JUDEO-GREEK


The Judeo-Greek language is known from medieval times onward. It contains an element of Hebrew and Aramaic origin in its vocabulary and grammar and is written in Hebrew characters. Since the 15th century there has also been an element of Turkish origin. Three examples of the Hebrew element are Yavan (Javan, Gen. 10:1–2, used in Hebrew for Greece=Ionia), "a Greek"; hamor (donkey), "a dunce"; akhlantzis (Heb. akhlan), "glutton." The earliest Judeo-Greek glosses are considered to be those in the Arukh (c. 1101), the talmudic dictionary by Rabbi *Nathan ben Jehiel of Rome. Two other early documents are a fragment of Ecclesiastes translated into Greek and a translation of Jonah containing elements foreign to the language spoken in the 13th century. A fragment of a Greek mishnaic glossary of 124 Hebrew words with their Greek equivalents has been assigned to the 10th or 11th century because of the colloquial phenomena familiar from Byzantine epigraphy; and a Hebrew manuscript of 99 words (1408 – Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris) probably dates from about 1250. A beautiful parchment manuscript of the Book of Jonah found at Candia, Crete, in which the copy's sale in 1263 is recorded, is thought to be the earliest known relic in Judeo-Greek, because the language employed is nearer to ancient Greek than that of any other relic of Byzantine literature (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1144). Another translation of Jonah (3574, University of Bologna) occurs in a maḥzor written in the Corfu dialect dating from the 15th century. Another important document of this period is a fragment of a manuscript located in the National Library in Jerusalem. This includes a brief commentary on Psalms, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes (see bibliography). The most extensive Judeo-Greek work intended for Greek-speaking Jews of the Balkan peninsula is the translation of the Constantinople Polyglot Pentateuch (1547). The total absence of Turkish words has led some scholars to conclude that the Judeo-Greek Pentateuch was written at least two centuries before the date of publication. There are some archaisms in this work, but they are exceptional. In most translations, as well as in many original works, vowels are indicated by vowel signs (in addition to the vowel letters). The sound "a" was indicated by kamaẓ or pattaḥ (often with a following alef); the sound "i" by ḥirik (followed by yod); "e" by ẓeireh (followed by yod); "o" by a full ḥolam; and "u" by a shuruk or kubbu z. A Judeo-Greek translation of Job (Constantinople, 1576) was the work of Moses b. Eliezer Phobian (or Pobian), who states explicitly that his aim was to facilitate the teaching of the Hebrew language. Manuscript versions of these translations are to be found in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. There are several collections of Judeo-Greek hymns, one of which – Yanniotika Evraika Traghoudhia (1953) – contains 16 hymns, 13 of them previously unpublished. A hymn which begins "Ενας ό Κύριος όθεός" ("The Lord, God, is One") consists of eight stanzas, each of which has a two-word Hebrew refrain: "Israel Hallelujah." A Jewish liturgical song dating from the Renaissance, Pismon tou Purim, occurs in two forms: the Chalcis version (ten stanzas) and the superior Oxford version (24 stanzas). The vowel points of the former can be judged only by the vocalization of the Hebrew refrain, the words of which are "Merciful living God, the true King."

The Corfu linguist Papageorgios, editor of O Israilitis Khronoghrafos (published in Corfu), first announced the discovery of Judeo-Greek poetry in 1881. In 1889 and in 1900, he reproduced eight stanzas of a hymn entitled "Song Sung Formerly in the Synagogue of Corfu on the Sabbath." The same collection (no. 2, p. 3) contains fragments of 70 verses from an old manuscript, inspired by Isaiah and other biblical prophets. The Karaite Elijah Afeda Beghi produced a Judeo-Greek version in 1627 of the Aramaic chapters of Daniel and Ezra still in manuscript in 1914, while for the rest of the Bible he compiled a glossary of difficult words. The Karaites continued to use Judeo-Greek even after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Judeo-Greek continued to be spoken and written in Janina, Prevesa, Larissa, Arta, Trikkala, Volos, Chalcis, and especially in Corfu and Zante. During the Nazi occupation of Greece, some Jews communicated with each other in Judeo-Greek as a protective measure. Except for those still familiar with *Ladino, Greek Jews of the post-World War II era spoke standard Greek.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

General Works: A. Neubauer, in: JQR, 4 (1891/92), 9–19; C. Sirat, in: Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes, Bulletin d'information, 12 (1963), 103–12. Texts: Ph. Kukules, in: Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 19 (1910), 422–9; M. Schwab, in: Revue des Études Grecques, 24 (1911), 152–67; M. Sp. Papageorgios, Merkwuerdige in den Synagogen von Corfu in Gebrauch befindlichen Hymnen, 2 pt. 1 (1882), 226–32; D.C. Hesseling, in: Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 10 (1901), 208–17 (the Book of Jonah); L. Modona, in: REJ, 23 (1891), 134–6 (the Book of Jonah); J. Starr, in: PAAJR, 6 (1934–35), 353–67 (Judeo-Greek Glossary); D. Goldschmidt, in: KS, 33 (1957/58), 131–4 (list of texts); M. Lazare Belléli, in: Revue des Études Grecques, 3 (1890), 289–308; I.M. Matsa, Yanniotika Evraika Traghoudhia (1953). Studies: D.S. Blondheim, Les Parlers Judéo-Romans et la Vetus Latina (1925), Appendix B, 157–70; M. Schwab, in: France, Missions Scientifiques et Littéraires. Nouvelles Archives. Nouvelle Série, fascicule 10 (1913), 1–141; M. Sp. Papageorgios, in: Annuaire Pamassou, 5 (1901), 157–75. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: N. De Lange, Greek Jewish Texts from the Cairo Genizah (1996); C. Aslanov, "The Judeo-Greek and Ladino Columns in the Constantinople Edition of the Pentateuch (1547): A Linguistic Commentary on Gn 1:1–5," in: Revue des Études Juives,158:3–4 (Jul.–Dec. 1999), 385–97; G. Drettas, "Propos sur la judéité grécophone," in: S. Morag, M. Bar Asher, and M. Meyer Modena (eds.), Vena Hebraica in Judæorum Linguis. Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on the Hebrew and Aramaic Elements in Jewish Languages (Milan, October 2326, 1995) (1999).

[Rachel Dalven /

Cyril Aslanov (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.