Forwarded from Nestor (Ladino)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Nov 19 17:17:59 MST 2003

 > We talked in Turkish and Ladino, a Sephardic Jewish equivalent of
 > Yiddish. My ancestors helped bring the language to Istanbul when they fled
 > the Spanish Inquisition after 1492 and were given refuge by the Ottoman
 > Empire. My colleague, a scholar of Spinoza, the 17th-century Sephardic
 > philosopher, listened in amazement to the living continuity between the
 > object of his historical research and this withered gentleman, perched
 > upon a bench in a busy street in Istanbul.

Ladino (obviously from "Latin") is a beautifully sounding variant of the
old Romance languages of the Spanish Peninsula, when Portuguese and
Castillian were not separated yet. It has the sweet melodious sound of
Portuguese (Castilian, full of strong "h"s and "p"s, sounds much harsher)
and any careful speaker of Spanish can understand it if listens with some
care, because though it sounds "ancient" to our ear (so does Portuguese),
it is somehow nearer to our current language.

In fact, it became the standard trade language for Jews in the Eastern
Mediterranean from Anatolia to Greece and the Balkans. Now that I think of
it, I realize I was too foolish when -in Belgrade- I met the President of
the Jewish Community in Pristina, an exile from the war: I tried to
communicate with him in English, when maybe he knew Ladino. "Well, next
time in Jerusalem!" was almost all the English he knew. While I obtained
some other information through translators from Serbo Croatian, I feel I
missed a good opportunity to make use of my Spanish (and his Ladino) in the



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