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Code-switching in religious, philosophic and secular Judeo-Arabic Texts

Principal Investigator:


Contact Person:
Prof. Dr. Islam Dayeh
+49 (0)30 838 4 58245

Aramaic was the common language in Syria, Palestine and Babylon long before Islam. This situation was gradually replaced by Arabic after the emergence of Islam and its spread into these areas. The shift to use Arabic as a lingua franca started to increase as Islam spread. As a result, the languages spoken before Islam in the ancient Near East and North Africa, mainly Aramaic, were replaced gradually by Arabic. Jews were among those who also adapted Arabic in everyday life as a natural process of language shifting that occurred at the time.


Jews left behind a great deal of Arabic literature written in Hebrew script, and covers more than ten centuries (from the ninth century up to the modern era) and includes not only religious but also secular Jewish topics, e.g. philosophy, poetry, fiction and medicine. These texts, the so- called Judeo-Arabic texts, are characterized by the use of Hebrew scripts in almost all the texts as well as Hebrew and Aramaic lexical items and grammar. For sociolinguistic studies, the linguistic aspects of these texts are significant. The historical and linguistic co-relationship between the Arabic variety used by Jews, classical and middle Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic and different Arabic vernaculars in the Middle East, North Africa and Andalusia is a very interesting field of study concerning the linguistic and literary phenomena associated with bilingualism, languages in contact, registers and code-switching.


Code-switching (CS) is one of the most common phenomena generated by languages in contact deriving from a bilingual/multilingual context where people communicate by means of more than one language or dialect due to their linguistic background. Although Judeo-Arabic texts contain the code-switching phenomenon, very few studies have analysed the linguistic, literary and typological aspects of code-switching in these texts.


This study investigates the phenomena related to mixed language texts in general and code- switching in particular regarding data from Judeo-Arabic texts. The focus of the study is a comparison of code-switching in secular, philosophic and religious paradigms. The methodology and approach to the corpora are derived from sociolinguistic approaches developed to analyse these linguistic phenomena. The study also compares CS typology and structural settings between older and modern texts, augmenting the current research on code-switching in general and historical code-switching in particular.