Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …


Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

Ed. by Piller, Ingrid

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 0.800
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.109

CiteScore 2018: 0.95

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.881
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 1.152

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 37, Issue 1


Code-switching in Judaeo-Arabic documents from the Cairo Geniza

Esther-Miriam Wagner / Magdalen Connolly
Published Online: 2017-07-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2017-0050


This paper investigates code-switching and script-switching in medieval documents from the Cairo Geniza, written in Judaeo-Arabic (Arabic in Hebrew script), Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic. Legal documents regularly show a macaronic style of Judaeo-Arabic, Aramaic and Hebrew, while in letters code-switching from Judaeo-Arabic to Hebrew is tied in with various socio-linguistic circumstances and indicates how markedly Jewish the sort of text is. Merchants in particular employed a style of writing devoid of Hebrew elements, whereas community dignitaries are much more prone to mixing of Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic (and Arabic), although the degree of mixing also depends on a number of other factors, such as on the individual education. Analyses show great variation within the repertoire of single authors, as shown on the example of Daniel b. ʿAzariah, according to the purpose of the correspondence, with religious affairs attracting the highest Hebrew content, whereas letters pertaining to trade exhibit the lowest Hebrew content. Script-switching between Hebrew and Arabic may be prompted by convenience of individual writers, or occur as an idiosyncratic quirk, but reveal the close familiarity of the writer with both alphabets.

Keywords: code-switching; script-switching; Geniza; Judaeo-Arabic; Hebrew; letters


  • Astren, Fred. 2009. Re-reading the Arabic sources: Jewish history and the Muslim conquests. Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 36. 83–130.Google Scholar

  • Blanc, Haim. 1964. Communal Dialects in Baghdad. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Blau, Joshua. 1981. The Emergence and Linguistic Background of Judaeo-Arabic. Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Blau, Joshua & Simon Hopkins. 1987. Judaeo-Arabic Papyri. Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 9. 87–160.Google Scholar

  • Cohen, David. 1964. Le Parler Arabe des Juifs de Tunis. Paris: Mouton.Google Scholar

  • Cohen, Marcel. 1912. Le Parler Arabe des Juifs d’Alger. Paris: Librarie ancienne H. Champion.Google Scholar

  • Cohen, Mark. 1999. What was the Pact of Umar? A Literary-Historical Study. Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 23. 100–131.Google Scholar

  • Gershevitch, Ilya. 1979. The Alloglottography of Old Persian. Transactions of the Philological Society 77. 114–190.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gil, Moshe. 1983. Palestine during the first Moslem period (634–1099). Tel Aviv: University of Tel Aviv. 4 volumes. [in Hebrew]Google Scholar

  • Gil, Moshe. 1997. In the Kingdom of Ishmael. Jerusalem: Mosad Byalik. 4 volumes. [in Hebrew]Google Scholar

  • Goldberg, Jessica. 2012. Trade and institutions in the medieval Mediterranean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Hary, Benjamin. 2009. Translating religion: Linguistic analysis of Judaeo-Arabic Sacred texts from Egypt. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar

  • Jastrow, Otto. 1990. Der arabische Dialekt der Juden von ʿAqra und Arbīl. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.Google Scholar

  • Khan, Geoffrey. 1993. On the question of script in medieval Karaite manuscripts: New evidence from the Genizah. Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 75. 133–141.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Khan, Geoffrey. 2007. Judaeo-Arabic. Encyclopedia of Arabic language and linguistics. II 526–536. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar

  • Parkes, Malcolm. 1973. The literacy of the laity. In David Daiches & Anthony Thorlby (eds.), The mediaeval world, 555–577. London: Aldus Books.Google Scholar

  • Wagner, Esther-Miriam. 2010. Linguistic variety of Judaeo-Arabic in letters from the Cairo Genizah. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar

  • Wagner, Esther-Miriam. 2011. The weakening of the bourgeoisie: Social changes mirrored in the language of the Genizah letters. In Ben Outhwaite & Siam Bhayro (eds.), Cambridge Genizah Studies I: proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Genizah Studies, Westminster College, Cambridge 2007, 343–355. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar

  • Weiss, Gershon. 1970. Legal documents written by the court clerk Halfon ben Manasse (dated 1100–1138): A study in the diplomatics of the Cairo Geniza. University of Pennsylvania PhD.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2017-07-05

Published in Print: 2018-01-26

Citation Information: Multilingua, Volume 37, Issue 1, Pages 1–23, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2017-0050.

Export Citation

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Mohamed A. H. Ahmed
Journal of Jewish Languages, 2018, Volume 6, Number 2, Page 221

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in