Mozarabic language

"Mozarabic" redirects here. For the people, see Mozarabs.
Latino / לטן / لتن
Region Iberia
Extinct by the Late Middle Ages
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mxi
Linguist list
Glottolog moza1249[1]
Ethnic-Linguistic map of southwestern Europe

Mozarabic, more accurately Andalusi Romance, was a continuum of closely related Romance dialects spoken in the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula, known as Al-Andalus. Mozarabic descends from Late Latin and early Romance dialects spoken in the Hispania from the 5th to the 8th centuries and was spoken until the 13th century.[2]

This set of Latin dialects came to be called the Mozarabic language by 19th century Spanish scholars who studied medieval Al-Andalus, though there never was a common language standard. The term is inaccurate, because it refers to the Christians who spoke Andalusi Romance, as a part of the Romance dialectic linguistic continuum in the Iberian Peninsula, but it was also spoken by Jews, and Muslims, as large parts of the population were converted to Islam. The word Mozarab is a loanword from Andalusi Arabic musta'rab, مُستَعرَب, Classical Arabic musta'rib, meaning "who adopts the ways of the Arabs".

Native name

The name Mozarabic is today used for many Romance dialects such as those of Murcia and Seville.[3] The native name (autonym or endonym) of the language was not "Muzarab" or "Mozarab" but "Latina" (Latin). Mozarabs themselves never called their own language "Mozarabic" but instead by a word that meant "Latin" (i.e. Romance language). They did not call themselves "Mozarabs" either.

At times between persecution, Christian communities prospered in Muslim Spain; these Christians are now usually referred to as Mozárabes, although the term was not in use at the time (Hitchcock 1978)

It was only in the 19th century that Spanish historians started to use the words "Mozarabs" and "Mozarabic" to refer to those Christian people and their language who lived under Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages. Another very common Arab exonym for this language was al-ajamiya ("stranger/foreign") that had the meaning of Romance language in Al-Andalus. So the words "Mozarabic" or "ajamiya" are exonyms and not an autonym of the language.

Roger Wright, in his book about the evolution of early Romance languages in France and in the Iberian Peninsula Late Latin and Early Romance in Spain and Carolingian France, page 156, states:

The Early Romance of Moslem Spain was known to its users as latinus. This word can lead to confusion; the Visigothic scholars used it to contrast with Greek or Hebrew, and Simonet (1888: XXIII-IV, XXXV-VII) established that in Moslem Spain it was used to refer to the non-Arabic vernacular (as was Arabic Al-Lathinī)

Also in the same book on page 158, the author states that:

The use of latinus to mean Latin-Romance, as opposed to Arabic, is also found north of the religious border

This means that the word Latinus or Latino had the meaning of spoken Romance language, and it was only contrasted with classical Latin (lingua Latina) a few centuries later. Contemporary Romance speakers of the Iberian Peninsula of that time saw their vernacular spoken language as "Latin". This happened because classical Latin was seen as an educated speech, not as a different language. As Francisco Marcos-Marín (2015) has pointed out, following archaeological studies mainly by Juan Zozaya, Berber invaders could not have learnt to speak Arabic so soon. They used a continuum between Berber and Latin varieties. Latin was the cultural language of the Roman provinces of Africa before Arabic and continued in use (at least for some registers) until the 11th century. The interaction of these Afro-Romance varieties and Ibero-Romance has yet to be studied. Those African speakers also referred to their language as "Latine".

The name that Sephardic Jews gave to their spoken Romance language in Iberia - Ladino and also the name that an Alpine Romance speaking people, the Ladins, give to their language - Ladin. Both names mean Latin.

In the Iberian Peninsula:

The word Ladino (< LATINUM) survived with the specific linguistic meaning of "Spanish written by Jews" (Roger Wright 1982, p. 158)

This is one of the main reasons why Iberian Jews (Sephardim) from central and southern regions called their everyday language Ladino - because this word had the sense of spoken Romance language (Ladino is today a Romance language more closely related to Spanish, mainly to Old Spanish, spoken by some Jews of Sephardic ancestry).

For the same reason, speakers of Ladin, another Romance language (spoken in northern Italy in the Trentino Alto-Ádige/Südtirol and Veneto regions), call their own language Ladin i.e. "Latin".

This word had the sense of spoken Romance language not only in Iberian Peninsula but also in other Romance language regions in early Middle Ages.


Because Mozarabic was not a language of high culture, it had no official script. Unlike most Romance languages, Mozarabic was primarily written in the Arabic rather than the Latin script, though it was also written in Latin and to a lesser extent in the Hebrew alphabet. Mozarab scholars wrote words of the Romance vernacular in alternative scripts in the margins or in the subtitles of Latin-language texts (glosses).

The two languages of culture in Medieval Iberia were Latin in the north (although it was also used in the south by Mozarab scholars) and Arabic in the south (which was the principal literary language of Mozarab scholars). These are the languages that constitute the great majority of written documents of the Peninsula at that time.

Mozarabic is first documented in writing in the Peninsula as choruses (kharjas) (11th century) in Arabic lyrics called muwashshahs. As these were written in the Arabic script, the vowels had to be reconstructed when transliterating it into Latin script.

Morphology and phonetics

The phonology of Mozarabic is more archaic than the other Romance languages in Spain, fitting with the general idea that language varieties in more isolated or peripheral areas act as "islands of conservatism". Based on the written documents that are identified as Mozarabic, some examples of these more archaic features are:

The morphology of some words is closer to Latin than other Iberian Romance or Romance languages in general. This Romance variety had a significant impact in the formation of Spanish, especially Andalusian Spanish, which explains why this language has numerous words of Andalusian Arabic origin.

It was spoken by Mozarabs (Christians living as dhimmis), Muladis (the native Iberian population converted to Islam) and some layers of the ruling Arabs and Berbers. The cultural language of Mozarabs continued to be Latin, but as time passed, young Mozarabs studied and even excelled in Arabic. Due to the northward migration of Mozarabs, Arabic placenames occur in areas where Islamic rule did not last long. With the deepening of Islamization and the advance of the Reconquista, Mozarabic was substituted either by Arabic or by Northern Romance varieties, depending on the area and century.

Documents in Andalusi Romance (Old Southern Iberian Romance)

Some texts found in manuscripts of poetry in Muslim Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus), although mainly written in Arabic, have however some stanzas in Andalusi Romance (Latino) or in what seems to be Andalusi Romance. These are important texts because there are few examples of written Andalusi Romance. Proper Mozarabic (i.e. Christian) texts were written in Latin and are available in the accurate edition by Juan Gil.

In Late Latin and Early Romance Roger Wright also makes an analysis of these poetry texts known as kharjas:

Muslim Spain has acquired philological interest for a further reason: the kharjas. These are apparently bilingual (Arabic-Romance) or macaronic final stanzas of some verses in the Hispano-Arabic muwashshaha form discovered in some Arabic and Hebrew manuscripts (...). Analyses of these have been hampered in the past by the belief that we know too little about mozárabe Romance to discuss the "Romance" element on a sound basis; but this is not entirely true. (...) The detailed investigations by Galmés de Fuentes (e.g. 1977, 1980) on later documents and toponyms have established the main features of mozárabe phonology, and many features of its morphology (...). The conclusion seems to be that mozárabe Romance is not particularly different from that of other parts of Iberia.

However, a better knowledge of Andalusi Arabic, particularly due to the work of Federico Corriente, placed the xarajat (a term which should be preferred to kharjas) in the framework of Arabic Literature, and the linguistic diglossic situation of al-Andalus. Most xarajat, actually, were written in Andalusi Arabic. Those with Andalusi Romance elements usually combine them with Andalusi Arabic forms.

Sample text (11th century)

Mozarabic: Spanish: Catalan: Portuguese: Latin: Standard Arabic Arabic transliteration English

Mío sidi Ibrahim,
ya nuemne dolye!
vente mib
de nojte.
non, si non queris,
iréme tib:
garme a ob

Mi señor Ibrahim,
¡Oh tú, hombre dulce!
Ven a mí
de noche.
Si no, si no quieres,
yo me iré contigo,
dime dónde

El meu senyor Ibrahim,
oh tu, home dolç!
Vine cap a mi
de nit.
Si no, si no vols,
m'en aniré jo amb tu,
diga'm a on

Meu senhor Ibrahim,
ó tu, homem doce!
Vem a mim
de noite.
Senão, se não quiseres,
ir-me-ei a ti,
diz-me onde

O domine mi Abrahami,
o tu, homo dulcis!
Veni mihi
Si non, si non vis,
ibo tibi,
dic mihi ubi
te inveniam.

،سيدي إبراهيم
.يا رجلاً حلواً
تعال اليَّ
،وإن كنت لا تريد
.سآتي أنا إليك
قل لي أين

Sīdi ʾibrāhīm
yā rajulan ħulwan!
taʿāla ʾilay-ya
wa-ʾin kunta lā turīdu
sa-ʾātīʾanā ilay-ka
qul l-ī ʾayna

My lord Ibrahim,
O you, sweet man!
Come to me
at night.
If not, if you do not want to come,
I shall come to you,
tell me where
to find you.

Phonetic reconstruction and language comparison

The Lord's Prayer / Our Father:[4]

English Latin (lingua latina) Mozarabic (latino) Aragonese (aragonés) Portuguese (português) Spanish / Castilian
(español / castellano)
Catalan (Català) Occitan (occitan) French (français) Italian (italiano) Romanian (limba română)

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Pater noster, qui es in caelis:
sanctificetur Nomen Tuum;
adveniat Regnum Tuum;
fiat voluntas Tua,
sicut in caelo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne nos inducas in tentationem;
sed libera nos a Malo.

Padre nostro que yes en el ciel,
santificat siad lo teu nomne.
Venya a nos el teu regno.
Fayadse la tua voluntade
ansi en la terra como en el ciel.
El nostro pan de cada dia danoslo hoi
ed perdonanos las nostras offensas
como nos perdonamos los qui nos offendent.
Ed non nos layxes cader in tentatsion
ed liberanos del mal.

Pai nuestro, que yes en o cielo,
satificato siga o tuyo nombre,
vienga ta nusatros o reino tuyo y
se faiga la tuya voluntá
en a tierra como en o cielo.
O pan nuestro de cada diya da-lo-mos güei,
perdona las nuestras faltas
como tamién nusatros perdonamos a os que mos faltan,
no mos dixes cayer en a tentación y libera-mos d'o mal.

Pai nosso, que estais nos Céus,
santificado seja o vosso nome;
venha a nós o vosso reino;
seja feita a vossa vontade
assim na terra como no céu.
O pão nosso de cada dia nos dai hoje;
perdoai-nos as nossas ofensas,
assim como nós perdoamos
a quem nos tem ofendido;
e não nos deixeis cair em tentação;
mas livrai-nos do mal.

Padre nuestro que estás en el cielo,
santificado sea tu nombre.
Venga a nosotros tu Reino.
Hágase tu voluntad,
así en la tierra como en el cielo.
El pan nuestro de cada día, dánoslo hoy
y perdona nuestras ofensas,
como también nosotros perdonamos a los que nos ofenden.
Y no nos dejes caer en la tentación, y líbranos de mal.

Pare nostre, que sou al cel:
Sigui santificat el vostre nom.
Vingui a nosaltres el vostre regne.
Faci's la vostra voluntat,
així a la terra com es fa al cel.
El nostre pa de cada dia,
doneu-nos, Senyor, el dia d'avui.
I perdoneu les nostres culpes,
així com nosaltres perdonem els nostres deutors.
I no permeteu que nosaltres caiguem en la temptació,
ans deslliureu-nos de qualsevol mal.

Paire nòstre que siès dins lo cèl,
que ton nom se santifique,
que ton rènhe nos avenga,
que ta volontat se faga
sus la tèrra coma dins lo cèl.
Dona-nos nòstre pan de cada jorn,
perdona-nos nòstres deutes
coma nosautres perdonam
als nòstres debitors
e fai que tombèm pas dins la tentacion
mas deliura-nos del mal.

Notre Père, qui es aux cieux,
que ton nom soit sanctifié,
que ton règne vienne,
que ta volonté soit faite
sur la terre comme au ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour.
Pardonne-nous nos offenses
comme nous pardonnons aussi
à ceux qui nous ont offensés.
Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,
mais délivre-nous du mal.

Padre nostro che sei nei cieli,
sia santificato il tuo nome;
venga il tuo regno,
sia fatta la tua volontà, come in cielo così in terra.
Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano,
rimetti a noi i nostri debiti,
come noi li rimettiamo
ai nostri debitori
e non ci indurre in tentazione,
ma liberaci dal male.

Părintele nostru, carele esci în ceriuri,
sânțească-se numele tău;
Via împěrăția ta;
Fie voia ta, precum în ceri, și pe pământ;
Pănea noastră cea de toate zilele dă-ni-o astăzí.
Și ni ertă detoriele noastre,
precum și noí ertăm detornicilor nostri;
Și nu ne duce în ispită;
ci ne scapă de cel rău.

See also


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Mozarabic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. [Gómez-Ruiz, R. (2014). Mozarabs, Hispanics and Cross. Orbis Books.]
  3. Leguay, Oliveira Marques, Rocha Beirante. Portugal das invasões germânicas à "reconquista". Editorial Presença, 1993. pg 209

Further reading

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