This brief overview illustrates some of the ways in which Sephardim have orthographically represented Ladino over the years. There are numerous in-depth articles dedicated to this topic, for those interested in further exploration.
For centuries, Ladino was predominantly written in varieties of the Hebrew alphabet (e.g. Meruba, Rashi, Solitreo). To understand the richness of the Ladino language, one should gain proficiency in some of the aforementioned Hebrew-based alphabets, especially the cursive variety known as Solitreo. The following documents are from the twentieth century.
As contact, education, and proficiency in other languages and their writing systems became more common among Sephardim, implementation of non- Hebrew-based alphabets can be found in writing and print. While there are documented cases of Ladino written in Cyrillic or Greek characters, use of Roman-based alphabets has been a growing trend over the past century. We often find variation in spelling, based on mapping a different language’s norms on Ladino. Take, for example, a word commonly spelled “chiko” (little) today.
The variation you see in the previous table can be attributed to orthographic norms from the languages mentioned in each column. For example, those familiar with Spanish (or Castilian to be more precise), might opt for “chico” in Ladino, since that is how the word is spelled in the former language. Even today, particularly in Israel, there are those who represent their Ladino using current orthographic norms for (Modern) Hebrew. As such, where it may have been more common to write “chiko” as “ג׳יקו”, it is common to find “צ’יקו” today.
A number of orthographic norms using Roman characters have been proposed and implemented over the past century and particularly in the last half-century.
The conventions established by the Israeli-based journal Aki Yerushalayim have, in many ways, become the standard. Printed from 1979 until 2016, editor Moshe Shaul and his team established orthographic norms that have been implemented by leading authorities such as the Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino, correspondence groups like Ladinokomunita and periodicals such as Şalom and its monthly supplement El Amaneser (as pictured above).
The following table is from the July 2004, Number 75 edition of Aki Yerushalayim.
Throughout this website, the Aki Yerushalayim standard will be utilized. If you are interested in learning how to read and write in one of the Hebrew-based alphabets, leave a message on the Contact page.