The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #9070   Message #2969428
Posted By: GUEST,F.
20-Aug-10 - 11:40 AM
Thread Name: Lyr/Tune Add: Vu Iz Dos Gesele
Subject: History of Yiddish for Dummies
History of Yiddish in a nutshell, as drawn from books and internet sources (not my own research):

- Roman Empire, first centuries AD: Jews from Palestine settled in many parts of the empire, also in southern Germany via Italy and present-day France. The principal languages were "Vulgar Latin" and "Germanic".

- AD 843 to 1348: "High German" in various dialects was spoken by Christians and Jews alike. Many religious terms were of course retained from Latin/Greek resp. Hebrew/Aramaic (tiny traces of Latin as well). All male Jews were supposed to learn Hebrew and Aramaic, the pronunciation was adapted to German usage. Some Jewish writers used the Hebrew letters at hand to write pure German. Slavs were generally not within hearing!

- 1348ff: Many German-speaking Jews fled from socio-religious prosecution to Poland and Lithuania, including present-day Belorus, Ukraine etc.

- 1348 to ca. 1800: There the communities held contact among each other and with the Slav population. The contact with German language was largely interrupted, so Yiddish language evolved, borrowing from those Semitic and Slav languages. The influence of Caucasus Judaism (with their languages Persian and Turkish, the latter by conversions!) was negligable, in terms of genes and language. - German changed considerably as well, together with the sociolects spoken by Jews in Germany (often, but falsely, named "West Yiddish").

- ca. 1800 to 1945: The contact between Yiddish and German speakers increased considerably. Creole versions became common and also influenced the "pure" Yiddish dialects.

- since 1945: Purists try to reestablish True Yiddish, while Hebrew in Israel has to be pronounced the Spanish way. For the first time Yiddish became something like a "religious language": of antizionist Jews centered in New York.

Thus Yiddish can be regarded as an ethnic term (not identical to the wider notion Ashkenazic), although before, say, 1900, Jewish religion was more or less a precondition: apostates would drop the language as quickly as possible. On the other hand, I know persons who think of themselves as "Yids" without speaking Yiddish, "because it was prohibited under Stalin". The popular saying "A yid zol sikh blaybn a yid!" can be translated "A Jew of Yiddish ethnicity should stick to its religious and other customs, such as having no political or military ambitions."

Thus Yiddish folklore is to be treated like any other *ethnic* folklore: for some it is a part of their identity, others are free to borrow or quote it, but the difference must be noted.

F. (neither a Jew nor a historian, just wanting to spread some basic information for madcutters like the one who complained about Wolf Krakowski being unintelligable ...)