Late Judaeo-Arabic Correspondence of Ottoman Traders

Whereas the social and economic life of Jews under the Fatimid and Ayyubid empires (10th to 13th centuries) has been the subject of numerous books and articles, relatively little attention has been paid to the late Mamluk and Ottoman periods.

This has also led to a lack of research on documentary Late Judaeo-Arabic, the most important mode of communication for the widespread network of the Jewish traders. This language register poses a significant linguistic barrier for untrained Arabists, as it contains many elements from the vernacular as well as Hebrew borrowings.

To address this knowledge deficit, Dr Esther-Miriam Wagner is preparing an edition of a corpus of 18th/19th-century correspondence from Ottoman Egypt, to be published together with Professor Geoffrey Khan.

Letters in various Genizah collections, such as Cambridge, Manchester and Paris, provide ample material for a comprehensive edition.

This work will present a thorough linguistic assessment of the peculiarities of documentary Late Judaeo-Arabic, thereby opening up the letter corpora of Jewish traders from Egypt and North-Africa for historians and linguists, and give insights into the mercantile history and trade networks of the Ottoman period.

The project will also provide a comprehensive inventory of the linguistic phenomena of Late Judaeo-Arabic and of the sociolinguistic processes within broader Arabic language history.