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What’s with this “Wren” thing?
The oldest extant version of the fable
are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology
Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche
Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”)
collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read
Ladino – Judeo-Spanish (Judeo-Castilian)
of Eastern Ladino—Sephardic Jews in 19th-century Bosnia, possibly around the
time when the region changed
from Ottoman Turkish rule to Austro-Hungarian rule (1878).
Ladino is often confused with Ladin (Italian ladino), which is used in the Dolomite Mountains region of northeastern Italy. Both
names mean “Latin” or actually “Romance language” (derived from Latin latinus). Ladino is known by several other names, such as “Judeo-Spanish” (non-American spelling “Judaeo-Spanish”), “Judezmo” (or “Dzhudezmo”), “Judio” (or “Djudio”), “Sefardi”, “Spanyol” (also “Spañol” or “Spagnol”) and “Haketia”. Some people use the name “Ladino” only for the classical written language and “Judeo-Spanish” for the language in general. The name “Sefardi” (or “Sephardi”)
is sometimes used because the speakers are Sephardic (or Iberian) Jews, but this
is imprecise since on the Iberian Peninsula the traditional language of Portuguese
(known as “Judeo-Portuguese” and “Lusitanic”),
the Jews of Catalonia spoke “Judeo-Catalan” (or “Catalanic”), and the Jews of Aragon spoke “Judeo-Aragonese.” It is true, however, that Ladino is the only Sephardic language that is still
related to Modern Standard Spanish). “Judeo-Castilian” (Ladino Djudeo-Kasteyano, Spanish judeocastellano, Turkish Yahudi İspanyolcası) is therefore the most appropriate name and is particularly favored in Turkey.
people use the name “Haketia” (also spelled “Hakitia”, “Haquitía” or “Jaquetía”, from Arabic ħaka ‘tell’) for the language in general, but it ought to be used only for the now virtually
extinct West Ladino dialects
Africa. Despite all of this, “Ladino” remains the most popularly used name, especially among laymen, and especially
Israel where now most of the remaining speakers of the language live.
Spain, used to be one of the great centers of Al-Andalus, Andalusia
under Islamic rule where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together
peacefully. Although most of them were native Spanish speakers,
many Christians and Jews were fluent in Arabic and often excelled
writers. Superbly ornate Arabic art greatly inspired all Spaniards
at the time. Toledo’s Synagogue of the Transit is a good example of this. It became a church (Nuestra
Señora Del Transito) after
the expulsion of Jews from Spain.
Ladino is essentially a descendant of what is commonly known as “Old Spanish,”
namely the Castilian language as used from the 10th to the 15th century.
It probably developed from a mixture of Castilian dialects with Judeo-specific
jargon and Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic and other admixtures. Also, it seems to
influenced by Andalusian, the South Castilian dialects of the
domination, where Jews had enjoyed a relatively good measure of safety and
freedom before the Christian Reconquest of Iberia and the following inquisitions
Portugal (1536–1821). Jews had to either renounce their ancestral faith or leave
or else be put to death. Many Jews took on
Catholicism but were later persecuted anyway. However, many of the Jewish converts
ancestral faith in secret as marranos (crypto-Jews). Lately, some of their descendants are officially converting to
Judaism to reclaim their heritage.
the mainstream languages and cultures of their Iberian regions. Those in Castilian-speaking
regions thus used the common
dialects as they kept developing in Spain. It was only the expelled Jews that
adhered to Castilian as it used to be when they or their ancestors left Spain,
a Jewish language with influences from Hebrew and Aramaic as well as from the
languages of the regions in which they came to live.
This is analogous to the development of Yiddish,
or Judeo-German, in Eastern Europe, away from the
Jewish man in Turkey (1779)—Sultan Bayezid II (1447-1512) had specifically invited expelled Iberian Jews
and Muslims to settle in the Ottoman Empire and he issued a decree
commanding that they be treated cordially.
groups developed: Western Ladino (or Haketia) and Eastern Ladino. Western Ladino
was mainly used in Northwest Africa, especially in Morocco. It and Sephardic
culture of that region became fairly strongly influenced by
Morrocan Arabic (which has Berber substrata). Eastern Ladino essentially developed
in the then large Ottoman Empire, including the entire Balkan region, Romania
and parts of Hungary,
later growing to include what is now the Middle East without much of the Arabian
Peninsula, and North Africa up to the eastern border of Morroco. Among the most
important East-Ladino-speaking communities were those of Belgrade (Serbia),
Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), Rhodes
(Izmir, Turkey), Sarajevo (Bosnia), Salonica (Thessaloniki, Greece), and Sofia
(Bulgaria), and a language community grew in Jerusalem as well. The Ladino
varieties of Italy may be seen as a separate group, since Iberian Jews had
migrated directly to Italy, thus were
exposed to the languages of North Africa and the Ottoman Empire. Despite some
Ladino is not very extreme in its dialect
diversity, remaining rather true to its Late Old Castilian roots and being to
to today’s Spanish speakers. A special case is that of the dialect of Monastir in what
Macedonia. It developed in isolation from other Ladino varieties and seems to
have Italian influences as well. Some Ladino dialects display signs of Portuguese
influences. This is probably due to many expelled Spanish Jews having first emigrated
to Portugal and then left from there with the onset of the Portuguese Inquisition,
probably taking with them some Portuguese Jews as well.
Jews left for what are now the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Northern Germany,
especially important and successful communities in then newly Protestant-dominated
Hamburg. For some generations they used Judeo-Portuguese, and many members were
Ladino as well, which seems to indicate that there had been a fair degree of
these communities were surrounded by speakers of Dutch, English and Low Saxon and they used these languages as well, in Hamburg later also German, at which time their use of Low Saxon supposedly waned. Other Portuguese Jews
went to live in Brazil and in Dutch colonies in the Americas. Their Ladino and
Judeo-Portuguese strongly participated in the development of
Papiamentu and the creoles of Suriname. Non-Portuguese Ladino speakers, too, immigrated
to the Americas, especially to the United States and to the predominantly Spanish-speaking
countries. Ladino language loyalty in the Americas has been waning in recent
decades, in Spanish-speaking countries in part because of dialect leveling due
influences on closely related Ladino.
Jewish inhabitants of Salonica (Thessaloniki) in 1917—Ninety-six percent of the city’s Jewish population was murdered during the 20th-century Holocaust.
As was its Yiddish-speaking
Ladino-speaking population was drastically reduced as a result of the 20th-century
genocidal Holocaust (for instance 96% of Salonica’s once thriving Jewish population having been murdered).
number of speakers would have been even farther reduced had it not been for
the protection neutral Turkey afforded its Jews within and outside the country
also those that sought refuge
there. Ladino-speaking life continued in Turkey, but many communities have
meanwhile ceased to exist as some people took on Turkish as their first language
emigrated either overseas or to Israel. For several decades after the country’s foundation,
mainstream Zionist ideology in Israel was hostile to or at least non-supportive
languages (and cultures)
such as Bukhori, Dzhidi, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Berber, Judeo-Georgian,
Judeo-Malayalam, Judeo-Marathi, Judeo-Telugu, Juhuri, Krymchak, Ladino and Yiddish. However, the climate is now more tolerant, and at least Bukhori (Judeo-Tajik),
Ladino and Yiddish are now regularly featured in some Israeli media. Despite
of Ladino speakers keeps shrinking even in the remaining centers: Argentina,
Israel, USA (especially New
City) and a few communities in Turkey, and Ladino is currently an endangered
if the current minor resurgence of Ladino language activism, partly due to
Internet communication and partly to interest in Ladino music, will
or even reverse the decline.
varieties developed various innovations as their Castilian came to be influenced
by the languages of the displaced populations’ new abodes, it retained a number of features that in general Castilian changed
or disappeared. Among these are phonetic features such as the old distinction
between the sound
French jour and the sound as in English “ship” or “fresh” (in other Castilian varieties now both written “j” and pronounced [x] as in Scots loch and German lachen); e.g. foja (like foža) ‘leaf’ and pásharo ‘bird’ (cf. Modern Spanish hoja and pájaro respectively). Old Spanish “ç” which was pronounced as [ts], has come to be written “c” before “i” and “e” and “z” before other vowels and is pronounced [θ] or [s]. In Ladino, depending on the
variety and sometimes on the word, it is pronounced [s] or [ts]; e.g. korasón in Turkey, koratsón inEastern Bulgaria, and kuretsón in Bosnia (cf. Modern Spanish corazón) ‘heart’. Old Spanish /z/ has coincided with this and with old /s/, but in Ladino it
[z], as in dezir (cf. Modern Spanish decir) ‘to say’, kaza (cf. Spanish casa) ‘house’. The sequence /rd/ tends to be reversed (metathesis) to /dr/, as in tarde > tadre ‘late’. Ladino has
at least two Portuguese-like phonological features with some dialectical variation.
of these is vowel
such as in Bosnian Ladino kuretsón (cf. Modern Spanish corazón) ‘heart’ mentioned above. The other is a syllable-final “sh” sound ([∫]) before a stop consonant; e.g. peshkado ~ pishkadu (cf. Modern Spanish pescado) ‘fish’.
Ladino has been
written with several scripts. Like the highly Arabicized Romance language varieties
collectively known as Mozarabic, Early
Judeo-Spanish back in Muslim-dominated Spain used to be written with the Arabic
script, but use of the Hebrew script was more common. Especially
the Rashi typeface of the Hebrew script was very popular. Outside Iberia, depending on the dominant
script of a given
been written not only with the Hebrew script but with the Cyrillic, Greek and Roman scripts as well. Among the Roman script systems, the predominant ones
based on Spanish orthography and on Turkish orthography. These days, a modified version of the Turkish system (without Turco-specific characters) seems to be internationally
accepted and is being used
Turkey as well. It is used in nearly all publications. The Hebrew script is
now hardly used at all for Ladino, and few people can
first paragraph of the Ladino translation written with Solitreo,
the handwritten equivalent of the Rashi typeface of the
Hebrew script. It differs considerably from the now ordinary handwritten
style of Hebrew.
has been playing an especially important role in Sephardic culture. In recent
years, Ladino folksongs and various romantic, lyrical
art songs with their numerous attractive musical modes from around the Mediterranian
Sea and Southeastern Europe
have been enjoying renewed international interest.
Genealogy: Indo-European > Romance > Italo-Western > Western > Gallo-Iberian > Ibero-Romance > West Iberian > Castilian > Judeo-Castilian
Historical Lowlands language contacts: Dutch, English, Low Saxon