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From Early Judeo-Iranian Jargons to Central Asiatic Argots of Rom Groups: Evidence for an Influential Jewish Underworld in the Late Abbasid Period

A lecture by Martin Schwartz, University of California, Berkeley

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The presence of a very large Jewish Aramaic vocabulary reflected in 20th cent. Rom (Gypsy) argots of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (and mendicant and migrating groups of Iran itself) will be traced back to 14th cent. Persian data on the East Iranian and Central Asiatic argot of beggars, charlatans, and thieves, which is in turn illuminated by Arabic texts on such a social milieu in the 10th century. This medieval period coincides with Persian lexicological data on secret languages with a distinct vocabulary, a genre whose name, Loter(a)(i), matches that of 20th cent. local Jewish jargons of Iran (and Afghanistan) which employ(ed) a Hebrew and Aramaic vocabulary to exclude gentile comprehension. It will be shown that these jargons may go back to the late Achaemenid period, when AramaIc was spoken by Iranian Jewry, and that the use of Aramaic words (later in large measure replaced by Hebrew) rendered speech in Iranian languages unintelligible to outsiders. Ca. the 10th cent., it seems, this Jewish jargon was picked up by a broad underworld society. It will be argued that the situation must in detail be explained by a hitherto undocumented important Jewish component in the the medieval Middle Eastern underworld, which component is still reflected linguistically in gentile argots of Iran and Central Asia in the 20th cent.

Martin Schwartz is a Professor of Iranian Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Cost : Free and Open to the Public

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