Jewish Languages, Past and Present

A lecture by Aaron D. Rubin (Pennsylvania State University)

This presentation is devoted to the rich array of languages other than Hebrew that have been written and spoken by Jewish communities throughout history. Jewish languages include representatives from the Germanic, Romance, Slavic, and many other language families from across Europe, Africa, and Asia. They include ancient languages such as Judeo-Aramaic and Judeo-Greek, medieval varieties such as Judeo-French and Judeo-Portuguese, and newly emerging ones such as Jewish Amharic, Jewish English, and Jewish Swedish. Some Jewish languages have substantial written traditions in the Hebrew script, while others are or were primarily spoken varieties. Jewish languages differ from their non-Jewish counterparts in both lexicon and grammar.

The presentation will provide historical and sociolinguistic introductions to these fascinating language varieties and will survey some of their most characteristic features.