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Andalusi Romance
לטן‎ / لتن
Extinctby the Late Middle Ages
Language codes
ISO 639-3mxi
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Consuelo López Morillas criticizes this kind of a representation of the linguistic landscape in medieval Iberia for equating linguistic frontiers with political frontiers, and for deceptively fragmenting Romance into several varieties—throughout the peninsula people described their language as ladino instead of leonés, navarro, etc.[1]

Andalusi Romance, also called Mozarabic[a] or Ajami,[2] refers to the varieties of Ibero-Romance that developed in Al-Andalus, the parts of the medieval Iberian Peninsula under Islamic control. Romance, or vernacular Late Latin, was the common tongue for the great majority of the Iberian population at the time of the Umayyad conquest in the early eighth century, but over the following centuries, it was gradually superseded by Andalusi Arabic as the main spoken language in the Muslim-controlled south. At the same time, as the northern Christian kingdoms pushed south into Al-Andalus, their respective Romance varieties (especially Castilian) gained ground at the expense of Andalusi Romance[3] as well as Arabic. The final extinction of the former may be estimated to 1300 CE.[2]

The medieval Ibero-Romance varieties were broadly similar (with Castilian standing out as an outlier). Andalusi Romance was distinguished from the others primarily not by its linguistic features, but rather by virtue of being written in the Arabic script.[1] What is known or hypothesized about the particular linguistic features of Andalusi Romance is based on relatively sparse evidence, of which the Kharjas are the most important.


The traditional term for the Romance varieties used in al-Andalus is "Mozarabic," derived from Mozarab, (from the Arabic: مُسْتَعْرَب, romanizedmusta‘rab, lit.'Arabized') a term used to refer to Christians in al-Andalus.[1]

Some scholars dislike the term for its ambiguity. According to Consuelo Lopez-Morillas:

It has been objected that the term straddles ambiguously the realms of religion and language, and further implies, erroneously, that the dialect was spoken only by Christians. The very form of the word suggests (again a false perception) that it denotes a language somehow related to Arabic.[1]: 47 

To describe the varieties of Romance in al-Andalus, Spanish scholars are increasingly using romance andalusí (from the Arabic: أَنْدَلُسِيّ, romanized: andalusī, lit.'of al-Andalus'), or Andalusi Romance in English.[1]

Speakers of Andalusi Romance, like speakers of Romance anywhere else on the peninsula, would have described their spoken language simply as "ladino," i.e. Latin.[1] The term Ladino has since come to have the specialized sense of Judeo-Spanish.[b][4] Arab writers used the terms al-Lathinī[5] or al-'ajamīya (العَجَمِيَّة, from ʿajam, 'non-Arab').


Umayyad conquest

Romance was the main language spoken by the population of Iberia when the Umayyads conquered Hispania in 711.[1]: 46  Under Muslim rule, Arabic became a superstrate prestige language and would remain the dominant vehicle of literature, high culture, and intellectual expression in Iberia for five centuries (8th–13th).[1]: 36 

Over the centuries, Arabic spread gradually in Al-Andalus, primarily through conversion to Islam.[1] While Alvarus of Cordoba lamented in the 9th century that Christians were no longer using Latin, Richard Bulliet estimates that only 50% of the population of al-Andalus had converted to Islam by the death of Abd al-Rahman III in 961, and 80% by 1100.[6] By about 1260, Muslim territories in Iberia were reduced to the Emirate of Granada, in which more than 90% of the population had converted to Islam and Arabic-Romance bilingualism seems to have disappeared.[6]

Archival record

What is known or hypothesized of the particular linguistic features of Andalusi Romance is based on relatively sparse evidence, including Romance topographical and personal names, legal documents from the Mozarabs of Toledo, names in botanical texts, occasional isolated romance words in the zajal poetry of Ibn Quzman, and Pedro de Alcalá's Vocabulista.[7]

The Kharjas

The discovery in the late 1940s of the Kharjas, refrains in Romance in muwashshah poetry otherwise written in Arabic and Hebrew, illuminated some morphological and syntactic features of Andalusi Romance, including sentence rhythms and phrasal patterns.[7]


Other than the obvious Arabic influence, and remnants of a pre-Roman substratum, early Mozarabic may also have been affected by African Romance, which would have been carried over to the Iberian Peninsula by the Berbers who made up most of the Islamic army that conquered it and remained prominent in the Andalusi administration and army for centuries to come. The possible interaction between these two Romance varieties has yet to be investigated.[8][page needed]

Language use

Mozarabic was spoken by Mozarabs (Christians living as dhimmis), Muladis (natives converted to Islam), Jews, and possibly some of the ruling Arabs and Berbers. The cultural and literary language of the Mozarabs was at first Latin, but as time passed, it came to rather be Arabic, even among Christians.[citation needed]

Due to the continual emigration of Mozarabs to the Christian kingdoms of the north, Arabic toponyms are found even in places where Arab rule was ephemeral.[citation needed]

Mozarabic had a significant impact on the formation of Spanish, especially Andalusian Spanish, and served as a vehicle for the transmission of numerous Andalusi Arabic terms into both.[citation needed]


Because Mozarabic was not a language of higher culture, such as Latin or Arabic, it had no standard writing system.[citation needed] Numerous Latin documents written by early Mozarabs are, however, extant.[9]

The bulk of surviving material in Mozarabic is found in the choruses (or kharjas) of Andalusi lyrical compositions known as muwashshahs, which were otherwise written in Arabic.[10] The script used to write the Mozarabic kharjas was invariably Arabic or Hebrew, less often the latter. This poses numerous problems for modern scholars attempting to interpret the underlying Mozarabic. Namely:[11]

The overall effect of this, combined with the rampant textual corruption, is that modern scholars can freely substitute consonants and insert vowels to make sense of the kharjas, leading to considerable leeway, and hence inaccuracy, in interpretation.[12]

Phonological features

It is widely agreed that Mozarabic had the following features:[13]

The following two features remain a matter of debate, largely due to the ambiguity of the Arabic script:[13][15][16]

Sample text

Presented below is one of the few kharjas whose interpretation is secure from beginning to end. It has been transcribed from a late thirteen-century copy in Hebrew script, but it is also attested (in rather poor condition) in an Arabic manuscript from the early twelfth century.[18]

Transcription Interpretation Translation
ky fr'yw 'w ky s̆yr'd dmyby
nwn tyṭwlgs̆ dmyby

ke farayo aw ke s̆erad de mibe,
non te twelgas̆ de mibe.

What shall I do, or what shall become of me,
my friend?
Don't take yourself from me.

Another kharja is presented below, transcribed from Arabic script by García Gómez:[19]

Transcription Interpretation Translation
mw sīdī 'ibrāhīm
y' nw'mn dlŷ
f'nt myb
d̠y njt
in nwn s̆ nwn k'rs̆
yrym tyb
grmy 'wb
Mew sīdī 'Ibrāhīm,
yā nuēmne dolz̊e,
fēn-te mīb
dē nojte.
In nōn, si nōn kērís̆,
yirē-me tīb
—gar-me 'a 'ob!—
a fer-te.

My lord Ibrahim,
oh [what a] sweet name,
come to me
at night.
If not, if you do not want to,
I will go to you
—tell me where!—
to see you.

However the above kharja, like most others, presents numerous textual difficulties. Below is Jones's transcription of it, with vowels inserted and uncertain readings italicized.[20] Note the discrepancies.

Transcription Possible emendations
fən sīdi ibrāhīm
nwāmni dalji
fānta mīb
d̠ī nuxti
in nūn s̆i-nūn kāris̆
f/bīrīmə tīb
gar mī <a> ūb
sīdi ibrāhīm
f-īrīmə tīb
gari mi ūb

See also


  1. ^ From Mozarab, from the Arabic: مستعرب, romanizedmusta‘rab, lit.'Arabized', a term used to refer to Christians in al-Andalus. Despite being called Mozarabic, the local Romance vernaculars were spoken by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and these Romance varieties—while having loanwords from Arabic—are not Arabic languages.[1]
  2. ^ This coincides with the Italian name for the Ladin language, a Rhaeto-Romance language spoken in northern Italy.
  3. ^ N and y were, however, distinct word-finally.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j López-Morillas, Consuelo (2000). "Language". The literature of Al-Andalus. New York: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521471596.004. ISBN 9781139177870.
  2. ^ a b "Mozarabic language | Britannica". Retrieved 2023-06-04.
  3. ^ Morillas, Consuelo López (2000-08-31), Menocal, María Rosa; Scheindlin, Raymond P.; Sells, Michael (eds.), "Language", The Literature of Al-Andalus (1 ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 31–59, doi:10.1017/chol9780521471596.004, ISBN 978-0-521-47159-6, retrieved 2023-02-21, Romance speakers from all over the peninsula, had they been asked, would have identified their spoken tongue as ladino, certainly not as leonés, navarro, or any other variety. All shades of Hispano-Romance share many linguistic features; only Castilian was anomalous, and in its eventual expansion southward it ruptured a fundamental unity of speech. East, west, and south of Castile, in both Islamic and Christian lands, the most characteristic traits of HispanoRomance recur. Were it not for the historical accident of Castilian expansion, Spanish would sound very different today, and its contrasts with Portuguese and Catalan would stand out in less sharp relief... Andalusi Romance, virtually untouched by outside linguistic influences in the first centuries of its history, may have been doomed from the moment in 1085 when Alfonso VI and his Castilian troops entered Toledo. The dialect of Castile had been forged in the northern mountains, where Basque speakers had never been subjugated and the veneer of Latinization was thin, and many of its features were anomalous within Hispano-Romance. Yet Castile proved as vigorous and expansionist in language as it was in politics and arms. Like an advancing wedge, the kingdom and its language pressed into Arab-held territory. The neighboring kingdoms were also marching southward: Galicia moved down the Atlantic coast, conquering what was to become Portugal, and the Catalan speakers of the northeast expanded along the Mediterranean and across to the Balearic Islands. But Castile encroached on the territory to its west and east, gaining particularly at the expense of León and Navarre, so that the "wedge" soon became a bulge. Within it Castilian, once an isolated minor dialect, came to be the tongue of the whole central peninsula.
  4. ^ Wright 1982: 158
  5. ^ Wright 1982: 156, 158
  6. ^ a b Bulliet, Richard W. (1979-12-31). Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period. De Gruyter. doi:10.4159/harvard.9780674732810. ISBN 9780674732803. Cited in Morillas, Consuelo López (2000-08-31), Menocal, María Rosa; Scheindlin, Raymond P.; Sells, Michael (eds.), "Language", The Literature of Al-Andalus (1 ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 31–59, doi:10.1017/chol9780521471596.004, ISBN 978-0-521-47159-6, retrieved 2023-02-17
  7. ^ a b Morillas, Consuelo López (2000-08-31), Menocal, María Rosa; Scheindlin, Raymond P.; Sells, Michael (eds.), "Language", The Literature of Al-Andalus (1 ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 31–59, doi:10.1017/chol9780521471596.004, ISBN 978-0-521-47159-6, retrieved 2023-02-17
  8. ^ Francisco Marcos-Marín 2015
  9. ^ Gil 1973
  10. ^ Wright 1982: 161
  11. ^ Craddock 1980: 13–14
  12. ^ Craddock 1980: 15
  13. ^ a b Craddock 2002:588
  14. ^ a b Penny 2000:75–80
  15. ^ a b Galmés de Fuentes 1983:91–100
  16. ^ a b c Hanlon, David (15 February 2019). "Lenition in the mozarabic dialects: A reappraisal". Al-Qanṭara. 18 (1): 121–135. doi:10.3989/alqantara.1997.v18.i1.518. S2CID 160621620. Retrieved 31 July 2022.
  17. ^ Torreblanca, Máximo (1986). "Las oclusivas sordas hispanolatinas: El testimonio árabe". Anuario de Letras (in Spanish). 24: 5–26. doi:10.19130/iifl.adel.24.0.1986.1094 (inactive 31 January 2024).((cite journal)): CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of January 2024 (link)
  18. ^ Craddock 1980: 4–6
  19. ^ García Gómez 1965: 82–85
  20. ^ Jones 1988: 33


  • Corriente Córdoba, Federico & Sáenz-Badillos, Ángel. 1994. Nueva propuesta de lectura de las xarajât de la serie árabe con texto romance. Revista de filología española 73 (3–4). 283–289.
  • Craddock, Jerry R. 1980. The language of the Mozarabic jarchas. UC Berkeley: Research Center for Romance Studies.
  • Craddock, Jerry R. (2002). "Mozarabic Language". In Gerli, E. Michael; Armistead, Samuel G. (eds.). Medieval Iberia: An Encyclopedia. London: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781315161594. ISBN 978-0415939188. OCLC 50404104.
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