|Native to||Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem District, Israel
Houmt Souk, Djerba, Tunisia
Judeo-Tunisian Arabic is a variety of Tunisian Arabic mainly spoken by Jews living or formerly living in Tunisia. Speakers are older adults, and the younger generation has only a passive knowledge of the language.
The vast majority of Tunisian Jews have relocated to Israel and have shifted to Hebrew as their home language. 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.
A Jewish community existed in what is today Tunisia even prior to Roman rule in Africa. After the Arabic conquest of North Africa, this community began to use Arabic for their daily communication. They had adopted the pre-Hilalian dialect of Tunisian Arabic as their own dialect. As Jewish communities tend to be close-knit and isolated from the other ethnic and religious communities of their countries, their dialect spread to their coreligionists all over the country had not been in contact with the languages of the communities that invaded Tunisia in the middle age. 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. 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. This also explains why Judeo-Tunisian words are generally less removed from their etymological origin than Tunisian words.
In 1901, Judeo-Tunisian became one of the main spoken Arabic dialects of Tunisia, with thousands of speakers. Linguists noted the unique character of this dialect, and subjected it to study. 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. However, its emergence has significantly declined since 1948 due to the creation of Israel. In fact, the Jewish community of Tunisia has either chosen to leave or was forced to leave Tunisia and immigrate to France or Israel. 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, 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.
Variations of Judeo-Tunisian Arabic
In Tunisia, geography plays a huge role in how Judeo-Tunisian Arabic varies between speakers. 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.
Distinctives from Tunisian Arabic
- Phonology: Mostly unlike Tunisian Arabic dialects, Judeo-Tunisian Arabic has merged Tunisian Arabic's glottal [ʔ] and [h] into [ø], Interdental [ð] and [θ] have respectively been merged with [d] and [t], Ḍah and Ḍād have been merged as [dˤ] and not as [ðˤ], Prehilalian /aw/ and /ay/ diphthongs have been kept, and [χ] and [ʁ] have been respectively substituted by [x] and [ɣ]. This is mainly explained by the difference of language contact between Jewish communities in Tunisia and Tunisian people. [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])
- Morphology: The morphology is quite the same as the one of Tunisian Arabic. 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. For example, qayākil means he is eating. Unlike Tunisian Arabic, Judeo-Tunisian Arabic is characterized by its overuse of the passive form.
- Vocabulary: Unlike Tunisian Arabic, Judeo-Tunisian Arabic has a Hebrew substratum. In fact, Cohen said that 5 percent of the Judeo-Tunisian words are from Hebrew origin. Judeo-Tunisian Arabic is also known for the profusion of diminutives. For example,
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