Israel: New Arabic-Hebrew language emerges

Fusion of colloquial forms

15 November, 19:44

    Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem Old City Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem Old City

    (ANSAmed) - TEL AVIV - A new idiom is gaining ground in Israel, where a kaleidoscope of languages can be heard at any given time and in any given place, including Hebrew, Arabic, English, French, Russian, Yiddish and Amharic. After noting the emergence of a dialect that has become ever more popular during the past few years among Arab Israelis (20% of the population), two linguists - Abd Rahman Mar'i and Rubik Rosenthal - gave it a name, 'Arabic-Hebrew', and published a book on it: ''Walla be-Seder'', which roughly translates as 'My goodness, ok''. Living in a society in which Hebrew is the most widely used language, the Arab minority has taken up some of the most common terms and incorporated them into the Arabic glossary. In particular, the book's authors note, this can be seen especially in areas frequented by both communities, such as supermarkets, hospitals, pharmacies, mechanic's shops and on public transport.

    It is common to hear conversations in Arabic be punctuated with such typical Hebrew expressions as ''Be-Seder'' (ok), ''Yofi'' (excellent), and ''Kol ha-Cavod'' (hats-off). Even Israeli military slang has managed to get a foothold in the parlance of the Arab minority: a very attractive young woman is commonly called a ''Pzazza'' (bomb) and an expert in their field is known as a ''Totach'' (cannon). In reality, the trend goes both ways and quite a few Arabic expressions have become common among those using Hebrew to communicate, including ''Yalla'' (come on), ''Ahla'' (at the best), ''Sababa'' (awesome), ''Keif'' (enjoyable), ''Maafan'' (repugnant) and ''Dawin'' (vain). Mar'i and Rosenthal also note that ''Arabic-Hebrew'' is being seen ever more on internet sites, films (such as the action film ''Ajami'', a candidate for an Oscar and shot in the Arab quarters of Jaffa), and Israeli TV shows, such as the very popular ''Arab Work'' sit-com by the writer Said Kash'a. The authors say that the idiom has become so deeply entrenched that even Arab Israelis are amazed to see that their dialect is not always understandable in the streets of Cairo and Amman. They also note that not only the cultural elite of Arab Israelis are hostile to the trend, but also Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Among those living in the Occupied Territories, ''Arabic-Hebrew'' is still at an embryonic state, though Hebrew terms related to the military occupation are sometimes used, such as ''Segher'' (closed military zone) and ''Tariq al-Okef'' (detour due to checkpoints). (ANSAmed).

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