JUDEO-PROVENÇAL, the name given to the various dialects spoken among the Jews of Provence. By the sixth Century C.E. Jews formed important communities in the southern area of France known as Provence. The oldest texts in Judeo-Provençal are the glosses found in the Ittur of *Isaac ben Abba Mari of Marseilles, written between 1170 and 1193; in the glosses found in the anonymous Sefer ha-Shorashim appended to the Farḥi Bible (Ms. Sassoon no. 368, p. 42–165); and in extracts from an anonymous 12th-century commentary on the First Prophets (Margoliouth, Cat, no. 249). Other commentaries of the 13th–14th centuries also provide examples of Provençal and Catalonian glosses transcribed in Hebrew letters. The only medieval texts still preserved in Judeo-Provençal are a fragment of the Book of Esther by the 14th-century Crescas du Caylar (published by A. Neubauer and P. Mayer in Romania, 21 (1892), 194–227) and a translation of the daily prayers (siddur), also from the 14th–15th centuries (Ms. Roth 32). These texts were composed in the vernacular for the benefit of women who could not understand the Hebrew original. A literary text written in the common language of its time, the Judeo-Provençal Esther fragment, though transcribed in Hebrew characters, contains no words or phrases of Hebrew origin. The siddur, however, is interspersed with Hebraisms inherent to a translation of this kind. These consist mainly of terms which cannot be easily translated, such as צבור for
In later times (17th and 18th centuries) the Jews in the Comtat customarily spoke Provençal, Hebrew, and French. By its phonetic and morphological elements, Judeo-Provençal differed slightly from the Provençal Rhodanien of the Gentile surroundings. Traces of this language, commonly known as Chuadit (or Shuadit; perhaps from the Hebrew שפה יהודית Safah Yehudit or simply יהודית; the term appears for the first time in a satire of 1803), or sometimes as ebraicum vulgare or jargon de l'escolo, are to be found in the satires and comedies writen
in Provençal by non-Jews who introduced Jewish characters using this type of speech. The oldest document of this kind dates only from the 17th century. The comedy Harcanotet Barcanot (published by Hirschler in 1896 and, in a second version by Pansier in 1925), entirely written in this language, is the most important specimen of the language of Provençal Jews at the end of the 18th century. Its author was probably the lawyer Bedarrides of Montpellier, who had only an indirect knowledge of the language of the Jews of Carpentras, but the principal phonetic characters were later distinguished in Carpentras by Hirschler in the second half of the 19th century. The most important phonetic changes can be seen in Table: Judeo-Provençal – Phonetics.
Together with this dialect, rich in Hebraisms and Gallicisms, there exists a language written in Hebrew characters which, for the most part, shares its linguistic and lexicological traits with the other Provençal dialects, thus constituting one of the literary dialects of Provence. This language is represented only in the Obros, Hebrew-Provençal songs in which verses in Hebrew and Provençal alternate; these were sung on Purim, on the evening before a circumcision, and at special events (critical edition by M. Lazar, 1963). The author of the major part of Obros was Mardochée Astruc (end of 17th cent.) who also composed a tragedy in Provençal on Queen Esther entitled La Tragediou de la Reine Esther. This was revived in the 18th century by *Jacob de Lunel, who edited it under this same title (The Hague, 1774; 2nd ed. by E. Sabatier, Nîmes, 1877). The language of the Obros is the pure Comtadin dialect of Provence transliterated into Hebrew. It is a literary form of speech coexisting with the less pure language of Judeo-Provençal. The language of the Tragediou de la Reine Esther is also a debased but purely Provençal dialect, such as was used in Provence in the 17th–18th centuries, and free from the characteristics peculiar to the Jewish dialects.
Z. Szajkowski, Dos Loshon fun di Yiden in di Arba Kehiles fun Comtat-Venaissin (1948); R. Hirschler, in: Calendrier à l'usage des Israélites pour l'année religieuse 5655 (1894/95), 26–32; P. Pansier, Histoire de la langue provençale à Avignon du XIIe au XIXe siècle, 3 (1927), 178–85; idem, in: REJ, 81 (1925), 113–45; M. Lazar, in: Romanica et Occidentalia: études… H. Peri [Pflaum] (1963), 290–345. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. Aslanov, Le provençal des Juifs et l'hébreu en Provence: le dictionnaire Sharshot ha-Kesef de Joseph Caspi (2001); idem, "Judéo-provençal médiéval et chuadit: essai de délimitation," in: La France latine (Revue d'Études d'Oc), 134 (2002), 103–22.
[Henri Guttel /
Cyril Aslanov (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.