Ḥalabi Arabic as a Contact Dialect in Jerusalem

in Journal of Jewish Languages
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This essay presents the main characteristics of a variety of Jerusalem Arabic, which was spoken in Jerusalem in the first half of the 20th century by Jews of North-Syrian origin, and also by others who conformed to this way of speech. The description provided is based on new evidence collected in 2012–2013 through interviews with elderly Jews who grew up in Jerusalem in the 1930s and 1940s. Growing up in mandatory Jerusalem, they mixed and socialized freely with their Christian and Muslim neighbors. Many of them heard the Arabic dialect of Aleppo at home, yet their home-dialect went through processes of linguistic accommodation, resulting in a contact variety which evidently differs from standard Jerusalem Arabic. Throughout this article I discuss a series of distinctive phonological, morphological, and lexical features, and discuss them vis-à-vis the standard dialect of Jerusalem and also in comparison with Aleppo Arabic. While many differences follow from the retention of substrate features in the language of the immigrants, this Jewish variety is by no means identical to any Syrian dialect. Rather, it is a contact dialect which emerged after the immigration to Jerusalem and which differs from Syrian Arabic in several prominent aspects. The linguistic analysis of the materials demonstrates the spread of features of the local dialect at the expense of others, as well as the emergence of fudged linguistic forms, which are identical neither to those of the local standard nor to those of the input dialect.

The last section of this essay offers two full-length texts, demonstrating the Ḥalabi variety of Jerusalem Arabic (hereafter: ḥja) in its natural context.

Ḥalabi Arabic as a Contact Dialect in Jerusalem

in Journal of Jewish Languages

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8

See Nevo 1991. I also base myself on fieldwork which I conducted in 2002 as part of a project funded by the World Center for Aleppo Jews Traditional Culture with seven speakers who emigrated from Aleppo to Israel in the 1970s and 1980s.

26

Borg (1989) coined the term ‘nla (Noun+il+adjective) constructions’ to refer to irregular nominal phrases which consist of a noun in construct and its attribute. Such constructions which are in many cases toponyms or expressions functioning as temporal adverbs have been documented in several Levantine Mesopotamian and even North African dialects (Borg 1989:65 and the reference given there) and they are also known from Mishnaic Hebrew. In general constructions of Noun+Adjective in which the adjective alone is definite are not used in the Modern Arabic dialects of the area discussed. That said Piamenta 1979a:266 gives the phrase bi-waʾt ilʾaxīr ‘in the last period lately’ which occurred in the speech of his Jewish Jerusalemite informant contrasting it with Standard jailwaʾt ilʾaxīr. Also standard in Jerusalem though not necessarily in the speech of Jews is the temporal phrase sant ižžāy ‘next year’ (vs. the expected issane ižžāy(e)). In the case at hand one cannot tell whether the sūʾ is indeed in the construct state.

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