Western Judeo-Spanish (Hakitía)

Tracing Speech Through Narrative

in European Judaism
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  • 1 Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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The oral transmission of culture became the subject of serious academic study at the end of the nineteenth century, and since then we have come to recognize its pivotal role in any consideration of cultural dynamics. If we take the case of Judeo-Spanish culture, research has shown that the assimilatory forces of the dominant or co-territorial culture in which the Jews settled after the Expulsion, in both the Eastern and the Western Mediterranean, threatened to obliterate their cultural heritage, and in particular their language. Added to this, the displacement of the traditional speech communities during and shortly after the Second World War at both ends of the Mediterranean, as well as contact with the new cultures in which these Jews settled, seemed to augur badly for the survival of Judeo-Spanish culture. Furthermore Judeo Spanish has all but lost its currency as a spoken language, in the home and in the street, because the language is no longer transmitted to succeeding generations in the traditional fashion. Nevertheless an ever-increasing number of people are taking to the pen to write in the language and about its culture. This article also proves that defining features of the language have survived in spite of the impact of Modern Spanish in the areas in which Western Judeo-Spanish (hakitía) held currency traditionally.