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A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic

Esther-Miriam Wagner

II. Reader

36. An anecdote about Juḥā (1920s)

Tania María García-Arévalo

Texte intégral

1Unknown author. Printed by Maḵlūf Najar in Sousse, Tunisia, first half of the 20th century.


Arabic Transcription


2Juḥā and the meat pot

3While he was cooking three pieces of meat, three of his friends came in. One of them came forward, picked up a piece of meat, ate it, and said: “The meat is bland and you have to add salt.” The second got up and took another piece of meat and ate it. Then he said: “The cook was short on vinegar.” Finally, the third took the third piece of meat and ate it. Then he said: “This meat lacks heat.” Juḥā stood up, turned the pot over on the ground, and said: “This pot is missing the meat!”


4One of the most relevant issues in Judaeo-Arabic literature in its modern and contemporary period is its spelling. In the case of North Africa, the phonetic principle of how to transcribe Arabic divides the area into two groups. The orthography of the first group, consisting of Libya, Tunisia, and eastern Algeria, closely followed Classical Judaeo-Arabic norms, differing from the orthography characteristic of the second group, comprising Oran, Morocco, and western Algeria, which was further removed (Tobi, 2014, 142). The text presented here is, in fact, a faithful reflection of the evolved Arabised orthography produced in modern Tunisia.

5General features that both groups exhibit are the reduplication of consonants to represent medial, but never final, šadda (gemination), as well as ʾalef to represent the different types of ʾalif (maqṣūra, mamdūda, waṣla) without any distinction between them. Also, ʾalif is used to represent the morphophonemic definite article al-, without any changes before ‘sun’ or ‘moon’ letters. As in most Judaeo-Arabic texts, the interdentals are lost in favour of dentals, corresponding to Jewish dialects in Tunisia, which in their oral variety have lost this feature, too.

6The verbal system of modern Tunisian Judaeo-Arabic does not differ dramatically of that of Classical Arabic. The main divergences can be found in the phonetic rules applied to the conjugations and in the use of afformatives and preformatives. We find a similar situation in nominal morphology, where nominal patterns do not vary from Classical Arabic, and the changes are restricted to vocalisation due to the impossibility of short vowels in open syllables.


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