Juhuri: From the Caucasus to New York City

Borjian, Habib; Kaufman, Daniel

Juhuri is a dialect of the Tat language of the eastern Caucasus (specifically, Dagestan and Azerbaijan). Although Juhuri is dialectologically related to Persian, it is not mutually intelligible with any Persian dialect. The Juhuri speakers, called Mountain Jews, are estimated at around 200,000, most of whom have immigrated to Israel and the United States. The New York community is largely centered in Brooklyn around the Kavkazi Jewish Congregation. The language is still spoken by those born in the Caucasus, and is maintained in some families and some spheres of daily life. Many of these Mountain Jews are multilingual in Juhuri, Russian, Azerbaijani, Hebrew, and English. In this article, we situate the language within the context of the New York expatriate community and explore the role of Juhuri in relation to ethno-religious identity, language attitude, and functional domains. The data reported on here are based on interviews and a written survey. We conclude that although the odds are heavily stacked against the survival of Juhuri, there may be a critical mass of language activists who can turn the tide. The fate of the language in the twenty-first century will likely be decided in the next two decades.


Also Published In

International Journal of the Sociology of Language

More About This Work

Academic Units
Center for Iranian Studies
Published Here
March 1, 2018