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Bukharian (Judeo-Tajik dialect)

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בוכארי‎, бухорӣ, buxorī
Native toUzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan
EthnicityBukharan Jews
Native speakers
117,840 in all countries (2018–2019)[1]
Hebrew, Cyrillic, Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-3bhh

Bukharian (autonym: Bukhori, Hebrew script: בוכארי, Cyrillic: бухорӣ, Latin: Buxorī)[a] is a Judeo-Persian dialect historically spoken by the Bukharan Jews of Central Asia.[3][4][5] It is a Jewish dialect derived from—and largely mutually intelligible with—the Tajik branch of the Persian language.

General information[edit]

Historically, Bukharian was spoken by Jews in Central Asia.[6] The language classification of Bukharian is as follows: Indo-European > Indo-Iranian > Iranian > West Iranian > Southwest Iranian > Persian > Tajik > Bukharian.[2]

Bukhori is based on Classical Persian, with a large number of Hebrew loanwords, as well as smaller numbers of loanwords from other surrounding languages, including Uzbek and Russian. The vocabulary includes lexical items of Persian, Arabic, Uzbek, and Hebrew origin.[7]

In 1987, the total number of speakers was 85,000. In the USSR, there were 45,000 speakers; in Israel, there were 32,000; and in all other countries combined, there were 3,000.[2] Ethnic Tajik minorities exist in many countries, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. Samarkand and Bukhara are two cities in Uzbekistan which are particularly densely populated by Tajik speakers,[8] among whom were tens of thousands of Bukharan Jews in the 19th to 20th centuries.[9] (In modern times, the dialects spoken by the few remaining Jews in these cities barely differ, if at all, from their non-Jewish counterparts.[10])

Today, the language is spoken by approximately 10,000 Jews remaining in Uzbekistan and surrounding areas, although most of its speakers reside elsewhere, predominantly in Israel (approximately 50,000 speakers), and the United States.

Like most Jewish languages, Bukhori traditionally used the Hebrew alphabet.[11] But throughout the past century, due to Soviet influence, Bukhori has been written using the Latin alphabet in the 1920s, then Cyrillic from 1940 onwards. The Hebrew alphabet fell further into disuse outside of Hebrew liturgy when the Bukharian Jewish schools were closed in Central Asia and Bukharian Jewish publications, such as books and newspapers, began to appear using the Cyrillic alphabet. Today, many older Bukharian Jews who speak Bukharian only know the Cyrillic alphabet when reading and writing Bukharian. The origin of its respective spelling system is Talmudic orthography.[6]

Early in the Soviet period, communists wanted Hebrew to be the language of culture and instruction for Jews in the Republic of Turkestan and in the Bukhara People's Soviet Republic.[citation needed] In late 1921, the Turkestani People's Commissariat of Education ordered that schools for Bukharian Jews to teach in Bukharian and not in Hebrew. In Uzbekistan in 1934, 15 Bukharian Jewish clubs and 28 Bukharian Jewish red teahouses existed. However, in 1938, Bukharian was no longer used as the language for instruction in the schools and in cultural activities.[2]

Attempts were made[when?] to bring about a revival of Bukharian Jewish culture in the Soviet Union. One significant attempt was the establishment[when?] of a council for Bukharian Jewish literature in the Uzbekistan Writers’ Union, headed by Aharon Shalamaev-Fidoi (who emigrated to Israel in 1991). Another significant attempt was the Hoverim society established[when?] in Tajikistan and headed by Professor Datkhaev (Datkhaev emigrated to the US in 1992).[12] The main organizational supporter for Bukharian Jewish culture today is the World Bukharian Jewish Congress, which aims to teach and spread awareness of the history, culture, language, and literature of the Bukharian Jews. Based on the Soviet census of 1979, 20% more Central Asian Jews spoke Russian than Bukharian.[2]

Among some Bukharian Jewish youth, especially in the New York City area, there has been a revival of using the Bukharian Jewish language written in a modified Latin alphabet similar to the one developed by Bukharian Jewish linguist and writer, Yakub Kalontarov.[citation needed] Today, youth learning the Bukharian Jewish language sponsored by the Achdut-Unity Club in Queens use the modified Latin alphabet.[citation needed]

Classes on Bukharian Jewish history and the Bukhori language are also available at Queens College, CUNY since 2010, marking the first time that Bukhori has been taught in an American university. The classes are taught by Bukharian adjunct professor Imanuel Rybakov.[13] Rybakov has also authored a guide to learning the Bukharian language for English speakers.[14]

Writing systems[edit]

Bukharian historically used the Hebrew alphabet (called Eastern Rashi in writing and square script in printing). From 1928 to 1940, the written Bukharian language in the USSR used the Latin alphabet.

The first version of the Latin alphabet for the language was compiled in April 1928[15] and had the following order:

a в d ә l n s r k m h t u x ş f p g o v z ⱨ ƣ q e c ç i j ә̦ ƶ

In 1930, changes were made to the alphabet: capital letters were introduced, the letter ә̦ was eliminated, and the letter Ů ů was introduced.[15] At a spelling conference in August 1934, the letter Ⱨ ⱨ was removed from the alphabet and the letter Ů ů was replaced by Ū ū. On February 5, 1935, this decision was legalized by order No. 112 of the People's Commissariat of Education of the Uzbek SSR.[16]

As a result, the later version of the Soviet Latin alphabet had the following order:[17]

A a, B в, C c, Ç ç, D d, E e, F f, G g, Ƣ ƣ, H h, I i, J j, K k, L l, M m, N n, O o, P p, Q q, R r, S s, Ş ş, T t, U u, Ū ū, V v, X x, Z z, Ƶ ƶ, Ә ә

Currently, printed literature in the Bukharian Judeo-Tajik dialect is published mainly in Cyrillic. Some works also use the Latin alphabet, which is close to the Uzbek one.[18]

Current Cyrillic alphabet:[18]

А а, Б б, В в, Г г, Д д, Е е, Ё ё, Ж ж, З з, И и, Й й, К к, Л л, М м, Н н, О о, П п, Р р, С с, Т т, У у, Ф ф, Х х, Ц ц, Ч ч, Ш ш, Ъ ъ, Э э, Ю ю, Я я, Ғ ғ, Ӣ ӣ, Қ қ, Ӯ ӯ, Ҳ ҳ, Ҷ ҷ

Current Latin alphabet:[18]

A a, B в, C c, Ch ch, D d, E e, F f, G g, Gh gh, H h, I i, J j, K k, L l, M m, N n, O o, P p, Q q, R r, S s, Sh sh, T t, Ts ts, U u, U' u', V v, X x, Y y, Yi yi, Z z, Zh zh'

Comparative table[18]
Cyrillic Latin
А а A a A a א
Б б B в B b בּ
В в V v V v ב
Г г G g G g ג
Д д D d D d ד
Е е E e Ye ye י‏ה
Ё ё Jo jo Yo yo יו
Ж ж Ƶ ƶ Zh zh
З з Z z Z z ז
И и I i I i א
Й й J j Y y י
К к K k K k כּ
Л л L l L l ל
М м M m M m ‭מ
Н н N n N n נ
О о O o O o אָ ,או
П п P p P p ‭פ
Р р R r R r ר
С с S s S s ס
Т т T t T t ת
У у U u U u או
Ф ф F f F f ף
Х х X x X x ‭כ
Ц ц Ts ts Ts ts צ
Ч ч C c Ch ch
Ш ш Ş ş Sh sh ש
Ъ ъ Ә ә ' ע
Э э - E e אה
Ю ю Ju ju Yu yu ו'
Я я Ja ja Ya ya ה'
Ғ ғ Ƣ ƣ Gh gh גה
Ӣ ӣ Ji ji Yi yi אײ
Қ қ Q q Q q ק
Ӯ ӯ Ū ū U' u' אה
Ҳ ҳ H h H h ה
Ҷ ҷ Ç ç J j

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Also known as Judeo-Tajik, Judeo-Tadzhik, Bukhari, Bukharic, Bukharan and Bukharit.


  1. ^ Bukharian at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ a b c d e Tolmas, Chana. 2006. Bukharan Jews: history, language, literature, culture. Israel: World Bukharian Jewish Congress.
  3. ^ Ehrlich, M. Avrum, ed. (2009). "Caucasus and Central Asia". Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora: Origins, Experiences, and Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 1124. Bukharan Jews spoke a dialect of Tajik referred to as Bukhori or Judeo-Tajik, which is still used by Bukharan Jews today.
  4. ^ Zand, Michael (1989). "BUKHARA vii. Bukharan Jews". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). Encyclopædia Iranica, Volume IV/5: Brick–Burial II. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 530–545. ISBN 978-0-71009-128-4.
  5. ^ Ido, Shinji (2017). "The Vowel System of Jewish Bukharan Tajik: With Special Reference to the Tajik Vowel Chain Shift". Journal of Jewish Languages. 5 (1): 85. doi:10.1163/22134638-12340078. The term 'the Jewish dialect of Tajik' is often used interchangeably with such terms as Judeo-Tadzhik, Judeo-Tajik, Bukhori, Bukhari, Bukharic, Bukharan, Bukharian, and Bukharit (Cooper 2012:284) in the literature.
  6. ^ a b Birnbaum, Salomo A. 2011. Ein Leben für die Wissenschaft. Germany: De Gruyter.
  7. ^ Michael Shterenshis, Tamerlane and the Jews p. 85
  8. ^ Ido, Shinji. 2007. Bukharan Tajik. E.C.: LINCOM EUROPA.
  9. ^ Ido, Shinji. 2017. A late 19th-century Uzbek text in Hebrew script p. 218
  10. ^ Ido, Shinji. 2017. The Vowel System of Jewish Bukharan Tajik: With Special Reference to the Tajik Vowel Chain Shift p. 84
  11. ^ "Bukhori (бухорӣ / בוכארי / بخاری) language". www.omniglot.com.
  12. ^ Tolmas 2006, 69–70
  13. ^ "Saving Bukharian Jewish History – CUNY Radio Podcasts – CUNY". www1.cuny.edu. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
  14. ^ Rybakov, Imanuel (2012). Easy Bukharian: Study Guide: Language of the Bukharian Jews. New York: The Association of the Bukharian Jewish Youth of the USA. ISBN 9781936755004.
  15. ^ a b A. Sajidůf, P. Aвramůf, M. Aminůf (1932). Lotinizatsija вajni jahudihoji вuxori. Toşkand: Naşrijoti davlatiji Ůzвakiston.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Rezoljutsijaji konferentsijaji dujumi orfografijaji zaвoni jahudihoji mahali. Toşkand: Naşrijoti «Bajroqi mihnat». 1935.
  17. ^ B. N. Muloqandūv (1939). Alefbe. Toşkent: Naşrijoti Gosudarstvogiji Taәlimi Pedagogiji ŪzSSR.
  18. ^ a b c d Роберт Пинхасов (2020). Бухарские евреи в круговороте истории. New York City. pp. 124–126. ISBN 978-1936755110. Archived from the original on 2022-04-02.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)

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