Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton December 16, 2015

Juhuri: From the Caucasus to New York City

Habib Borjian and Daniel Kaufman


Juhuri is a dialect of the Tat language of the eastern Caucasus (specifically, Dagestan and Azerbaijan). Although Juhuri is dialectologically related to Persian, it is not mutually intelligible with any Persian dialect. The Juhuri speakers, called Mountain Jews, are estimated at around 200,000, most of whom have immigrated to Israel and the United States. The New York community is largely centered in Brooklyn around the Kavkazi Jewish Congregation. The language is still spoken by those born in the Caucasus, and is maintained in some families and some spheres of daily life. Many of these Mountain Jews are multilingual in Juhuri, Russian, Azerbaijani, Hebrew, and English. In this article, we situate the language within the context of the New York expatriate community and explore the role of Juhuri in relation to ethno-religious identity, language attitude, and functional domains. The data reported on here are based on interviews and a written survey. We conclude that although the odds are heavily stacked against the survival of Juhuri, there may be a critical mass of language activists who can turn the tide. The fate of the language in the twenty-first century will likely be decided in the next two decades.


The research reported on here was carried out under the auspices of Endangered Language Alliance. We would like to also thank Yakov Abramov, Robert Avishalom, Ross Perlin, Kevin Kwong, Michael Lebovitz, and Rebecca Friedman, who assisted us in our fieldwork.


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Published Online: 2015-12-16
Published in Print: 2016-1-1

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