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Moroccan Arabic and Jewish‑Arabic in Hebrew as Spoken by Israelis of Moroccan Origin: The Case of the TV Show Zaguri Imperya

Arabe marocain et judéo‑marocain dans l’hébreu parlé par les Israéliens d’origine marocaine : le cas de la série télé Zaguri Imperya
ערבית-מרוקאית ומרוקאית-יהודית בעברית המדוברת בפי ישראלים ממוצא מרוקאי: המקרה של הסדרה ״זגורי אימפריה״
Jonas Sibony
p. 131-148


Cette étude discute de l’influence de l’arabe marocain sur l’hébreu tel qu’il est parlé par les personnages de la série télé israélienne Zaguri Imperya. La série a été créée par Maor Zaguri et diffusée pour la première fois en 2014. Elle se déroule dans la ville de Beersheba, dans un quartier majoritairement habité par des Israéliens d’origine marocaine. Les personnages de la série s’expriment dans la variété d’hébreu des périphéries sociales, économiques et géographiques d’Israël. Ce sociolecte (appelé périphérique, oriental ou mizrahi) a historiquement été influencé par l’arabe marocain, comme il l’a été par les langues des autres nouveaux arrivants. Mais puisque la communauté marocaine a vraisemblablement été la plus importante de ces « périphéries », l’arabe marocain a des chances d’être le plus important substrat pour cette variété d’hébreu moderne. Zaguri Imperya est une fiction dont l’un des principaux aspects est de traiter des questions de « marocanité » dans la société israélienne et plus précisément dans ces quartiers. En ce sens, ces spécificités culturelles sont probablement artificiellement accentuées.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 זגורי אימפריה : “The Zaguri Empire”.
  • 2 Maor Mimun Zaguri, born in 1981 in Beersheva, is an Israeli director, playwright, screenwriter, ac (...)
  • 3 The parents Albert and Viviane, the sons Aviel, Eviatar, Avi, Avishai and Avir, the daughters Miri (...)

1Zaguri Imperya1 is an Israeli TV show created by Maor Zaguri2. It was broadcast for the first time in 2014 on the Israeli channel HOT 3. It aired for 2 seasons, comprising a total of 51 episodes. The show takes place in the Israeli city of Beersheba, in a neighborhood inhabited by a majority of Israelis of Moroccan origin. The main characters are the members of a Moroccan family; the Zaguri family3, consisting of the parents and their eight children, five boys and three girls, almost all of them adults and still living at their parent’s house.

  • 4 Henshke, 2017.
  • 5 Henshke, 2017 uses the expression “Hebrew of Israel’s Periphery.”
  • 6 Henkin, 2011, p. 75.

2The variety of Modern Hebrew found in the show is quite to be considered as part of a wider sociolect, which is difficult to categorize or to find a proper name to call it. One of the common names is Mizrahi Hebrew (i.e. Oriental Hebrew), that has the drawback of being a cultural only, or even an ethnic criterion. Yehudit Henshke has discussed the denomination of this sociolect and decided, for a series of reasons, to call it Traditional‑Mizrahi Hebrew.4 In this study, I’ll use the name Peripheral Hebrew5 since it has the benefit of targeting the social and/or the geographical criterion. Roni Henkin, when addressing the issue of the waves of immigrations from North‑Africa recalls that: “The newly arrived maghrabis, especially the Moroccans, the largest ʿed (community/group of single origin) in Israel were relegated to the geographical, economical, and social peripheries where, caught in a vicious circle, they remained for decades.”6 Peripheral Hebrew has to be considered as the language of those “geographical, economical, and social peripheries” of the state of Israel. And indeed, because of the origins of a significant part of the inhabitants of those neighborhoods: Moroccan Arabic (MA) appears to have been a quite influential substrate for that variety of Israeli Hebrew (IH).

3This influence of MA is actually the main topic of this study. The case of Zaguri Imperya has to be treated carefully. It’s a fictional TV show basically dealing with the subject of Moroccan Israelis’ culture. As a fiction, it gives more clues about the representations of this phenomenon than about the phenomenon itself. But on the other hand, it shows a concentrate of examples, and that’s why it’s at the same time especially rich and obviously exaggerated in terms of demonstrative social behaviors and linguistic specificities. Moreover, this article focuses on the first episode of the show only, the pilot of the series.7 Even more because of that, one has to keep in mind that some elements could be emphasized or even voluntarily highlighted.

4This study discusses some specificities in the variety of Israeli Hebrew spoken by the characters of the show, resulting from the influence of MA.

Short Bilingual Expressions

5The following are two first examples, among others, of how the characters of the show can mix the two languages together.



xaʁama al a-yeled! (!حرام על הילד)b

“Shame on the kid!”

a. /x/ represents here the voiceless uvular fricative and /ʁ/ the voiced uvular fricative.
b. The Arabic dialects of the Jews are usually and were historically transcribed with Hebrew script. I will note it here with the Arabic script, in order to illustrate the alternation between the two languages.
  • 8 Henkin, 2011, p. 75, reminds that the Moroccan community is the largest group.

6In terms of pronunciation,8 Viviane, the mother of the Zaguri family uses a thick Israeli accent: xaʁam for MA ḥṛām, losing the pharyngeal /ḥ/ for the uvular /x/ and rolled (and pharyngealized) /ṛ/ for the uvular /ʁ/. At first sight, the first part of the sentence xaʁam is in MA and the second one al a-yeled in IH. But the preposition used for “on” is actually between the two languages. It is, as a matter of fact, the proper preposition which must come next ḥṛām in MA as inflected for example in ḥṛām ˁălī‑k [shame on you] or ḥṛām ˁălī‑h [shame on him]. Even if the structure of the MA formula is preserved: ḥṛām + preposition ˁl [on], the word itself is actually the Hebrew form of the cognate preposition: MA ˁlā > IH al (*ˁal). The second part al a‑yeled is certainly completely in Hebrew, but the choice of the preposition echoes the MA expression.



šuf ze! (شوف זה)

“Look at that”

7The first word of the expression is in MA. It is the imperative form of the verb šaf/išūf [to look]. The second one is the IH demonstrative.

Moroccan or Palestinian words?

  • 9 Henkin, 2011, p. 75 reminds that the Moroccan community is the largest group.

8One of the main difficulties of this research is to separate the MA loanwords from the Palestinian ones. In practice, some of the Arabic words used in IH could be borrowed from lots of other varieties of Arabic, but borrowings from Iraqi or Libyan Arabic are more unlikely considering the smallest number of speakers in contact with IH.9 In Peripheral IH, and even more in Moroccan families such as the Zaguri family of the show, the convincing options are most often MA or Palestinian Arabic (PA). Even if it is sometimes complicated, it’s often possible to determine where the word is from.

9An additional complicating factor is that the speakers themselves don’t always know for sure if a word they are using is MA or not. Moreover, some PA words are specifically used among the Moroccan community as part of a social or sociolinguistic identity, this overuse being conscious or not. An important part of those Moroccans being today IH monolingual speakers, they don’t have the tools to determine if those words are in use in the dialects of their parents or not.

  • 10 Ibid., p. 68.

10In this study, I got rid of words like falafel or yalla, used in the show but also by any speaker of IH, not specifically speakers of Peripheral IH. Besides, for those ones usually, the speakers themselves are usually aware it’s PA.10 I kept here only the words for which a discussion can take place.

خلاص, “enough!”, MA or PA?



omrim le-xa xalas aval! (!אומרים לך خلاص אבל)

“But we’re telling you that’s enough!”

11Standard Arabic *xalā, خلاص “enough!”, does exist in PA and in MA but definitely not with this syllabic structure in MA where it is usually pronounced xā. For the pronunciation used here: xalas, with two vowels and no emphasis, several options can be put forward. The word could come from the PA cognate xalā, with simple loss of emphasis > xalas. Or it could come from the MA version xā with an adaptation of the IH syllabic structure associated with vowel balancing. Finally, it could result from the convergence of both.

مضروب, “hit, crazy, stupid”, MA or PA?



kul-am madʁubim! (!כולם مضروب-ים)

“They’re all “crazy”!”



ma ze madʁubim? (?מה זה مضروب-ים)

“What does “madʁub” means?”



ulay aya madʁub k-še-u katav et ze?

(?אולי היה مضروب כשהוא כתב את זה)

“Maybe he was ‘out of his mind’ when he wrote that?”



yā məḍṛōb! (!يا مضروب)

“You ‘stupid’!”

12Madʁub and ḍṛōb are two variants of Standard Arabic *marūb, which is the passive participle of the verb araba [to hit]. A clear difference can be made between PA and MA passive participles of form I faˁala:

Standard Arabic

Palestinian Arabic

Moroccan Arabic
məC1C2ōC3 / məC1C2ūC3a

a. In MA, depending on the speakers and on the words, this past participle can be found as məC1C2ōC3 or məC1C2ūC3. Henshke, 2013, p. 221 notes for Peripheral IH the feminine form medruba with vowel /u/.

13If ḍṛōb, the word used by Albert, is clearly the Moroccan word itself, pronounced as it is in MA, the case of madʁub needs to be discussed.

  • 11 About the shift of the first vowel /ə/‑/a/, see Henshke, 2013, p. 215.
  • 12 *ˁūl, פָּעוּל, *mupˁāl, מֻפְעָל and *məpuˁˁal, מְפֻעַּל.
  • 13 Henshke, 2013, p. 215; Henkin, 2011, pp. 70, 73. Henkin quotes maC1C2ūC3 examples and adds that th (...)

14The word *marūb could have reached IH from various ways, with possible multiple concordant origins and trajectories, leading to the pronunciation madʁub. In this version of the word, the pronunciation of the consonants is characteristic of IH: /ḍ/ cannot be pharyngealized as it is in Arabic and then turns to /d/, which is available in IH; /r/ is not rolled and turns to the uvular /ʁ/, which is precisely how historical Hebrew /r/ has evolved too: Ancient Hebrew /r/ > IH /ʁ/. Thus, both consonantal evolutions are regular and quite expected. But the vowel distribution /a/‑/u/ is very different from what is found in MA, i.e. /ə/‑/o/.11 This contrast could indicate that the word is not derived from it. But it could be more complicated too. First, the speakers could have borrowed it as ḍṛōb and then adapted the vowels to /a/ and /u/ which is at the same time what is available in IH and reflecting the vowels of the Hebrew past participles C1aC2uC3, maC1C2uC3 or meC1uC2aC3.12 However, an influence of the PA stem maC1C2ūC3 is very likely too. PA words from that stem, such as maṣṭūl, maǧnūn, maˁrūf, mabrūk or the name Mamūd, are attested in IH.13

15Consequently, the word madʁub could be an intern adaptation of MA ḍṛōb but a direct origin of PA marūb cannot be entirely dismissed either. And finally, a mix of those solutions, i.e. from one of the two varieties of Arabic but strengthened by the other, is possible too.

Use of common MA words and short expressions

الله يستر, MA llāh istə!, “May God protect!”



lla isteʁ! (!الله يستر)

“May God protect!”

16Ḷḷāh istə is a very common expression in Morocco and is still widely used among Moroccans of the diaspora, in France, Belgium or Israel. The MA verb stə/istə means “to cover, to protect.” Miriam, the older sister of the Zaguri family pronounces it with the same adaptation discussed above: /r/ (or /ṛ/) > /ʁ/. In addition, the vowel /ə/ turns to /e/: istə becomes isteʁ.

شوفوني, MA šūfū-nī! “look at me!”



tamid ahav šufuni! (!תמיד אהב شوفوني)

“He always liked being in the spotlight!”

  • 14 Rosenthal, 2005, p. 363 lists both šufuni, שׁוּפוּנִי and šufuni ya nas, שׁוּפוּנִי יָא נָאס as attested (...)

17The expression šūfū‑nī, plural imperative form of MA šāf/išūf [to see] with suffixed personal pronoun [me]: “look at me” is actually common IH slang today and often considered a single word: šufuni. In MA, šūfū‑nī can be used with its normal verbal and lexical meaning “look at me!” or as it is here, as an expression meaning “a show‑off.” Although it’s usually considered short for šūfū‑nī yā nās [look at me you people!].14

18The Moroccan source of both expressions lla isteʁ and šufuni is usually known or assumed by speakers of Moroccan origins, which probably explains their use in the show. Nevertheless, both have spread beyond this group and are synchronically speaking of common use nowadays among Standard IH speakers, with no specific identification of any Moroccan aspect.

بالزعط, MA b-ə-ăˁṭ!, “Come on!, I don’t care!”



bzzaˁṭ! (!بالزعط)

“So what! Come on! Who cares! Why not? Ok…”

  • 15 Premare, 1999 (4), pp. 329‑330.

19b‑əăˁṭ is an exclamation, almost an interjection, that used to be very popular in Morocco especially among children. The word ăˁṭ always comes with the preposition b and the definite article ə‑. The Premare Moroccan‑French dictionary suggests that its first meaning could be “squeak,” and more specifically refereeing to the sound of the leather of a babouche as in the expressions hād əl‑bəlġa kā‑tˁăyyə b‑əăˁṭ [this pair of babouches squeaks > this is a new pair]. MA has a past participle too: mzăˁṭə for “someone who doesn’t respect anyone or anything.”15

20The meaning “so what, who cares…” is to understand as figurative. It is actually the only use attested in IH.

“Sequences” entirely in MA

21Some sentences (or sequences) of the episode are entirely in MA. Actually, these sentences are always said by Albert, the father of the family. Not only the character is, in the show, described as a fluent speaker of MA (unlike the children), but the actor playing him (i.e. Moshe Ivgi16) is one of the few seemingly real fluent speaker of MA. With those sentences only, MA is fully translated in the subtitles, indicating they are considered sequences of a foreign language and not part of the Peripheral IH sociolect any longer.



ēl l-bāb tā ş-ad şi! (!حلّ الباب ترا اش هاد الشي)

“Open the door and see who that is!”

  • 17 Lévy, 2009, p. 189.
  • 18 Ibid., p. 226.

22The composition of this sentence seems to reflect the will to put forward some specificities of the Jewish MA dialects. First, the pronunciation /ş/ for /š/ is a well‑known feature of those dialects, that usually lack the paleo‑alveolar fricative consonants /š/ and /ž/.17 They merged with the corresponding alveolar consonants /s/ and /z/ and are often produced with a lisp, noted here /ş/ and /ȥ/. Secondly, the choice of the verb ā [to see] is substantial too. This verb, largely absent in the Muslim MA dialects, is usually considered as the Jewish equivalent of Muslim šāf [to see]. This is for example what illustrates the two expressions from the city of Fez for “May you not experience (see) misfortune” where Fassi Jews say ma ţā bāş but Muslims would rather say ma tšūf bās.18



ăd, ȥūȥ, tlǟta, əbˁa, xəmşa, şətta

(...واحد، زوج، تلاتة، ربعة، خمسة، ستّة)

“One, two, three, four, five, six…”

  • 19 Lévy, 2009, p. 190.
  • 20 Pereira, 2010, p. 224.

23Here again, the pronunciation is very noticeable and could be voluntarily stigmatized. Albert counts to six and says ȥūȥ for “two”. In Morocco, this pronunciation has a Jewish connotation, because of the specific lisp and the loss of the paleo‑alveolar consonant /ž/. The Muslim dialects have zūž, žuz or experience assimilation (or dissimilation) z‑ž leading to žūž.19 In other places, a form similar to ȥūȥ can be found in Muslim dialects, not because of a loss of the paleo‑alveolar consonants (as in the Jewish dialects) but resulting from a dissimilation/assimilation the other way round as for example in Tripoli (Libya): zōz.20



b-əş-şlāma ˁlī-k! (!بالسلامة عليك)

“May you be safe, goodbye!”

24Same specificity regarding the pronunciation /ş/.



ḷḷāh, əb ə-ərbūka! (!يا الله، ضرب الدربوكة)

“Come on, play (hit) the darbuka!”

  • 21 Lévy, 2009, pp. 224‑225.

25Here is seen another specificity of some Moroccan Jews’ Arabic dialects, less well‑known. Probably conditioned by liquid consonants as second radical, verbs that usually appear in MA on stem C1C2əC3 turn to C1əC2C3: gləs [to sit], rəž [to go out] or ḍṛəb [to hit] are produced gəls, ərz and əb in the Jewish dialects. Lévy21 shows that it is effective in all forms and tenses. He compares the conjugations of the Muslim and the Jewish dialects of Fez as seen in the imperative forms in the table below, which fit the sentence ḷḷāh, əb əərbūka:

Muslim Fez

Jewish Fez













The Aunt Masuda : pronunciation in IH, MA and hypercorrections

26Masuda (*Masˁūda) is Viviane’s aunt in the show. She’s the only character pronouncing IH the specific way Hebrew was pronounced in the Moroccan tradition:



po ȥe a-bayt şel Pinto a-adiq a-yaşar?

(?פה זה הבית של פינטו הצדיק הישר)

“Is here the house of Pinto the righteous and straight?”



hu kvar peger a-i? (?הוא כבר פגר אחי)

“Is my brother already a corpse?”

  • 22 Actually, this pronunciation is most probably influenced by Arabic.

27This is quite accurate. Indeed, the traditional Moroccan pronunciation did “maintain”22 some theoretical ancient pronunciations such as ח, /ḥ/, ק, /q/, צ, /ṣ/ and ר, /r/, as seen here in words adiq (Standard IH tsadik), peger (Standard IH pegeʁ) and ai (Standard IH axi). However, this traditional pronunciation was influenced as well by that of the Jewish dialects of MA. Therefore, just as in those dialects, /š/ turns to /s/ or /ş/, as in şel and yaşar (Standard IH šel and yašaʁ, theoretical Ancient Hebrew šel and yāšār).

28Yet, the actress playing Masuda (Dvora Kedar) is not an actual speaker of MA herself.23 The whole pronunciation being the result of a (re‑)construction for the role, some inaccuracies and inconsistencies appear sometimes, such as phonetical hypercorrections:



ma pitˁom? (?מה פתאום)

“What now? How come?”

29The word פתאום is usually pronounced pitom in IH. Masuda inserts an imaginary pharyngeal sound and produces pitˁom even though the theoretical form is pit’ōm. This indicates that the actress clearly worked to level her pronunciation and that she misjudged this word and overcorrected it by adding a guttural sound where it’s not supposed to be.

30Another inaccuracy is to be seen when Masuda employs a very well‑known Jewish MA curse:



itax l-o mȥal-o! (!يطيح له مزاله)

“May his mazal (fate/luck) fall down!”

  • 24 See Sibony, 2019b: the curse can still be heard nowadays in some non‑Jewish Arabic dialects.

31The curse uses the word mȥal, from Hebrew מזל *mazzāl, indicating that it is originally specifically Jewish.24 The pronunciation mȥal is typical of that of Moroccan Jews and is actually once more a demonstration of the confusion of the sibilant consonants in their dialects. If the sequence l‑o mȥal‑o is “properly” produced, in contrast, itax should be pronounced iē. The switch iē > itax reveals an Israeli phonetical reflex: loss of emphasis /ṭ/ > /t/ and switch from pharyngeal to uvular /ḥ/ > /x/.

Peripheral IH lexical creations and innovations

32The upcoming lexical creations are not innovations of the show but of Peripheral IH.

33In the episode, Viviane comments her dying father’s condition and says:



a-matsav šel-o fsaʁa! (!המצב שלו فالصارة)

“His condition is fsaʁa!”

  • 25 Bahat, 2001, p. 385.

34Moroccan Israelis usually think fsaʁa is a word in Standard MA meaning “bad situation.” But it’s actually built on the Hebrew word ārâ צרה (IH tsaʁa) and consequently only occurs in the Jewish dialects of MA. The Moroccan pronunciation of the word āa is close to the theoretical ancient one ārâ but very different from the IH one tsaʁa, which makes it quite difficult to identify as doubloon. Moreover, since a majority of speakers of Peripheral IH don’t speak MA, or at least, not as a fluent language, they usually don’t have the tools to understand that the f of fsaʁa is retrospectively a preposition and think it is part of the word. Originally, f‑ is the MA preposition meaning “in, with” and does correspond to Standard Arabic , في. In the Jewish dialects of MA, the word can be used without the preposition or detached from it: nā f‑wād āa kbīra [we are in a very bad situation], as well as with the preposition, i.e. the way it was borrowed in IH: howa f‑āa [he has problems, he is in a bad situation].25 Actually, just like the IH word can be used: hu be-tsaʁa, הוא בצרה.

35Today, people say afsaʁa [the bad situation], eze fsaʁa [what a bad situation] or even afsaʁa še‑ba‑fsaʁa [the worst situation ever!].26

36In summary, the word צרה has made it twice from Ancient to IH:

Ancient Hebrew

Moroccan Arabic

Modern Hebrew

ārâ צרה

f--āa פ֗צצרה

fsaʁa פסרה

ārâ צרה

tsaʁa צרה

37The last word I’ll comment on this study is a verb used in the episode but who first appeared on Israeli television in 2009 and who drew at that time a great number of comments in the online press.27 In the Israeli reality game show האח הגדול, ha/a‑ax a‑gadol (Big Brother), season 228 episode 2,29 a young candidate, Maayan Buzaglo‑Hodeda30 was interviewed during the game by the “Big Brother”:



ani xoševet še-a-šavua a-ze ani etgažder al a-xaim šel-i!

(!אני חושבת שהשבוע הזה אני אתגז׳דר על החיים שלי)

“I think this week I will hitgažder on my life!”


a-Ax a-gadol

ma taasi Maayan?

(?מה תעשי מעיין)

“What will you do Maayan?”



ani etgažder al a-xaim šel-i!

(!אני אתגז׳דר על החיים שלי)

“I will hitgažder on my life!”


A-ax a-gadol

a-ax a-gadol lo mevin a-…

(...האח הגדול לא מבין ה)

“Big Brother does not understand the…”



tilmad marokait, tavin!

(!תלמד מרוקאית, תבין)

“Learn Moroccan, you will understand!”

38Since then, the word seems to have been considered as symbolic of the Hebrew as spoken by Israelis of Moroccan origins. And indeed, the first episode of Zaguri Imperya uses it three times:



matayim šekel še-a-doda me-Ako i me-a-megažderot a-kašot!

(!מאתיים שקל שהדודה מעכו היא מהמגז׳דרות הקשות)

“200 shekels that the aunt from Acre is a tough megažderet!”



at rotsa legažder? gəžderi ba-bayt šel-ax!

(!את רוצה לגז׳דר? גז׳דרי בבית שלך)

“You want to gižder? gižder in your own house!

39In Peripheral IH, the verb gižder or its pseudo‑reflexive counterpart hitgažder means most of the time “to bemoan one’s fate, to lament.”

  • 31 Nait-Zerrad, 2002 (3), p. 755.

40The verb, perfectly integrated to the Hebrew verbal morphology, comes at first from a Berber language, although it’s complicated to determine which one. In the Berber languages, the word appears with various shapes: agəždur (Shilha), aždur (Central Morocco), ayəždur (Beni Iznacen), ayəžur (Central Algeria), aǧəždur/ayeždor (Riffian), agəždur (Kabyle).31 These words mean “laments” and more specifically refer to the screams, shouts and tears of women during a funeral, scratching their faces and tearing their clothes. In Shilha, as well as in other varieties, it comes with a verb gəždər, meaning “to do Agejdur, to lament.” Regarding the shape and the locations, the Shilha word is probably the one who was borrowed in MA. The word was largely used in the Jewish dialects as in the expression:

  • 32 In Hebrew script : די צפ֗א לו מאלו, גזדרו לו.
  • 33 Brunot & Malka, 1939, p. 189.

di fā-lo māl-o, gəzdrō-lo! (!ذي صفا له ماله، گجدروا له32), “that who has lost his fortune, lacerate your face for him as a sign of mourning!”33

  • 34 Premare, 1999 (10), p. 691.

41However in Morocco, the first meaning of the verb “to scratch/scar one’s face as a sign of mourning” is outdated today, as well as the figurative meaning “to lament.” Actually, a semantic shift has occurred from “to lament” to “to damage.”34 And from there, the verb is still in use but means “to do wrong, to rush, to not pay attention” as in the sentences:

  • 35 Ibid.

aš kā-tgəždər? (اش كتگجدر؟), “What the hell are you doing?”;
ˁănd-i ma ngəždər bī-h!35 (!ما عندي ما نگجدر به), “I don’t care about him!”;
sīr tgəždər! (!سير تگجدر), “Go away! Fuck off!”.

42In some contexts, the old meaning is nonetheless preserved:

ngəždər ˁlā yām-i! (نگجدر على ايامي), “I complain, I cry on my past (I feel nostalgic but I know it’s useless)”, literally “I complain on my days”.

43That last expression is actually very close to the shape of Maayan’s complaint from the Israeli Big Brother: ani etgažder al a-xaim šel-i!, [I’ll lament/complain on my life!].

  • 36 Vicente, 2010, p. 148.
  • 37 Henshke, 2013, p. 217.

44The Jewish dialects of MA did already show archaic features in the 50’s and that before the immigration waves to Israel. They’re usually described as showing archaic syntactic structures belonging to earlier stages of the language than other MA dialects,36 due to the particular history of the Jewish communities; mainly migration and social isolation. In addition, the Jewish speakers almost completely lost contact with the evolution of the language in Morocco, that is to say with Standard MA. In this context, in the Jewish dialects of MA, the verb gəždər/ȥdər/zdər preserved one of the ancient meanings “to cry during a funeral, to do ageždur.” And that’s probably with that meaning it first entered IH. Henshke mentions a noun gejdor in IH with meaning “mourning, scoring the face with fingernails” alongside the verb legajdeʁ [to lament].37 And that’s indeed usually how the verb is used today in Israel’s peripheries, as in this sentence heard in another reality show:

kol a-yom baxit ve-giždar-t al a-xaim šel-ax!38 (כל היום בכית וגז׳רת על החיים שלך), “You’ve been crying and complaining about your life the whole day!”

45Lately, in an online post on Facebook from 2018, the official Israeli Big Brother Group used the expression:

atem omdim legajder mi-tsxok!39 (!אתם עומדים לגז׳דר מצחוק), “You’ll get hysterical with laughter!”

46Back to Zaguri Imperya, the verb seems to be used in the show with its original Berber meaning “to do Agejdur.” Yet, it is usually not used that way in IH (apart maybe from real bilingual speakers that would transfer the ancient MA meaning). Such a use seems artificial, although it’s difficult to assert. Let’s look at the two sentences from the show again:



matayim šekel še-a-doda me-Ako i me-a-megažderot a-kašot!

(!מאתיים שקל שהדודה מעכו היא מהמגז׳דרות הקשות)

“200 shekels that the aunt from Acre is a tough megažderet!”



at rotsa legažder? gəžderi ba-bayt šel-ax!

(!את רוצה לגז׳דר? גז׳דרי בבית שלך)

“You want to gižder? gižder in your own house!

47The scene takes place during a funeral and in fact the verb could have both meanings. The first sentence could mean “200 shekels that the aunt from Acre is a tough hysterical lady” or “is good at doing Agejdur.” The second one could stand for “you want to do Agejdur, do it at home!” or the usual IH figurative meaning “you want to get hysterical, do it at home.” Anyhow, the choice of the creator of the show to use that specific word in a scene taking place at a funeral is not coincidental.


48The first episode of the TV show Zaguri Imperya is a good illustration of what is Peripheral IH, even though it’s focused on the “Moroccan” specificities. As seen throughout this study, the impact of those special features obviously depends on who speaks and on which generation the speaker belongs, in fact to what extent the speaker does know MA. The show presents a situation of languages in contact with MA words and expressions in IH, such as lexical borrowings, Jewish‑Moroccan accent in IH, Israeli accent in MA and other examples. But never a code-switching phenomenon or any kind of tangible language alternation is really developed, although it does exist in Israel’s peripheries. Actually, it would have been difficult to set it up with this in mind that first, the actors are for the most part non‑fluent speakers of MA (or even non‑speakers at all) and secondly, the show is aimed at a specific audience; the monolingual Israeli Hebrew speaking audience. And that’s important to note here: in such a fiction, there are elements that the creators specifically want to show and they have to think about the reception of the audience too. These factors undoubtedly influence the way social phenomena will be shown on screen.

49In the show, Maor Zaguri, uses real, existing material of this specific case of languages in contact, but overuses it a bit. He’s playing with the intensity of the influences and with the frequency of the examples,—sometimes with the meaning of the words too—but he does never invent unattested examples. This is what makes it an interesting, and entertaining, representation of the real sociolinguistic phenomena.

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Bahat Yaakov, 2001, The Hebrew Component in the Written Arabic of Moroccan Jews, Bialik Institute, Jerusalem, 530 p.

Brunot Louis & Malka Elie, 1939, Textes judéo‑arabes de Fès, École du Livre, Rabat, 408 p.

Henkin‑Roitfarb Roni, 2011, “Hebrew and Arabic in Asymmetric Contact in Israel” in Lodz Papers in Pragmatics, no 7.1, pp. 61‑100.

Henshke Yehudit, 2013a, “Judeo‑Arabic Influence on the Emergence of Registers in Modern Hebrew” in Khan Geoffrey et al., Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, vol. 2, Brill, Leiden, pp. 387‑388.

Henshke Yehudit, 2013b, “On the Mizrahi Sociolect in Israel, A Sociolexical Consideration of the Hebrew of Israelis of North African Origin” in Journal of Jewish Languages, no 1, pp. 207‑227.

Henshke Yehudit, 2015, “Patterns of Dislocation: Judeo-Arabic Syntactic Influence on Modern Hebrew” in Journal of Jewish Languages, no 3, pp. 150‑164.

Henshke Yehudit, 2017, “Israeli, Jewish, Mizraḥi or Traditional? On the Nature of the Hebrew of Israel’s Periphery” in Journal of Jewish Languages, no 68 (1), pp. 137‑157.

Leslau Wolf, 1945, “Hebrew elements in the Judeo-Arabic dialect of Fez” in The Jewish Quatterly Review, no 36, pp. 61‑78.

Lévy Simon, 2009, Parlers arabes des Juifs du Maroc, Histoire, sociolinguistique et géographie dialectale, Instituto de Estudios Islámicos y del Oriente Próximo, Zaragoza, 394 p.

Nait‑Zerrad Kamal, 1999, Dictionnaire des racines berbères (formes attestées), Peeters, Leuven, 269 p.

Pereira Christophe, 2010, Le Parler arabe de Tripoli (Libye), Inst. Est. Islamicos y Oriente Proximo, Zaragoza, 551 p.

Premare Alfred Louis, 1999, Dictionnaire arabe-français, Langue et culture marocaine, L’Harmattan, Paris, 392 p.

Rosenthal Rubik, 2005, Comprehensive Slang Dictionary, Keter Books, Jerusalem, 420 p.

Sibony Jonas, 2019a, « Éléments lexicaux hébreux ou pseudo‑hébreux dans le parler judéo‑arabe de Fès des années 40, emplois contextuels, dérivations sémantiques, adaptations phonologiques » in AIDA, no 12,

Sibony Jonas, 2019b, “Curses and Profanity in Moroccan Judeo-Arabic and what’s Left of it in the Hebrew Sociolect of Israelis from Moroccan Origins” in Romano‑Arabica, no XIX, , pp. 161‑176.

Vicente Ángeles, 2010, “Andalusi Influence on Northern Morocco Following Various Venturies of Linguistic Interference” in Monteferrer‑Sala Juan Pedro & Al‑Jallad Nader (eds.), The Arabic Language Across the Ages, Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden, pp. 141‑159.

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1 זגורי אימפריה : “The Zaguri Empire”.

2 Maor Mimun Zaguri, born in 1981 in Beersheva, is an Israeli director, playwright, screenwriter, actor and acting teacher:

3 The parents Albert and Viviane, the sons Aviel, Eviatar, Avi, Avishai and Avir, the daughters Miriam, Avishag and Avigail and the grandmother Alegria.

4 Henshke, 2017.

5 Henshke, 2017 uses the expression “Hebrew of Israel’s Periphery.”

6 Henkin, 2011, p. 75.

7 Episode available on Youtube: It lasts 45:26 minutes. Every quotation in the article is based on this specific video.

8 Henkin, 2011, p. 75, reminds that the Moroccan community is the largest group.

9 Henkin, 2011, p. 75 reminds that the Moroccan community is the largest group.

10 Ibid., p. 68.

11 About the shift of the first vowel /ə/‑/a/, see Henshke, 2013, p. 215.

12 *ˁūl, פָּעוּל, *mupˁāl, מֻפְעָל and *məpuˁˁal, מְפֻעַּל.

13 Henshke, 2013, p. 215; Henkin, 2011, pp. 70, 73. Henkin quotes maC1C2ūC3 examples and adds that this occurrence of this stem in IH led to a morphological loan; maC1C2ūC3 crossed with Hebrew root: magnuv “terrific” or mag’ul “revolting.”

14 Rosenthal, 2005, p. 363 lists both šufuni, שׁוּפוּנִי and šufuni ya nas, שׁוּפוּנִי יָא נָאס as attested in Hebrew slang.

15 Premare, 1999 (4), pp. 329‑330.

16 Biographies found online:;

17 Lévy, 2009, p. 189.

18 Ibid., p. 226.

19 Lévy, 2009, p. 190.

20 Pereira, 2010, p. 224.

21 Lévy, 2009, pp. 224‑225.

22 Actually, this pronunciation is most probably influenced by Arabic.

23 Dvora Kedar was born in Lithuania in 1924:

24 See Sibony, 2019b: the curse can still be heard nowadays in some non‑Jewish Arabic dialects.

25 Bahat, 2001, p. 385.

26 For example in this sample of the 15th episode of Zaguri Imperia, at 00:35:

27 Among others:;;



30 21 years old at the time:

31 Nait-Zerrad, 2002 (3), p. 755.

32 In Hebrew script : די צפ֗א לו מאלו, גזדרו לו.

33 Brunot & Malka, 1939, p. 189.

34 Premare, 1999 (10), p. 691.

35 Ibid.

36 Vicente, 2010, p. 148.

37 Henshke, 2013, p. 217.



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Jonas Sibony, « Moroccan Arabic and Jewish‑Arabic in Hebrew as Spoken by Israelis of Moroccan Origin: The Case of the TV Show Zaguri Imperya »Yod, 23 | 2021, 131-148.

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Jonas Sibony, « Moroccan Arabic and Jewish‑Arabic in Hebrew as Spoken by Israelis of Moroccan Origin: The Case of the TV Show Zaguri Imperya »Yod [En ligne], 23 | 2021, mis en ligne le 14 avril 2021, consulté le 23 mars 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Jonas Sibony

Université de Strasbourg - GEO

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