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Translation between Traditions

Translating Religion by Benjamin H. Hary (Etudes Sur Le Judaisme Medieval: brill Academic) Jews employed not only their sacred texts in Hebrew and Aramaic but also in translation into their local variety. Therefore, the genre of translating sacred texts into Jewish languages, religiolects, and varieties has been widespread throughout the Jewish world. This volume is a study of the translation of sacred texts, known as the shar, into Judeo-Arabic in Egypt in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The study places Judeo-Arabic on the Jewish linguistic spectrum, traces its history, and offers insights to the spoken variety of Egyptian Judeo-Arabic, which set it apart from other Arabic dialects. The book also provides a linguistic model of the translation of the sacred texts. Rather than viewing the translation as only verbatim, the study traces in great detail the literal/interpretive linguistic tension with which the translators struggled in their work.

This book is about Arabic-speaking Jews, what and how they write and speak, and how they composed and used their liturgical or sacred writings in the past. How did I come to write such a book? Scholars at times explore issues that are deeply meaningful to them, and at other times they investigate topics that are as far removed from them as possible. When I wrote about Arabic-speaking Jews previously, I did not consider it to be a topic I was personally involved with. However, when I sat down to write the preface to this book, I realized that this topic is, after all, very personal to me. Despite my best efforts to be objective in my work, I know that biases probably remain of which I am unaware. Thus, I begin by situating myself in relationship to the material about which I am writing by establishing my background and making explicit my motives for writing this book.

Growing up in Haifa, Israel, in the 1960s was not an easy task for a boy who was searching for his own identities, caught between the conflicting worlds of Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, secular and religious communities, and the like. My mother, Miriam Rebensaft, and her family had fled Nazi Germany in 1936, saving their lives, but not their Berlin middle-class status. The family settled in Bat-Galim, a small community in Haifa on the Mediterranean coast that absorbed many German Jews. The family remained proud of its German roots. My maternal grandmother Alice never bothered to learn Hebrew. She considered herself German and struggled to get along with the locals Jews and Arabs—whom she referred to as diese barbarischen asiatischen Leute (these barbaric people from Asia). I was continually amazed by her bluntness.

My grandmother also objected to my mother's marriage to my father, Meir Hary. His father Haim Hary, a staunch Zionist, had been raised in Brody, a city in present-day Ukraine, around the turn of the twentieth century. With a degree in architecture from the University of Vienna, Haim Hary had come to then-Palestine to "build" Haifa. But he was not a "total" Ashkenazi, or Jew of Central and Eastern European descent.' Although Haim came from Brody, it was well known that his family's origins could be traced back to sixteenth-century Safad, at that time the center of Jewish intellectual life in Ottoman Palestine. Furthermore, Haim's third wife, Rachel, my paternal grandmother, who had been born in Haifa, had a grandfather from Morocco, which also gave my father Sephardi origins. It was hard enough for my grandmother Alice to live in "the Orient," as she called it, but to let her daughter many a non-Ashkenazi was beyond her understanding.' The marriage took place, however, and my grandmother learned to accept her son-in-law. Our household, though, was very German. When I first went to Berlin in 1977, following my mother's early death, I was invited to breakfast by her surviving cousin, who served weich gekochtes Ei (soft-boiled egg) with the typical small silver spoon. I responded, "This is just like Israel," not realizing that there was nothing Israeli about the soft-boiled eggs or the spoon, and that in fact I had been raised with a strong German cultural influence.

I grew up in a family that always aimed to provide the children with a better education in order to improve the family's socioeconomic situation amid the troubled economy of Israel at that time. I was sent to one of the best semiprivate schools in Israel, The Hebrew Reali School in Haifa. The atmosphere in the school, which thrived on snobbish Ashkenazi elite culture, did not look favorably upon frenkim, the derogatory Hebrew term for non-Ashkenazim in the 1960s, or upon Christian and Muslim Arabs. Considering that the non-Ashkenazi origin of our family was ignored and the Moroccan background practi-cally denied, there was no surprise that I completely identified with my German heritage and saw myself as such.

Nevertheless, I was attracted to the Arabic language. Trying to un-derstand the "other" intrigued me from a young age. I heard at home and in school that Arabs were "bad" and that "we could not trust them," yet I sometimes heard my uncles speaking in Arabic with my grandmother Rachel, and from time to time saw Arab friends from Haifa coming and going in our apartment. I studied Arabic seriously in high school and majored in Arabic and Islamic studies. I used Arabic during my military service and then studied it at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of California, Berkeley, where I earned my doctorate. Choosing Judeo-Arabic as my primary area of research closed a circle for me, because I finally got to explore the religiolect which was used by my grandmother Rachel's relatives in Morocco, as well as by many of my fellow Israelis. Although many scholars of Judeo-Arabic are native speakers of the religiolect or at least had heard it at home, growing up I only heard a little bit of German in addition to Hebrew. By studying Judeo-Arabic, I am in a sense reclaiming my Moroccan roots, and this is one of the reasons that motivated me to write this book. It is in this context and these circumstances that I situate myself and my research on Judeo-Arabic.

The work on this project began in 1994, when I was first introduced to the Cairo Collection. As explained in chapter 3 (pp. 63-65), th( collection consists of more than one hundred photocopied manuscript: and is housed at the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts ir the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. The manuscripts contain mainly Jewish liturgical texts written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Judeo-Arabic. Many of them are gurüh, which are verbatim translations of sacred religious and liturgical Hebrew/Aramaic texts into Judeo-Arabic, and in this case the Egyptian (mostly Cairene) variety of Judeo-Arabic. I started to publish articles about the nature of these translations and soon it became apparent that the writing of a volume or two was warranted. This book is the first, dealing with theoretical issues concerning these texts. The next volume, Sacred Texts: The Tradition of the garh in Egyptian Judeo-Arabic, with Critical Editions and Translations of the Book of Genesis, the Book of Esther, and the Passover Haggadah, due to appear in 2009, includes critical editions of three sample gurfilj along with their translations into English and a linguistic introduction and commentary.

Translations of Hebrew and Aramaic sacred texts into Jewish languages, religiolects,' and varieties have been historically widespread throughout the Jewish world. Among Judeo-Arabic speakers, the tradition of such translations is known as the §arli2 (pl. urah). The present study analyzes the intricacies of this genre of translating Hebrew and Aramaic sacred texts into Egyptian Judeo-Arabic by examining specific eighteenth- and nineteenth-century manuscripts of the .furrth.

Haim Blanc, who has written extensively on Egyptian Judeo-Arabic, wrote in 1981 (n. 5) that "A Judeo-Arabic literary tradition peculiar to Egypt must have existed, but has not been investigated in detail." My publication of megillat pfirim il-misriyyin 'the Cairene Purim Scroll' in 1992, and now the present study are attempts to fill this lacuna described by Blanc almost thirty years ago. This study, however, does not attempt to reconstruct the original §urtith of the Jews of Egypt, whose use of the genre has a long history that is still unclear. Rather, the study aims to provide a plausible representation of what this translation tradition might have been like in Egypt in the period under study.

The volume also attempts to shed light on the linguistic peculiarities of the genre. It develops a linguistic model of the process of translation of these sacred texts. Rather than viewing these texts as merely literal or "verbatim" translations, as has been the generally accepted approach,

this study traces in great detail the literal/interpretive linguistic tension with which the translators/interpreters/composers of these texts, known as §arljanim, actually struggled in their work. In addition to the desire to provide a verbatim translation of a sacred text, these translators also had to consider the linguistic parameters of the target religiolect and make decisions that affected their readership's ability to read and use the translation.

The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 investigates Judeo-Arabic, the language of Arabic-speaking Jews in general. Part 2 develops a linguistic model of the Judeo-Arabic translations of sacred texts.

Chapter 1 sets the stage for the analysis by summarizing the spectrum of Jewish linguistic usage in historical and sociolinguistic terms. It challenges definitions of generally accepted terminology and establishes new terms such as Jewish-defined language, majority language, (language) variety, linguistic intelligibility, religiolect, castelect, and more. The chapter also tracks the emergence and development of Jewish languages, followed by a discussion of instances where Christians and Muslims have participated in the Jewish linguistic spectrum and adopted some of its usages. Furthermore, the chapter maps the prototype of a Jewish language and lists the various Jewish languages mentioned inthe literature. I must emphasize that my analysis employs a measure of social construction, for lack of a better term, in grouping together a variety of languages/dialects/varieties under the rubric of "Jewish languages." The notion of "Jewish languages," "Christian languages," or "Muslim languages" provides a useful analytic tool, but ultimately does not constitute an "element in the world." Rather, it is an artificial grouping of an array of language formations that we can productively analyze because of the threads that link them religiously, linguistically, historically, and socioculturally. This is how I would like to clarify the distinction between commonplace notions of "Jewishness" and the kind of analytic grouping at the heart of my sociolinguistic analysis.

In her effort to be a careful and responsible historian, Stern (2008) has adopted a similar approach, attempting to destabilize archaeologists' prior assumptions about what counts as "Jewish" or what makes something "Jewish." She has claimed that Itieliance on essentialist or syncretistic models of cultural dynamics has limited past evaluations of ancient Jewish populations." Using the methods of historical lin-guistics, among other tools, she has reexamined data on North African Jews and demonstrated "how direct comparison of Jewish material evidence with that of its neighbors allows for a reassessment of what the category of 'Jewish' might have meant in different North African locations and periods." According to Stern, this examination "allows for a more informed and complex understanding of Jewish cultural distinctiveness."'

Chapter 2 explores Judeo-Arabic within the general framework of Jewish religiolects. It reviews the history of Judeo-Arabic and analyzes its structure, while discussing the language continuum used by Judeo-Arabic writers and speakers and tracing its diachronic development. This chapter also tackles some additional terminological issues, especially with respect to the denotation of Arabic-speaking Jews. Finally, the chapter offers some new insights into the status of Judeo-Arabic today.

Chapter 3 examines the literary genre of the translation of sacred Hebrew and Aramaic texts into Jewish religiolects. It considers the perceived sanctity of the translated texts and demonstrates how translators dealt with the constant linguistic tension between their desire to provide a verbatim translation of the sacred text and their need to adapt the translation to the linguistic parameters of the target religiolect so that readers could comprehend them. The chapter analyzes the reasons why such translations were made and traces the evolution of the Sartt in Judeo-Arabic, especially in North Africa and Egypt beginning in the fifteenth century, while also taking into account Saadia's earlier translation of the Bible in the tenth century. This is followed by a review of previous scholarship on the Sarlf and a discussion of the Cairo Collection, from which several manuscripts relevant to this book are taken. This chapter then offers a linguistic method for analyzing the garlz that is based on scanning the text on several linguistic levels, and then establishing a continuum of least-to-most-literary translations. Examples are provided from various categories and linguistic features. The chapter concludes with a description of various mechanisms that the ."'arhanim in Judeo-Arabic used when translating sacred texts.

Chapter 4 departs to some degree from the previous analysis and attempts to demonstrate how a careful and thorough linguistic analysis of the gurfilg can contribute to our understanding of the spoken variety among Egyptian Jews in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century. In this chapter I examine selected features of spoken Egyptian Judeo-Arabic in phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax, and the lexicon. The chapter summarizes the characteristics of spoken Egyptian Judeo-Arabic that are reflected in the texts of the Surrah, and then explores how these characteristics set this variety apart from the spoken Egyptian Arabic varieties used by Christians and Muslims. Finally, the chapter addresses methodological issues connected to the reconstruction of the spoken variety used by Egyptian Jews, as it may be extracted from the texts of the gun-0, and demonstrates the connection between the orthography and phonetics/phonology as well as its limitations. It also points out similar orthographical trends in today's publications in modem Egyptian dialect.

Thirty years ago Haim Blanc argued that the dialect spoken by Cairene Jews was not distinct from the dialect spoken by Christians and Muslims, as opposed to the situation in other regional varieties of spoken Judeo-Arabic. For example, Blanc argued that Baghdadi Judeo-Arabic was indeed distinct in many ways from Christian and Muslim Baghdadi dialects, which I now call religiolects. Since the publication of Blanc's work, additional texts have become available for the examination of Late and Modem Egyptian Judeo-Arabic. In 1992 I published the beginning of my investigation of Judeo-Arabic; in the present study I continue that work while searching for colloquial elements that are present in the written texts of the religiolect. Furthermore, Gabriel Rosenbaum conducted extensive recordings of modem Egyptian Judeo-Arabic and reported on his findings in 2002 (see bibliography). All of these studies affirm that spoken Egyptian Judeo-Arabic is distinct from the varieties used by Christians and Muslims in Egypt. Chapter 5, too, is an excursus and explores the use of pseudo-corrections in Judeo-Arabic in general and in the Egyptian gurah in particular. It demonstrates how both hypercorrections and hypo-corrections, two different types of pseudocorrections, are used in the texts, while also discussing the implications of the standardization of pseudocorrections in Egyptian Judeo-Arabic for both the literary and the spoken varieties. This chapter develops a broad theoretical model for the use of Hebrew and Aramaic components in Jewish religiolects, focusing in particular on Judeo-Arabic. Using Uriel Weinreich's work on languages in contact, this model demonstrates how components are transferred into Judeo-Arabic from two different directions, explaining the reasons for each direction and giving examples of each direction from the various Egyptian guralj. Finally, the chapter provides a discussion of Hebrew and Aramaic lexical items employed in the Egyptian gurrth.

Part 2 of this book offers an in-depth analysis of the linguistic model of the Egyptian Judeo-Arabic guralj, as introduced more generally in chapter 3 through hundreds of examples extracted from the texts of the §urrth. These examples, presented according to several levels, categories, and features, demonstrate the constant literal/interpretive tension in which the §arhanim found themselves. Most of the examples provided in this volume are based upon seven manuscripts, four of which are taken from the Cairo Collection:

  • Ms. HB 15 (=CAJS Rare ms. 2555), located at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia — a partial §arij of the book of Genesis
  • Ms. 1302, Jerusalem Ben Zvi Institute — the book of Esther
  • Mss. 3, 74, 91, and 93 from the Cairo Collection — Egyptian
  • Judeo-Arabic Passover Haggadah (located in Jerusalem)

The critical editions, translations, and analyses of these manuscripts will appear in Hary, Sacred Texts: The Tradition of the .larlj in Egyptian Judeo-Arabic, with Critical Editions and Translations of the Book of Genesis, the Book of Esther, and the Passover Haggadah, forthcoming in 2009.

Chapter 6 explores the methodological considerations related to the organization of these examples and applies the linguistic model to complex examples from the §urfilj in order to demonstrate how the §arljanim translated their sacred texts. The chapter also analyzes the ultimate verbatim translations, known as calque translations, and demonstrates how they were incorporated into the gurfilj.

Chapters 7 through 9 arrange the examples, taken from the texts of the ,sv.urtitt, in descending units of grammatical structure, from the phrase level down through the lexical, morphosyntactic, and segment levels in thirteen categories, focusing on various linguistic features. Chapter 7 lists examples at the phrase and word levels, chapter 8 treats the morphosyntactic level, and chapter 9 deals with the segment level.

The book concludes with an extensive bibliography and an index which primarily covers part 1. Because part 2 offers hundreds of examples, the index covers the general themes of the linguistic categories and features (which are also found in table 4 on pp. 81-82). The index also covers references from chapters 1 through 6 to Saadia Gaon's translation (tafsir), as well as the Protestant Arabic translation of the Hebrew Bible; however, these references from chapters 7 through 9 are not indexed, because they are cited as alternative translations to the surrah.

Today, Judeo-Arabic is an endangered religiolect, perhaps on the verge of extinction. Although the SIL International Ethnologue project maintains that as of the mid-1990s there were close to 500,000 Judeo-Arabic speakers, that number has declined today to just under 400,000 speakers, and it is estimated that the last native speaker of the variety will die this century. Therefore, I view the research on Judeo-Arabic language, culture, and history as a "salvage operation" to record and preserve one of the most fascinating phenomena in Jewish, Arab, and Middle Eastern cultures.



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