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The Jews have a unique place in history with regards to their languages. Jews have lived in several parts of the world in any given time resulting in them mixing their language (Hebrew) with several other languages throughout history. Within Europe Jews spoke several different variants of their homelands languages from Yiddish to Ladino. However, in the Middle East Jews spoke Judeo-Arabic, which originated around 600 C.E and was spoken by Jews from Morocco to Yemen. However, in the modern era Judeo-Arabic is on the verge of extinction mainly due to colonialist cultural hegemony and Israeli suppression of Judeo-Arabic in favor of Modern Hebrew.
The origins of Judeo-Arabic as a language span back to over a thousand years ago with the earliest surviving Judeo-Arabic Records being dated to about 1000 C.E. Judeo Arabic formation is based on the fact that many of the Jews living under Arab rule had to learn Arabic in order to be able to effectively communicate but still maintain their own Hebrew heritage resulting in a language which is spoken similarly to Arabic but is written completely in Hebrew characters (Kaye, 563). Many of the notable Jewish figures to come from the Middle East during era of Arab of Expansion and control spoke and wrote in Judeo-Arabic. Examples such as the prominent Jewish philosopher Maimonides with his works such as groundbreaking Guide to the Perplexed being originally composed in Judeo-Arabic before later being translated into several other languages (Spolsky, 111-112,2004). Due to the breadth of Arab expansion from Iraq to Morocco several different forms of Judeo-Arabic came into existence with prominent forms such as Judeo-Darjah (Judeo-Arabic spoken within the Maghreb or North Africa) and Judeo-Yemenite (spoken in the southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula) surviving into the modern era. However, class also significantly influenced how Judeo-Arabic was actually spoken with the upper classes maintaining Judeo-Arabic's literate culture and lower classes primarily preserving its spoken culture (Spolsky, 237-239,2014). This class divide would ultimately become Judeo-Arabic's biggest contributor to its downfall.
During the era of colonialism Judeo-Arabic came under threat, especially Judeo-Darjah, came under threat due to upper class Jews abandoning Judeo-Arabic on s massive scale in favor of the languages of their colonizers such as French (Spolsky, 235-236,2014). For example in Algeria direct French control led to many upper class Jews sending their kids to French boarding schools to learn and develop and their French so that they would be able to thrive within the confines of French rules. Many of these upper class Algerian Jews who learned French spoke little to no Judeo-Arabic, as this language was no longer the language of the ruling class but a relic of an era of Arab control. Within other North-African countries such as Morocco this was a common trend as these Jews wanted their children to know the language of their new rulers rather than that of the people they lived with so that can maintain their status in the upper classes (Spolsky, 236-237,2014).
This resulted in mostly lower class Jews speaking Judeo-Darjah, as they could not afford the luxury of a European education. Due to lower class Jews also having extremely low literacy rates it was around this time that Judeo-Arabic literature from North Africa began to be forgotten to history as these Jews did not have the same ability of preserving its literate history and educated, upper class Jews could. The creation of Israel in 1948 would further speed up this demise as these remaining lower class Jews who spoke Judeo-Darjah and Judeo Arabic as a whole. Even more resilient dialects, which weren't exposed to colonialist hegemony such as Judeo-Yemenite rapidly, diminished with the creation of the State of Israel (Spolsky, 262-264,2014).
When Theodor Herzl first laid out his plans for a Jewish state he envisioned a linguistic society similar to that of Switzerland in which each distinctive Jewish group that wishes to live in the Jewish State maybe able to maintain their native tongues without the need for a completely centralized language. He even scoffed at the concept of Hebrew becoming the Jewish Language and even acknowledges the notion that the residents of this new state should "never cease to cherish with sadness the memory of the native land out of which we [they] have been driven" (Herzl, 58,1896). In this idealistic Jewish State Judeo-Arabic would have been welcomed as a language of Jews along with Ladino, Yiddish and many other Jewish languages. Unfortunately for Judeo-Arabic when the Jewish State was formed in 1948 the exact opposite was done (Spolsky, 262-266,2014.
When the Mizrahim (Jews coming form predominantly Arab lands) move into Israel they were not just told to she their old nationalistic identities but also told to abandon Judeo-Arabic (Spolsky, 262-266,2014). This whole scale shedding of Judeo-Arabic in all of its forms including the resilient Judeo-Yemenite by the State of Israel was an effort on the Israeli government to make modern Hebrew the language that all Israeli Jews must speak. This modern form of Hebrew differed radically from classical Hebrew) and borrowed heavily from Ashkenazi languages such as Russian so that it could to distinguish itself from its more Semitic, Arabic sounding ancestor (Spolsky, 260-264,2014). What may come as a surprise to many is that Mizrahim Jews by in large did not resist this linguistic homogenization the state of Israel with many of these Jews not passing on Judeo-Arabic to their children. This lack of younger speakership has resulted in Judeo-Arabic being primarily being spoken by older generations of Mizrahim Jews resulting in it being in anger of extinction once that generation has passed on.
The State of Israel's linguistic homogenization did not stop at just suppressing Judeo-Arabic from being spoken but also allowed for many Judeo-Arabic works to be either forgotten to history or translated with its Judeo-Arabic counter parts not being preserved (Spolsky, 262-264,2014). However, recent academic interest in preserving Judeo-Arabic has helped ensure that this language will not die out. This recent interest has been sparked primarily use to the discovery of the Geniza documents in Cairo in the early 1900's. These documents spanned hundreds of years into Jewish history, which were previously not well documented. However, sizable portions of these documents were written purely in Judeo-Arabic and were in need of translation for a modern readership (Blau, IX, 1992). This resulted in an uptick in demand for Judeo-Arabic scholars to help translate and interpret these documents. Prior to this discovery academic interest in Judeo-Arabic was fairly limited (Chetrit, 265,1985). With this newer academic interest in Judeo-Arabic it is hoped that this movement will help prolong its life after a centuries long process of extinction from colonial an Israeli pressures.
Judeo-Arabic in the modern era has seen a significant decline due to many factors such as colonialist hegemony and Israeli homogenization. The last reliable survey of Judeo-Arabic speakers conclude that the largest Judeo-Arabic Speaking population exist, ironically, within Israel with roughly 250,000 speakers in 2000 (Spolsky, 269,2014). While this number is probably significantly smaller in 2015 due to the aging population Judeo-Arabic speakers. While this number may seem high when compare to the size of the general Israeli population it becomes apparently clear Judeo-Arabic is on a path to extinction. No other country comes close to this number of Judeo-Arabic speakers with a distant second being Morocco with roughly 9,000 speakers left in 2000 (Spolsky, 269,2014). Recent academic interest in Judeo-Arabic may help stave off its extinction for a little while longer but the overall trend is that of significant decline. The modern outlook of Judeo-Arabic is, at best, bleak due to centuries of decline and rapid ethnic homogenization. The only real glimmer of hope for the language is renewed Academic interest in Judeo-Arabic's rich and long history.


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