Judeo-Tunisian Arabic

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Judeo-Tunisian Arabic
Native to Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem District, Israel[1]
Houmt Souk, Djerba, Tunisia[2]
Tunis, Tunisia[3]
Gabes, Tunisia[4]
Native speakers
46,000 (1995)[5]
Arabic script[1]
Hebrew alphabet[1][6]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ajt
Glottolog jude1263[7]

Judeo-Tunisian Arabic is a variety of Tunisian Arabic mainly spoken by Jews living or formerly living in Tunisia.[6] Speakers are older adults, and the younger generation has only a passive knowledge of the language.[1]

The vast majority of Tunisian Jews have relocated to Israel and have shifted to Hebrew as their home language.[3][8] Those in France typically use French as their primary language, while the few still left in Tunisia tend to use either French or Tunisian Arabic in their everyday lives.[3][8]

Judeo-Tunisian Arabic is one of the Judeo-Arabic languages, a collection of Arabic dialects spoken by Jews living or formerly living in the Arab world.[6]


Before 1901[edit]

A Jewish community existed in what is today Tunisia even prior to Roman rule in Africa.[9] After the Arabic conquest of North Africa, this community began to use Arabic for their daily communication.[3] They had adopted the pre-Hilalian dialect of Tunisian Arabic as their own dialect.[3] As Jewish communities tend to be close-knit and isolated from the other ethnic and religious communities of their countries,[6] their dialect spread to their coreligionists all over the country[2][10] had not been in contact with the languages of the communities that invaded Tunisia in the middle age.[3][11] The primary language contact with regard to Judeo-Tunisian Arabic came from the languages of Jewish communities that fled to Tunisia as a result of persecution.[9] This explains why Judeo-Tunisian Arabic lacks influence from the dialects of the Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym, and has developed several phonological and lexical particularities that distinguish it from Tunisian Arabic.[11][12][13] This also explains why Judeo-Tunisian words are generally less removed from their etymological origin than Tunisian words.[14]

After 1901[edit]

In 1901, Judeo-Tunisian became one of the main spoken Arabic dialects of Tunisia, with thousands of speakers.[9] Linguists noted the unique character of this dialect, and subjected it to study.[9] Among the people studying Judeo-Tunisian Arabic, Daniel Hagege listed a significant amount of Judeo-Tunisian Arabic newspapers from the early 1900s in his essay The Circulation of Tunisian Judeo-Arabic Books.[15] However, its emergence has significantly declined since 1948 due to the creation of Israel.[9] In fact, the Jewish community of Tunisia has either chosen to leave or was forced to leave Tunisia and immigrate to France or Israel.[3][8] Nowadays, the language is largely extinct throughout most of Tunisia, even if it is still used by the small Jewish communities in Tunis, Gabes and Djerba,[2][3][4] and most of the Jewish communities that have left Tunisia have chosen to change their language of communication to the main language of their current country.[3]

Language vitality[edit]

Judeo-Tunisian Arabic is believed to be vulnerable with only 500 speakers in Tunisia [16] and with about 45,000 speakers in Israel[17]

Variations of Judeo-Tunisian Arabic[edit]

In Tunisia, geography plays a huge role in how Judeo-Tunisian Arabic varies between speakers.[18] Yehudit Henshke found that these variations of Tunisian Judeo-Arabic can be divided by certain regions such as the North and South of Tunisia as well as the islands off the coast of the country. In addition, Judeo-Tunisian can vary based on the town in which it is spoken.[18]

Distinctives from Tunisian Arabic[edit]

Like all other Judeo-Arabic languages, Judeo-Tunisian Arabic does not seem to be very different from the Arabic dialect from which it derives, Tunisian Arabic.[3][6][19][20][21]

  • Phonology: Mostly unlike Tunisian Arabic dialects, Judeo-Tunisian Arabic has merged Tunisian Arabic's glottal [ʔ] and [h] into [ø],[3] Interdental [ð] and [θ] have respectively been merged with [d] and [t],[3] Ḍah and Ḍād have been merged as [] and not as [ðˤ],[3] Prehilalian /aw/ and /ay/ diphthongs have been kept,[3] and [χ] and [ʁ] have been respectively substituted by [x] and [ɣ].[3] This is mainly explained by the difference of language contact between Jewish communities in Tunisia and Tunisian people.[9] [ʃ] and [ʒ] are realized as [ʂ] and [ʐ] if there is a [q] later in the word (however in Gabes this change takes effect if [ʃ] and [ʒ] are either before or after [q])[4]
  • Morphology: The morphology is quite the same as the one of Tunisian Arabic.[3][6][19] However, Judeo-Tunisian Arabic sometimes uses some particular morphological structures such as typical clitics like qa- that is used to denote the progressivity of a given action.[3][22] For example, qayākil means he is eating. Unlike Tunisian Arabic, Judeo-Tunisian Arabic is characterized by its overuse of the passive form.[3][11]
  • Vocabulary: Unlike Tunisian Arabic, Judeo-Tunisian Arabic has a Hebrew substratum.[2][6][23] In fact, Cohen said that 5 percent of the Judeo-Tunisian words are from Hebrew origin.[24] Judeo-Tunisian Arabic is also known for the profusion of diminutives.[12] For example,
    • qayas قطيطس (little or friendly cat) for qaṭṭūs قطّوس (cat).[12]
    • klayib كليب (little or friendly dog) for kalb كلب (dog).[12]


  1. ^ a b c d Raymond G. Gordon, Jr, ed. 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  2. ^ a b c d (Hebrew) Henschke, J. (1991). Hebrew elements in the Spoken Arabic of Djerba. Massorot, 5-6, 77-118.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r (French) Cohen, D. (1975). Le parler arabe des Juifs de Tunis. La Haye: Mouton.
  4. ^ a b c Sumikazu, Yoda. ""Sifflant" and "Chuitant" in the Arabic Dialect of the Jews of Gabes (south Tunisia)". Jounal of Arabic Linguistics. 46: 21. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  5. ^ Judeo-Tunisian Arabic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g (French) Bar-Asher, M. (1996). La recherche sur les parlers judéo-arabes modernes du Maghreb: état de la question. Histoire épistémologie langage, 18(1), 167-177.
  7. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Judeo-Tunisian Arabic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  8. ^ a b c Bassiouney, R. (2009). Arabic sociolinguistics. Edinburgh University Press, pp. 104.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Leddy-Cecere, T. A. (2010). Contact, Restructuring, and Decreolization: The Case of Tunisian Arabic. University of Pennsylvania, pp. 47-71.
  10. ^ (French) Saada, L. (1956). Introduction à l'étude du parler arabe des juifs de Sousse.
  11. ^ a b c (French) Vanhove, M. (1998). De quelques traits préhilaliens en maltais. Aguade et al., ed, 97-108.
  12. ^ a b c d (French) Cohen, D. (1970). Les deux parlers arabes de Tunis. Notes de phonologie comparee. In his Etudes de linguistique semitique et arabe, 150(7).
  13. ^ (French) Caubet, D. (2000). Questionnaire de dialectologie du Maghreb (d'après les travaux de W. Marçais, M. Cohen, GS Colin, J. Cantineau, D. Cohen, Ph. Marçais, S. Lévy, etc.). Estudios de dialectología norteafricana y andalusí, EDNA, (5), 73-90.
  14. ^ Aslanov, C. (2016). Remnants of Maghrebi Judeo-Arabic among French-born Jews of North-African Descent. Journal of Jewish Languages, 4(1), 69-84.
  15. ^ Tobi, Joseph (2014). Judeo-Arabic Literature In Tunisia, 1850-1950. Detroit,Michigan: Wayne State University Press. pp. 241–320. ISBN 978-0-8143-2871-2. 
  16. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger". Unesco.org. UNESCO. Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  17. ^ "Arabic, Judeo-Tunisian". Ethologue Languages of the World. Ethnologue. Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  18. ^ a b Henshke, Yehudit (2010). "Different Hebrew Traditions: Mapping Regional Distinctions in the Hebrew Component of Spoken Tunisian Judeo-Arabic". Studies in the History and Culture of North African Jewry: 109. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  19. ^ a b Talmoudi, Fathi (1979) The Arabic Dialect of Sûsa (Tunisia). Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.
  20. ^ Hammet, Sandra (2014). "Irregular verbs in Maltese and Their Counterparts in The Tunisian and Moroccan Dialects" (PDF). Romano-Arabica. 14: 193–210. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  21. ^ Arevalo, Tania Marica Garcia (2014). "The General Linguistic Features of Modern Judeo-Arabic Dialects in the Maghreb". Zutot. 11: 54–56. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  22. ^ Cuvalay, M. (1991). The expression of durativity in Arabic. The Arabist, Budapest studies in Arabic, 3-4, 146.
  23. ^ Chetrit, J. (2014). Judeo-Arabic Dialects in North Africa as Communal Languages: Lects, Polylects, and Sociolects. Journal of Jewish Languages, 2(2), 202-232.
  24. ^ Cohen, D. (1985). Some historical and sociolinguistic observations on the arabic dialects spoken by north african Jews. Readings in the Sociology of Jewish Languages. Leiden: Brill, 246-260.

Further reading[edit]

  • Arévalo, T. M. G. (2014). The General Linguistic Features of Modern Judeo-Arabic Dialects in the Maghreb. Zutot, 11(1), 49-56. doi:10.1163/18750214-12341266.
  • Bar-Asher, M. &. (2010). Studies in the history and culture of North African Jewry. In Proceedings of the symposium at Yale. New Haven: Program in Judaic Studies, Yale.
  • Sumikazu, Y., & Yoda, S. (2006). " Sifflant" and" chuintant" in the Arabic dialect of the Jews of Gabes (south Tunisia). Zeitschrift für arabische Linguistik, (46), 7-25.
  • Tobi, Y., & Tobi, T. (2014). Judeo-Arabic Literature in Tunisia, 1850-1950. Detroit, MI: Wayne State UP. ISBN 978-0-8143-2871-2.
  • Hammett, S. (2014). Irregular verbs in Maltese and their counterparts in the Tunisian and Morccan dialects. Romano-Arabica, 14, 193-210.

External links[edit]