This article sheds new light on the linguistic identity of the so-called ‘Portuguese Jews’ of Gascony. According to the currently-accepted historical reconstruction, after being Spanish-speaking during the first centuries of their settlement in France, these communities all adopted standard French towards the end of the 18th century. However, their linguistic legacy has been misinterpreted: Spanish was a mere written tongue, used by learned members of the communities until the 18th century, whereas Gascon, the local vernacular, was spoken. This situation of diglossia, paralleling that of the local Christian inhabitants, who wrote in French yet spoke Gascon, resulted in differentiation of the common language of both communities, with the emergence of a distinctive Jewish variety. Now mostly obsolescent, this ‘Jewish’ language is being recovered through intensive study of textual evidence – samples of which are provided here along with some of our theories.
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