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Chapter Summary

Hary suggests nomenclature such as multiglossia and continuglossia to describe the linguistic situation more accurately, because beside the dichotomy between standard and vernacular, there are other poles within the Arabic spectrum. This introductory chapter offers a description of the epistolary register used in Judaeo-Arabic letters. It provides a systematic grammatical analysis of letter-writing within the historical phases of Judaeo-Arabic, both on a synchronic level with descriptions of the epistolary register in the various time periods, as well as diachronic developments in the Judaeo-Arabic used in the letters. Research on Muslim Arabic documents has shown that Maghrebian sources differ considerably from material written further to the East. Substandard or dialectal features observed in the letters were compared to Modern Arabic vernacular phenomena. Similarly, the letters have been compared to other examples of written sub-standard Arabic, such as literary Judaeo-Arabic, and certain Muslim and Christian varieties of the language.

Keywords: continuglossia; epistolary register; Judaeo-Arabic letters; linguistic analysis; multiglossia; substandard Arabic



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