The Sephardim continued to use  their variant of Castilian Spanish for centuries after the Expulsion. Due to the isolation from Spain and the conservative habits, their language preserved many words and grammatical usages that have been lost in modern Spanish. Judeo-Spanish also has a more conservative sound system.


Judeo-Spanish has 5 vowels: [a], [], [i], [] and [u]. In the eastern dialects all they may occur both in stressed and unstressed positions, while in the western dialects in unstressed positions may occur only [], [i] and [u], cf.: The prothetic e- may be dropped, cf.:


The rising diphthongs (ia, ie, ii, io, iu [=ju], ua, ue, ui, uo) are much more frequent than the falling ones (ai, oi, ui, au, eu). The diphthongs [iw] developped into [iv], cf.: The diphthongs are often suppressed, cf.: Many words have two forms, with and without a diphthong, cf.: The alternation of simple unstressed vowels with stressed diphthongs was replaced by generalized forms, either with a diphthong or a simple vowel, on the principle of analogy, cf.:


The Judeo-Spanish sound [j] (written y) corresponds to the modern Spanish [j] / [] / [lj] (written ll, and hi- + Vowel), cf.: In this Judeo-Spanish resembles the South Spanish and American dialects (the so called yeismo).

The semiconsonant [w] (written u) developped into [gw] even in the middle of the words, cf.:

It is also to notify the following developments:


Judeo-Spanish has 25 consonants as compared with the 20 found in modern Spanish.

It has preserved the opposition between the labials [b] and [v] which disappeared in modern Spanish. In the native words, however, this opposition is well pronounced in the beginning only, cf.:

In this cases v may be articulated as [v] or [ß]. In the middle of the words [b] is preserved after prefixes only, cf.: In all the other cases we have v, pronounced as [v] or [ß], cf.: The sound [v] occurs also where modern Spanish has [u], cf.: In the loan-words the opposition [b] and [v] or [ß] occurs in all positiions, cf.: The velars [g] and [k] are fricatives in Constantinople, but distinctively occlusive in Bosnia (Vicente 357).

The treatment of the Old Spanish initial f- is differentiated, as in the moment of the Expulsion the transition [f-] => [h-] => [...-] (h- is mute in modern Spanish) was not yet finished, cf.:

Spanish preserved the initial f- before the diphthong ue, while in some Judeo-Spanish speaches it changed to [h] (pronounced as h in Engl. home), cf.: In the words of Jewish and Arabic h is pronounced as [x] (i.e. like modern Spanish j, or as ch in Scottish loch), cf.: The Old Spanish [ts] developed as [s] in Judeo-Spanish and [0] (written c and pronounced as the English th in thin) in modern Spanish, cf.: The sound [ts] occurs now only in words of non-Spanish origin, cf.: In many words [s] changed into [], especially before a consonant in the middle of the words, cf.: The Judeo-Spanish retained the Old Spanish sounds [(d)] (in the beginning of the word and after n) and [], where Modern Spanish developped [x] (written j or g), cf.: The sound [] corresponds to the Old Spanish intervocal [(d)], which evolved into [x] (written j or g) in modern Spanish, cf.: In many words [] corresponds to [s] in modern Spanish, cf.:
  • JSp. kaji as if versus  ModSp. casi;
  • JSp. kijo he asked versus  ModSp. quiso;
  • JSp. vijita visit versus  ModSp. visita.
  • The voiced intervocal [z] survived in Judeo-Spanish, while in modern Spanish it changed to [s], cf. The Old Spanish affricate [dz] developped as [z] in Judeo-Spanish and as [0] (written z or c and pronounced as the English th in thin) in modern Spanish, cf.: There are even few words, in which [dz] was retained, cf.: The final [-s] is voiced in [-z] if the next word begins with vowel or voiced consonant, cf.: The opposition between [r] and [r:] disappeared in Judeo-Spanish.

    The final -m occurs in Jewish, Arabic and Turkish words only, cf.:

    Initial n sometimes changes to m in the group nue- (except for the word nuera daughter-in-law), cf.: Analogically there were derived also mosotros we and mos us (Modern Spanish has nosotros and nos).


    An extra -n- is included sometimes, cf.:

    Consonant groups

    The Old Spanish group -mb- was preserved in Judeo-Spanish, cf. The Old Spanish medial labiodental consonants such as bd, bt, vd, vt are retained, as in: There occurs a metathesis of the [r] in a combination with occlusive consonant, cf.:

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