(English Index)

(Original Index)




In Israel particularly, the language Judaeo-Spanish is commonly called Ladino (לאדינו, a variant of "Latin"). The language that is also called in Hebrew Spanyolit, refers to the dialect of North Africa, especially Morocco. As a Jewish language, it is influenced heavily by Hebrew and Aramaic, but also Arabic, Turkish and to a lesser extent Greek and other languages where Sephardic exiles settled around the world, primarily throughout the Ottoman Empire.

Like many other Jewish languages, Judaeo-Spanish is in danger of language extinction. Most native speakers are elderly, many of them having emigrated to Israel where the language was not transmitted to their children or grandchildren. However, it is experiencing a minor revival among Sephardic communities, especially in music. In some expatriate communities in Latin America and elsewhere, there is a threat of dialect levelling resulting in extinction by assimilation into modern Spanish.

In pre-Expulsion times in the area known today as Spain the word meant literary Castilian as opposed to other dialects. Following the expulsion, Jews spoke of "the Ladino" to mean the traditional oral translation of the Bible into archaic Castilian. By extension it came to mean that style of Castilian generally, in the same way that (among Kurdish Jews) Targum has come to mean Judaeo-Aramaic.

In short, Ladino is only Hebrew clothed in Spanish, or Spanish with Hebrew syntax. The famous Ladino translation of the Bible, the Biblia de Ferrara (1553), provided inspiration for the translation of numerous Spanish Christian Bibles. Nowadays "ladino" is a Spanish adjective that means "sly" or "cunning", far away from its historical meaning.