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The Jewish Linguistic Spectrum

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Chapter Summary

This chapter investigates the spectrum of Jewish linguistic usage in historical and sociolinguistic terms. First, it examines how sociolinguistics and history have inquired into when, how, and why Jews have written and spoken differently from their neighbors. Next, the chapter tracks the emergence and development of "Jewish languages." It then talks about instances where Christians and Muslims have adopted Jewish linguistic usages, leading to a proposal for some modifications in the accepted terminology. The chapter maps the prototype of a Jewish language and lists the various Jewish languages mentioned in the literature. It provides definitions for several terms that include: Jewish-defined language, majority language, (language) variety, linguistic intelligibility, religiolect, and castelect. Three Jewish religiolects hold a special place in Jewish culture, because they have been used both over a wide geographical area and for a long period of time: Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Spanish, and Yiddish.

Keywords: Christians; Jewish languages; Jewish linguistic spectrum; Jewish religiolects; Judeo-Arabic; Muslims; sociolinguistics; Yiddish



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