On verbal hygiene and linguistic mavens: Language ideologies in the Ottoman and New York Judeo-Spanish press

Bürki, Yvette; Sánchez, Rosa (2016). On verbal hygiene and linguistic mavens: Language ideologies in the Ottoman and New York Judeo-Spanish press. In: Bali, Rifat (ed.) Jewish Journalism and Press in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey (pp. 3-74). Istanbul: Libra

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Since the 1990s, the ‘language question’ chapter has probably been one of the most prolific ones in the field of Sephardic Studies. As it is well known, this dispute took place during a specific period of cultural and political changes in the Ottoman Empire and its subsequent emerging nation-states and continued in important and very heterogeneous migratory settlements such as New York. In this contribution we will tackle again this subject but from a more concrete theoretical framework, which is especially productive for the study of the ‘language question’, namely the one of Glottopolitics (cfr. 2).
Confronted with Western European ideologies, where “natural links between a unitary mother tongue, a territory, and an ethnonational identity” (Irvine / Gal 2000: 60) were conceived, and coming from a multiethnic and multilingual background as the Ottoman Empire was, Sephardic Jews often saw themselves as people without (a standardized) language — symbol and manifestation par excellence at the linguistic level of a nation-state and one of the main requisites for modernity (cfr. Gal 2010: 39). This situation led to incongruities between the experienced realities and the new ideological models, which penetrated from outside and which eventually led to negative attitudes towards the language. In New York, one of the most important Sephardic settlements in the New World, the communities were confronted with similar preocupations, instabilities and shifts due to, among many factors, their immigrant statuses and the dominant American assimilatory forces. Nevertheless during this period of transitions and insecurities the press, a relatively new genre and engine of communication in these specific cultural contexts, played a significant role in the constitution of a Sephardic imagined community in Andersonian terms (Anderson 2006; Guillon 2013) where Judeo-Spanish, despite all the negative attitudes toward it, was of a considerable weight. Therefore it is of special interest to analyze it from a glottopolitical perspective in its “language - culture - nation ideological nexus” (Heller / Duchaîne 2007: 7).
Besides the glottopolitical theoretical approach, this study adopts a contrastive perspective by comparing the linguistic ideologemes about Judeo-Spanish and the other languages with which Sephardic Jews were in contact in the Ottoman Empire and those which were developed in the United States, a completely new sociocultural and political space. Therefore we will analyze articles of different journalistic genres published at the beginning of the 20th century in two Salonikan newspapers, La Época and El Avenir, and articles published during the first half of the 20th century in two New York newspapers, La América and La Vara. At this point we have to point out that both cities, Salonika and New York, constituted two of the most important demographic and cultural centers of the Sephardic diaspora.
The article is divided into three parts. After the theoretical framework (cfr. 2), we will compare the glottopolitical situation of the Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire (cfr. 3.1.) with that of those who emigrated to the United States, more precisely to New York (cfr. 3.2.). In the core part of this contribution (cfr. 4.) we will analyze the recurrent ideologemes found in the Salonikan and New York newspapers. This part will be followed by a discussion of the similarities and differences between the ideologenes in both continents (cfr. 5), as well as a succinct conclusion (cfr. 6) summarizing the fundamental outreaches of this contribution to Sephardic Studies in language ideologies matters.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Spanish Languages and Literature
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Spanish Languages and Literature > Linguistic Studies

UniBE Contributor:

Bürki, Yvette


800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 860 Spanish & Portuguese literatures
400 Language > 460 Spanish & Portuguese languages
400 Language
400 Language > 410 Linguistics






Yvette Bürki

Date Deposited:

22 Jun 2017 10:38

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:05

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), Glottopolitics, Press, Ideologies, New York, Thessaloniki





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