Jewish-Languages Mailing List

June 2002

Date: Tue, 04 Jun 2002 17:32 -0500
From: john zemke <zemkej @>
Subject: Ladino books

Dear readers of Jewish-languages:

The Hebrew Bibliography Project, located in the Jewish National and
University Library, is completing its bibliographical listing or catalogue
of books in Ladino, not only in the JNUL but also in other libraries. To
date they have listed 2500 titles, three times and more than the number in
previous bibliographies.

If you know of libraries in the US or Europe that have collections of books
in Ladino, other than the obvious ones, Library of Congress, Jewish
Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, Harvard, Es Haim, etc., please
notify <zemkej @>. Thank you.

Best regards,
John Zemke

Date: Thu, 6 Jun 2002 11:57 -0700
From: Sarah Bunin Benor <sbenor @>
Subject: Judeo-Romance question

Here is a message from Stephane Goyette, a scholar of language contact and
pidgins and creoles. Please respond directly to him at
<stephane @>.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 05 Jun 2002 22:36:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: stephane @

I'm interested in Romance languages/dialects
(especially their morphosyntax) which have evolved in a
context where said language/dialect was widely acquired
and used as a second language by native speakers of
non-Romance languages --importantly, in a social and
demographic setting where the interlanguage of such
learners would significantly influence the evolution of
the language/dialect and contribute to its
differentiation from sister languages/dialects not used
as a second language.

I was wondering whether any Judeo-Romance language
would qualify. The closest I've come to finding
something on the subject is Ralph Penny's discussion of
the role played by dialect contact in the genesis of
--except that he's looking at the role played by
Romance speakers acquiring Castilian: I'd like
something similar involving speakers of non-Romance
languages. Nothing in Wexler's bibliography of
Judeo-Romance linguistics seems to fit.

Thank you all in advance for whatever answers you may

Stephane Goyette.

Date: Fri, 7 Jun 2002 13:01 -0400
From: Seth Jerchower <sethj @>
Subject: Re: Azharot and Ketuboth

In addition, there is a modern Italian translation (by Menahem Emanuele
Artom) in:

Machazor di rito italiano : secondo gli usi di tutte le Comunità / testo
riveduto, tradotto e annotato da Menachem Emanuele Artom ; presentzione di
Elio Toaff. Roma : Carucci, 1988; vol. 2, p. 1422-1461.

The text is that which is used by the Minhag Roma (the Italian custom was to
read them both on Shavu'ot as well as on the Sabbath preceding the holiday).
This is the Ibn Gabirol version (see also: Mahazor kol ha-shanah kefi
minhag ... Italiyani : ... ve-nosaf ... mavo le-mahazor bene Roma / asher
hiber Shemu'el David Lutsato ..., Livorno, Belforte, 1855/6; v. 1, p.

Best regards,
Seth Jerchower

Seth Jerchower
Public Services Librarian
Center for Judaic Studies
University of Pennsylvania
420 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tel: (215) 238-1290, ext. 203
Fax: (215) 238-1540
sethj @

Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2002 15:25 -0400
From: Erez Levon <eml246 @>
Subject: Introduction


I have just joined the Jewish Languages List and I am writing this message
to introduce myself to the other list subscribers. My name is Erez Levon
and I am a third year doctoral student in Linguistics at NYU. To date, my
work has focused on the syntax of Modern Israeli Hebrew (specifically the
syntax of interrogation) as well as Language and Identity construction,
with specific reference to gender and sexuality in the United States and
England. I've recently become interested in the linguistic practice of
Reform Jews in the United States, specifically the ways in which
nationalistic/Zionistic ties to Israel are linguistically negotiated and
performed. I am interested in going through the literature on the American
Orthodox community and examining whether similar linguistic phenomena exist
(or not) in the Reform movement, with a specific eye to the discussion of
"mosaic" and "conflicted/dual" identities of Reform American Jews.

About myself, I was born in Israel to Israeli parents, and moved with my
family to the United States (Los Angeles) when I was six. I suppose my
interest in this topic arises from my own somewhat conflicted/dual
identification with both Israel and the US. I was not raised in the Reform
movement, rather we went to Chabad when I was young, though I know teach
Religious School at two Reform synagogues in New York. I was very happy to
find out about this list, and I look forward to the resources that I am
sure it will offer.

Best regards,

Erez Levon
NYU Linguistics 719 Broadway Fifth Floor NY NY 10003
tel: 212 998 7950 email: EML246 @

The limits of my language are the limits of my world. - Wittgenstein

Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2002 06:23 -0700
From: Sarah Bunin Benor <sbenor @>
Subject: In search of a publication (fwd)

If anyone has information about this publication, please respond directly
to Tanya Brant <Tanya.Brant @>.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2002 14:26:24 -0400
From: "Brant, Tanya" <Tanya.Brant @>
Subject: Publication

We are trying to purchase the publication Judeo-Yemenite Studies:
Proceedings of the Second Internatonal Congress by Ephraim Isaac. Is it
available through you or do you know who is selling it?

Thank you
Tanya Brant
Blackwells Book Services

Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 21:41 +0200
From: Leonard Prager <lprager @>
Subject: Fw: SEGEL-PLUS: Reviving Aramaic as a spoken language

John Myhill <John @>

----- Original Message -----
From: John Myhill
Sent: Thursday, June 27, 2002 8:52 AM
Subject: SEGEL-PLUS: Reviving Aramaic as a spoken language

Dear segel-plus readers,
I am writing this because I would like to know if any of you have
suggestions on how to approach the Israeli government with a project I
am working on. The project is to revive Aramaic as the spoken language
of the Maronite community in Israel (eventually replacing Arabic), with
the ultimate goal being for this to spread to other Middle Eastern
Christians here and in other countries. There are about 8,000 Maronites
in Israel, and preliminary research has suggested that they are quite
interested in such a project. I have also been in contact with Maronite
intellectuals overseas, including trained linguists, and they are very
enthusiastic about such a project. As a linguist, I can also say that
Israel is the best place to start this project, because Israeli society
encourages the maintenance of relatively small communities speaking
distinctive languages (as long as they aren't Jewish!), as can be seen
by the categorical maintenance of Armenian by the 5,000 Israeli
Armenians and the categorical maintenance of Circassian by the 3,000
Israeli Circassians. Additionally, because the Israeli Maronites know
Hebrew, and because Hebrew and Aramaic are such closely related
languages (they are both Northwest Semitic, and much closer to each
other than either are to Arabic, which is a South Semitic language),
learning Aramaic will be relatively easy for them.

Aramaic is the ancestral language of all of the Christians of the area
which is now Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq (Maronites switched to
speaking Arabic about 500 years ago). A number of these groups,
including the Maronites (numbering about 2 million worldwide, although
there may be more) and the Assyrians/Chaldeans (numbering about 3
million), have kept Aramaic (also known as Syriac in this guise) as
their sacred language. These people generally do not consider themselves
to be `Arabs', in spite of the fact that they speak Arabic as their
everyday language (in exactly the same way that Arabic-speaking Jews do
not consider themselves to be `Arabs'), and many of them are very
sympathetic to Israel. Their problem is that the world considers them to
be `Arabs', because Arabic identity is defined in terms of spoken
language. It is therefore in their interest to switch away from Arabic
to Aramaic as their spoken language.

Israel's perceived isolation in the Middle East is a direct result of
the fact that, of the various Middle Eastern languages, only Hebrew and
Arabic have been turned into modern spoken+written languages, while
languages of other groups-Aramaic, Coptic, Kurdish, Berber, etc.-were
not. Since, as Benedict Anderson among others has shown, language has
been the key to modern nationalism, this has meant that these other
groups have been perceived as not `real peoples'. It is therefore in
Israel's interest to help to develop these languages.

Aramaic is also the ancestral language of the Arabic-speaking Greek
Orthodox and Catholics (who constitute the overwhelming majority of
Israel's `Christian Arabs', although outside of Israel (and Syria) they
constitute a small minority of Arabic-speaking Christians). However,
since they have adopted a European religious affiliation and sacred
language (Greek or Latin) rather than Aramaic, they are basically not
aware of their historical ties to Aramaic. This is why they consider
themselves to be `Arabs', unlike other Middle Eastern Christians. These
people are NOT at the moment interested in reviving Aramaic. They are,
however, enormously confused about their own identity at the moment, and
since I teach 30 or 40 of them a year in my department, I will be able
to find individual members of their community who might be interested in
participating in an effort to revive Aramaic (I found one last semester
when I talked about this topic in my sociolinguistics class) and
eventually the movement might be able to spread to their communities as

The first step we are planning is to open Aramaic-speaking gans in the
three relatively large Maronite communities of Haifa, Nazareth, and Jish
(near Tsfat); we are more or less going to be following the method
through which Hebrew was revived, by emphasizing teaching the language
to young children, but we are going to start with preschool rather than
grade school (in the case of Hebrew, even though Hebrew was first
introduced in grade school in the 1880s, it was actually only when
Hebrew was brought into the kindergartens in the 1890s that the language
was really revived). This will involve teaching Aramaic to the ganenot.
Maronites pray in Aramaic every week (and almost all of them go to
church every week), so they have a lot of contact with the language, but
basically they have just memorized a lot of prayers, so they have
emotional ties to the language but little practical knowledge (except
for a few individuals). On the other hand, since they will only need to
speak the language to children who are 3, 4, or 5-years-old, they will
not need a very high level of knowledge of the language. Eventually,
Aramaic will be introduced into grade schools as well, ultimately
replacing Arabic. There are other aspects of the project which I can
tell any of you who are interested.

In order to do this, we are going to need the cooperation and perhaps
financial assistance of the government. At the very least, we will need
to arrange shabbatons for the ganenot to study Aramaic, maybe out of
sequence with their normal shabbatons. And we will need to pay someone
to teach Aramaic to the ganenot (it shouldn't be a probably to find
someone to do this; there are plenty more Aramaicists in the country
than there are good jobs for them today).

I would like to know if any of you can suggest anyone in the government,
or anyone with government contacts, who I might talk to about this
project. It would seem to me that this is something which the Israeli
government should be very interested in; it is a way to begin to present
the Middle East as a more truly multicultural place (not just Arabs and
Jews), without starting a war to establish another non-Arab country. I
would very much appreciate any help you might be able to give.

John Myhill

Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 17:04 -0400
From: George Jochnowitz <jochnowitz @>
Subject: Re: SEGEL-PLUS: Reviving Aramaic as a spoken language

Dear friends,

We know that Hebrew has become a native language. Modern Hebrew has the
basic vocabulary and morphology of the ancient language. Its vocabulary
is filled with loan words and loan translations, but this is true of
very many languages. Its phonology is different from what existed two
or three millennia ago, but had the language developed through the
years, the changes would have been much more drastic. Yet although we
have the evidence of the rebirth of Hebrew as a first language, we
should not assume that a language without native speakers can be
revived. Languages are very hard to learn.

Hebrew was an exception. The motivation of its speakers was very high.
Hebrew had been honored and studied through the centuries. There was a
need for a common language that belonged to all Jews and belonged to
them equally. Most Maronites do not especially love or honor Aramaic,
nor are they likely to have studied it. It is not the language of their
scriptures or their prayers. An extraodrdinary degree of motivation is
necessary to start speaking a language one doesn't know very well every
day and in every situation.

If the example of Hebrew didn't exist, we would say that a language
without native speakers cannot acquire them. Since Hebrew exists, we
know that such a thing can happen. Nevertheless, it remains extremely

George Jochnowitz

Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 22:55 +0100
From: Ghil`ad ZUCKERMANN <gz208 @>
Subject: Re: SEGEL-PLUS: Reviving Aramaic as a spoken language

George, thank you for your message; I agree with your punchline. I only
have a small footnote:

> Its phonology is different from what existed two or three millennia ago,
> but had the language developed through the years, the changes would have
> been much more drastic.

I am not sure about it. One might think that you are suggesting that
the phonology of ISRAELI only developed from that of HEBREW. However, the
phonetic/phonological system of ISRAELI is not simply a result of internal
convergence and divergence within HEBREW (as has been suggested by some
excellent linguisticians)... In my hybridizational view, both HEBREW and
YIDDISH acted as PRIMARY CONTRIBUTORS for ISRAELI. Hence the mosaic -
rather than merely Mosaic - nature of this lovely SEMITIC & Indo-European
language (ISRAELI, aka Ivrit).

Warm wishes,


gz208 @

Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 09:07 -0400
From: Weiser, Jonathan M. <jweiser @>
Subject: Re: SEGEL-PLUS: Reviving Aramaic as a spoken language

I agree with Ghil'ad as to phonology AND as to syntax. I would,
however, give more deference to other Indo-European languages as well as
to Yiddish as being "primary" contributors, particularly with respect to
syntax. One can speak of a sort of amalgamated European syntax and even
phonology as these relate to overall European influence on non-European
languages. The participation of scholars and of those generally
familiar with Hebrew render the Israeli experience phenomenologically
distinct from, say, pidgins and creoles that develop around trade and

Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 18:25 +0200
From: Gideon Goldenberg <msgidgol @>
Subject: Re: SEGEL-PLUS: Reviving Aramaic as a spoken language

Maybe better not to involve scholars familiar with Hebrew; it may
spoil ideological purity.