Actualizado: 17 sept 2019

Currently, around the world there are about 6000 languages spoken, of which 2500 are in danger (Moseley, 2010), and between 50 and 90% of them will become extinct by 2100. The 20 most common languages are spoken by 50% of the world’s population, but most languages are spoken by fewer than 10.000 people. This situation is due to external forces such as foreign military, economic, religious, cultural or educational supremacy, or to internal forces such as a community’s negative attitude towards its own language considered “obsolete”. To avoid massive disappearance then international and national organizations are developing different programs and initiatives, as UNESCO’s Atlas of Language in Danger and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

This research focus in one of the endangered languages known as Jaquetía, and its objective is to analyze its origin, its peak, the reasons of its decline and its current state, to help in spreading the knowledge of the Jaquetía as a language linked to an ethnic group and its culture, and to create awareness about the endangered status.

Jaquetía is a language that was developed in the cities of North of Morocco where the Sephardic Jews settled after being expelled from the Kingdom of Spain by the Catholic Kings (1492) that wanted unify territory, religion and culture of the nation.

After centuries of persecutions and marginalization suffered in the Iberian Peninsula under different ruling empires and after the expulsion, the Sephardic communities created social entities that were very “enclosed”, only depending on each other, tightly tied to and for their religion and cultural traditions, and whose social life was limited to the “acts” celebrated in their synagogue and to the family’s celebrations (Ortega, 1919). When this people arrived into Morocco, considered themselves more developed, due to their higher education, even when compared to the historical Jewish population (called Toshavim) with whom they did not bond, aside from sharing the same religion.

In this scenario Jaquetía developed as the occidental “branch” of the Judeo-Spanish language that was enriched by Arab, Bereber, Portuguese and Italian (and later Spanish and French) words. With the arrival of the French and the Spanish colonizers to Morocco in the XIX century, it begins the decline of this language and of the related culture. This was due also to a peculiar fact: the Sephardies thought that they were speaking the authentic Spanish language but when they met the Spanish colonizers, they could not understand each other, because both languages (Castilian and Judeo-Spanish) had developed independently over the centuries to the point of not being intelligible one another. So, Jaquetía was relegated to the status of vulgar dialect for the lower classes. Also, the opening of Jewish education centers by the Universal Israelite Alliance from Paris, giving class only in French contributed to the Jaquetía’s decline.

After the founding of the State of Israel (1948), and after the independence from Spain gained by Morocco (1956), fearing more persecution and aspiring for a “better life”, the Sephardies emigrated to Israel and to other nations of the New World, where they brought with them the Jaquetía and other traditions.

The Sephardies communities along with their own language, also developed a rich culture (folklore, clothing, music, gastronomy, etc), starting from a “Castizo” language-base and the Hebrew religion that later on was enriched by the Moroccan Arab and Bereber cultures. An important part of this culture is represented by the oral tradition of songs, poems, tales, proverbs, old sayings, “coplas”, paraliturgy and “cantares”, most of them brought from the Iberian Peninsula that served as a tool of transmission of values ans heritage between generations and as the base for their cultural identity.


Ortega, M. L. (1919) Los hebreos en Marruecos. Estudio histórico, político y social. Madrid: Editora Hispano Africana.

Moseley, Christopher (ed.). 2010. Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, 3rd edn. Paris, UNESCO Publishing. Atlas online version

#Sefardies #Jaquetia #LanguageinDanger #CulturalHeritage

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