ‘Ottoman Empire’, yielding the singular back-formation toγ‎ar ‘Turk’ (Bunis, 1985).

As concerns the adjectives, γ‎rande ‘big’ appears before singular substantives (Sp. gran). Superlative -ísimo is rare; tautological superlatives such as lo mas miʒor ‘the [most] best’ (Sp. lo mejor) occur. The denominal adjective ga(a)v(j)ento ‘haughty’ derives from Hebrew ga‘awa ‘pride’ + Hispanic-origin -(j)ento.

As far as numerals are concerned, distinctive cardinal numbers include seʃ ‘six’ (Sp. seis), mweve ‘nine’ (Sp. nueve), doʤe ‘twelve’ (Sp. doce), diziseʃ ‘sixteen’ (Sp. dieciséis), vente ‘twenty’ (Sp. veinte); the conjunction i ‘and’ (Sp. y) appears between the individual digits of a compound numeral, for example, mil i trezjentos i doʤe ‘1,312’; the singular noun is used after a complex numeral ending in ‘one’ (sjen i un livro ‘101 books’; Sp. ciento y un libros). Alternate ordinal numbers include primo/-a ‘first’ (Sp. primero), and forms with -en(o): -eno in isolation, for example, sinkeno ‘fifth’ (Sp. cinqueño/quinto), -én before a noun, for example, seʒén livro ‘sixth book’ (Sp. seisén/sexto libro).

2.1.4 Lexicon and Semantics

Lexemes belonging to the Hispanic stratum often correspond to popular Old Castilian, and include as normative forms variants rejected in later normative Castilian, for example, munʧo ‘much’, delantre ‘before’, bjervo (/palavra) ‘word’, ʧapeo ‘hat’, solombra ‘shade’, bendiʧo ‘blessed’ (cf. Sp. muncho/mucho > mucho, delantre/delante > delante; verbo ‘verb’ vs. palabra ‘word’; chapeo [not documented in CORDE for Spanish before 1492], sombrero [documented in Spanish from ca. 1250]; solombra [not documented in normative Spanish after 1553] vs. sombra [documented in Spanish from ca. 1196], bendicho [not documented in Spanish after 1500] vs. bendito [documented in Spanish from 1240], respectively), and numerous forms with initial a-, for example, ar(r)inkón ‘corner’, amostrar ‘show’ (vs. Sp. rincón, mostrar). Some lexemes resemble analogues in other varieties of Ibero-Romance, for example, forms reminiscent of specific regional varieties, such as ʤinojos ‘knees’ and melsa ‘spleen’ (Ara. ge-/chinollo, Cat. genoll; Ara. m(i)elsa, Cat. melsa), kazal ‘village’ (Pt., Ara. casal), palomba ‘dove’ (Leon. palomba), djentro ‘inside’ (Ast. dientro), lonʤe ‘far’ (Glc. lonxe; Pt. longe), (d)aínda ‘still’ (Gallego, Pt. ainda), akaviðarse ‘be careful’, meʃelikar ‘gossip, tell secrets’ (Pt. cavidar, mexericar), apoko apoko ‘little by little’ (Cat. a poc a poc, also It. a poco a poco) (on Judezmo-Portuguese-Aragonese lexical parallels, see Quintana, 2009). There are also internal Judezmo innovations, which probably arose before the expulsions but are first documented from this phase, for example, finally stressed ʤuðjó/ʤiðjó ‘Jew’ (Sp. judío), and forms diverging from Castilian such as γ‎wezmo ‘odor’ (Sp. husmo), reγ‎mir ‘redeem’ (Sp. redimir), abeðiγ‎war ‘revive’ (cf. Sp. vivificar, popular aviviguar), en lo ke ‘while’ (e.g., en lo·ke van kaminando ‘while they are walking’; Sp. en el tiempo que). Some Judezmo lexemes of Hispanic origin carry narrower meanings than their non-Jewish Ibero-Romance analogues, often meanings having specifically Jewish connotations: for example, la ley ‘the Torah, Jewish law’ (Sp. ley ‘law’), los meðjanos ‘intermediate days of a Jewish holiday’ (Sp. mediano ‘middle’), taleγ‎a and koraʧa ‘bag for prayer shawl and phylacteries’ (Sp. talega ‘small wide bag’ < Ar. ta‘līqa; Sp. coracha ‘leather bag for tobacco, etc.’).

The Hebrew-Aramaic stratum represented in popular rabbinical translations and responsa of this period is extensive. Throughout the history of Ottoman Judezmo this component is one of its most distinctive features and thus the Hebrew-Aramaic component merits detailed discussion. In addition to the terms directly connected with Jewish religion and civilization, such as Jewish festival names and related nomenclature, months of the Hebrew year, and terminology relating to Jewish law, the inventory of Hebrew-Aramaisms in 16th-century Judezmo includes substantives denoting abstract concepts such as χ‎anefuð ‘flattery’ (Heb. ḥanifut), reʃuð ‘permission’ (Heb. rĕšut), peʃará ‘compromise’ (Heb. pĕšara), dor ‘generation’ (Heb. dor); adjectives such as neemán ‘trustworthy’ (Heb. ne’eman), setam ‘any, unspecified’ (Heb. noun sĕtam); adverbs and adverbial phrases such as mamaʃ (despjerto) ‘really (awake)’ (Heb. mammaš), aderabá ‘on the contrary’ (Aram. addĕrabba); interjections such as bezraðael! ‘with the help of God’ (Heb. bĕ-‘ezrat ha-El), has veʃalom! ‘Heaven forbid!’ (Heb. ḥas wĕ-šalom!).

Some forms of Hebraisms in Judezmo diverge from the analogues found in contemporaneous Ashkenazi (i.e., German and East European Jewish) and earlier Hebrew texts, for example, sekaná ‘danger’ (vs. Ashkenazi Whole Heb. sakono), zaχ‎uð ‘privilege, merit’ (Heb. zĕ-/zaxut), ge[h]inam ‘Hell’ (Heb. gĕhinnom), kabarim ‘grave-diggers’ (Heb. qabbĕranim), meχ‎oram ‘excommunicated, ostracized person’ (Heb. muḥram) (Bunis, 2013b). Some others, which have been retained in Judezmo into modern times, are not found in Yiddish texts, or not in the same senses, for example, moeð ‘Jewish holiday’ (< ‘appointed time’, Heb. mo‘ed), tevá ‘reader’s platform in synagogue’ (< ‘ark’, Heb. teva), (h)eχ‎al ‘Torah ark in the synagogue’ (< ‘Temple’, Heb. hexal). Some Judezmo Hebraisms are distinctive in form and meaning, for example, aχ‎arajú(ð) ‘danger’ (Heb. aḥrayut ‘responsibility’). Hebrew is an important source of terminology for concepts relating to other religions, for example, gojim ‘Muslims; Gentiles’ (Heb. goyim ‘peoples’ > ‘non-Jews’), arelim ‘Christians’ (Heb. ‘arelim ‘uncircumcised’), galaχ‎im ‘Christian priests’ (Heb. gallaḥim), ʃemað ‘forced conversion from Judaism’ (Heb. šĕmad), meʃumaðim ‘forced converts’ (Heb. mĕšummadim); as well as to other concepts having emotive content, such as concepts possessing unfortunate or negative connotations and the taboo, for example, terms relating to death and mourning: avel ‘mourner’ (Heb. avel), aveluð ‘mourning’ (Heb. avelut), jatom ‘orphan’ (Heb. yatom), beðaχ‎ajim/beðaχ‎é (and variants) ‘cemetery (literally, ‘house of the living’)’ (Heb. bet ha-ḥayyim); loathesome and non-kosher animals such as χ‎azir ‘pig’ (Heb. ḥazir), χ‎amor ‘donkey’ (Heb. ḥamor), χ‎ajá ‘wild animal’ (Heb. ḥayya); terms connected to bodily waste such as soá ‘feces’ (Heb. ṣo‘a), beðakisé ‘outhouse’ (Heb. bet ha-kisse), and other negatively charged terminology such as jisurín ‘tribulations’ (Heb. yissurin), ramaj ‘swindler’ (Heb. ramay), gezerá ‘evil decree’ (Heb. gĕzera), magefá ‘plague’ (Heb. maggefa); internal organs such as garón ‘throat’ (Heb. garon), reá ‘lung’ (Heb. re’a), kané ‘trachea’ (Heb. qane); and sex-related terminology such as besim ‘testicles’ (Heb. beṣim), ʃaðájim ‘breasts’ (Heb. šadayim), betulá ‘virgin’ (Heb. bĕtula), mamzer ‘bastard’ (Heb. mamzer) and feminine mamzertá (Aramaic ‑ta), zenuð ‘prostitution’ (Heb. zĕnut). In addition to the elements of Hebrew and Aramaic origin for which the authors offer no synonyms of Hispanic or other origins, numerous Hebraisms are employed in alternation with Hispanic synonyms or near synonyms, demonstrating that Hebraisms are not only used when synonymous terms of other origins were unknown to speakers but rather by choice, out of a desire specifically to use the Hebrew terms, their preference governed perhaps by factors such as their affective value, exactness of reference in specific contexts, the opportunities they afford to expand and vary the lexicon for greater stylistic diversity, maintain a distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish reference, and so on. Such lexical alternation in texts from this period include terms relating to Judaism, for example, Aðonaj (Heb. Adonay) ‘the Lord’ and (H)akaðóʃ Baruχ‎ (H)u ‘the Holy One Blessed Be He’ (Heb. ha-qadoš barux hu) ~ el Djo ‘God’, as well as more general terms such as aní (Heb. ‘ani) ~ prove/povre ‘pauper’, χ‎aver (Heb. ḥaver) ~ konpaɲero ‘associate’, olam (Heb. ‘olam) ~ mundo ‘world’, afilú (Heb. afillu) ~ aún ‘(adv.) even’. Hebrew elements also appear in folk genres such as the proverb, and metaphor and simile such as (to suffer) “las jaγ‎as de Misrájim” ‘the (ten) plagues of Egypt’ (Heb. Miṣrayim; Ex. 12:13); “(por) γ‎rande (ke sea el ombre) komo Oγ‎” ‘(even if the man be) as big as Og’ (Heb. ‘Og; Nos. 21:33); “(No reseviré de ti aún ke fweses) kumo Moʃé” ‘(I would not accept it from you even if you were) like Moses’ (Heb. Moše); “kumo Bilam (h)araʃá” ‘[evil] as the evil Bil’am’ (Heb. Bil‘am; Nos. 22).

Early Middle Judezmo texts increasingly document the other distinctive feature of Ottoman Judezmo: its Turkish and Balkansprachbund-language strata. Sometimes the borrowings assume distinctive forms or meanings. Borrowings include references to local realia such as aspro/akʧé ‘kind of local silver coin’ (Grk. áspros, Trk. akçe ‘white [coin]’), food terms such as ʃejrbet ‘raisin and fig juice or stew’ (Trk. şerbet), truʃí ‘brine’ (Trk. turşu, Grk. toursí); costume terms such as rizá ‘handkerchief’ (Blg., Srb. riza ‘shirt, chemise’), kuʃake (with -e to avoid word-final -k; later, kuʃak) ‘sash’ (Trk. kuşak), jer-/jardán (yielding modern jaðrán) ‘necklace’ (cf. Trk. gerdan ‘neck’, gerdanlık ‘necklace’; the Judezmo realization of Turkish palatalized gj as yod is characteristic); titles and terms relating to professions such as beg ‘Turkish feudal lord’ (Trk. beg), matrapás ‘middleman’ (Trk. madrabaz), vajvoda ‘duke, governor’ (SCr. vojvoda, Trk. voyvoda); the language-name farsí ‘Persian’ (Trk. farisi); adjectives such as kolaj ‘easy’ (Trk.), uγ‎urlí ‘fortunate’ (Trk. uğurlu), and the adverbial expression akoturú ‘at random’ (Grk. koutouróu, Trk. götürü). Personal names, too, are borrowed from Turkish and Greek: for example, the female name Zimbul (Trk. colloquial zümbül, standard sümbül ‘hyacinth’) and the masculine name Menteʃ (Trk. Menteş). Besides outright lexical incorporations, Turkish material is absorbed in the form of calques translating Turkish idioms by means of analogues constructed with lexemes of Hispanic and Hebrew-Aramaic origin, for example, de ke? ‘why?’ (Trk. neden [literally, “from what?”; vs. Sp. ¿porqué?]), poko munʧo ‘more or less (Trk. az çok [“little much”; vs. Sp. más o menos]), de una ‘suddenly’ (Trk. birden [“from one”; vs. Sp. de repente]). Turkish syntactic influence is probably responsible for the generic use of a singular rather than plural noun if accompanied by a qualifier denoting plurality, for example, las anʤinaras ay munʧo γ‎uzano menuðo en ejas ‘artichokes have a lot of small worms in them’ (cf. Trk. formally singular substantive [birçok küçük] solucan) (Bunis, 2013a).

2.1.5 Regional Dialectology

The unique Ottoman Judezmo dialect geography already begins to emerge during the 16th century; the major bifurcation is between the Northwest dialect region—essentially co-territorial to South Slavic, Romanian, and Austrian German, that is, Western Bulgaria, Romania, what would become Yugoslavia, Austria, and Hungary—and the Southeast region—co-territorial primarily with spoken Greek and Turkish, that is, what would become Greece and Turkey; Salonika emerges as an intermediate area, with a tendency toward preservation of Hispanic initial f- (< Lat. f-), as in the Northwest (fazer ‘do’), but with most other features corresponding to Southeast Judezmo (e.g., preservation of phonemic /ð/ vs. /d/) (Quintana, 2006). From the 16th century, Northwest texts use the grapheme ṣadi for the phoneme /t͡s/ in Hebraisms, Slavisms, Italianisms, and Germanisms, for example, <ṗlwrynṣyyʔ> Florent͡sia ‘Florence’, whereas in the Southeast no /t͡s/ phoneme emerges, and the letter ṣadi, confined essentially to Hebrew-origin words, is realized as /s/. The phoneme /d͡z/, which appears in 16th-century texts from Salonika in <dwdzy> dod͡ze ‘twelve’, would become phonemic in the Northwest region by at least the 19th century (see section 3.1). Under Turkish-Balkan influence, palatalized [kj] emerges in the Southeast region, first appearing in local borrowings (e.g., the female personal name <q´yymwlh> Kjimula < Grk. Kimóula), and later also in Hispanisms (e.g., <q´yń> k´en ‘who’; Sp. quien); in the Northwest, under South Slavic influence, the palatalization intensifies to [ʧ‎], for example, ʧen ‘who’. Similarly, in the Northwest, etymological Turkish/Balkan-origin [g´] is characteristically realized as the affricate [ʤ‎], a near-parallel to the Bosnian fronted reflex [d͡ʑ], for example, 18th-century Sarajevo ʤumbruk ‘customs-house’ (Trk. gümrük, Bos. đumruk < Grk. kumerki). Rabbinic responsa passages from the late 17th century, published in the 18th century, document the metathesis of postulated historical medial [rð] to [ð‎r] which comes to characterize the Southeast (including Salonika), for example, verðaθ > veðraθ (wydr’t)‘truth’ (Pĕraḥya, 1722, f. 184b, from Salonika, February 1658). Under local influence, the merger of /d/ and /ð/ as occlusive /d/ (realized word-finally as [t], elsewhere as [d]), and /g/ and /γ‎/ as occlusive /g/ (realized word-finally as [k], elsewhere as [g]), which comes to characterize the Northwest region, probably dates from the beginning of this period, probably accounting for the preservation of the sequence [rð] as [rd] in Sarajevo and its vicinity (vs. Southeast [ð‎r]), for example, tardi (vs. Southeast taðre) ‘late’.

Turkish profoundly impacts all varieties of Judezmo. Some South Slavic elements also permeate into pan-Judezmo, perhaps through Turkish, for example, nouns such as tojaká ‘stout stick, cudgel’ (SCr. tojaga, Trk. toy(a)ka/-ğa), zolota ‘a former Ottoman coin’ (Ro. zoloto, Blg. zlato, Trk. zolota). But most Slavisms remain confined to the Northwest, including hypocoristic suffixes added to personal-name bases, for example, masculine Josko (< Heb. Yos-ef + Slavic ‑ko) (Bunis, 2001, 2017a). Some Greek elements too are eventually incorporated into pan-Judezmo (documented mostly from the 18th century), for example, papú ‘grandfather’, vavá ‘grandmother’, trandafilá ‘rose’ (Grk. papóus, giagiá, triantáfyllo), but they predominate primarily in the Southeast (Danon, 1922).

2.2 Late Middle Judezmo (ca. 1729–1796)

The results of three centuries of independent, innovative linguistic development of Ottoman Judezmo are to be seen in the plentiful, primarily religion-centered prose and poetic texts appearing during this period in Constantinople, Salonika, Izmir, Venice, Livorno, and Pisa. Ottoman Judezmo has evolved in contact with the languages of the Ottoman Empire, and languages of trade between the empire and Western Europe such as Italian. This period may be said to begin around 1729, when the prolific Rabbi Avraham Asa begins to publish linguistically innovative Judezmo texts in unvocalized Rashí letters in his native Constantinople (e.g., Letras de ribí Akivá kopiaðas de laʃón akóðeʃ en laðino). The texts document changes which occur toward the end of the preceding period; some innovations are to be seen most clearly in Asa’s vocalized Square Hebrew-letter Pentateuch (Ḥamiša ḥumĕše tora ‘im la‘az) and daily prayer book (Bet tĕfilla en librán i en laðino), which appear from 1739. Distinctive features are also found in subsequent works by others from this period, all in variants of what may be called ‘Rabbinic Judezmo’. The divergence between their language and that depicted in writings from the preceding period is so palpable that Rabbi Ya‘aqov Xulí, who initiates the pioneering Judezmo biblical exegesis series, Sefer me-‘am lo‘ez (Constantinople: Genesis, 1730; first half of Exodus, 1733), remarks that the earlier authors had written “a·su moðo, kon moðos de avlas espaɲolas ke, para la ʤente de estas partes de Turkía i Anadol i ‘Arabistán, son muj karas i seraðas . . . i tambjén el soletreo de ditos siɲores es de otra manera . . . la ʤente de estas partes no lo entjenden” (‘in their style, with types of Spanish words which, for the people of these parts of Turkey and Anatolia and Arabia, are very lofty and closed . . . and also the orthography of these gentlemen is of a different sort . . . the people of these parts do not understand it’; Me-‘am lo‘ez, Genesis, Constantinople, 1730:[iii]a). In the literal Judezmo translation of the Bible published by Avraham Asa in Constantinople, 1739–1745 (5 vols.), the biblical expression yĕhudit ‘Judean/Jewish language’ (i.e., Hebrew) is translated as ʤuðezmo ‘Jewish language’ (e.g., II Kings 18:26); since that name appears explicitly in the sense of ‘Judezmo language’ in texts from the early 19th century (see section 3.2), it is likely that ʤuðezmo (cf. OSp. judaísmo ‘Judaism’, with reanalysis of -ezmo as a language-denoting and adjectival suffix) is already used in Asa’s time to denote ‘Judezmo’ as well. This would have paralleled analogous terms such as Turkish Ibrani ‘Hebrew, Jewish’ and Yahudice ‘Jewish’ and Balkan-language analogues for Judezmo used by the Jews’ neighbors from the 16th century.

2.2.1 Phonology and Orthography

The texts exemplify numerous phonological features undocumented in the preceding periods but which will now predominate into the modern era. Corresponding to the (mostly word-initial) older variants [f] and perhaps [h] <ṗ>/<h> (cf. Lat. [f] > OSp. [f] > [f]/[h] > normative zero, denoted by <h>; for example, Judezmo <ṗ-/hʔḃlʔr> f- /[h]avlar ‘speak’), the literary language now shows mostly alef, denoting the phonological zero (<ʔḃlar> avlar) which predominates as the reflection of Latin f- from this time on throughout what will become Turkey. The increasing trend toward a one-to-one relationship between grapheme and phoneme leads to a more definitive representation of the differentiation between the distinct phonemes /ʒ/, as zayin+diacritic, versus /ʤ/ and /ʧ/, the latter two still represented by gemal+diacritic (e.g., <mʔżʔr>> maʒar ‘to pestle’ vs. <mʔġʔryʔh> Maʤaría ‘Hungary’ vs. <mʔġw> maʧo ‘male’; Sp. majar, Trk. Macar ‘Hungarian’+ Sp. -ía, Sp. macho); and the representation of /s/ by samax, the use of šin (with or without the diacritic) increasingly limited to /ʃ/ (e.g., <myldʔs> meldas ‘[2sg.prs.ind] you read’ vs. <myldʔṥ> meldáʃ ‘[2pl.prs.ind] you read’). The phonemic distinction between occlusive /d/ and fricative /ð/, both occurring intervocalically in Southeast Judezmo, begins to receive orthographic representation as simple dalet for /d/ vs. dalet+diacritic for /ð/, for example, <mwndw> mundo ‘world’ versus <mwḋw> moðo ‘way’ (Sp. mundo, modo). An analogous graphemic opposition in Southeast Judezmo, between gemal for occlusive /g/ and gemal+diacritic for fricative /γ‎/ enjoys very rare use, for example, <ryngh> ringa ‘herring’ versus <ryġlh> reγ‎la ‘rule’ (Trk. ringa; Sp. regla); the already heavy orthographic load carried by gemal+diacritic apparently leads to the rejection of this grapheme for /γ‎/, and the failure to systematically distinguish graphemically between the Southeast phonemes /g/ and /γ‎/ continues into modern Judezmo. When corresponding to Castilian palatalized [ʎ‎], the [j] glide, and in some instances -VliV-, Judezmo often shows double yod or variant lamed + double yod, both denoting the simple [j] glide, for example, <(l)yywrʔr> jorar ‘cry’, <ṗʔmyʔh/-ylyyh> famí(j)a ‘family’; Sp. llorar, familia. Seemingly problematic clusters involving a diphthong are now reflected as vowels in hiatus, often separated by an expletive consonant, for example, [w + e/i] > [uγ‎e/uγ‎i], for example, ʤuγ‎eves ‘Thursday’ (Sp. jueves), esχ‎we-/esfweɲo ‘sleep (Sp. sueño). There are diverse reductions of sequences incorporating a yod, for example, Constantinople perjó ‘(3sg) lost’ (Sp. perdió), isjeðra ‘left’ (Sp. izquierda).

2.2.3 Morphosyntax

At the level of morphosyntax, too, popular tendencies and innovations which might long have been restricted to the spoken language begin to appear in writing. Metanalysis of the Hispanic-origin masculine definite article el + ibrik ‘the ewer’ (Trk.) yields el librik. In the pluralization of noun bases having a stressed final vowel, Judezmo now shows some tautological forms having a concatenation of two Hispanic-origin plural morphemes, for example, sg pje ‘foot’ > pl pje+z+es (OSp., popular Sp. pie-s-es, Sp. pie-s), bilibí ‘roasted chickpea’ > bilibi+z+es (Trk. leblebi); and back-formations, for example, reanalysis of singular lapis ‘pencil’ as sg lap + pl ‑es > sg lap ‘pencil’ > pl lap+es (Sp. sg lápiz, pl lápices). The demonstrative pronoun eso ‘that’ practically disappears after the 16th century, leaving only proximal esto ‘this’ and distal ake(j)o ‘that’ (Sp. esto, eso, aquello). In the numerical system, an alternate ordinal construction arises: definite article [+ noun] + de + cardinal numeral: for example, el pan de treze ‘the thirteenth bread’ (Sp. el decimotercer pan).

In the verbal system, the first person singular and plural preterit indicative inflections universally become and -imos, respectively, in the conjugation of all regular verbs, for example, topí ‘I found’, topimos ‘we found’ (inf. topar). The second person singular and plural markers in the preterit indicative of all verbs become -Vstes and -V́steʃ, respectively, for example, darsastes ‘you(sg) preached’ (Heb. d-r-š), meldásteʃ ‘you(pl) read’. In conditional sentences, the apodosis often contains an imperfect instead of a conditional, as in (1a) (cf. Spanish in (1b)).


The past participle frequently appears after finite verbs of ‘necessity’ or ‘want’ such as kaler ‘be necessary’ and kerer ‘want’.


By the first half of the 18th century, the linguistic system as a whole had undergone further innovation through novel concatenations of preexisting morphemes and merger and homogenization of Hispanic and non-Hispanic elements. For example, Old Sephardic La‘az had employed Arabic-origin χ‎azino in the sense of ‘ill’ (cf. OSp. hazino ‘mean, miserable’ < A. ḥazīn ‘sad’): the late 18th century sees derivative χ‎azinura ‘illness’ (Jdz./Sp. -ura), inchoative enχ‎azinarse/-earse ‘grow ill’ (Jdz./Sp. en- -[e]arse) and enχ‎azineserse ‘become ill’ (Jdz. en- -eserse, Sp. en- -ecerse). The tendency toward homogenization of components is particularly evident in the increased number of blends with bases and derivational affixes belonging to two or more of the language’s components. Some of the hundreds of Hebraisms and Turkisms now documented pluralize with Hebrew-Aramaic-origin masculine -im/-ín (Heb. -im, e.g., refranín ‘proverbs’, Jdz./Sp. sg refrán; felaχ‎im ‘peasants’, Jdz. felaχ, Trk. fellah), feminine -oð (Heb. ‑ot, e.g., kasaboð ‘small towns’, sg kasabá, Trk. kasaba; meanoð ‘taverns’, sg meaná, Trk. meyhane), and tautological plural concatenations such as feminine -oð+es (< Heb. -ot + Sp. ‑es), for example, sevaroðes ‘opinions’ (sg sevará, Heb. sĕvara). A few Hebraisms pluralize with Hispanic-origin -es, for example, garones ‘throat and trachea’ (sg garón, Heb. garon). Hebrew-origin abstract -uð (Heb. -ut) is attracted to Hispanic-origin χ‎araγ‎án ‘lazy’, yielding χ‎araγ‎anuð ‘laziness’. Fusion neologisms first documented during this phase include the following with Hispanic-origin derivational morphemes and Hebrew-origin bases: the denominal substantives χ‎anukía ‘Hanukkah lamp’ (Jdz. χ‎anuká, Heb. ḥanukka + hypocoristic -i(j)a > -illa or instrument-denoting -ía), χ‎averansa ‘partnership’ (Jdz. χ‎aver, Heb. ḥaver ‘partner’ + -ansa, Sp. -anza]), masculine deverbal kafraðor ‘atheist’ (< kafrar ‘deny God’s existence’ < Heb. k-p-r + actor-denoting m. -ðor), baðkaðor ‘inspector of food for kosher use’ (< baðkar ‘inspect’ < Heb. b-d-q + -ðor), and feminine tevilaðera ‘woman working in a Jewish ritual pool’ (Jdz. tevilá, Heb. ṭĕvilla ‘ritual immersion’ + f -ðera), and the adjectives raχ‎manozo ‘merciful’ (Jdz. raχ‎mán, Heb. raḥ[a]man ‘merciful’ + tautological Jdz. -ozo, Sp. -oso), ka(a)sjento ‘easy to anger’ (Jdz. kaas, Heb. ka‘as ‘anger’ + ‑jento), χ‎anino ‘graceful’ (Jdz. χ‎en, Heb. ḥen + -ino). Perhaps under Ottoman Turkish influence, from this period the Hebrew-origin verbal participle in analytic verbs with auxiliary ser ‘be’ begins to be invariantly masculine singular, for example, 1pl pret. indic. fwemos/fwimos maχ‎ʃir ‘we rendered ritually fit’ (cf. Heb. maxšir, maxširim). As in the preceding phase, some synthetic verbs show Hispanic-origin verbalizing -ar, for example, aχ‎aminar ‘hardboil (esp. in the Sabbath stew)’ (Jdz. χ‎amín, Heb./Aram. ḥammin ‘hot [water]’; inchoative a-; cf. also derivative (γ‎wevos) χ‎aminaðos ‘hardboiled (eggs)’ [past part. -aðo], and χ‎aminero ‘pot used for preparing the Sabbath stew’ [instrument-denoting -ero]). But from this period, verbal incorporations from Hebrew and local languages are usually created with -ear, and often incorporate diverse Hispanic-origin affixes, for example, desχ‎amesear ‘get rid of leavened food prior to Passover’ (negating des- + χ‎amés ‘leavened food’, Heb. ḥameṣ).

An increasing number of Turkish-origin verb bases attract the verbalizers -(e)ar (Sp. -ar, -ear) and, to stems with a final vowel, -(d)ear (Trk. simple past tense -dı- + Sp. -ar, -ear) , for example, embatak-ar ‘soil’ (Sp. inchoative em- + Trk. batak ‘quagmire’), daγ‎idear ‘distribute’ (Trk. dağıt-), pronominal (with se) (d)ezvaʧearse ‘relinquish’ (des- + Trk. vaz geç-, Jdz./Sp. -se), enγ‎lenearse ‘enjoy onself’ (Sp. en- + Trk. eğlen-); there is also some vacillation, for example, dal-/ daldear(se) ‘plunge into’ (Trk. dal[dı]-). Neologisms created from Turkish bases and Hispanic-origin affixes now include denotations of more abstract concepts, for example, language-name denoting -esko (Sp. -esco), felaχ‎esko ‘language of peasants’ (Trk. fellah ‘peasant’), other nominal suffixes such as -ðura (Sp. ‑dura), ʧatleaðura ‘crack’ (< ʧatlear ‘crack’ < Trk. çatla‑), -aða (Sp. -ada), kirbaʧaða ‘whipping’ (< kirbaʧ ‘whip’ < Trk. kırbaç), -mjento (Sp. -miento), sikileamjento ‘boredom, annoyance, shame’ (< sikilear[se] < Trk. sıkıl-), and -sjón (Sp. ‑ción), artirasjón ‘raising of a price’ (< artirear < Trk. artır-), and adjectives such as embatakaðo ‘soiled’ (cf. Sp. em- -ado, Trk. batak ‘quagmire’). The often-ironic Hispanic-origin hypocoristic suffix -ako (Sp. -aco) now attaches to non-Hispanic bases as well, for example, ʧelebako ‘finicky gentleman’ (< ʧeleb-í ‘gentleman’, Trk. çelebi). Turkish-origin derivational morphemes, which had formerly been confined essentially to use with Turkish bases, are now independently productive, also occurring with bases of other origins, for example, agent-denoting ‑ʤí (Trk. -cı) in pizmonʤí ‘singer of religious hymns’ (< pizmón ‘hymn’, Heb.), and provenance-denoting -lí, for example, saloniklí ‘Salonikan’ (< Grk. [Thes]saloniki). Nouns and adjectives using derivational morphemes of Turkish origin now begin to show gender distinction using Hispanic-origin gender markers, for example, ∅ versus -a in ʧolak+∅, ʧolak+a ‘lacking a hand or hands’ (Trk. çolak), and -lí+∅ versus -lí+a (Trk. ‑lı, Sp. ‑a) in misirlí+∅, misirlí+a ‘Egyptian’ (Trk. Mısır ‘Egypt’, -lı ‘Egyptian’). Some adjectives, and even substantives, are used generically, overtly showing neither number nor gender distinction, for example, kadir ‘capable’ (Trk. kadir).


2.2.4 Lexicon and Semantics

There is an increase in Hispanic-origin forms seemingly undocumented in Ibero-Romance or reminiscent of contemporary nonstandard regional (e.g., Andalusian) and popular Spanish, for example, pwerpo ‘body’ (cf. Modern Standard Spanish cuerpo) and the use of kwero in the sense both of ‘skin’ and ‘animal hide’ (vs. Modern Standard Spanish cuero ‘hide’). Numerous Hispanic-origin lexemes documented in the preceding period are increasingly supplanted by near-synonyms of Hebrew, Turkish-Balkan, or even pre-expulsion Romance origin (e.g., leer by meldar ‘to read’), and borrowings reflecting the acclimation of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire now include more nouns as well as adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and other nonsubstantives of local linguistic provenance. Idioms calquing Turkish verbal expressions become plentiful, for example, azer dikat ‘pay [literally, make] attention’ (Trk. dikkat et-), bever tutún ‘smoke [literally, drink] a water-pipe’ (Trk. tütün iç-), tomar χ‎aber ‘learn [literally, take] the news’ (Trk. haber al-). As Judezmo speakers acquire increased proficiency in Turkish, some old borrowings having etyma with final consonants in Turkish drop their earlier paragogic -e (prohibited in Spanish phonology), for example, kuʃake > kuʃak ‘sash’ (Trk. kuşak), and new ones are incorporated without -e, such as ʧorek ‘ring-shaped brioche’ (Trk. çörek).

2.2.5 Regional Dialectology

Especially thanks to texts such as David ‘Atías’ La γ‎werta de oro (published in Livorno in 1778; for a Romanized edition, see Berenguer Amador, 2017) and Eliša‘ Ḥavilyo’s vocalized Hamon ḥogeg (published in Livorno in 1794; for linguistic notes, see Bunis, 2008c), both by authors from the Northwest, as well as the linguistically divergent editions of Me-‘am lo‘ez published in Istanbul, Salonika, Izmir, Livorno, and Jerusalem, the dynamics of the evolving internal Judezmo regional dialectology become increasingly evident (for linguistic analysis of midrashic passages, see García Moreno, 2004). Hamon ḥogeg hints at the tendency in Sarajevo (and the entire Northwest) to reflect historical nonstressed e as i and o as u (e.g., dizir ‘to say’, kumer ‘to eat’; vs. dezir, komer in Asa’s vocalized Pentateuch from Constantinople, 1739; OSp. dezir, comer), and incorporate phonemic /t͡s/ and /d͡z/. Hamon ḥogeg also shows the Northwest tendency toward syncope of historical front vowels (e, i) when occurring between a consonant and the resonant r, for example, konsidrasión ‘consideration’; Sp. consideración). Although Latin-origin /f-/ is usually reflected as zero in the literary language of all regions, there are more instances of /f/ preservation in texts by authors from Salonika and parts of the Northwest than in texts from Constantinople and Izmir. The Northwest texts show more localisms, such as metathesized pader ‘wall’ (vs. Salonika, Istanbul pareð, Castilian pared). By this period, the Southeast-Northwest Hebrew-letter orthographic bifurcation has emerged, for example, the representation of the sequence /j/ glide or front vowel + non-front-vowel is now double yod + non-front-vowel denoter in the Northwest versus single yod + non-front-vowel denoter in the Southeast: for example, NW <yyʔh> versus SE <yyh> ja ‘already’, NW <dyyʔh> día (or perhaps dija) vs. SE <dyʔh> ‘day’ (Sp. ya, día). Salonika and Northwest texts disclose regional syntactic features, for example, local insertion of the object/reflexive pronoun between the preposition and the infinitive, such as para te dar ‘to give you’ versus Southeast para darte. The Sarajevo texts now show local 2pl imperatives such as dajme/dajmi, replacing earlier daðme ‘give me’ (Sp. dadme). Lexical isoglosses distinguishing regions, subregions, and individual cities become apparent, for example, ‘gums’ denoted as Salonika ʤen-/ʤinʤívres, Ruse (Bulgaria) zinzivis, Pazardzhik (Bulgaria) sinsives, Istanbul enzías/zinzías, Bursa (Turkey) ínzias (cf. Salamancan and Galician gengibas, Portuguese gengivas, OSp. enzías, Sp. encías) (Wagner, 1950). The Sarajevo texts also exemplify the early incorporation of Italianisms such as dubjo/-u ‘doubt’ (It. dubbio) which would later become especially typical of the Northwest and Salonika.

3. Modern Judezmo (ca. 1797–Present)

3.1 Early Modern Judezmo (ca. 1797–ca. 1844)

Sultan Selim III (reigned 1789–1807) initiated a period of sociopolitical reform leading to the Tanzimat reforms (1839–1876). During this period, Ottoman Judezmo publishing spreads to Jerusalem, and cities under Austro-Hungarian influence such as Vienna and Belgrade. The religious-oriented works from this period tend toward conservatism in language and orientation, most writers continuing to use traditional Rabbinical Judezmo (Bunis, 2019b). An exception is the early Sephardi maskil (Westernized enlightened author) Sarajevo-born David ‘Atías, whose educational manual, La γ‎werta de oro (published in Livorno in 1778), is a unique harbinger of linguistic things to come. Written in something approaching a literary version of the popular Judezmo of the time, it is meant for “un mansevo de·un espírito nwevo i desperto . . . en lingwa i·en eskritura ke entjenden, kon lakirdís i·avlas espiritozas γ‎ostozas” (‘the young [enlightened] man of new, wide-awake spirit . . . in a language and alphabet they understand, with spirited and tasty expressions and language’, [iii]b). ‘Atías is perhaps the first native Judezmo speaker to oppose Judezmo to contemporaneous Castilian. He and Yisra’el Bĕxar Ḥayyim of Belgrade and Vienna are among the pioneers in introducing Judezmo-speaking children to Western European languages—‘Atías to Italian, Bĕxar Ḥayyim to German (in Oṣar ha-ḥayyim, Vienna 1823). The incipient influence of Haskalah scholars and their writings, especially those focusing on the Jews of “Spanien/Espagne” and their “Spanisch/espagnol” language—with which some Westernized, liberally educated Sephardim of the region increasingly identify as their “ancestral homeland” and the early, ostensibly pristine form of their contemporary language—now sparks what would become a widespread use of the language name (i)ʃ-/(e)spaɲol, that is, ‘Spanish’.

3.1.1 Orthography and Phonology

Aspirations toward one-to-one grapheme-to-phoneme correspondence continue apace: bet + diacritic becomes obligatory for non-Hebrew-origin v in all positions; gemal + diacritic continues to denote /ʧ/ and /ʤ/, while /ʒ/ is now systematically represented by zayin + diacritic. Mostly in the Northwest, qof + diacritic serves for palatalized /kj/ (with variant gemal+diacritic for /ʧ/ in the same words); Southeast orthography usually denotes this by qof + double yod, for example, NW <qˊyń>/<ġyń> kˊen/ʧen versus SE <qyyń> kjen (alternating with regional <qyń> ken) ‘who’ (Sp. quien).

3.1.2 Morphology

Texts from the end of the 18th century begin to show -Vtes and -V́teʃ as the second person singular and plural preterit indicative verb markers, respectively, for example, izites, izíteʃ ‘you [sg, pl] did’ (Sp. -iste, -isteis). The preterite indicative stem as the base of the gerund begins to be used in texts, for example, kiʒendo ‘wanting’ (Sp. queriendo). There are further blends of etymologically diverse morphemes, for example, an Hispanic-origin base and productive Turkish-origin adjectivizing -lí (Trk. -lı) in veðrolí ‘greenish’ (< veðre ‘green’, Sp. verde, verdoso). Many more bases of Hebrew and Turkish origin attract derivational morphemes of Hispanic origin, for example, the masculine personal name Χ‎ajim (Heb. Ḥayyim) appears in the hypocoristic form Χ‎ajmuʧo, showing Hispanic-origin -uʧo (Sp. -ucho). From the Turkish-origin noun merak ‘depression’, its verbal form meraklan- and its adjectival form meraklí ‘melancholy; aficionado’ are derived the noun merekía ‘melancholy’, the verbs merekiarse ‘have a falling out’ and meraklanearse ‘get into a bad mood’, and the adjectives merekiaðo ‘on bad terms’ and merekiozo ‘saddened, disappointed’.

3.1.3 Lexicon

The Turkish stratum is reaching its zenith and includes a rich array of lexemes in many fields. Borrowings include a wealth of common nouns such as the body terms paʧás ‘legs’, dízes ‘knees’, (z)ulufjas ‘sidelocks’, soluk/-p ‘breath’ (Trk. paça, diz, zülüf, soluk), as well as abstractions such as juʧluk ‘difficulty’, aralik ‘interval’, inat ‘stubbornness’ (Trk. güçlük, aralık, inat). Texts from the Northwest begin to incorporate borrowings from German (e.g., nat͡sjón ‘nation’), the predominant language of administration and culture in AustroHungary (Papo, 2013). Through contact with Yiddish speakers and their literature in Hebrew, a few Yiddishisms enter Judezmo, for example, jart͡sajt/yarsáy ‘memorial of death’ (a spelling pronunciation derived from <yʔrṣyyṭ>, the Yiddish spelling of synonymous jórt͡sajt, cf. Ger. Jahr + Zeit).

3.1.4 Regional Dialectology

Local linguistic influence in the Northwest results in the isogloss NW (-)kvV- (< [‑]kwV-), under the influence of languages such as Slavic and German, for example, Sarajevo kvantidat (Ger. Quantität, Blg. kvantitet) versus Southeast (-)kwV-, for example, Istanbul kuantiðá(ð) (Sp. cuantidad).

3.2 Middle Modern Judezmo (ca. 1845–1913)

The Westernization of the Ottoman Empire is encouraged by Abdülmecid I (reigned 1839–1861) and, enthusiastically or reluctantly, by the subsequent Ottoman rulers. The concomitant intensive Western Europeanization of Judezmo which starts during this period is first reflected in the earliest surviving Judezmo periodical, Ša‘are Mizraḥ (ed. Rafa’el ‘Uzi’el, Izmir 1845–1846; for linguistic observations, see Bunis, 1993b). It already shows significant relexification reflecting Italian and French influence, with a purging of “eastern” elements, mostly of Hebrew and Turkish-Balkan origin. Western-oriented Judezmo speakers preferring modern Western European languages over traditional Judezmo express discontent with the traditional language: In 1872, Rabbi David Ha-Levi of Bucharest writes “El ʤuðezmo ke avlamos es defektozo, aremendaðo kon palavras del luγ‎ar onde se topan, i le faltan las palavras téχ‎nikas” (The Judezmo that we speak is defective, patched together with words from the place where [the speakers] are found, and it lacks technical terms, “Ḥomer wĕ-ruḥani,” Trezoro de la Kaza, Vienna, 1872). The older generations, lacking a Western-style education, find the ‘new language’ adopted by the newly Westernized Sephardim incomprehensible: “Los lektores de la vjeʒa ʤenerasjón no entjenden un solo bjervo de lo·ke se eskrive en nwevo lingwaʒe. Las nwevas ekspresjones los meten en estreʧura asta kansarlos [. . .] El lingwaʒe a la moda es un ʒudeo-espaɲol fransezeaðo, sin reǥla ni metod, o loke es peor, el fransés ridikulizaðo” (The readers of the old generation do not understand a single word of what is written in new language. The new à la mode expressions put them into such dire straits as to tire them out. . . . The ‘stylish language’ is a Frenchified Judeo-Spanish, without rules or method, or what is worse, a ridiculized French’ (Kardozo, 1887; on this judéo-fragnol, see Sephiha, 1976). In the Northwest regions under Austro-Hungarian sway, Judezmo undergoes analogous Westernization through intensive Germanization. French, Italian, and German languages and cultures are increasingly disseminated in the communities informally, through direct, everyday interaction with Europeans, and formally, through schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (from the 1860s), Società Dante Alighieri (fd. 1889), and other organizations. Some younger writers, now at home in Western languages, eventually reject the onslaught of Gallicisms and Italianisms, as well as Castilianisms and employ the popular, natural vernacular spoken by the masses to create noteworthy literature, including some dramas meant to represent everyday speech (on which, see Romero, 1979), for example, Alexandre Benghiat, editor of El Meseret (Izmir, 1897–1922), Elia R. Karmona, editor of El ʤuγ‎etón (ed., Constantinople, 1909–1933), and Moshe Cazes, contributor to numerous Salonika Judezmo periodicals (Bunis, 1999, 2011c, 2012). Benghiat (1898, p. 344) recommends that, when writing about matters of import to the whole community, ‘journalists should write this with clear words and . . . in ordinary Judezmo, so that grocers and fruit-sellers can understand it’ (“Esto lo deven los gazeteros de eskrivir kon bjervos klaros i . . . en ʤuðezmo kabá, para ke lo entjenda i el bakal i el manaf”). Benghiat (1918) takes care to use such language himself, writing that “El Meseret es un ʒurnal para ser meldaðo de akeos ke no konosen otra lingwa mas ke el ʤuðezmo” (El Meseret is a paper meant to be read by those who know no language other than Judezmo’). In regions now independent of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, such as Greece and the South Slavic lands, young speakers learn the local national languages in state schools, and borrow from them extensively. Under the influence of the term “Judéo-Espagnol” used by Western European philologists who discover and take a serious interest in Judezmo, from this period, Westernized speakers increasingly call their language ʤuðezmo-(e)ʃpaɲol, ʤuðjó-espaɲol, and ultimately ʒ‑/ʤudeo-espaɲol; those who denigrate Judezmo as a “corrupt,” “broken” Spanish also use pejorative ʒargón. During this period, new Judezmo publication centers include Edirne, Bucharest, Sarajevo, Sofia, Turnu-Severin, Ruse, Vidin, Craiova, and other cities. The total output of the Judezmo presses includes thousands of books, pamphlets, and broadsides, as well as over 300 periodicals, offering a rich documentation of the regional and social state of the contemporary language.

3.2.1 Orthography and Phonology

Partial vocalization is occasionally used to distinguish e (yod + ṣere) from i (yod + ḥiriq), and o (waw + ḥolam-dot) from u (waw + šuruq-dot), especially in new borrowings or foreignisms, and to distinguish homographs (e.g., <byḃyr> bever ‘drink’ vs. <by+hiriqḃy+hiriqr> bivir ‘live’). The tendency to realize historical esC- as sC- is increasingly reflected orthographically (e.g., <ʔyspʔldh> espalda > variant <spʔldh> spalda ‘back’). Under French influence, some authors replace earlier word-initial /ʤ/ <ġ> by /ʒ/ <ż> in Hispanic-origin words having French cognates, for example, <żwdyyw> ʒuðjó (instead of <ġwdyyw> ʤuðjó) ‘(m) Jew’; and under French and Italian influence trilled /r/, which had never been distinguished orthographically from tapped /ɾ/, is often depicted by double reš, such as <gyrrh> γ‎era (instead of <gyrh>) ‘war’. In the Northwest, perhaps influenced by Serbo-Croatian <dž>, /ʤ/ is sometimes denoted by dalet + zayin + diacritic, for example, <ʔdżwnṭʔr> aʤuntar ‘add’, versus gemal+diacritic for /ʧ/. In a few works influenced by modern Castilian, he and samax, respectively, appear where Castilian has <h> and <c> or <z> realized in Andalusian as [s], for example, <hʔsyr> haser ‘do’ (Sp. hacer; more usual Modern Judezmo <ʔzyr> azer). Imitations of popular speech in the press result in the documentation of many characteristic features of everyday language. They show that popular processes and trends such as phonological contact phenomena tend to affect all lexemes, regardless of etymological source: Thus the tendency to insert an epenthetic d between the historical cluster -zr- as in lazdrar ‘make an effort’ (OSp. laz(d)rar, elevated lacerar) is also witnessed in mizdraχ ‘east’ (Heb. mizraḥ) and mizdrap ‘plectrum’ (Trk. mızrap).

3.2.2 Morphology and Syntax

Analogical leveling continues, resulting, for example, in a decrease in irregular verb bases, such as 3pl pret.ind. (f)izjeron > (f)azjeron ‘they did’ (< [f]azer ‘do’; Sp. hacer: hicieron); many more instances of the tendency, first documented in the Early Middle period, to use -Vva(-) as the marker of all verbs in the imperfect indicative, for example, traíva ‘(3sg) brought’ (Sp. traer: traía); and the formal use of tal ‘such’ as a regular adjective: tala, talos, talas (cf. Sp. sg tal vs. pl tales). There is also expanded utilization of the language’s Hispanic-origin resources, for example, incorporation of pre-expulsion Arabic-origin χ‎azino ‘ill’ in innovative derivatives such as transitive enχ‎azinear ‘make ill’, the substantives χ‎azindað and χ‎azineamjento ‘illness’, and the adjectives χ‎azimjento ‘diseased’, χ‎azinento and enχ‎azineaðo ‘sickly’. There is further fusion of elements of diverse components, for example, the productive use with bases of non-Hispanic-origin of Hispanic-origin derivational morphemes such as -uðo, for example, seχ‎eluðo ‘sensible’ (χ‎el ‘sense’, Heb. sexel); and the expanded use with bases of Hispanic and Hebrew origin of Turkish-origin suffixes, for example, -ʤí (Trk. ‑cı) in ple(j)teʤí ‘quarrelsome person’ (Jdz. ple[j]to, Sp. pleito ‘quarrel’), -lí (Trk. -lı) in sekanalí ‘dangerous’ (Jdz. sekaná ‘danger’, Heb. se-/sakkana). The inventory of hypocoristic suffixes used with personal names now includes the Greek-origin hypocoristic -aʧi (< Grk. -áki), for example, masculine Χ‎ajmaʧi < Χ‎ajim (< Heb. Ḥayyim); there are also concatenations of suffixes, in some instances derived from several different sources, for example, masculine Daviʧón < Davi-ð (Heb. Dawid) + -ʧe (South Slavic -če) + -ón (Sp. -ón), feminine Rivkulaʧi < Rivk-á (Heb. Rivqa) + -ula (Grk. -óula) + -aʧi (Grk. -áki). The tautological feminine plural -ó+s constituting a collapsed form of Heb. -ot + Sp. -s emerges in forms such as kit+ó+s ‘squads’ (sg kit-á, Heb. sg kitta, pl -ot + -s), um+ó+s ‘(foreign) peoples’ (sg um-á, Heb. sg umma, pl -ot + -s). The fundamental Hispanic-origin masculine-feminine gender distinction is now more systematically applied to nouns and adjectives showing Turkish-origin suffixes, for example, m/f davuʤí/davuʤía ‘litigant’ (Jdz. da[a]vá ‘claim’, Trk. dâva > dâvacı), m/f γ‎ursúz/γ‎ursuza ‘unprincipled (man/woman)’ (Trk. uğursuz). Under French influence, subject pronouns become more common than in Spanish, and the 2pl (vozotros/vozós, Sp. vosotros) is more widely used as a polite form of singular address. Influenced by French leur, the formally 3pl possessive adjective sus and pronoun suyos become obligatory when referring to a 3pl possessor (e.g., es sus kaza . . . es suyas or es la suyas ‘it’s their house . . . it’s theirs’, Fr. c’est leur maison, c’est la leur; Sp. es su casa, es suya or de ellos). Perhaps through French reinforcement, the repetition of the definite article becomes more common in superlatives (e.g., la kaza la mas ermoza ‘the most beautiful house’; Fr. la maison la plus belle; Sp. la casa más hermosa). Especially in translations from French, yes-no questions are often preceded by es ke? (Fr. est-ce que?). Syntactically innovative constructions such as optative adj + ke + subjunctive in phrases such as χ‎aχ‎am γ‎rande ke seas! ‘May you be a great rabbi!’ and the adjectival construction def + adj + de + def as exemplified in el mazalaðo del γ‎ato ‘the lucky cat’ are widely used.

3.2.3 Lexicon and Semantics

Elements of Hebrew origin provide euphemisms for taboo organs such as táxað ‘behind’, berið ‘male organ’ (literally, ‘covenant’), otó makom ‘female organ’ (literally ‘that place’), as well as neologisms such as seté lasón ‘false person’ (literally ‘two tongue’), maʃemeχ‎a/-o ‘Ashkenazi Jew’ (literally, ‘What is your name?’, asked by Sephardim of Ashkenazi newcomers who could not speak Judezmo) and derived maʃemeχ‎esko ‘Yiddish’ (Heb. taḥat, bĕrit, oto maqom, šĕte lašon, ma šĕmexa). Perhaps out of political considerations as well as heightened use of spoken Turkish, especially by men, the Ottoman Turkish component begins to reach its peak. An acquaintance with and active use of Ottoman oral literary genres is illustrated by lexemes such as ʃaká ‘joke’ and ʃakaʤí ‘joker’ (Trk. şaka, şakacı), ʃarkí ‘Ottoman-style song genre’ and ʃarkiʤí ‘singer’ (Trk. şarkı, şarkıcı), bilmeʤek ‘riddle’ (Trk. bilmecek), and references to the clever-stupid folk hero ʤoχ‎á (Trk. [Nasrettin] Hoca) and ʤoχ‎ajaðas or verses about him, and the hero of the Turkish shadow theater, Karajóz (Trk. Karagöz) and his karajozlukes or ‘silly deeds’ (Trk. karagözlük). New semantic innovations arise, for example, Jdz. ʤuðía ‘Jewess; maid’ vs. Sp. judía ‘Jewess; string bean’.

On the other hand, the high prestige now accorded to speakers having a Western-style education, with their tendency to replace elements of Hebrew and Turkish-Balkan origin with elements originating in French and Italian, leads to a widespread dissemination among the entire speech group of elements originally limited to the register popularly known as ʤuðezmo frankeaðo ‘Westernized Judezmo’. Most of the lexicon concerned with modern, Western-style education is borrowed from French and Italian, for example, eskola ‘school’ (It. scuola), elevo ‘pupil’ (Fr. élève), tabló ‘blackboard’ (Fr. tableau), gramer ‘grammar’ (Fr. grammaire); numerous internationalisms are incorporated, such as ʒudaízmo (supplanting traditional ʤuðezmo) ‘Judaism’, obsesión ‘obsession’, simpátiko ‘sympathetic’, antisemitismo ‘anti-Semitism’, as well as vocabulary of all fields connected with Western civilization in its broadest sense, including scientific, technological, commercial, and military advancement. Even the senses of some traditional lexemes undergo modification under French and Italian influence; for example, mezmo (OSp. mesmo) is extended from ‘same’ to ‘same; even’ (cf. Fr. même), while serka, which formerly had only meant ‘near’, acquires the additional sense of ‘approximately’ (cf. It. circa). Under Italian influence, tanto replaces tan in the sense of ‘(adv.) so’ (cf. Sp. tan vs. It. tanto). Learned affixes are used to create neologisms, some with non-Romance bases, for example, anti- and ‑ista/‑isto in antimekatreγ‎ista ‘opposed to slander’ (mekatreγ ‘slanderer’, Heb. mĕqaṭreg), -sión (Fr. -tion, It. -zione, Sp. ‑ción) in aʤideasjón ‘compassion’ (< aʤidearse ‘have compassion’, Trk. acı- [acıdı]) and malʃinasjón ‘slander’ (< malʃín ‘informer’, Heb. malšin). As Jewish children begin to attend local state schools, contact languages such as Greek, Romanian, and the South Slavic languages also make minor contributions, primarily to specific co-territorial dialects.

3.2.4 Dialectology

Phonological features typical of Northwest Judezmo, now documented textually, include the palatalization of k and g when preceded by i and followed by a vowel, for example, Bosnian puntikju/-itju/-iʧu ‘jot’ < puntu ‘point; minute’ (Sp. punto). Athough probably used long before, the gerund as a 2pl imperative in Salonika and its environs begins to be documentated, for example, 2pl Dando seðaká! ‘Give charity!’. The lexicon shows diversity across the Southeast-Northwest boundary, and within the individual subregions, for example, munʧo ‘much’ (Sp. mucho, regional popular muncho) in dialects having Istanbul as the focal area, muʧo/-u in those around Salonika; distinct terms of Iberian origin such as the SE/NW isoglosses kale/premi ‘one must’, kualo?/luké? ‘what?’ (on the contemporary dialect of Istanbul, see Varol Bornes, 2008).

3.3 Late Modern Judezmo (ca. 1914–Present)

A deteriorating socioeconomic situation and the hardships caused by the Balkan Wars (1912–1913) and World War I led to emigration from the regions which had constituted the Ottoman Empire. Analogous adversities spurred emigration from other parts of the Balkans. The arrival in new locales, where linguistic homogeneity is emphasized, results in new borrowings, from languages such as spoken English (e.g., enʤojar ‘enjoy’, baderear ‘bother’) and Hebrew (e.g., azminar ‘invite’, t͡saft͡sefar ‘beep’ < Heb. lĕ-hazmin, lĕ-ṣafṣef).

3.3.1 Orthography and Phonology

From the mid-19th century, as speakers acquire or perfect their knowledge of French, Italian, Modern Turkish, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, English, Spanish, and other languages using romanization, many start to experiment with writing Judezmo in various romanizations (Bunis, 2021). From around 1928, following the shift from the Arabic to the Roman alphabet for writing Turkish, the Sephardim of Turkey begin to publish Judezmo works mostly using Turkish romanization. In Bulgaria, a few publications appear in Cyrillic. In Salonika and New York, Judezmo publications continue to appear in Hebrew letters: in Rashí characters in Salonika—until World War II, when the Nazis close the Salonika Jewish presses, and in Square in New York. But after World War II, many Judezmo speakers use romanization for personal writing. Those who reach the State of Israel publish Judezmo newspapers and books in various romanization systems. From the 1980s, speakers in Israel and abroad have increasingly adopted the phonemic system proposed by Moshe Shaul, featuring graphemes such as ch for /ʧ/, dj for /ʤ/, h for /χ‎/, i or y for /j/, j for /ʒ/, k for /k/, ny for /ɲ/, r for flapped /ɾ/, rr for trilled /r/, s for /s/, sh for /ʃ/, z for /z/, with d used for /d/ and /ð/, and g for /g/ and /γ‎/; sh vs. s.h distinguishes /ʃ/ from /sχ‎/; and irregular stress is not indicated by an accent. Some propose using d for /d/ and for /ð/, g for /g/ and ǥ for /γ‎/, and an acute accent for irregular stress and to distinguish diphthongs from vowels in hiatus. Even more so than in previous generations, contemporary Judezmo speakers base their written language on the everyday varieties they themselves speak, with little or no influence from Hebrew-letter literary texts, which most speakers are now incapable of reading and of which they are hardly aware.

Characteristic of present-day Judezmo is the tendency to realize pretonic historical e as i and o as u, and to realize historical word-final as phonological zero (e.g., dizir ‘tell’, OSp. dezir; viní ‘(2pl) come!’, OSp. ¡venid!, earlier Jdz. venið!). Perhaps under Modern Turkish influence, in romanization, y tends to be inserted between a front vowel and an adjacent vowel, for example, <tiyo> (OSp., earlier Jdz. Hebrew-letter <ṭyʔw> tío) ‘uncle’. Contemporary speakers often have a no less perfect knowledge of the local state language and international languages than of Judezmo, and wish to speak them without a ‘Jewish’ (i.e., Judezmo) accent, often using borrowings from them in Judezmo in forms identical with those used by non-Jews, incorporating sounds previously absent from Judezmo such as ı, ö, ü from Turkish and French, θ (including syllable-initially) from Greek, for example, older kjuprí/-é > køprý <köprü> (Trk.) ‘bridge’, (Te)salonik > θ‎esaloniki ‘Salonika’ (Grk. Thessaloníki), (traditional trezlaðo >) traduksjón > <tradüksion> tradüksjón ‘translation’ (Fr. traduction). Formerly distinctive stress in Judezmo borrowings is sometimes made to conform to the stress in the contemporary non-Jewish donor language, for example, the Judezmo stress of Turkish-Balkanisms in Bosnian and Serbian Judezmo dialects, which once differed from that of cognates in Serbo-Croatian in tending to be final, now generally agrees with Serbo-Croatian, being initial. The shift has become so complete that contemporary speakers are often unfamiliar with the older forms.

3.3.2 Morphosyntax

Under Western European influence and concomitant self-censorship, suffixes of Turkish origin (e.g., ‑ʤí, ‑lí) are no longer productive, while those of Romance, especially French, and international origin (‑ðor/-tor/-tör, -ozo) are highly productive. Preexisting bases of non-Romance origin freely receive Romance affixes and inflectional endings, for example, pejorative -ota in gavjota ‘haughty woman’ (ga[a]vá ‘pride’, Heb. ga’awa), pluralizing -s, such as beraχ‎ás ‘blessings’ (traditional beraχ‎oð[es], Heb. sg bĕraxa, pl -ot). Some new lexical fusions with non-Romance suffixes are documented, for example, Greek-origin hypocoristic -ak(j)i (Grk. -áki, already reflected in Judezmo as -aʧi) is suffixed to masculine personal names such as Avram (Heb. Avraham) and χ‎ajim (Heb. Ḥayyim) in Avramakji, Χ‎ajmaki. In the Northwest, a significant selection of local South Slavic borrowings is incorporated, and hypocoristic suffixes attach to full and reduced forms of personal names; for example, masculine Davi-d/-t (< Heb. Dawid) assumes hypocoristic forms such as Daviʧe, Davu, Davko, Davoka, Davoko, Daʧa, Daʧu. Under the influence of contact languages, the syntax of speakers in the late 20th and 21st centuries undergoes modification: For example, in South Slavic lands there is a decrease in the use of the subjunctive mode; in Turkey, reflections of Turkish evidentiality and the Turkish possessive construction have been observed (Varol Bornes, 1996, 2009).

3.3.3 Lexicon

Judezmo journalistic articles divulge details on the language’s subregisters, including the traditional, primarily Hebrew-origin secret lexicon of merchants (e.g., Hebrew-origin numbers for prices, terms for qualities of goods, warnings against potential shoplifters, e.g., Los enáim en las jaðáim! ‘[Keep] your eyes [Heb. ‘enayim] on his hands [Heb. yadayim]!’). In the everyday, and especially written language of speakers who received a Western-style education, Romanisms and internationalisms, generally imported from French or the shared cognate international/Romance (French-Italian-Castilian) lexicon, now assume forms closer to the Romance donor languages than previously; for example, publiar (Fr. publier) and emprimar (Fr. imprimer) ‘publish’, instead of older puvlikar and emprimir. Many such elements display Hispanic-origin suffixes, at first glance suggesting borrowing from Spanish; nevertheless, few outright, distinctively Castilian borrowings can be identified, for example, verdað ‘true’ (older veðrá), except among the rare speakers who have begun to study Spanish as a foreign language. Earlier elements of non-Romance origin tend to be censored out, and few new ones are imported; those borrowed during this period tend to reflect new local developments in the group experience, such as military-related lexemes relevant to Jews who underwent Turkish military conscription, for example, ombaʃí ‘(mil.) corporal’ (Trk. onbaşı), kiʃlá ‘barracks’ (Trk. kışla), talum ‘military drill’ (Trk. talim). As a result of massive relexification, the Judezmo lexicon of educated individuals in the 21st century barely resembles that of earlier periods.

Judezmo also contributes lexemes to various local contact languages, for example, Turkish haham ‘rabbi’, havra ‘synagogue’ (Jdz. χ‎aχ‎am, χ‎avrá; Heb. ḥaxam, ḥevra), the latter also used figuratively in Turkish to signify ‘bedlam’ and occurring in the expression havraya dönmek ‘become very noisy/crowded’; Jerusalem Yiddish sponʤe / Israeli Hebrew sponʤa ‘mopping a floor with a cloth’ (Jdz. sponʤa, Grk. sfoungarízo), Yid. kalevase / Isr. Heb. kalavasa ‘pumpkin; (iron.) imbecile’ (Jdz. kalavasa, Sp. calabaza); Isr. Heb. burekas (pl ‑im) ‘kind of filled pastry’ (Jdz. boreka+s, Trk. börek). The Judezmo hypocoristic suffix -iko enjoys some use in Israeli Hebrew, for example, affectionate kofiko ‘little monkey’ (Heb. qof ‘monkey’), m Mošiko ‘little/dear Moše’.

3.3.4 Dialectology

Journalistic imitations of everyday popular speech appearing in the Middle and especially Late Modern Periods document previously unrecorded regional features such as the realization of word-final etymological nonstressed -a as -e in the region of Bitola, for example, vizine ‘(f) neighbor’ (OSp. vezina) and stressed medial -a- instead of etymological -e- when preceding trilled /r/, or flapped /ɾ/ or /l/ + consonant, such as Sarajevo pwarta ‘door’ (Sp., SW Jdz. pwerta), maldar ‘Jewish elementary school’ (SW Jdz. meldar).

3.3.5 Prognosis for the Future of the Language

Among those speakers who remain in situ, pressure from the local regimes governing the new nation-states carved out of the Ottoman Empire, internal group pressure to conform to the surrounding society, and a widespread cosmopolitanism and identification of the speakers with Western European humanism as represented primarily by languages such as French, Italian, Spanish, German, and English have led to language mixing and switching, and within the last generations, to widespread loss of Judezmo. During World War II, the historic Judezmo speech communities of Austria and the regions which came to be Greece, Yugoslavia, and Romania were almost completely decimated. Such factors have made Judezmo an endangered language.

Among the surviving speakers, divergent perceptions of the language are today reflected in the diverse and competing names used for it: ʤudeo-espaɲol ‘Judeo-Spanish’, preferred by those who apparently accept the categorization of the language by some 19th-century philologists as a Jewish variant of Spanish; laðino ‘Ladino’, used by those preferring the native name traditionally used in the religious sphere and its literature, in which the language was characterized as an everyday vernacular standing in opposition to the group’s ‘holy tongue’, Hebrew; espaɲol ‘Spanish’, preferred by speakers who, for diverse reasons, prefer not to distinguish their own language from Spanish, a major world language which today constitutes the official language of Spain and 18 sovereign Latin American nations, with a total of close to 500 million speakers; and ʤuðezmo or ʤuðjó ‘[Sephardic] Jewish’, used today by speakers who, while fully cognizant of the historical connection between their language and Spanish and other Ibero-Romance languages, prefer to categorize it as an independent language traditionally used by the Sephardic Jews and giving voice to their unique culture and way of life. The Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino i Su Kultura (fd. Jerusalem, 1997), the Akademia del Ladino de Israel (fd. Jerusalem, 2018), universities, and other scholarly and grass-roots organizations in Israel and abroad, and individual enthusiasts, today mostly elderly, are attempting to improve the language’s status and viability through educational and literary publications and recordings, scholarly lectures, Internet exchanges, and mass media releases. But without a new generation of native speakers, the future of Judezmo as a living language seems bleak.


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  • 1. Note on Latin-letter transcription: Throughout most of its history Judezmo has been written in the Hebrew alphabet. In this article, as an aid to the general reader, the Judezmo citations are presented using IPA symbols. Unless otherwise indicated by an acute accent over the stressed vowel, the stress is penultimate in words ending in a vowel or n, s, or z, and ultimate in words ending in other consonants.