January 11th, 2006

[BRIEF NOTE] On Ladino

The origins of the Ladino language are just as Shelomo Alfassa described in 1999.

Ladino, otherwise known as Judeo-Spanish, is the spoken and written Hispanic language of Jews of Spanish origin. Ladino did not become a specifically Jewish language until after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 - it was merely the language of their province. It is also known as Judezmo, Dzhudezmo, or Spaniolit.

When the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal they were cut off from the further development of the language, but they continued to speak it in the communities and countries to which they emigrated. Ladino therefore reflects the grammar and vocabulary of 14th and 15th century Spanish. The further away from Spain the emigrants went, the more cut off they were from developments in the language, and the more Ladino began to diverge from mainstream Castilian Spanish.

In Amsterdam, England and Italy, those Jews who continued to speak 'Ladino' were in constant contact with Spain and therefore they basically continued to speak the Castilian Spanish of the time. However, in the Sephardi communities of the Ottoman Empire, the language not only retained the older forms of Spanish, but borrowed so many words from Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Turkish, and even French, that it became more and more distorted. Ladino was nowhere near as diverse as the various forms of Yiddish, but there were still two different dialects, which corresponded to the different origins of the speakers.

'Oriental' Ladino was spoken in Turkey and Rhodes and reflected Castilian Spanish, whereas 'Western' Ladino was spoken in Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia and Romania, and preserved the characteristics of northern Spanish and Portuguese. The vocabulary of Ladino includes hundreds of archaic Spanish words which have disappeared from modern day Spanish, and also includes many words from different languages that have been substituted for the original Spanish word, from the various places Ladino speaking Jews settled.

Assimilation to the languages of the majority populations whittled away at the Ladino communities of Europe and North Africa a fair bit in the first part of the 20th century, the mass emigration of the Sephardim to western Europe and points overseas did more, and the Holocaust decimated many communities, including the Jewish plurality population in the Greek city now known as Thessaloniki. The modern Ladino language is the most vibrant of the Judeo-Romance languages, and most Ladino speakers now live in Israel. Alas, Israel's Ladino-speaking community is quick succumbing to assimilation into a much larger Hebrew-speaking population. No, there do not seem to be many prospects for a revival like Yiddish, since Yiddish at its peak commanded an audience of millions and still has a certain vitality to it as a living language. More's the pity, but the last remnants of Jewish Spain are being documented.

[BRIEF NOTE] Youth Culture and Politics

Out of curiosity, is the apathy-verging-on-despair that most population in my age group in Canada feel about electoral politics that common elsewhere in the world? I ask mainly because I've gotten the sense, from other posts and other friends, that there may be more explicitly political subcultures elsewhere owing to the close association of a particular class' lifeways with a particular ideology. Is Canada just too classless for this to work?
  • Current Mood
    curious curious

[BRIEF NOTE] What do you do when the news reads like The Onion?

Take Erin Carlson's Associated Press article "Pitt and Jolie: Beautiful Baby?". This article reacts to the not-unexpected news that not only are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie involved, but that Jolie is now pregnant.

If the two most gorgeous people in the world had a child, what would it look like? Angelina Jolie will answer that question this summer, when the bombshell "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" actress is due to give birth to boyfriend Brad Pitt's baby.

[. . . T]heir new addition will be the glamorous couple's first biological baby, a presumable shoo-in for "Sexiest Offspring Alive."

That would follow in the parents' footsteps. Jolie was named Esquire magazine's "Sexiest Woman Alive" in 2004, while Pitt was named People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1994 and 2000.

Dr. Lawrence Reed, a New York City-based plastic surgeon, said the child's good genes will in all likelihood make his services unnecessary.

"You have a very beautiful mother with great bone structure," said Reed. "You have a very handsome father with excellent bone structure and facial features. The genetic prediction would make this child have a greater chance by far of being what everyone would consider an attractive baby, an attractive person."

Reed said he predicts Brangelina's baby will be "much taller" than Pitt, who stands at 6 feet, and the 5 feet, 7 inches Jolie.

"The eyes will be incredible," he said. "I can't see this ever not working out."

[. . . A]s Dr. Jasper Rine, a genetics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, points out, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

"Based upon my many years of experience with genetics and as a parent, I can safely predict that the two parents will consider their baby beautiful."

This is not a satire; I checked. This deadpan speculation is our quotidian reality, people.

[BRIEF NOTE] A Pitt-Jolie Addendum

Regarding my previous post, everyone does realize that even though we all claimed horror at both the news' prominence and the completely heedless speculation as to the unborn child's hotness, not only did we all read the news, but some of us commented on the news item that I linked to with the express intention of publicizing it?

There's no escape.
  • Current Music
    Mylène Farmer, "Vertige"

[URBAN NOTE] Bloor/Lansdowne to Queen/Dufferin

One thing that Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way recommends I do is to take a walk at random. With such a goal in mind, I got out at the Lansdown TTC station on Bloor, one stop west of my usual Dufferin disembarkment point, and headed south. I'd noticed that in Toronto, the streets that run perpendicular to Lake Ontario on a north-south line are mainly residential, while the streets that run parallel to Lake Ontario from west to east tend to be commercial. This pattern repeated itself on my Lansdowne transection.

Past West Toronto Collegiate I entered the neighbourhood of Parkdale. I realized that I was in a new riding when I saw the 2006 election signs, not of my riding's Mario Silva and Gord Perks, but rather of Parkdale-High Park's Liberal incumbent Sarmite Bulte and NDP candidate Peggy Nash.

I boarded a southbound bus at College, and took it south to Queen Street West. I haven't been in Parkdale for a while, and I undertook a leisurely walk east interrupted by my collision with the Parkdale branch of the Toronto public library system. It was open, late, and I indulged myself by borrowing some books from the branch's sizable Caribbean and Black History section.

I need to get out and about more. Too often I enter into ruts; too frequently I escape them.
  • Current Music
    Mylène Farmer, "Laisse le Vent Emporter Tout"