Yiddish: Different kinds of Yiddish?

Bruno 1234

Member
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Shalom to everyone,

First of all, excuse me if probably my question is odd.

I've been talking to Sefardis from different places in Europe and Asia and they have a common Spanish tongue sprinkled with local words from the lands where they live (or lived) and it's rather the same old Castilian the language that people speak in Mostar, in Tessaloniki, in Rodos (not now, unfortunately), in Casablanca, in Baku and in Istambul. In fact, I've spoken to them in (modern Spanish + a little of "literary" Spanish) and our problems have been very scarce.

My question is: is it the same for Ashkenazis? I mean, a Jew from Budapest speaks the same Yiddish that is used by a Jew from Warsaw, Zagreb, Berlin, Kiev or Prag?

Thanks for your time.


Bruno
 
  • arielipi

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    modern ashkenazim(except for haredim) dont know yiddish, but the dialects are not too afar to not understand the different words
     
    today there's a new yorker yiddish and the one used in israel; both used in reactionary communities, both heavily influenced by the neighbouring languages. in paris, montreal and buenos aires the language's still in use by secular communities still influenced by the literary yiddish of sholem aleykhem and the other suchlike classic writers; the writers themselves had a common orthography and mainly a common core vocab but the grammatical gender, single words or phraseologisms could easily betray the background of a writer.
    Austria, Germany and Hungary have used variants of Christian German instead; I believe language scientists call them "Western Yiddish" now. Single cities with a sizeable community, such as Frankfurt, tended to develop a very own jargon; but that all's now a domain of the historical linguistics.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Austria, Germany and Hungary have used variants of Christian German instead; I believe language scientists call them "Western Yiddish" now. Single cities with a sizeable community, such as Frankfurt, tended to develop a very own jargon; but that all's now a domain of the historical linguistics.
    Western Yiddish is properly Yiddish and not what you call "Christian German" (strange term, I find). But it is extinct. In Frankfurt, where it was once spoken, for sure. I somewhere read that there should be a few active speakers left in the Netherlands and Ostfriesland. But I doubt it.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    You can't tell who's a Jew or who isn't by their accents. This was already like this before Hitler. German Jews were very well integrated in early 20th century Germany, especially in Prussia which had a very strict policy of religious non-discrimination since the mid 18th century. This is also why so many German Jews didn't leave the country after 1933 when they still could because the felt as "normal" Germans who just happened to to to the Synagogue rather than to Church and couldn't believe that their compatriots could ever do these horrible things to them but discounted the Nazi-antisemitism as meaningless populist rhetoric.
     

    shawnee

    Senior Member
    English - Australian
    There are two questions here are there not? One, Ladino speaking Sephardic Jews, and, two, Yiddish and its variations. I would not confuse Yiddish with Ladino; or am I wrong here?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    All responses so far were only about Yiddish. I see no confusion with Ladino here. In his initial post, Bruno meantioned Ladino as background information what motivated his question. But the question itself it about Yiddish.
     
    Well, I cannot talk about Prussian Junker Jews, berndf, but the D-A-CH Germans involved in the Jewish scene tend to have certain common traits in their otherwise common Lutherdeutsch. Talk to the staff at any Jewish Gemeindeschule. They tend to be Jäkels; Where you'd hear a prolonged 'oh' on Deutsche Welle they'll probably use an 'au'. And what do you call "Western Yiddish"? Will we get to hear a sample? Weren't all German dialects significantly more thick at the beginning of the twentieth century?
     

    shawnee

    Senior Member
    English - Australian
    All responses so far were only about Yiddish. I see no confusion with Ladino here. In his initial post, Bruno meantioned Ladino as background information what motivated his question. But the question itself it about Yiddish.
    Oh, yes. I see that now. Sorry. I was confused by the fact that most of the post was concerned with the Sephardic experience.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Well, I cannot talk about Prussian Junker Jews, berndf, but the D-A-CH Germans involved in the Jewish scene tend to have certain common traits in their otherwise common Lutherdeutsch. Talk to the staff at any Jewish Gemeindeschule. They tend to be Jäkels; Where you'd hear a prolonged 'oh' on Deutsche Welle they'll probably use an 'au'. And what do you call "Western Yiddish"? Will we get to hear a sample? Weren't all German dialects significantly more thick at the beginning of the twentieth century?
    Jews never made it into the Prussian aristocracy, not without conversion; that has something to do with the structure of the Prussian state and its powerbase; but that is a completely different story.

    Native Jews in A and DE have absolutely no revealing characteristics in their accents. There are numerous stories from the time when Jews had too wear "Judensterne" how non Jews were surprised who in their neighbourhood were Jews, people they had known for years and never recognized they were Jews. As to modern days German Jews, take for example Michel Friedmann, the journalist. It should be easy to find copies of TV talk shows on the net where he speaks. He is a prominent member of the Frankfurt Jewish community. Try to find anything relieving in his accent (except that he has no trace of Frankfurt local accent, that might be the only thing revealing; I've lived in Frankfurt for many years and I never heard a local Jew speak with Frankfurt accent).

    I am pretty sure, Western Yiddish has been extinct in Germany for more than a hundred years, maybe even two hundred. I believe local dialects of Western Yiddish survived longer in the Netherlands and in parts of France, especially Alsatian Yiddish (here you find some material about "Yédisch-Daïtsch", including old recordings) but there you have to ask people who now these regions better than I do.
     

    tFighterPilot

    Senior Member
    Israel - Hebrew
    Well, My grandfather was born in Hamburg and my grandmother was born in Prussia, neither of them can speak any Yiddish (or at least not more than any native German speaker)
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Which Yiddish do reactionay people speak in Israel?
    They all come from diaspora from different countries, so which version did they choose? Maybe the literal version?
    Is there a somewhat "standard" Yiddish, or an International "koiné"?

    But I still don't understand why those reactionary people prefer to use Yiddish, because Hebrew was the sacred language of the Holy Bible.
    So prefer using a language based on a foreign language instead? Isn't Yiddish basically a Hebrew-influenced ancient German dialect?
    Just as sionist revived the use of Hebrew, they could revive the use of Aramaic. :)
     

    duvija

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Uruguay
    Which Yiddish do reactionay people speak in Israel?
    They all come from diaspora from different countries, so which version did they choose? Maybe the literal version?
    Is there a somewhat "standard" Yiddish, or an International "koiné"?

    But I still don't understand why those reactionary people prefer to use Yiddish, because Hebrew was the sacred language of the Holy Bible.
    So prefer using a language based on a foreign language instead? Isn't Yiddish basically a Hebrew-influenced ancient German dialect?
    Just as sionist revived the use of Hebrew, they could revive the use of Aramaic. :)

    Who are those 'reactionary people' you're referring to?
    And why would you want to revive a language dead for many centuries, unless it was for political reasons? Latin died in peace, Hebrew should have too. Israeli Hebrew is not a natural language. (Lots of literature about this).
    No one chooses a language for the language it was based on. Do you? does anyone in China?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Who are those 'reactionary people' you're referring to?
    I think he meant the ultra-orthodox.

    @Youngfun: The answer is: Many religious Jews reject Hebrew as everyday language because they think Hebrew ("the sacred language") should be reserved for religious use.
    And why would you want to revive a language dead for many centuries, unless it was for political reasons? Latin died in peace, Hebrew should have too. Israeli Hebrew is not a natural language. (Lots of literature about this).
    No one chooses a language for the language it was based on. Do you? does anyone in China?
    But those are yesteryear's battles. Today, Modern Hebrew certainly is a living language.
     

    duvija

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Uruguay
    Ok, going back to the original question:

    My question is: is it the same for Ashkenazis? I mean, a Jew from Budapest speaks the same Yiddish that is used by a Jew from Warsaw, Zagreb, Berlin, Kiev or Prag?

    The answer is no, but we'd have to define 'same'. There are dialects and sub-dialects. Differences in the vowels (u/i) and even a/o as in Besarabia. Those regionalisms don't reach the point of non-communication. We can understand each other, and may be laugh at the s/sh distinction. In this area, Yiddish is not different from any other language in the world.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I am pretty sure, Western Yiddish has been extinct in Germany for more than a hundred years, maybe even two hundred. I believe local dialects of Western Yiddish survived longer in the Netherlands and in parts of France, especially Alsatian Yiddish (here you find some material about "Yédisch-Daïtsch", including old recordings) but there you have to ask people who now these regions better than I do.
    I found here an interesting essay on Yiddish dialects of Franconia as it was spoken until about the year 1900. Unfortunately it is only in German. It contains some samples of the local Yiddish dialect of the time. The author relates the final demise of Yiddish in the area (and this probably applies to other areas as well) to the lifting of travel and settlement restrictions for Jews following the 1848 revolution. As a result of the new freedom for Jews, rural Jewish communities largely disintegrated and new urban Jewish communities appeared. The members of these urban communities were assimilated and did not speak Yiddish any more.
     

    origumi

    Senior Member
    N/A
    And why would you want to revive a language dead for many centuries, unless it was for political reasons? Latin died in peace, Hebrew should have too. Israeli Hebrew is not a natural language.
    But then what language would you expect Israelis to speak? Yiddish? At the turn of the 19th century many Jews used to speak Ladino (a Spanish dialect), Arabic (various Jewish and non-Jewish dialects), Persian, Neo-Aramaic, Russian, German, an so on. Israeli Hebrew is certainly natural to Israelis, to the level that there's nothing synthetic about it more than any other spoken language in the eyes of the speaker. It also follows older Hebrew layers rather conservatively, with additional vocabulary of course. Its revival as a daily and colloquial language wasn't a decision by committee. Neither is was a political move.

    In any case this looks irrelevant to the thread. Intelligibility issues between various Yiddish-speaking communities (which the thread is about) are not why modern Hebrew emerged and Yiddish was partially abandoned. There were different reasons. So I apologize for the off-topic comment.
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Who are those 'reactionary people' you're referring to?
    And why would you want to revive a language dead for many centuries, unless it was for political reasons? Latin died in peace, Hebrew should have too. Israeli Hebrew is not a natural language. (Lots of literature about this).
    No one chooses a language for the language it was based on. Do you? does anyone in China?
    I think he meant the ultra-orthodox.
    berndf is right. I used the word 'reactionary' because gevenamolalandaziseafaine used it in #3

    @Youngfun: The answer is: Many religious Jews reject Hebrew as everyday language because they think Hebrew ("the sacred language") should be reserved for religious use.

    But those are yesteryear's battles. Today, Modern Hebrew certainly is a living language.
    I know. But their logic is not coherent. They refuse to use the sacred language, but prefer instead to use Yiddish, a language of foreign origin, foreign to Israel, and it's not the native language of all Jews.
    If they want to refind their Israel national identity (that must be the reason if they returned to Israel form the diaspora), but don't want to use the sacred language, they could revival the ancient non-religious language spoken by Jews: the aramaic.
    If they succeeded to revival the Hebrew, why not the aramaic?
    Off topic: in Europe somebody (maybe Giuseppe Peano) proposed to revival the latin simplifying the grammar: latino sine flexione, as a possible lingua franca for the European Union.

    We Chinese don't need any artificial language. We also have a diaspora all around the world, and we simply use Chinese (Mandarin or other dialects) to talk among us.
    So when I meet Chinese people from Spain, Germany, France, US, we speak in Chinese. Sometimes those people don't speak Chinese because they haven't learnt it, then we speak English.
     

    origumi

    Senior Member
    N/A
    If they want to refind their Israel national identity (that must be the reason if they returned to Israel form the diaspora), but don't want to use the sacred language, they could revival the ancient non-religious language spoken by Jews: the aramaic.
    If they succeeded to revival the Hebrew, why not the aramaic?
    Yiddish rather than Hebrew - because the communities that still speak Yiddish, ultra-orthodox, returned to Israel for practical rather than ideological reasons. So national identity is less important for them, until... the Messiah shall come (not to confuse with somewhat similar Christian beliefs). They prefer to keep their fathers' language, which happens to be Yiddish, for everyday business.

    Regarding Aramaic - the modern Hebrew revolution just happened. It wasn't planned by a supreme body. Such revolution may happen once in aeons and therefore not likely to recur after hundred years. And Aramaic is sort of Yiddish in Jewish eyes - a foreign language adopted due to environmental influence. Aramaic was (and still is in certain circumstances) cherished, similarily to (or more than) the attitude towards Yiddish, and yet is not regarded as the genuine language of the Hebrew people thus no motivation to revive it.
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    But the Yiddish people in Israel come from different countries and backgrounds. So which Yiddish do they speak? Do they speak a mix of different varieties of Yiddish? Or is there a standard koiné, a literal version of Yiddish?
    Do they speak Yiddish as a native language since they were born? Or did they learn it later in life, so probably the literal version?
     

    origumi

    Senior Member
    N/A
    Dialects are not an issue for modern Yiddish speakers. All current dialects belong to the Eastern Yiddish branch along with its deep Slavic influence on vocabulary and grammar. The dialects are mutually intelligible. This is due to ongoing contacts between the Jewish communities in eastern Europe, and to unification efforts during the 19th century, in parts by re-Germanization of the language and standardization.

    Ask an educated Yiddish speaker and he can tell you about Lithuanian dialect ("Litai"), Polish dialect, Galizianer dialect (Galizien / Galicja / Галичина) on today's Poland-Ukraine borders, Romanian Dialect, Bocuvinian dialect (Bucovina / Ţara de Sus / Буковина / Bukowina) on today's Romania / Moldova / Poland borders, and more. Speakers of one dialect tend to ridicule the other in regard to accent, vowels pronunciation, word selection. And yet, these dialects are mutually intelligible and very close to each other, to the level that institutes like The Yiddish Theater (the יידישפיל) in Israel and ultra-orthodox schools (ישיבות) do not care about the differences.

    I guess that each ultra-orthodox community maintains some traits of its original dialect, and as they tend to be conservative this may be preserved rather well. However, in modern Israel and in practice the whole Yiddish-speaking world there are enough mutual contacts to ensure the presence of only one Yiddish, differentiated by (historically) regional preferences.

    Whether it can be formally regarded as a koine - I am not sure. Seems to me that the differences were never significant enough to regard the unification as a koine.

    Few percents of the Israeli population still strive to keep Yiddish as the mother language. One reason is the ability to read books (mainly about religious issues, הלכה) written in the last few hundreds years.


    Good description of the Yiddish history since its commence until today, by Dan Meiron (written in Hebrew, MS Word document): http://www.google.co.il/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=דן מירון יידיש sapot.doc&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCEQFjAA&url=http://cms.education.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/56D4BD7B-A345-411A-9B74-350AA3013481/104580/sapot.doc&ei=4_KFT6eEDsjc8AOpqvC6Bw&usg=AFQjCNGCP3T3ou_aIQ79l-_1Las_RFL3ug&cad=rja
     

    Ironicus

    Senior Member
    English & Swahili - East Africa
    My maternal grandfather was from Leipzig. When I asked him to teach me to read Yiddish, he said very sternly, "We are Germans, we don't speak Yiddish". And then I noticed that all the Yiddish speakers I knew came from everywhere except Germany and Austria, so I don't think it was just because he was one of the maskilim that he didn't speak Yiddish.
    Certainly there were differences between the Yiddish of the Romanians, the Lithuanians, and so on. But these were all at the level of vocabulary: the grammar appeared to be the same for all of them.
     

    tFighterPilot

    Senior Member
    Israel - Hebrew
    My maternal grandfather was from Leipzig. When I asked him to teach me to read Yiddish, he said very sternly, "We are Germans, we don't speak Yiddish". And then I noticed that all the Yiddish speakers I knew came from everywhere except Germany and Austria, so I don't think it was just because he was one of the maskilim that he didn't speak Yiddish.
    Certainly there were differences between the Yiddish of the Romanians, the Lithuanians, and so on. But these were all at the level of vocabulary: the grammar appeared to be the same for all of them.
    My grandfather is from Hamburg and my grandmother from Prussia (from a religious family), neither speak any Yiddish, only German.
     
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