Judaeo-Romance languages

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Judaeo-Romance languages are Jewish languages derived from Romance languages, spoken by various Jewish communities (and their descendants) originating in regions where Romance languages predominate, and altered to such an extent to gain recognition as languages in their own right.



Judaeo-Aragonese was spoken in north-central Spain from the around the mid-8th century to around the time of the Alhambra Decree, which expelled Jews from Spain. Later, it either merged with the various Judeo-Spanish dialects or fell out of use, to be replaced by the far more influential Judeo-Spanish dialects from Southern Spain, especially in the areas occupied by the modern lands of Valencia, Murcia and Andalucia.


Judaeo-Catalan was a Catalan dialect in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands before the 1492 expulsion of the Alhambra Decree. It is unknown when Jews abandoned the language.


Judaeo-French was Jewish language of Northern France, the Low Countries and western Germany.


Judaeo-Italian, sometimes called "Italkian", a term coined by Solomon Birnbaum in 1942, has gone extinct except for one variety, now spoken fluently by fewer than 200 people. They speak the last remnant of the widely variant Judaeo-Italian languages spoken throughout Italy and Corfu and along the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea.


Technically Vulgar Judaeo-Latin, rather than Judaeo-Romance, Judaeo-Latin was an unattested presumed language of a range of geographical and register varieties of Latin. It is postulated to have been spoken in specific Jewish communities of the Roman Empire.


Judaeo-Occitan was the Jewish language that developed in Provence and in the rest of medieval southern France, which spoke Occitan. Judaeo-Occitan had severe unique phonemic changes in Hebrew loanwords.


Judaeo-Piedmontese was a language spoken in Piedmont, in North Western Italy from around the 16th century to the Second World War. It was based on Piedmontese, a Gallo-Italian language close to Provençal, with many loanwords from Classical Hebrew. Italian author Primo Levi, born within the Piedmontese Jewish community, described the language briefly in the opening chapter of his book The Periodic Table.


Judeo-Portuguese was the language spoken by the secret Jewish population of Portugal until the 16th century. It remains extant in vestigial archaism forms in the speech of small Crypto-Jewish communities in mainland Portugal itself, around the town of Belmonte.


Judaeo-Spanish is known by a number of names. It found in many varied regional dialects and is the modern descendant of the Spanish that was spoken by the Sephardi Jews, the descendants of Spain's large and influential Jewish population before the Alhambra Decree.

History and development[edit]

The exact development of the Judeo-Romance languages is unclear. The two predominant theories are that they are either descended from Judeo-Latin, and that their development paralleled that of Latin's daughter languages or that they are independent outgrowths of each individual language community. Another theory adopts parts of both, proposing that certain of the Judeo-Romance languages (variously, Zarphatic, Shuadit, Italkian and Catalanic) are descended from Judeo-Latin, but that others (variously, Zarphatic, Catalanic, Ladino, Judeo-Portuguese) are the product of independent development.

Present status[edit]

Judaeo-Latin died in ancient times.

Judaeo-French and Judeo-Aragonese died in the Middle Ages.

Judeo-Portuguese died in Portugal in the 16th century, surviving in the Jewish diaspora until around the late 18th or early 19th century[1].

Judaeo-Catalan died sometime between the Middle Ages and the Second World War[2].

Judaeo-Occitan died when its last speaker died in 1977[1].

Judaeo-Italian was spoken by as many as 5,000 Italian Jews only two generations ago but is now spoken by fewer than 200, mostly elderly people.

Judaeo-Spanish is spoken by the remaining Sephardic communities of the Maghreb in northern Africa, in the Middle East, especially in Turkey and Israel, by as many as 150,000 people, nearly all of whom speak at least one other language.

Like most other Jewish languages, Judaeo-Romance languages have an uncertain future. The dominance of Hebrew as a means of communication for Jewish communities in the Middle East, the increasing prestige of English and the economic importance of local vernaculars, especially Turkish, make the situation appear grim.


  • Jewish Languages Project
  • Judeo-Aragonese: Revista de Filología Española (Cited as RFH:Hispánica?) 8.136-41 (1946) cited in Current Trends in Linguistics 9.1025
  1. ^ a b https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1051135/jewish/The-Declining-Jewish-Languages.htm
  2. ^ Norich, Anita; Miller, Joshua L. (2016-04-06). Languages of Modern Jewish Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. ISBN 9780472053018.