Judeo-Spanish--also known as Ladino--mixes 16th-century Spanish, Hebrew, Turkish and other languages.

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The best-known and most widely translated JS work of the post exilic period is the Me'am Lo'ez (1730), which was begun by Yaacov Khuli and continued over a long period, in series form, by a number of different authors writing under the same title. A midrashic work, the Me'am Lo'ez is structured mainly on the Pentateuch and spans the sources of Jewish thought. The beginning of the 19th century saw the growth of a secular literature, which was popular, for the most part, and included a sizable corpus of original compositions such as novels, short stories, plays, and popular histories as well as adaptations of major European novels of the period, where the impact of French on JS is significantly felt. This is also observed in the JS press which began to flourish in the eastern Mediterranean at the same time; only a small number of newspapers continue to appear today.

There can be no doubt, therefore, as to the slow disappearance of JS as a spoken language. Traditional linguistic registers are gradually being overtaken by those of the co-territorial languages, and the language is no longer transmitted to succeeding generations in the normal manner.

Today, only small clusters of native speakers, usually of an advanced age, are to be found scattered around the globe. However, although the spoken language may have been the principal vehicle for the transmission of JS culture up to now, as the language "dies," more and more people seem to be taking to the pen in order to write in and about it.

At first sight this may appear paradoxical. However, a spoken language looks partly to the written word for conservation, and this becomes, in turn, a different vehicle for the transmission of a culture and guards against its annihilation.

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Dr. Isaac Benabu is a professor in the Institute of Languages, Literature and Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.