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192ReviewsLa corónica 31.1, 2002 Elaine Miller. Jewish Multiglossia: Hebrew, Arabic, and Castilian in Medieval Spain. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta Press, 2000. 160 pp. ISBN 0-036388-96-X This volume addresses two questions posed by the development of medieval Jewish languages and literatures on the Iberian peninsula, the first being which language is proper for what purposes. Questions of language and linguistic propriety generally engaged medieval philosophy, and Jewish philosophers and grammarians produced a bounty of lexicons, grammars , commentaries, and treatises - much of it patterned on philological insights achieved in Arabic, the central if disputed language for the study of the Hebrew language and related fields from the mid-tenth through the mid-thirteenth centuries. Hebraists and Arabists have elucidated the phenomena . Another issue has vexed linguists for a century: how did the mother tongue spoken by medieval Iberian Jews differ from that of their gentile neighbors? The accurate documentation, analysis, and description of interand intra-communal speech patterns made possible by modern recording devices and methods notwithstanding, such contrastive studies are fraught with potential dangers, such as the historical sociolinguist might welcome. Denied living informants, the practitioner perforce combs written documents and anecdotal reports for clues about the general nature of what are the highly specific and complex social interactions characteristic of human language. Both questions are here addressed in a broad survey of scholarly attitudes and thoughts about language and language use among Iberian Jewish communities from the Roman period through the al-Andalus of the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba and the Christian Spain of the Catholic monarchs. Those diverse societies shared a common linguistic situation of diglossia, individuals being speakers of a mother tongue, Latin, Arabic or Romance, who also understood and used, rudimentarily or sublimely, the "national language", Hebrew. The author's first objective is the provision of "an empirically adequate description of the domains and functions in which the Jews employed each language"(9), auxilliary to the central goal, "a historical, socio-linguistic study of the language use of the medieval Spanish Jews" (9-10), to be accomplished by "culling scattered references to language" (11) from relevant historical documents pertaining to "education, science, poetry, and prose" (12). From her interpretion of the assembled data, the author elucidates how "a La corónica 31.1 (Fall, 2002): 192-96 Reviews193 particular language or language variety was used for a particular function at a particular point in time" (11), that is, a portrayal of "language use in its cultural and functional context" (36). Regarding the four subject areas, examined in as many chapters, the author observes that it is not the corpus of Hebrew and Romance translations from Arabic or Latin that provide the best evidence for characterizing one or another Jewish sociolect, but rather original writings produced by the community (38-39). The introductory chapter revisits peninsular Jewish history from the Roman period through the Catholic Kings and articulates the basic concepts used in the ensuing sociolinguistic analysis, bilingualism, diglossia, multi-glossia. A succinct review of scholarly opinion concerning the emergence and/or existence ofa pre-explusion Judeo-Spanish dialect deftly points up contrary and contradictory visions proferred by students of the subject. Here and throughout, the questions the author poses to received scholarly wisdom prove most interesting. Chapter two surveys Jewish educational institutions and customs and underscores the historical continuity of elementary and advanced studies in Hebrew and Aramaic. Judicious references to individual plans of study, communal customs, and the rules governing educational institutions gird a provisional conclusion derived from sociolinguistic theory: educational institutions and curricula foment specific language behavior and linguistic identity; Jewish education makes a dialect distinct from that of gentile speakers inevitable. A Judeo-Castilian dialect is said to have emerged no later than the fifteenth century (63); the author cautions the reader (36-43) that such a conclusion relies on "extrapolation and logical deduction to supply the missing facts" (33). Chapter three examines innovations in Hebrew and Castilian sparked by the requirements of science and translation. The survey is subdivided by target language, Hebrew, Latin, and Castilian, and by period, tenth through twelfth centuries, twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and fifteenth century. An excursus in the underlying cultural...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 192-196
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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