Jewish Language Project.

I posted about the Jewish Language Research Website back in 2006, but that link is now outdated (they’ve removed the hyphen from the URL), and the current site is very snazzy. They say “Since we launched in 2020,” which I guess refers to the new version; at any rate, it provides basically the same stuff, detailed articles on the various languages with bibliographies and links to sound clips and other sites. Here, for instance, is the page on Judeo-Tat/Juhuri (a language I posted about in 2010); the “Names of the language” section says:

In the past, community representatives were not aware of the distinctiveness of their language and defined the community vernacular as Tat (zuhun tati ‘Tat language’) and sometimes even as the ancient Persian language (Tsherny 1884; Altshuler 1990; Pinkhasov 1909). Nowadays, older people and others with a good command of Judeo-Tat refer to this language as zuhun imu ‘our language’, zuhun ʤuhur ‘language of Jews’, or zuhun ʤuhuri ‘Jewish language’ (ʤuhur is a cognate of Persian ʤohud, Arabic jæhudi/jæhud, and Hebrew jəhudi).

In Russian a great variety of names is used, though the most politically correct name nowadays is язык горских евреев ‘language of the Highland Jews’, and any reference to Tat is avoided. In Israel, Judeo-Tat is called קווקזית kavkazit ‘Caucasian’ in colloquial speech and טטית-יהודית or תאתית-יהודית tatit-jehudit ‘Judeo-Tat’ in linguistic literature. In the English of the Mountain Jewish community of Brooklyn, the word Gorsky, a borrowed form of the Russian adjective горский ‘highland’, is used to refer to the language, as well as to distinguish the community from other Jewish communities. Finally, the term Juhuri, derived from Judeo-Tat zuhun ʤuhuri ‘Jewish language’, is frequently used in all languages, by community members as well as by some scholars (Bram and Shauli 2001; Podolsky 2002; Nazarova 2002; Agarunov and Agarunov 2010; Authier 2012).

I got to the site via Hilah Kohen’s Facebook post, which links to the Project’s FB page, where you will find good stuff like:

Here’s an amazing story about an 18th-century Sephardic teenager named Luna who scribed the entire #Megillah “in Sephardi-Italian script – influenced by the new printed script of the period – on two parchment membranes…”

Not to mention the post she quoted on Purim for Juhuri speakers; alas, I can’t quote it here, because it’s an image rather than text. Bah!


  1. the delicious halva-like sweet prepared especially for this holiday is called hədisə or həsido (doesn’t it sound like Hadassah?)

    Leaving aside folk-etymological influences that may have operated in Judaeo-Tat, we can note the similarity of forms like Christian Urmi Aramaic ⁺hasida, glossed by Geoffrey Khan in his monumental 2016 study of the dialect as ‘sweet cake filling’. (I expect this is made from butter, flour, sugar, perhaps with cardamom, almond meal, etc., like the filling for Armenian nazouk, etc.) The superscript + is the established notation for suprasegental emphasis, i.e. pharyngealization covering the domain of the entire word, in Northeast Neo-Aramaic studies. This is interesting in that one of the sources of emphasis in the dialect is an earlier original Aramaic consonant ʿ /ʕ/, which has been lost in the dialect as a separate segment, but not before leaving behind supersegmental emphasis.

    In fact, Urmi ⁺hasida resembles regional Turkish (Bilecik, Sivas, Kayseri, Niğde, Konya, etc.) aside (defined by the Turkish Dialect Dictionary as ‘a kind of sweet made by mixing sugar or pekmez into oil/butter and flour; halva’), and the etymon of the Turkish word, Arabic عصيدة ʿaṣīda. Arabic ʿaṣīda denotes various soft buttery paste- or porridge-like sweets made from flour and/or ground nuts, pine seeds, etc., and is a derivative of the root ʿṣd ‘to turn, turn over, stir’, doubtless in reference to the constant stirring and turning over with a spatula during the preparation of this sweet in the pan. In Persian, too, عصيدة asīda is the name for various kinds of helva or pastry. Steingass offers the following definitions: ‘broth so thick that it can scarcely be stirred with a ladle; a kind of sweet cake, generally given to friends on the birth of a child’.

    Even if this is the correct etymology of the Judaeo-Tat word, however, there are several difficult points. According to Khan, original Arabic /ʕ/ (as opposed to original Aramaic /ʕ/) is simply lost in the Arabic loanwords in Christian Urmi Aramaic, without causing emphasis. (Possibly this occurred in the process of transmission through other languages, such as Azeri or Persian or other early NENA varieties?) I also don’t have an explanation for the h seen in Christian Urmi Neo-Aramaic and Judaeo-Tat, or the metathesis seen in Judaeo-Tat. Or should we propose crossing with a reflex (such as Turkish herise) of Arabic هريسة, harīsa ‘porridge made of meat and bulgar and seasoning boiled together; sweet made of flour, melted butter, and sugar’ (from the root hrs ‘crush, mash, pound until tender’)? In this regard, we can note the following from p. 330 in Vitaly Shalem, ‘Judeo-Tat in the Eastern Caucasus’, in the volume Languages in Jewish Communities, Past and Present (2018):

    Apart from some peculiar differences, the consonant inventory of Tat and Judeo-Tat corresponds to that of Persian. The unique feature of both varieties, not spotted in any other Iranian language, is so-called rhotacism, the general substitution of postvocalic /d/ with /r/ (Grjunberg 1961: 107; Grjunberg and Davydova 1982: 246). For example:

    Tat: ræsiræn Judeo-Tat: rasirɛ Persian: ræsidæn ‘to reach’
    Tat: bjɑr Judeo-Tat: jor Persian: jɒd ‘memory’
    Tat: dumɑr Judeo-Tat: dumor Persian: dɒmɒd ‘groom, son-in-law’

    I suppose this rhotacism can be observed in the name Juhuri itself.

  2. I only knew of هريسة as harissa, the red chili pepper paste. Makes sense that the same name is used for other kinds of food given the etymology.

  3. Thanks for that thorough and informative comment, Xerîb!

  4. “Самое слово ‘татъ’ на одномъ изъ нарѣчiй тюркскаго языка имѣетъ значенiе подданнаго, живущаго или служащаго у вельможи. Языкъ татовъ, фарсидскiй, есть не что иное, какъ испорченный народный говоръ ново-персидскаго языка”.
    Quoted in Таты Дагестана by K. Kurdov, but he does not name the author.

    фарсидскiй vs. ново-персидскiй (farsian vs. new persian) … oh. I wonder what is meant.

  5. Tsk. Sloppy non-citing of sources! Here’s the first page of the article (pp. 56-66 of Journal russe d’anthropologie, Volumes 7-8 [1908]):

    And yes, the фарсидскiй/персидскiй thing is confusing.

  6. SImilar words are found in the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, volume XXXIIa, 1901:

    название Т., кажется, не есть собственно обозначение известного народа, а является лишь определением его образа жизни и социального положения: на джагатайском наречии тюркского языка слово тат имеет значение подданного, живущего или служащего у вельможи, — и это название тюркские кочевые племена давали всем порабощенным ими народам, ведшим оседлый образ жизни. Т. были выведены в разное время из Персии в подвластные ей некогда закавказские прикаспийские провинции для борьбы с северными народами. Т. исповедуют мусульманскую религию шиитского толка. Язык Т., иначе называемый фарсидским, есть не что иное как испорченный народный говор новоперсидского языка.

    (a modern site, a scan)

  7. So I guess фарсидскiй was specifically used for Tat. I wonder if Kurdov (interesting name) wrote the B&E article or plagiarized from it?

  8. I checked Kurdov, because I saw this pasage

    In 1913 the anthropologist K.M. Kurdov carried out measurements of a large group of Tat population of Lahij village and revealed fundamental differences[30] of their physical-anthropological type from the Mountain Jews. Measurements of Tats and Mountain Jews were also made by some other researchers.[31] Cephalic index measurements have showed that while for Tats mesocephalia and dolichocephalia are typical, extreme brachycephalia is typical for Mountain Jews. Dermatoglyphic characteristics of the Tats and Mountain Jews also exclude ethnic similarity. In 2012 a uniparental genetic markers comparison between Judeo-Tat dialect and Muslim-Tat dialect speakers in Dagestan found independent demographic histories.[32]

    [30] (cephalic index average value is 79,21)

    …in WP (Tat people (Caucasus)). Kurdov’s surname is funny. “Dermatoglyphic characteristics of the Tats and Mountain Jews also exclude ethnic similarity. ” is funny too. I did not know that dermatoglyphics is used for this:/ Not enough to read Kurdov – I am not interested in cephalic indices and dermatoglyphics is apparently someone else.

    But, “Etymology” in WP: History of Tat people:

    The name of tats first appeared in the 8th century.[4][5] The ethnonym “Tat” has changed its meaning several times over the centuries. In the early era, the name tats is found in the monumental inscriptions of the ancient Persian kings of the Achaemenid dynasty (the time of the mention of the inscription is about the 5th century BC). The word “tat” meant one of the ancient Iranian tribes[6]”. It is also worth noting that the Christian population in the mountainous regions of the Crimea were also called tat, but spoke Greek.[7][8]

    [6] “Таты – исторический этнос Кавказа”. (in Russian). Retrieved 2020-12-10.

    And the quoted article (“Таты – исторический этнос Кавказа” – it seems there was a debate about Tats and Highland Jews, and the author prefers to unite them – has a passage:

    Тот факт, что таты и так называемые «горские евреи» – один народ, подтверждается и антропологическими материалами. Так, К.М. Курдов в статье «Таты Дагестана» писал: «Таты-мусульмане должны быть охарактеризованы теми же чертами, что и горские евреи.
    Территория, занимаемая татами, не представляла собой единого массива. Этноним «тат» на протяжении веков неоднократно менял свое содержание. Наиболее раннее его упоминание встречается в одной из нескольких монументальных надписей древнеперсидских царей из династии Ахеменидов (надпись относится приблизительно к V веку до н.э.). Там термин «тат» обозначает одно из древнеиранских племен».

    So I read Kurdov in hope to find any Achaemenids there. The literature that I have checked thus far names “8th century”, “Orkhon inscriptions” and “Kashgari” as early mentions of “Tat”. No Achaemenids:)

    Also Kurdov is quoted by BOTH sides in support of the ideas that Jews are Tats and Jews have nothing to do with Tats:/

  9. Christian population in the mountainous regions of the Crimea were also called tat, but spoke Greek
    “Orkhon inscriptions” and “Kashgari”

    Cf. Edmund Schütz, The Tat People in The Crimea, archive

  10. Also Kurdov is quoted by BOTH sides in support of the ideas that Jews are Tats and Jews have nothing to do with Tats:/

    I love it.

  11. He measured Tats of Shamakhi Uyezd in 1913, and found them different from Dagestani Tats (who he measured in 1907) and similar to Armenians. He found Dagestani Tats similar to Jews measured by him in 1905.

    This all is unsurprising. Armenia is not too far and moreover, Shamahi used to have a very large “Armenian” (I guess it was largely religious identity?) population.

    Now there are 6 (!) people who identify as “Tats’ in Shamakhi district and no Armenians. For comparison
    Ethnic composition in 1897:
    Tatars Armenians Russians Tats Jews
    73,7% 11,7% 9,3% 3,7% 0.9%

  12. What I do not understand.

    The term Tāt (now applied only to non-Persian Iranian communities of northwestern Iran and Azerbaijan) was formerly a heteronym applied more widely to sedentary Iranians (including, and mainly, Persians) by Turks (Schaeder, pp. 1-16; Dabirsiāqi, pp. 3403-4, 3406-7, 3415-19).

    The term sart, or sārt is attested from the eleventh century in the sense ‘merchant, trader’; it is apparently derived from Indic (cf. Sanskrit sārthavāha ‘caravan-leader, merchant’) by way of Iranian (probably Parthian sartvā) and Uighur (sartbāu). In Mongol usage, as sartaul and sartaqtai, it referred generally to Iranian Muslims; sārt had thus become an ethnonym, a synonym for tāzik (Barthold, “Sart,” EI¹ 4, pp. 175-76). Conversely, “Tajik” came to mean ‘[Persian] merchant’ in the wider Turkic world: on the occasion of the Russian conquest of Kazan in 1552, the city was surrounded by a “ditch of the Tajiks” (tezičkii/ tešičkii rov), “Tajik” here being glossed as ‘merchants’ (Barthold, “Tādjīk,” EI1 4, p. 598b; Schaeder, p. 31). As Turkic settlement in the Oxus basin expanded, sārt seems to have evolved from an ethnonym into an “econym” (similar to earlier use of tāt; Schaeder, p. 9, note 4), designating the sedentary, agrarian population of the oases, whether speakers of Persian or Turkic, as distinct from the nomadic, tribally-organized Turks (Bābor-nāma, 26ff., 236; tr. Beveridge, pp. 6-7, 149; Schaeder, pp. 31-32, 34; Bregel, “Turko-Mongol influences,” pp. 62-63). As Stalin’s official ethnolinguisitc frontiers were fixed, Persian-speaking Sarts became Tajiks, and Turkic-speaking Sarts became Uzbeks.

    But Shirvan was Persian:/ Were not there also Persian-speaking elites? Also iterary Persian was prestigeous (compare Yesenin’s “ты сказала, что Саади…” – apparently it still was in his time).

    Why Muslim “Tats” are described as powerless Persian speakers, Jewish and Christian ones as Jewish and Christian ones?

  13. From Edmund Schütz, The Tat People in The Crimea which drasvi linked to above:

    “the term Tat as an ethnic name … has in the 19–20th centuries reported to denote people living in the Crimea and speaking a Turco-Tatar dialect….

    “An interesting duality is manifested by the population of the colony of Mariupol, where only the Greek people are called Tats, while the Turkish speaking part of the settlement area was called: bazarian.”

    I actually wrote about the Azovian Greeks or Azov Greeks last month and did some quick research on them, but don’t remember coming across any reference to them being called Tats.

    I saw them being called Mariupol Greeks based on the city where they are most concentrated, historically Crimean Greeks or Tauric Greeks based on where they were originally based before being resettled to the north coast of the Sea of Azov in the late 18th century, Pontic Greeks (although the exact relationship with the original Pontic Greeks from the south coast of the Black Sea is hard to determine), and finally Rumei based on their endonym (“Romans”).

    The Rumei, despite traditionally speaking a variety of Greek (which they call Rumeika and is not intelligible to Greek speakers from Greece), were not literate in Greek except for a few priests. Under the Crimean Khanate, many were bilingual in the Kipchak-Cuman variety of Turkic that functioned as the common language among various ethnic communities in Crimea, which we today know as Crimean Tatar. Many communities shifted to Turkic entirely, becoming the community known as the Urums (“Romans”). Both Greek-speaking and Turkic-speaking communities were resettled from southern coast of Crimea to the north coast of the Sea of Azov, and the Rumei and the Urums were indifferently classified as ethnic Greeks by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Today, both the Rumeika and Urum languages are endangered as both communities are primarily Russian speaking.

    There are also Crimean Jewish communities that spoke Greek before switching to Turkic under the Crimean Khanate, the Krymchak and the Crimean Karaites. So when Schütz says that only the Greek people (presumably the Rumei or the Greek-speaking ethnic Greeks) are called Tats in Mariupol, that is an interesting duality indeed. Why wouldn’t the Urums or the Turkic-speaking Greeks be included despite coming from a similar background? There doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason for the name Tat being attached specifically to the Rumei.

  14. Thanks, that’s really interesting stuff.

  15. Why wouldn’t the Urums or the Turkic-speaking Greeks be included despite coming from a similar background?

    Possibly related DeepL from Kurdov “Tats of Dagestan”:

    In the same way as it was pointed out for the mountain Jews, there is a certain isolation of the Tats from the local population, even despite the unity of the religion practiced. First of all, the natives look at the Tats as an alien element who has invaded part of their lands; second, the Tats themselves have some unsympathetic features from the point of view of the native population; the latter consider them cowardly, avaricious, indecisive, unfaithful to their word and beliefs, stupid. The word “tat” is used even among the Tatars sometimes as a swear word: a person who betrayed his beliefs, unjust, and convicted of lying and untruth, is called “son of tat” (tat-aol). Indeed, the Tats, when being measured, were all too often afraid to acknowledge their origins and refused to speak Tat. From conversations with them it turned out that they don’t always understand even their social benefits: they refused to build a school or establish a mutual aid society.In general, the Tats leave an impression of a downtrodden, ignorant people, but extremely industrious, quiet and patient. Until now, they are still in serf dependence on local beks, to whom they are obliged to give a part of their harvest.

    As mentioned above, they speak Farsi, which lately has been increasingly replaced by Tatar; the reason for that is the fact that the Tats themselves avoid speaking their language, as they don’t like it. For example, the inhabitants of the village of Rukel decided to use the language of the Tatars. For example, Rukel decided not to speak their native language in the whole community, and now only some elders understand Tat, while the rest of the population totally speaks Tatar. The same negative attitude to their native language is observed among the inhabitants of other Tat villages. The only exception is the village of Dzhalgan [Jalqan], seven versts from the city of Derbent. Here the Tat language is preserved in complete purity; even small children speak it fluently. This is all the more surprising, as it would seem that the proximity of the city should have had the opposite effect.

    According to official data, the total number of Tats in Dagestan does not exceed 4,000 souls of both sexes.

    Dzhalgan and Jalqan are two spellings found in Wikipedia. “Decided” – “постановили”.

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