Yiddish language

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Yiddish
yidish/idish
Spoken in Ukraine, Israel, United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, Russia, Poland, Germany, Moldova, Romania, Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia Date founded no date
Total speakers 1.5 million
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Hebrew script (Yiddish alphabet)
Official status
Official language in None
Recognised minority language in (German)
 Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Netherlands
 Poland
 Romania
 Sweden
File:Flag of Ukraine.svg Ukraine
Regulated by no formal bodies;
YIVO de facto
Language codes
ISO 639-1 yi
ISO 639-2 yid
ISO 639-3 yidMacrolanguage
individual codes:
ydd – Eastern Yiddish
yih – Western Yiddish
Linguasphere 52-ACB-g = 52-ACB-ga (West) + 52-ACB-gb (East); totalling 11 varieties

Yiddish ( yidish/idish, literally "Jewish") is the historical language of the Ashkenazi Jews.

Origins

It originated during the 9th century in Central Europe, providing the pre-existing language of the nascent Ashkenazi community with an extensive Germanic based vocabulary. Yiddish is written with a fully vocalized alphabet based on the Hebrew script.

The earliest surviving references date from the 12th century and call the language (loshn-ashknez = "language of Ashkenaz") or (taytsh), a variant of tiutsch, the contemporary name for Middle High German. In common usage, the language is called (mame-loshn, literally "mother tongue"), distinguishing it from Hebrew and Aramaic, which are collectively termed (loshn-koydesh, "holy tongue"). The term "Yiddish" did not become the most frequently used designation in the literature until the 18th century. In the late 19th and into the 20th century the language was more commonly called "Jewish", especially in non-Jewish contexts, but "Yiddish" is again the more common designation.

Modern Yiddish has two major forms. Eastern Yiddish is far more common today. It includes Southeastern (Ukrainian–Romanian), Mideastern (Polish–Galician–Eastern Hungarian), and Northeastern (Lithuanian–Belarusian) dialects. Eastern Yiddish differs from Western both by its far greater size and by the extensive inclusion of words of Slavic origin. Western Yiddish is divided into Southwestern (Swiss–Alsatian–Southern German), Midwestern (Central German), and Northwestern (Netherlandic–Northern German) dialects. Yiddish is used in a large number of Orthodox Jewish communities worldwide and is the first language of the home, school, and in many social settings among most Hasids. Yiddish is also the academic language of the study of the Talmud according to the tradition of the Lithuanian yeshivas.

The term Yiddish is also used in the adjectival sense, synonymously with Jewish, to designate attributes of Ashkenazi culture (for example, Yiddish cooking and Yiddish music).[1]

Genealogical origins

A prevailing view of long standing was that Yiddish was derived almost entirely from the Middle High German spoken in the region in which the Ashkenazi community settled. They retained the Semitic vocabulary needed for religious purposes and created a Judeo-German form of speech, sometimes not accepted as a fully autonomous language.

Subsequent linguistic investigation has questioned this notion, and provides two alternative lines of approach to the origins of Yiddish.[2] Both agree that Yiddish resulted from the fusion of the language spoken by the Jewish community prior to its arrival in Germanic territory with the indigenous language of that territory. There is, however, divergence of thought about the locus of the linguistic interaction, the elements of the indigenous language that carried over into the nascent Yiddish, and the identity of the language that was thereby transformed.

The first scholarly statement of this approach was provided by Max Weinreich in the 1920s, and remains widely accepted.[3] Weinreich developed a model in which Jewish speakers of Old French or Old Italian, who were literate in Hebrew or Aramaic, migrated to the Rhine Valley, where they encountered and were influenced by Jewish speakers of High German. Both he and Solomon Birnbaum developed this further in the mid-1950s.[4] Further studies in the same school debated the location in which the interaction took place, taking the basic alternatives to be the Rhineland and Bavaria. This work allows that there may have been parallel developments in the two regions, seeding the Western and Eastern dialects of Modern Yiddish. Dovid Katz proposes that Yiddish emerged instead out of contact between speakers of High German and natively Aramaic-speaking Jews from the Middle East.[5]

In 1991, Paul Wexler proposed that Yiddish was not a Germanic language, but rather Judeo-Sorbian (a Western Slavic language) whose vocabulary had been largely replaced by High German in the 9th to 12th centuries, when large numbers of German-speakers settled in Sorbian and Polabian lands. A second shift occurred in perhaps the 15th to 17th centuries, when Yiddish speakers migrated eastward, intermingling with Jews – possibly including descendents of the Khazars – speaking the Polesian dialect of Belarusian/Ukrainian (an Eastern Slavic language), who then relexified their language to Yiddish.[6] In this theory, genealogically Yiddish is not a Germanic language, but a Slavic language, retaining a largely Slavic phonology and syntax combined with Germanic vocabulary and morphology, though even these Germanic components often follow Slavic semantics. (Wexler also posits two later relexifications of Yiddish itself, in the late-19th century, one resulting in Modern Hebrew and the other in Esperanto, both of which would thus also be Slavic languages.) Regardless of the relative merit of the Germanic and Slavic schools on the origin of Yiddish, both recognize the massive extent of its Germanic vocabulary.

Example phrases

References

  1. Oscar Levant described Cole Porter's 'My Heart Belongs to Daddy" as "one of the most Yiddish tunes ever written" despite the fact that "Cole Porter's genetic background was completely alien to any Jewishness." Oscar Levant,The Unimportance of Being Oscar, Pocket Books 1969 (reprint of G.P. Putnam 1968), p. 32. ISBN 0-671-77104-3.
  2. Jacobs, Neil G. (2005). Yiddish: a Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge University Press. pp. 9–15. ISBN 0-521-77215-X. 
  3. Yiddish (2005). Keith Brown, ed. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-044299-4. 
  4. Weinreich, Uriel, ed. (1954). The Field of Yiddish. Linguistic Circle of New York. pp. 63–101. 
  5. Dovid Katz. "YIDDISH" (PDF). YIVO. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  6. Wexler, Paul (2002). Two-tiered Relexification in Yiddish: Jews, Sorbs, Khazars, and the Kiev-Polessian Dialect. DE GRUYTER MOUTON. p. 9 ff. ISBN 9783110898736. 
Part of this article consists of modified text from Metapedia, page http:en.metapedia.org/wiki/Yiddish language and/or Wikipedia, page http:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiddish language, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.