chapter  6
2 Pages


WithJoshua A. Sabih

The most logical conclusion to this first part is to answer the second of the two questions formulated at the beginning; namely, the cultural function of Medieval Judaeo-Arabic, on the basis of four elements: l) the use of Hebrew and Arabic scripts; 2) various Judaeo Arabic orthography; 3) the use of Hebrew and Aramaic vocabulary; and 4) the literal translation from Hebrew. The linguistic status of Judaeo-Arabic confirms the autonomy of Judaeo-Arabic from co-territorial Arabic varieties (as described in previous chapters). Both the Arabic language and the script have negotiated functions with or in opposition to Classical Arabic and Neo-Arabic and Hebrew and Aramaic. The Arabic script in the Karaite literary system is a marker of intellectual autonomy as much as of anti-Rabbanite polemics. Medieval Judaeo-Arabic, a literary variety, also reached a prestigious status in its diglossic relation with spoken Judaeo-Arabic varieties. One of my postulates, mentioned above, was that Medieval Judaeo-Arabic was a voice or a genre within Middle Arabic and not a branch of it. Judaeo-Arabic participated in the creation of Middle Arabic. The latter is a scriptolect that includes several literary varieties such as Muslim Middle Arabic, Christian Middle Arabic and Samaritan Middle Arabic. Applying Bakhtin’s term ‘heteroglossia’ to medieval Middle Arabic texts we find that Medieval Judaeo-Arabic in its ‘socio-cultural function’ constitutes a ‘genre’ or a ‘Jewish voice.’This voice structures and articulates its lingual and cultural relations via the Judaized form of Middle Arabic. The Karaites use of Arabic and Hebrew scripts indicates the importance of the issue of the script of the Jewish literary polysystem as a whole.