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Ḥalabi Arabic as a Contact Dialect in Jerusalem

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This essay presents the main characteristics of a variety of Jerusalem Arabic, which was spoken in Jerusalem in the first half of the 20th century by Jews of North-Syrian origin, and also by others who conformed to this way of speech. The description provided is based on new evidence collected in 2012–2013 through interviews with elderly Jews who grew up in Jerusalem in the 1930s and 1940s. Growing up in mandatory Jerusalem, they mixed and socialized freely with their Christian and Muslim neighbors. Many of them heard the Arabic dialect of Aleppo at home, yet their home-dialect went through processes of linguistic accommodation, resulting in a contact variety which evidently differs from standard Jerusalem Arabic. Throughout this article I discuss a series of distinctive phonological, morphological, and lexical features, and discuss them vis-à-vis the standard dialect of Jerusalem and also in comparison with Aleppo Arabic. While many differences follow from the retention of substrate features in the language of the immigrants, this Jewish variety is by no means identical to any Syrian dialect. Rather, it is a contact dialect which emerged after the immigration to Jerusalem and which differs from Syrian Arabic in several prominent aspects. The linguistic analysis of the materials demonstrates the spread of features of the local dialect at the expense of others, as well as the emergence of fudged linguistic forms, which are identical neither to those of the local standard nor to those of the input dialect.The last section of this essay offers two full-length texts, demonstrating the Ḥalabi variety of Jerusalem Arabic (hereafter: ḥJA) in its natural context.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Arabic Language and Literature, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem JerusalemIsrael

1 Preliminary notes from this study were presented in June 2013 at the conference on “Variation within and across Jewish Languages” at the Institute for Jewish Studies, University of Antwerp. I would like to convey my gratitude to‬ professor Simon Hopkins for his precious suggestions and corrections, and to professor Roni Henkin for her assistance in clarifying some crucial methodological issues.

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