The Languages of Jerusalem

Synopsis

The Old City of Jerusalem, small and densely populated, is a complex microcosm of Israeli society. It is a multilingual community characterized by unequal power relations between the speakers of the two official languages of Israel--Arabs and Jews. The authors begin with a sociolinguistic sketch of the Old City in the present day. They then provide a historical background to their field study, discussing Jewish multilingualism from the period of the Second Temple until modern times, the sociolinguistics of revival and spread of Hebrew. They go on to develop a model of the rules of language choice which arises from their social context. The authors demonstrate that, because of the close association between language use and social structure, the study of language use in a multilingual society is at the same time both powerful and delicate method of studying the dynamics of group interactions.