Meguilla, or Rollo de Esther, in the Sephardic Museum of Toledo.
A tweet from the Embassy of Spain in Turkey made on Sunday February 21 the #ladino became a trend in the social network Twitter. It was a message addressed to the Sephardic community in Turkey on the occasion of the celebration of “Ladino Day.”
Perhaps because of the rush, the readers did not notice the diphthongation in the verb can, in the grammatical gender of a great honor nor in that the noun embassy comes from french embassy and not from the Spanish embassy.
What attracted the most attention was the strange spelling of the tweet, which led to the mockery of many users of this social network, thus promoting the first retweets. However, those who know Ladino – also called judeoespañol– they soon entered the discussion, shedding light on this linguistic variety that the Sephardim have preserved from generation to generation for more than five centuries.
Kind friends and friends of the Sefaradi Community. For me it is a great honor and a privilege to be able to address myself to others in such an important date as that of oy.Devesh de saver ke shows both each is yours and we are at your disposal for what you need.#Ladino
– Spain in Turkey (@EmbEspTurquia) February 21, 2021
As a result, many of the first offensive tweets were deleted, although many of these messages still remain that show how alien Ladino is to most Spanish speakers.
Five centuries of history
Despite the fact that the judeoespañol as a language of oral transmission, the truth is that in their more than five centuries of history the Sephardim have also treasured a valuable cultural heritage of written literature. However, most of these texts have a very special characteristic: they are written in Hebrew characters. This is known as Hebrew quilt. And for several centuries the Hebrew alphabet was used to represent, almost univocally, the sounds of the Sephardic language.
With the modernization brought by the schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (founded in Paris in 1860), the Latin alphabet began to be known among the Sephardim and, gradually, it was gaining adherents as a symptom of modern life and of the new airs that were blowing in the eastern communities. However, this development was truncated in WWII, since many of the Judeo-Spanish speakers perished in Nazi concentration camps.
Sepharad, the biblical name for the Iberian Peninsula, remains alive despite the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 and 1497, in the Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish language. (Shlomo Ben Dror)
Judeo-Spanish with Latin characters
After the Shoah, many of the Sephardic survivors found refuge in the State of Israel. Before long, they began publishing newspapers in Judeo-Spanish, already using the Latin characters, whose use was not systematic, since it depended to a large extent on prior knowledge of other languages. So, for example, a word like boy could be written as boy —With French influence— or çiko —In the way of the Turk — although there was no difference from the oral point of view. In the same way, the graphic change to the Latin characters had not made any difference with respect to the pronunciation of ג’יקו, the same word, but in Aljamiad script.
These graphic alternations are still maintained among Sephardim, since Ladino is not a language learned at school and most of its literature is not written in Latin characters.
The ‘official’ spelling of Ladino
However, in 1979 Moshe Shaul, director of the Ladino broadcast of Kol Israel radio, founded the magazine Aki Yerushalayim with the intention of disseminating content of interest about Sephardic culture in Judeo-Spanish. In order to put some order among such a variety of spellings, he created a writing system typical of the magazine, which is currently the most followed by those who write in Ladino.
Haggadah Sarajevo (Barcelona, 1350) refers to the crossing of the Red Sea. (Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv)
In fact, when in 2005 the newspaper began to be published in Istanbul The Dawn, the traditional spellings of Turkish influence were not used, but rather – like the tweet from the Spanish embassy in Turkey – used the magazine system Aki Yerushalayim. This is also the spelling adopted by the Nasionala del Ladino Authority (founded in 1997) and the recently created Akademia Nasionala del Ladino de Israel.
Broken bridges to rebuild
It is curious that, after so many centuries of history since the expulsion, the Judeo-Spanish or Ladino continues to be so alien to the Hispanic culture from which it started. From time to time in Spain there is a small “rediscovery” of Sephardic culture, such as the commemoration of the anniversary of the fifth anniversary of the expulsion in 1992 and, more recently, “Law 12/2015, of June 24, on the subject granting Spanish nationality to Sephardic Jews ”originating in the territory or the“ Academic Convention of Judeo-Spanish ”that was held at the headquarters of the Royal Spanish Academy in 2018, with the aim of creating a national academy in Israel, recently established at the end of 2020.
Such events make Sephardic Jews a short-lived trend, as has happened again as a result of the tweet from the Spanish embassy in Turkey, but they also highlight the need to vindicate and disseminate this cultural heritage of Hispanic origin that is not It ends up granting it the place that by historical right corresponds to it.
Originally posted on The Conversation
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