chapter  5
20 Pages

The Function of Scripts in Medieval Arabic Scriptolect

WithJoshua A. Sabih

The script in which most of the extant medieval Jewish manuscripts had been written, copied and transcribed was the Hebrew script. Therefore, the majority of modern scholars have assumed that it was the most normal thing for a Jewish writer to do. In the eyes of these scholars, writing Hebrew or Arabic in the Hebrew alphabet is what constitutes ‘the Jewish identity’ of this type of writings, the essence of everything that is Jewish (cf. Chapter 2). Blau (1981, 38) is of the opinion that use of the Hebrew script by medieval Jewish writers indicates that the Judaeo-Arabic culture was detached from its surroundings, i.e. the Arab culture. Most scholars of medieval Judaism and Jewish languages agree. Jews in general and the Rabbanites in particular maintained the tradition of writing Hebrew in the Hebrew script (Blau and Hopkins 1988; Blau 1992). Statistically, the majority of these extant manuscripts are in Hebrew script, hence Judaeo-Arabic language . One also finds documents in which Arabic script alternates with the Hebrew script as in the following manuscript (Vienna Inv. Ar. Pap. 8916). The text of the manuscript is written in Hebrew script (lines 1–2) and Arabic script (lines 3–8). The language of the text is Medieval Judaeo-Arabic (MJA). It is obviously a rent contract between a Jew and a Muslim. Apart from line (3), which is written in CA, the rest is in MJA. Linguistically the ratio of NA is very high. In line (l), one notices the sound-shift from CA: ḍ to NA d. In line (6) CA broken plural fa‘āfīl = f‘alāl = (cf. Part II).


Vienna Inv. Ar. Pap. 891696

Sergius’ rent: received one dinar and ten carats and one dinar from

His pocket and a quarter of a dinar (from) Gnwf and a half from Yaḥyā

In the name of Allah the Beneficent and the merciful

This is what ‘aṭā ben Nu‘aym the Jew rented

The annually rentable property of Bilāl b. ‘Abd Allāh

Twelve months. His rent is three dinars and te[n]

Carates per year. Bilāl has received

[ ] and ten carats … [i]n