Specula: Journal of Humanities and Spirituality





Abstract. To date, Five Judeo-Catalan epithalams are known to the scientific community. They are preserved in two manuscripts (Jerusalem, National University Library, ms. 8° 3312 and Oxford, Bodleian Library, ms. Lyell 98) dating back to the mid-15th century and coming from a Provençal Jewish milieu. Among these, a particular mention deserves piyyu? na’eh, a ‘festive song’ designed for the celebrations following the wedding ceremony. This song is a parody, with humorous tones and erotic allusions, which is presented in the form of a dialogue between the two spouses, an old man and a girl. The former does not want to consume love, given his age, but, at the insistence of his wife, he finally proposes to be replaced by a bold young man. The interest of this text concerns firstly the language, and secondly its literary form. As for the language, piyyu? na’eh is written in a Judeo-Catalan in which the Hebrew component is subtly intertwined with the Romance one. Hebrew terms are functional to arouse the laughter of the public: they are placed in a trivial context in which their original sacred meaning creates a strong and comic contrast. Some of the Hebrew terms have even changed their meaning, assuming a connotation, according to a phenomenon of semantic shift typical of Jewish Languages. For this reason, piyyu? na’eh is a precious, early witness of an almost unattested phase of spoken Judeo-Catalan. On a literary level, piyyu? na’eh is a highly refined text, whose ‘popular’ tones are obtained through a skilful use of ‘colloquial’ language, metrics, and the stereotypical depiction of the characters. In this article, I will deal in detail with the semantic analysis of the Hebrew component, deepening the various linguistic and / or stylistic categories into which the Hebrew words can be included. The aim is to show how this dynamic reproduces and exasperates, for comic purposes, daily linguistic practice of the Catalan Jews of that time, and therefore constitutes both a stylistic fact and a precious historical-linguistic testimony. Secondly, I will show that piyyu? na’eh was composed by a learned author who had both Hebrew and Romance literary sources at disposal. I will also propose a contextualization of this type of text in the context of the Pastorella literary genre, and ‘women’s song’, in which the female figure constitutes the occasion for the humorous skit and the justification for the use of a ‘mixed-language’ code.




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