On Palestinian Yiddish and Ashkenazi Arabic in 18-19 Century Palestine: A Language-Oriented New Look on Jewish-Arab Relations

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Abstract

This article aims to shed light on two principle subjects relating to language and culture in the Jewish community in Palestine before the rise of Zionism. First, it attempts to describe and to deepen our understanding of the Yiddish of the Ashkenazi community spoken in Historical Palestine in the 18th and 19th centuries. This dialect of Yiddish, referred to in this article as ‘Palestinian Yiddish’, was permeated with Arabic influences. Secondly, and in conjunction with addressing this dialect, the article explores various facets of the knowledge of Arabic among the Ashkenazi community in the country. In this respect, it highlights that the increased knowledge of Arabic in the Ashkenazi community indicates not only acquaintance with the language itself, but also encompasses broader insights about the relations between the Ashkenazi community and the Arab-Palestinian people which challenges the traditional research on the topic. Based on socio-linguistic analysis, as well as inslights from language contact and language and society, this article claims that the language parameter can highlight the social and political routes in which the Ashkenazi Palestinian community was paving, including those of acclimation, integration and being part of the general hegemonic Arab culture. As I argue, this is not unconnected to Zionism’s strenuous recoil from both of these languages—Yiddish and Arabic. ‘Palestinian Yiddish’ and ‘Ashkenazi Arabic’, therefore, jointly reveal a period as it once was and is no more: language skills and social relations that posed a threat to separatist practices that were to be pushed forward by the Zionist movement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-222
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Volume49
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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