College of Arts & Letters
Ladino (or Judeo-Spanish) is a Diasporic Jewish language spoken by Sephardi Jews. There is little existing scholarly research on Ladino, nor does it have many language learning materials. These two factors compelled me to create the Aki Yerushalayim Corpus. The initial Aki Yerushalayim Corpus of Modern Written Ladino (currently ~7,000 words) was not created to act as a reference corpus of Modern Ladino. Rather, it was created to study the composition of Ladino prose and demonstrate the utility of this type project in the subdiscipline of language documentation. In addition, the project’s focus on cultural essays and narrative prose allow for insights into how Ladino writers construct their identities through word choice.
The research questions that directed the creation of the corpus are as follows: 1. What substrata feature most prominently in the Ladino lexicon? 2. Do the borrowed words belong to a particular semantic domain? 3. What parts of speech are most/least frequently borrowed?
To address and answer these questions, the gathered texts were first scanned with an optical character recognition software (OwlOCR) before being proofread for any mistakes. They were then tagged for Part of Speech and for language of origin and run through a concordancer (AntConc).
From this brief glimpse at Ladino prose in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the results are as expected: the language is Spanish-based, and the most frequently-used substrata are Biblical Hebrew and Turkish, primarily used for religious and secular/cultural words, respectively. This pilot gives a snapshot into how authors represent their identity as Sephardi Jews in both cultural essays and narrative prose, and further study of the distribution of these loanwords will allow linguists to understand how language contact and a speech community’s history can provide context that illuminates which loanwords are most frequently adopted and why that may be.
Applied Linguistics | Jewish Studies
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McCullough, Rachel, "The Aki Yerushalayim Corpus: A Study of Loanwords in Ladino" (2021). College of Arts and Letters Posters. 5.