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Extinctby the Late Middle Ages
Language codes
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Mozarabic, also called Andalusi Romance, refers to the medieval Romance varieties spoken in the Iberian Peninsula in territories controlled by the Islamic Emirate of Córdoba and its successors. They were the common tongue for the majority of the population in Muslim Iberia initially; however, over time, these varieties receded in front of Andalusi Arabic in Al-Andalus, and, as the Reconquista progressed, merged with Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese in the Christian kingdoms. There is at least one area of Southern Iberia, the Emirate of Granada, where Mozarabic is thought to have disappeared altogether before the Christian conquest. The final disappearance of these varieties dates to around the thirteenth century.[1][page needed]


Although Mozarabic is today used as an umbrella term for any Romance variety spoken in medieval Al-Andalus--whether in modern day Portugal[2] or Spain[3]--its speakers would not have referred to it that way.[4] They instead called it Latinus (and derivatives thereof), that is to say Latin, the name also used by Romance speakers in northern Iberia and elsewhere to describe their vernaculars. Arab writers as well referred to Mozarabic as al-Lathin?, as there was not a clear distinction between Latin and Romance at that time.[5] (They would also call it al-ajamiya, meaning 'strange, foreign'.) Latinus survives in the name Ladino, which in early medieval Spain was used to refer to Romance in general; it later developed the specialized sense of Judeo-Spanish.[6] Latinus also survives in the name rumantsch-ladin used for the distant Romansh language of Engadin and in the name of the even more distant Ladin language, spoken in the South Tyrol province of northeastern Italy.

Mozarabic was also referred to as cristiano or loga cristiana (literally "the Christian language"), as it was the mother tongue of the Christian population[]; it came to be called mozárabe by nineteenth-century Spanish scholars who studied medieval Al-Andalus. The term was borrowed from Andalusi Arabic musta'rab (Classical Arabic musta'rib), which means 'arabizing' or 'adopting the ways of the Arabs', referring to the assimilation of the native population into Arabic culture.


Other than the obvious Arabic influence, and remnants of a pre-Roman substratum, early Mozarabic may also have been affected by African Romance, 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.[7][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.[]

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.[]

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.[]


Because Mozarabic was not a language of higher culture, such as Latin or Arabic, it had no standard writing-system. Numerous Latin documents written by early Mozarabs are, however, extant.[8]

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.[9] 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:[10]

  • Arabic script:
    • did not reliably indicate vowels
    • relied on diacritical points, quite often lost or distorted when copying manuscripts, to distinguish the following series of consonants: b-t-?-n-y;[a] ?-?-?; d-?; r-z; s-s?; ?-?; ?-?; '-?; f-q; and h-a (word-finally)
    • rendered the following consonants in similar ways: r-w-d, ?; '-l-k (word-initially); ', ?-f, q-m (word-initially and medially); n-y (word-finally)
    • had no specific means to indicate the following Romance sounds: /p, v (?), ts, dz, s?, z?, t?, ?, ?, e, o/
  • Hebrew script:
    • also did not reliably indicate vowels
    • rendered the following consonants in similar ways: r-d; g-n; y-w; k-f; s-m (word-finally)

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.[11]

Phonological features

It is widely agreed that Mozarabic had the following features:[12]

  • The diphthongs /au?, ai?/, the latter possibly changed to /ei?/
  • Diphthongization of stressed Latin /?, ?/[13]
  • Palatalization and affrication of Latin /k/ before front vowels to /t?/
  • Retention of Latin /j/ before front vowels
  • Shift of the feminine plural /-as/ to /-es/[13]

The following two features remain a matter of debate, largely due to the ambiguity of the Arabic script:[12][14][15]

  • Lenition of intervocalic Latin /p t k s/ to /b d ? z/
    • Much of the controversy over the voicing of Latin /p t k/ has centered on the Arabic letters Q?f and , which in fact had both voiced and voiceless pronunciations in different varieties of Arabic. It is likely that both pronunciations were found in the Iberian Peninsula.[15]
    • Ramón Menéndez Pidal has shown (sporadic) evidence of voicing in Latin inscriptions from the south of the Iberian Peninsula in the second century AD.[15]
    • There are a few cases of Latin /t k/ being represented with indisputably voiced consonants in Arabic, like , , and .[14][16]
  • Palatalization of Latin /nn, ll/ to /?, ?/

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.[17]

Transcription Interpretation Translation
ky fr'yw 'w ky s?yr'd dmyby
nwn ty?wlgs? dmyby

ke farayo aw ke s?erad de mibe,
non te twelgas? 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:[18]

Transcription Interpretation Translation
mw s?d? 'ibr?h?m
y' nw'mn dl?
f'nt myb
d?y njt
in nwn s? nwn k'rs?
yrym tyb
grmy 'wb
Mew s?d? 'Ibr?h?m,
y? nu?mne dolz?e,
f?n-te m?b
d? nojte.
In n?n, si n?n k?rís?,
yir?-me t?b
--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' transcription of it, with vowels inserted and uncertain readings italicized.[19] Note the discrepancies.

Transcription Possible Emendations
f?n s?di ibr?h?m
y? nw?mni dalji
f?nta m?b
d nuxti
in n?n s?i-n?n k?ris?
f/b?r?m? t?b
gar m? <a> ?b
m? s?di ibr?h?m
f-?r?m? t?b
gari mi ?b

See also


  1. ^ N and y were, however, distinct word-finally.


  1. ^ [Gómez-Ruiz, R. (2014). Mozarabs, Hispanics and Cross. Orbis Books.]
  2. ^ Oliveira Marques, A. H. de (October 15, 1972). History of Portugal, Volume I: From Lusitania to Empire. Columbia University Press. pp. 11-12. ISBN 978-0231031592.
  3. ^ Leguay, Oliveira Marques, Rocha Beirante. Portugal das invasões germânicas à "reconquista". Editorial Presença, 1993. pg 209
  4. ^ Hitchcock 1978 apud Wright 1982: 151
  5. ^ Wright 1982: 156, 158
  6. ^ Wright 1982: 158
  7. ^ Francisco Marcos-Marín 2015
  8. ^ Gil 1973
  9. ^ Wright 1982: 161
  10. ^ Craddock 1980: 13-14
  11. ^ Craddock 1980: 15
  12. ^ a b Craddock 2002:588
  13. ^ a b Penny 2000:75-80
  14. ^ a b Galmés de Fuentes 1983:91-100
  15. ^ a b c Hanlon, David (15 February 2019). "Lenition in the mozarabic dialects: A reappraisal". Al-Qan?ara. 18 (1): 121-135. doi:10.3989/alqantara.1997.v18.i1.518. S2CID 160621620. Retrieved 2022.
  16. ^ 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 2022-11-29).{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of November 2022 (link)
  17. ^ Craddock 1980: 4-6
  18. ^ García Gómez 1965: 82-85
  19. ^ 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.
  • Galmés de Fuentes, Alvaro (1983). Dialectología mozárabe. Madrid: Gredos. ISBN 978-8424909161.
  • García Gómez, Emilio. 1965. Las jarchas romances de la serie árabe en su marco. Madrid: Sociedad de Estudios y Publicaciones.
  • Gil, Juan. 1973. Corpus scriptorum muzarabicorum. 2 vols. Madrid: CSIC.
  • Jones, Alan. 1988. Romance kharjas in Andalusian Arabic muwaa? poetry. London: Ithaca Press.
  • Marcos-Marín, Francisco A. 1998. Romance andalusí y mozárabe: Dos términos no sinónimos. In Andrés Suárez, Irene & López Molina, Luis (eds.), Estudios de Lingüística y Filología Españolas: Homenaje a Germán Colón. 335-341. Madrid: Gredos.
  • Marcos Marín, Francisco. 2015. Notas sobre los bereberes, el afrorrománico y el romance andalusí. Hesperia: Culturas del Mediterráneo 19. 203-222.
  • Menéndez Pidal, Ramón. 2005. Historia de la lengua española. 2 vols. Madrid: Fundación Ramón Menendez Pidal. ISBN 84-89934-11-8
  • Penny, Ralph J. (2000). Variation and change in Spanish. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139164566. ISBN 0521780454. Retrieved 2022.
  • Wright, Roger. 1982. Late Latin and Early Romance in Spain and Carolingian France. Liverpool: Francis Cairns. ISBN 0-905205-12-X

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