Published on

Published in: Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide


  1. 1. A SEMIOTIC APPROACH TO THREE SEPHARDIC SONGS By: Derya Fazıla Agiş Department of Translation and Interpreting Girne American University E-mail:, Abstract After the Spanish Jews –Sephardim- had been expelled from Spain, they were accepted to the Ottoman Empire. They brought their language, i.e. Judeo-Spanish and their culture to the Empire. Of course, some cultural elements of diverse lands owned by the Ottoman Empire entered into the songs of the Sephardim. Also, Greek, Turkish, Arabic, and Italian words can be found in the Judeo- Spanish language. In our study, we are going to analyze three Judeo-Spanish songs where rhyming sounds indicate a cultural element. We are going to observe the phonological characteristics of these symbolic sounds from an Optimality Theoretic perspective in the following Judeo-Spanish songs: 1) Pasharo d’Ermozura (Bird of Beauty) sung by Jak and Janet Esim and the Turkish Sephardic group Sefarad, 2) Morenika (Little Brown) sung by the same group Sefarad, and 3) Por Tu Puerta Yo Pasi (I Passed from Your Door), sung by Jak and Janet Esim. Spanish Jews inserted different metaphorical words and symbolic rhyming sounds to their songs, having lived in various lands for being Spanish and Turkish at the same time. Optimality Theory developed by the linguists Alan Prince and Paul Smolensky in 1993 provides us an excellent way for analyzing the symbolic sounds of musical multicultural pieces from a semiotic point of view.
  2. 2. Key Words: Sephardic Music, Semiotics, Optimality Theory, Sounds as Symbols 1. Introduction This study deals with three Judeo-Spanish Sephardic songs, and analyzes them within the framework of the Optimality Theory, developed by Prince and Smolensky (1993). Regarding the previous studies conducted on the sounds in the songs, using the Optimality Theory, we can cite the work of Fitzgerald (2002). According to Fitzgerald (2002), inversion is a factor leading to the rhythmic harmony of the song; the researcher gives the following example to the inversion, and suggests that the unattested line is this: “Cause he's gotta play my song”: Pop song inversion 1 (From Jennifer Lopez' song, "Play"): I could wait all night and day To go to a party, sit down and wait Give my request to the DJ Cause my song he's gotta play Fitzgerald (2002) argues that the unattested line represents better syntax without satisfying the rhyme scheme of the line, rhyme schemes are artistic devices, and this does not mean that “syntactic considerations can be subordinate to phonological considerations.” Moreover, Fitzgerald (2002) proposes that modeling syntactic inversions in OT (Optimality Theory) metrics consists of the following:
  3. 3. a. The use of prosodic constraints relevant to ambient language; b. The use of a verse-based constraint to mimic the effects of the Monosyllabic Word Constraint (Kiparsky 1975, 1977), in a rather strong version; and c. A generalized schema to represent the domination of syntactic constraints, SYNTAX. Besides, according to the researcher, a meter is a rhythmic organization of syllables, stress, tone, or quantity, or some combination of these qualities. In the researcher’s and our studies, W stands for weak or unstressed syllables, whereas S for strong or stressed syllables. In this study, we will use the following principles determining the optimality of the phonological qualities of the words that are used symbolically in three Sephardic Judeo- Spanish songs. *CLASH No sequence (xx) of adjacent stressed syllables. *LAPSE No sequences (…) of three adjacent stressless syllables. *W (MWC) Poetic constraint on the meter (a strong version of the Monosyllabic Word Constraint)
  4. 4. 1. 1. Aim This study aims at showing that the songs can be analyzed within the framework of the Optimality Theory for understanding their semiotic meanings. 1. 2. Hypothesis In this study, we hypothesize that Optimality Theory is a perfect method for interpreting the phonological qualities of the words of songs from a semiotic perspective. 2. Data Our data consist of three Sephardic songs: 1) Pasharo d’Ermozura (Bird of Beauty) sung by Jak and Janet Esim and the Turkish Sephardic group Sefarad, 2) Morenika (Little Brown) sung by the same group Sefarad, and 3) Por Tu Puerta Yo Pasi (I Passed from Your Door), sung by Jak and Janet Esim. 3. Method: Optimality Theory We can give this brief information regarding the development of Optimality Theory: Optimality Theory (OT) is a linguistic model originally proposed by the linguists Alan Prince and Paul Smolensky in 1993. OT has been expanded by John J. McCarthy and Alan Prince, beginning in 1993. Although much of the interest in OT has been associated with its use in phonology (the area to which OT was first applied), the theory is also applicable to other subfields of linguistics (e.g. syntax, semantics). Optimality theory is usually
  5. 5. considered a development of generative grammar, which shares its focus on the investigation of universal principles, linguistic typology and language acquisition. OT is often called a connectionist theory of language, because it has its roots in neural network research, though the relationship is now largely of historical interest. It arose in part as a successor to the theory of harmonic grammar, developed in 1990 by Géraldine Legendre, Yoshiro Miyata and Paul Smolensky. The main idea of OT is that the observed forms of language arise from the interaction between conflicting constraints. There are three basic components of the theory. GEN generates the list of possible outputs, or candidates, CON provides the criteria, violable constraints, used to decide between candidates, and EVAL chooses the optimal candidate. OT assumes that these components are universal. Differences in grammars reflect different rankings of the universal constraint set, CON. Language acquisition can be described as the process of adjusting the ranking of these constraints. Input and GEN: the candidate set OT supposes that there are no language-specific restrictions on the input. This is called richness of the base. Every grammar can handle every possible input. For example, a language without complex clusters must be able to deal with an input such as /flask/. Languages without complex clusters differ on how they will resolve this problem; some will epenthesize (e.g. /falasak/, or /falasaka/ if all codas are banned) and some will delete (e.g. /fas/, /fak/, /las/, /lak/). Given any input, GEN generates an infinite number of candidates, or possible realizations of that input. A language's grammar (its ranking of constraints) determines which of the infinite candidates will be assessed as optimal by EVAL. CON: the constraint set In OT, every constraint is universal. CON is the same in every language. There are two basic types of constraints. Faithfulness constraints require that the observed surface form (the output) match the underlying or lexical form (the input) in some particular way; that is, these constraints require identity between input and output forms. Markedness constraints impose requirements on the structural well-formedness of the output. Each plays a crucial role in the theory. Faithfulness constraints prevent every input from being realized as some unmarked form ([ba] for example), and markedness constraints motivate change.
  6. 6. The universal nature of CON makes some immediate predictions about language typology. If grammars differ only by having different rankings of CON, then the set of possible human languages is determined by the constraints that exist. OT predicts that there cannot be more grammars than there are permutations of the ranking of CON. The number of possible rankings is equal to the Factorial of the total number of constraints, thus giving rise to the term Factorial Typology. However, it may not be possible to distinguish all of these potential grammars, since not every constraint is guaranteed to have an observable effect in every language. Two languages could generate the same range of input-output mappings, but differ in the relative ranking of two very lowly-ranked constraints. EVAL: definition of Optimality Given two candidates, A and B, A is better than B on a constraint if A incurs fewer violations than B. Candidate A is better than B on an entire constraint hierarchy if A incurs fewer violations of the highest-ranked constraint distinguishing A and B. A is optimal in its candidate set if it is better on the constraint hierarchy than all other candidates. For example, given constraints C1, C2, and C3, where C1 dominates C2, which dominates C3 (C1 >> C2 >> C3), A is optimal if it does better than B on the highest ranking constraint which assigns them a different number of violations. If A and B tie on C1, but A does better than B on C2, A is optimal, even if A has 100 more violations of C3 than B. This comparison is often illustrated with a tableau. The pointing finger marks the optimal candidate, and each cell displays the number of violations for a given candidate and constraint. Once a candidate does worse than another candidate on the highest ranking constraint distinguishing them, it incurs a crucial violation (marked in the tableau by an exclamation mark). Once a candidate incurs a crucial violation, there is no way for it to be optimal, even if it outperforms the other candidates on the rest of CON (“Optimality Theory,” 2008). 4. Pasharo d’Ermozura (“Bird of Beauty”) At this point, we initiate our analyses with the song “Pasharo d’Ermozura,” (“Bird of Beauty”). Here are the words of the song:
  7. 7. Judeo-Spanish En una caza rika vide una hijika //de anyos era chika le declari l'amor.// -it is needed an unattested line representing better syntax, while not satisfying the rhyme scheme Sali delantre d'eya ermoza komo astreya //ya me sendiuo cont'eya sin tener piadad.// Un pasharo bolando mi korason yorando //el me dejo aspernado sin tener piadad.// - unattested line need English In a rich house I see a maiden young in age and I declared my love [to her]. I came before her, [she is]so beautiful like a star. I came sat [close] to her with out pity, A bird was flying while my heart was crying he left me there waiting he didn't have pity on me
  8. 8. MWC *CLASH *LAPSE SYNTAX En una caza rika W S W S W S W vide una hijika S W S W S W S vide una hijika en S W S W S W S S una caza rika S W S W S W *! * MWC *CLASH *LAPSE SYNTAX De anyos era chika S W S W S W S * Era chika de anyos W S W S S W S *! * MWC *CLASH *LAPSE SYNTAX Un pasharo bolando S W S W W S W mi korason yorando S W S W W S W //el me dejo S S S W aspernado W S S W sin tener piadad S W S S W W * * el me dejo S S S W aspernado S W W S sin tener piadad S W S S W W Un pasharo bolando *! * *
  9. 9. S S W W W S W mi korason yorando S W S W W S W Table 1. Optimality Theoretic Analyses on the Song “Pasharo d’Ermozura” As we can see from the stars that indicate violations, the best candidates are those used in the songs. A man sees a young beautiful lady, and falls in love with her. He wants to get closer to her, and he wishes that she stays with him forever without flying away like a bird. Optimality Theory helps us decipher the mystery in the sounds and phonological qualities employed in the song in which the syntactic word order is different from that usual one. 5. Morenika (“Little Brown”) This section is dedicated to the analysis of another Judeo-Spanish song entitled “Morenika” (“Little Brown”). Judeo-Spanish Morenika a mi yaman - unattested line need Yo blanka nasi I del sol de l'enverano - unattested line need Yo me ize ansi. Morenika grasiozika soz Morenika i grasiozika Kon ojos pretos (con mavromatia mou)
  10. 10. Desilde a la morena si querer venir La nave ya esta envela que va partir - unattested line need English Little brown they call me I was born white And because of the winter sun I became so.. Little brown and little beautiful you are Little brown and little beautiful with black eyes (con mavromatia mou) Ask it to the brown if she wants to come the ship that is going to leave It hiosts sail Below are the analyses belonging to the song from an Optimality Theoretic perspective; we see that although the syntactic order is the usual one, these sentences can violate some Optimality Constraints, affecting the meanings and semiotic aesthetics of songs:
  11. 11. MWC *CLASH *LAPSE SYNTAX Morenika a mi yaman W W S S S W S * * a mi yaman morenika S S W S W S W S *! * Yo blanka nasi S W S W S I del sol de l'enverano S S S S W W S W Yo me ize ansi S S W S W S *** Yo nasi blanka i yo S S W S W S me ize ansi del sol de l’enverano S S W S S S W S W S *! *** Morenika grasiozika soz S W S W W S S W S Morenika i grasiozika S W S W W S S W Kon ojos pretos S W S W S ** * La nave ya esta envela que va partir W S W S W S W S W S S W S * * La nave que va partir ya esta envela W S W W S W S S W S W S W *! * Soz morenika i S W S S S W S W S S grasiozika kon ojos pretos S W S W S *! **
  12. 12. Table 2. Optimality Theoretic Analyses on the Song “Morenika” The singer tries to express his love to a lady with a brown complexion and black eyes: through the metaphor of the ship, the singer alludes that he is going to start to live an affair with her, if she permits this love affair. The Judeo-Spanish diminutive –ika renders the sounds more rhythmic and harmonious. 5. Por Tu Puerta Yo Pasi (“I Passed from Your Door”) The Judeo-Spanish song entitled Por Tu Puerta Yo Pasi (“I passed from Your Door”) describes a lover who passes by the door of the loved one; he wants to show his love to the girl whom he loves. Judeo-Spanish Por la tu puerta yo pasi, Te vida asentada La llevadura y bezi Como bezarlas tus caras. - Unattested line need Aman, aman, gül pembe, gül pembe – unattested line need Ne bu güzellik sende – unattested line need
  13. 13. No te nieges que tu bezi, Te tengo y abrasado. Como 'I ducado en el sarraf – unattested line need Te te tengo culeanado Aman, aman... – unattested line need Ojos pretos tienes tu – unattested line need Por los mavis me muero. Cuando veyo los vedrolis – unattested line need Cavo foya y m'enterro. Aman, aman...- unattested line need English I passed by your door and found you sitting. I kissed the latch as though I were kissing your cheeks. O, o, pink rose, how beautiful you are. Do not repel me when I kiss you, I hold and embrace you. Like ducats in the coffer, I hold and keep you. O, o,o... You have black eyes, I die for blue. When I see green, I dig a hole and bury myself. O, o, o...
  14. 14. Below are the Optimality tables showing the perfection of the word orders preferred in the song: MWC *CLASH *LAPSE SYNTAX Por la tu puerta yo pasi S W S W S W S W S yo pasi por la tu puerta S W S S S S S W W *! ** Aman, aman, gül W S W S S SW S S W pembe, gül pembe Ne bu güzellik sende S S W S W W S ** Aman, aman, gül pembe, gül pembe; W S W S S SW S S W Nedir sendeki bu güzellik W S S W S S W W S *! ** Como 'I ducado en el sarraf, S W S W S W S S S W Te tengo culaneado S W S W S W S S ** * Te tengo culaneado S W S W S W S S Como 'I ducado en el sarraf S W S W S W S S S W *! **
  15. 15. Table 3. Optimality Theoretic Analyses on the Song “Por Tu Puerta Yo Pasi” The song is a play with some sounds used to reveal the love of the singer for the loved one. However, the singer is a woman chaser. Therefore, he loves not only black eyed woman, but also green and blue eyed women. As the last sentence of the song has a grammatical word order, we preferred not to analyze it with a diagram of Optimality Theory. However, as we see, the sounds are more crucial than the word order in the songs in the creation of rhythmic effects. These effects in the Sephardic songs demonstrate that Sephardim have lived in-between various cultures. Also, different eye colors symbolize this position of being in-between various people with different anthropological particularities. 6. Conclusion and Discussion Optimality Theory, i.e. OT is an excellent theory demonstrating the cultural influences in the formation of sounds and in the selection of words and the word order in the songs. The Turkish words in Sephardic songs, such as ‘gül pembe,’ (‘pink rose’) and ‘mavi’ (‘blue’), and the probability of using the Greek phrase ‘mavromatia mou’ that means ‘black eyes’ instead of the Spanish ones indicate that Sephardim have lived among people belonging to different cultures in different Ojos pretos tienes tu W S W S W S S S * Tu tienes ojos pretos S W S S W S W S *! * Por los mavis me muero S S W S S W W S * Me muero por los mavis S W S S S S W S *! **
  16. 16. countries, once forming the lands of the Ottoman Empire where they had been accepted without any discriminations after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Besides, the reverse word order in the Turkish sentences that results optimal due to the harmonious sound effects to which they lead can be used in Turkish. All of these linguistic plays prove the influence of language change as a result of being in-between various cultural groups speaking different languages, while these linguistic events are resulting in optimal sound effects in poetry and music. 7. References Fitzgerald, C. M. (June/26/2002). “Syntactic Inversions in English Meter: Implications for Optimality Theory.” Toulouse Conference on English Phonology, Toulouse, France. Optimality Theory. (February/21/2008). Retrieved April/10/2008 from Prince, A. & Smolensky, P. (1993). Optimality theory: constraint interaction in generative grammar. Rutgers University and University of Colorado, Boulder. DATA: Janet & Jak Esim: Mira, Istanbul, Global Music Company, 2003. Sefarad: Sefarad, Volumes 1 and 2, Istanbul, Doğan Music Company, 2003.