Judeo-Spanish is a vanishing language with an estimated number of speakers believed to lie somewhere between 133,016 (Ethnologue, April 2019) and 400,000 (Hetzer 2004: 237), although the actual number of speakers could be as low as 11,000 (Harris 2011: 58) worldwide. One of the possible reasons for this wild fluctuation could be the fact that these figures are based on estimations rather than more specific linguistic criteria that define speakers’ exact language profiles. There are no studies in Istanbul today that document the exact number and profile of Judeo-Spanish speakers. Today, there are fewer than 17,000 Sephardic Jews estimated to live in Turkey, which nevertheless represents the largest Sephardic community in Europe. The centre of Jewish life is in Istanbul, but there is also a significant Jewish population in Izmir as well as other small Jewish communities in Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Çanakkale, Iskenderun, and Kırklareli. As such, Turkey is the country in which Sephardic culture and language remain at their most prevalent, although the immigration to Israel is experiencing historical highs, with around 500 applications in both 2017 and 2018.

More to document than expected 

Today, there are no recorded monolingual speakers of Judeo-Spanish and those whose command of the language is considered excellent are all over the age of 60 (cf. Harris 2011: 52). The birth date of the last remaining native speakers recorded in this project is around 1945...