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Djudeoespanyol of Thessaloniki: An endangered language and heritage

2:00pm on Sunday 28 March

Times shown are in GMT (UTC +0) up to the 27th March. For events on or after 28th March times are in BST (UTC +1).

Join us for an interactive story of the vanishing language of Djudeoespanyol, an Ibero-Romance language spoken by Jews in Thessaloniki and diaspora. Dr Ioanna Sitaridou is joined by Dr Zeljko Jovanovic, Marie Sklodowska Curie Postdoctoral Researcher at ILLA, SCIS in Madrid, to explore the rich Sephardic heritage as it evolved in the city after the 15th Century.

Djudeoespanyol (see also Judeo-Spanish, Ladino) is a Romance language, which emerged from Old Spanish. It was originally spoken by Jews in Iberia prior to their expulsion by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, according to the shameful Edict of Exile in 1492. Expelled Jews found shelter in the Ottoman Empire, which was looking to expand her commercial activities at the time. Many Jews settled in the buoyant Byzantine city of Thessaloniki, which later became known as “Jerusalem of the Balkans”. However, the linguistic history of this community is neither unified nor well-documented.

It is unclear whether arriving Jews were already speaking a distinct variety of Old Spanish; or just a local variety of Old Spanish e.g., Toledo, Seville; or, rather, their language morphed into what later became Judeo-Spanish once in contact with other Romance vernaculars of the time (Portuguese, Provençal, Veneto) and Balkan languages such as Greek. We set out to reconstruct the socio-linguistic world of these communities in 16th C. Thessaloniki, which gave rise to this vanishing language and culture. Is Judeo-Spanish a language or a dialect? Is it a mixed language? Is it a simplified version of Spanish? Will it survive?

Dr Ioanna Sitaridou is Reader in Spanish and Historical Linguistics and Fellow of Queens’ College. In Cambridge, she has taught more than a thousand of undergraduates a lecture on Judeo-Spanish, a language on which she has first-hand experience from her native city of Thessaloniki. As a leading expert on 13th C. Spanish syntax, which is the variety out of which Judeo-Spanish has emerged, and language contact, she will be exploring the affinities between Judeo-Spanish and Old Spanish to reconstruct the multilingual sociolinguistic conditions, which led to the emergence of the former.

Booking/Registration is: RECOMMENDED

Additional Information

Age: Young Adults 12 – 18, Adults
Timing: Live Stream
Cost: none
Event Capacity: unlimited
Theme: Society
Accessibility: Closed Captions
Image copyright: Copyright: "Thessaloniki" by Nick-K (Nikos Koutoulas) is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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