Ḥalabi Arabic as a Contact Dialect in Jerusalem

In: Journal of Jewish Languages

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.

  • ArnoldWerner, Die arabischen Dialekte Antiochiens, (Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998).

  • ArnoldWerner, '“Die arabischen Dialekte von Jaffa und Umgebung.”', in Martine Haak, Rudolf de Jong and Kees Versteegh (eds), Approaches to Arabic Dialects, (Brill, Leiden 2004) 33-46.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BakirMurtadha, '“Sex Differences in the Approximation to Standard Arabic: A Case Study.”' (1986) 28(1) Anthropological Linguistics: 3-9.

  • BauerLeonhard, Das palästinische Arabisch: Die Dialekte des Städters und des Fellachen, (Leipzig 1913).

  • BehnstedtPeter, '“Christlich-aleppinische texte.”' (1989) 20 Zeitschrift Für Arabische Linguistik: 43-96.

  • Ben-ZeevIsrael, Ha-’arvit ha-meduberet, (Jerusalem [in Hebrew] 1949 1951) 2 vols.

  • BorgAlexander, '“Some Maltese Toponyms in Historical and Comparative Perspective.”', in Paul Wexler, Alexander Borg and Sasson Somekh (eds), Studia linguistica et orientalia memoriae Haim Blanc dedicata, (Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1989) 62-85.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BüssowJohann, Hamidian Palestine Politics and Society in the District of Jerusalem 1872–1908, (Brill, Leiden 2011).

  • ElyacharElie, Living with Jews, (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London 1983).

  • GaashAmir, '“The Verbal and Nominal Feminine Endings -at and -it in Neo-Arabic,”' (2013) 57 Zeitschrift für Arabische Linguistik: 48-69.

  • GarbellIrene, '“Remarks on the Historical Phonology of an East Mediterranean Arabic Dialect.”' (1958) 14 Word: 303-337.

  • GoiteinShelomo Dov, ' פרקים בשפת הדיבור הערבית של ארץ-ישראל [Episodes in the spoken Arabic of Eretz Israel]' (1943) Published in Jerusalem by an unknown publisher with the participation of Moshe Piamenta.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GrotzfeldHeinz, Syrisch-arabische Grammatik, (Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1965).

  • HenkinRoni, '“Hebrew and Arabic in Asymmetric Contact in Israel.”' (2011) 7(1) Lodz Papers in Pragmatics: 61-100.

  • HopkinsSimon, '“Notes on the History of the Arabic Language in Palestine.”' (2011) 20(50) Lingua-Culture Contextual Studies in Ethnic Conflicts of the World.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KleinMenachem, Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem Jaffa and Hebron, (Hurst & Co, London 2014).

  • LevinAryeh, A Grammar of the Arabic Dialect of Jerusalem, (Magnes [in Hebrew], Jerusalem 1994).

  • LevinAryeh, '“The imāla in the Modern Arabic Dialect of Aleppo.”', in Werner Arnold and Hartmut Bobzin (eds), Sprich doch mit deinen Knechten aramäisch wir verstehen es! 60 Beiträge zur Semitistik. Festschrift für Otto Jastrow zum 60. Geburtstag, (Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2002) 431-446.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LöhrMax, Vulgärarabische Dialekt von Jerusalem, (A. Töpelmann, Gieszen 1905).

  • NevoMoshe“The Arabic Dialect of the Jews of Aleppo: Phonology and Morphology,”1991JerusalemThe Hebrew University of Jerusalem [in Hebrew]Ph.D. dissertation

    • Export Citation
  • PalvaHeikki, '“From qəltu to gələt: Diachronic Notes on Linguistic Adaptation in Muslim Baghdad Arabic.”', in Enam Al-Wer and Rudolf de Jong (eds), Arabic Dialectology in Honour of Clive Holes on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday, (Brill, Leiden 2009) 17-40.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PiamentaMoshe, Studies in the Syntax of Palestinian Arabic, (The Israel Oriental Society, Jerusalem 1966) (Oriental Notes and Studies 10).

  • PiamentaMoshe, Dabber ‘Arvit: An Introduction to the Spoken Arabic of Palestine, (Maariv [in Hebrew], Israel 1968).

  • PiamentaMoshe, '“Jerusalem Substandard Arabic: Linguistic Analysis of an Idiolect.”' (1979a) 1 Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam: 263-285.

  • PiamentaMoshe, '“Jerusalem Arabic Lexicon.”' (1979b) 26(3) Arabica: 229-266.

  • PiamentaMoshe, Jewish Life in Arabic Language and Jerusalem Arabic in Communal Perspective, (Brill, Leiden 2000).

  • SabuniAbdulghafur, Laut- und Formenlehre des arabischen Dialekts von Aleppo, (P.D. Lang, Frankfurt 1980).

  • SpolskyBernardCooperRobert L., The Languages of Jerusalem, (Clarendon Press, Oxford 1991).

  • TamariSalim, '“Ishaq al-Shami and the Predicament of the Arab Jew in Palestine.”' (2004) 21 Jerusalem Quarterly: 10-26.

  • TalmonRafael, '“Arabic as a Minority Language in Israel.”', in Jonathan Owens (ed), Arabic as a Minority Language, (Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin 2000) 199-220.

  • VersteeghKees, The Arabic Language, (Columbia University Press, New York 1997).

  • Vicente Ángeles, '“Gender and Language Boundaries in the Arab World: Current Issues and Perspectives.”' (2009) 13 Estudios de dialectología norteafricana y andalusí: 7-30.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WoidichManfred, Das Kairenisch-Arabische: Eine Grammatik, (Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2006).

  • 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.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 204 64 3
Full Text Views 131 17 2
PDF Downloads 28 13 0