>Tzi redst di yidish, Rowan? Talk to me!! I need the practice.< --Olentzero

>>Taka, Ich sproyk’n a bissl Yiddish; Ich ken nisht leyn’n oider shrayb’n af Yiddish. Mein Doda Chana hot Yiddish fir a loshen irshten,
un zi sproyk’n af Yiddish mit di mishpacha, un Ich farsht’n gut, a nisht gedul sproyk’n.

Maybe I should take a class.

A gutn.<< --Rowan

>>>I, on the other hand, don’t speak even a bit of Yiddish. I can’t read or write it, either. But if what Rowan is writing is Yiddish, it is awfully similar to Swabian German… (I didn’t get “loshen irshten” or “mishpacha”, but most of the rest was transparent).<<< --Jens

>>>>I’m of the opinion that Yiddish is a creole - given that it’s been spoken for something like a thousand years in Central Europe. The existence of Ladino (was there an Italian version too?) seems to back me up on this one.

Here’s the scenario - groups of Jews start wandering Europe and settling down in various places. They speak whatever it is they
speak at the time (Hebrew? Aramaic?) but they need to start interacting with the local yokels as well. So then we get a pidgin tongue - just enough to get by with daily business, then this pidgin grows and takes on its own life and becomes a creole.

Still, though, Yiddish kicks ass. I remember the first time I was able to read a couple sentences in script - a bigger thrill than
reading Russian.<<<< --Olentzero

Since there actually still seem to be a few people still interested in Stalin and the Romanovs (I am!), I thought I just oughta give Yiddish its own thread.

Yiddish is a creole, depending on your definition of creole (where’s Melatonin when you need her?); I always understood that after the third generation, the word creole is no longer accurate, but I could be wrong. However, if we take the “once a creole, always a creole” attitude, then English is a creole.

Yiddish is a mixture of High Middle German and Hebrew (or Aramaic-- probably both), with lots of Slavic items thrown in. And some other things too.

“Veychere” is dinner; it’s also very close to the Slovak (and probably also Slovak and Polish) word for “evening.”

“Bentsch’n” is a kind of prayer, and it comes from “benediction,” Latin for “blessing.”

“Mishpacha” is family, and it’s just the Hebrew with the stress moved to the middle syllable.

From what I understand, Yiddish actually preserves grammatical structures that are obsolete in Modern German.

Yiddish isn’t German, though, even though they’re similar-- no more than Russian is Czech, or Spanish is Portuguese.

Olentzero-- A firvos du talmid’n Yiddish? Nu? Redt mit shmaychel-- estu en Yid? Estu en talmid af loshens? Ich onge’n nisht en goy vos ken’n sprak af Yiddish. Vos es dein inyan?

Nu-- Ich geshtoyg’n alle lern’n Yiddish ken! Der emes es du sproyk: Yiddish kicks toches! Chai v’kayam Yiddish!

–Doda Chana’s Tiere Rivkele

You do have a subscription to The Leader?

BTW, Jen; what is “Swabian” German?

>>You do have a subscription to The Leader?<<

On-line, yoh.

Rowan hot gefragt:

I’ve always wanted to study Yiddish for no real apparent reason. I finally lucked across a college textbook in a used bookstore and grabbed it. Neyn, ikh bin nit keyn Yid but I love the culture! Klezmer, the cooking, Yiddish. It just appeals to me.

Well, now you do. If I knew what “inyan” meant I’d tell you what mine was.

Other than that… back to the regularly scheduled thread.

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

Pidgin is a language of mixed vocabulary and simplified grammar used to allow people of different languages to communicate. It has no native speakers.

When a population arises that speaks the pidgin as their own primary language (as in Haiti or Netherland Antilles), and a new grammar develops to support it, the language is a creole. I believe that creole refers to the way that the language came into being, rather than its longevity. Yiddish may be a creole, but I am not convinced of that one way or another. English would not be. It arose over many centuries with a lot of outside interference, but it never sprang into existence as a developed trade language.

To have a creole, you need to have a population come into existence with no linguistic history for daily living that siezes on a trade language and makes it their own. The African slave trade and the Jewish Diaspora each provide this sort of scenario. The Jews had a scholarly language, Hebrew. However, their daily language, Aramaic, would not have served them well in downtown Rome or up on the banks of the Danube or the coast of Spain. Since the languages that Yiddish and Ladino are based on did not arise before the late middle ages, one question that comes up might be “What did the Diaspora speak for the first thousand to fifteen hundred years and why did they no just keep speaking it?.” I don’t know what languages they originally spoke, but I would guess that the reason Yiddish and Ladino arose was that the Jews were expelled from other countries and found themselves needing to come up with another “daily” language when they got to their new Eastern European or Spanish homes.

Yiddish has a fascinating history, if for no other reason than that its origins are buried in the mists of time. One troll-made point in last year’s Khazar wars on the AOL SDMB has some validity in fact. Several Israeli scholars are looking at the possibility that Yiddish was a German vocabulary imposed on a Slavic grammar expressed in Hebrew text. (This, of course, does nothing to legitimize the other troll assertions.)

I have not found anyone competent who will go so far as to put forth the “real” origin of Yiddish. Most of it is still speculation.


Yiddish has several dialects, of course, but the dialect I’ve been studying has a grammar very much like German - declension of articles (most Slavic languages don’t even have articles in the first place), a limited number of cases (three or four as opposed to the six of Russian), and very little differentiation between gender endings. AFAIK the Slavic grammar portion of the theory just isn’t correct.

You and I are on the same page as regards the definition of a creole, tomndebb - it’s not longevity but how it came about. Although I differ on the “no previous linguistic history” bit - the slaves imported into the Americas and the Caribbean certainly had their own native tongues. But they had a lot of them and IIRC pidgin came about in order to ease communication between the slaves themselves as well as between masters/overseers and the slave population. The existence of pidgins as the best humans can do to promote communication among different language speakers without serious planning speaks volumes in favor of planned efforts like Esperanto! :wink:

Your definition of creole is exactly what I was trying to say - whatever language the Diaspora spoke while they were in transit is immaterial; it’s the fact that they took the local language at the time and adapted it for their own purposes.

I really think the high level of similarity between German and Yiddish speaks to its origins as a language adapted for daily use among a minority population.

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

Sadly, my parents only spoke Yiddish when they didn’t want the kids to know what they were saying, so I have very very little Yiddish vocabulary.

My father-in-law was with the American Army during WWII, as they were advancing through Germany, and he was the translator for their unit, because he spoke Yiddish and it was close enough to Germany for reasonable usage. He has some stories to tell about that, some amusing, some not so.

>>Well, now you do. If I knew what “inyan” meant I’d tell you what mine was.<< --Olentzero

“Inyan” es dein zach oys du “hafn’n tsu.” Efsher es a word fun mein mishpacha; mir sproyk’n af tsimmes-- asach mich hob’n Yiddish, Hebraich, un English, un mir kachn’n di drei loshens in en tuffel.

>>Sadly, my parents only spoke Yiddish when they didn’t want the kids to know what they were saying, so I have very very little Yiddish vocabulary.<< --CK Dexter Haven

Mein elters zein Russe g’sprakt fir g’baeltn’n af soydes-- demalt mir zein arriver Russeland. Mein tate nach hot g’talmid’n Slovak-- is es mein im hir mama-loshen-- oyzoy, mein elters ken’n g’sprakt Slovak fir shmues’n privatheit.

Nach, Ich hot g’talmid’n Slovak, oyzoy di elters hob’n g’shpring’n to Latin. Nach, in high school, Ich hot g’talmid’n Latin.


Shoulda called this the “All Rowan, all the Time” thread.

Anyway, here’s a joke:

An old Jewish lady is sitting on a busy bus in the middle of town. She had forgotten to put on her watch, she has an important appointment to go, and is beginning to get a little nervous about the time. A yeshiva bocher gets on the bus and stands near her.
She smiles and askes tentatively, “sproches du yiddish?”.

He replies cofidently, “Noch, a bissle”.

So she askes, “Nu, vat time is it?”

Shopping is still cheaper than therapy. --my Aunt Franny


I don’t think we differ. Obviously, the imported slaves grew up with real languages. The point, which you reiterated, is that having arrived in a new place with no common tongue among them (and probably forced to not speak among themselves) they worked out a pidgin among themselves and with the slaveholders (who needed to be able to give orders in some language). Their children grew up speaking the pidgin vocabulary while imposing a grammar on the words.


Rowan, Swabian German is just a German dialect (spoken by my grandparents on my father’s side) which sounds very rustic to the speaker of Standard High German.

Swabia is a part of Germany around the black forest, named after the Suevi, a tribe (or group of tribes) that was around during Julius Caesar’s time, and may be ancestral to the people in that area (though it is hard to tell with all the migrations – the Suevi were hanging out in Portugal for quite a while).

On my last visit to Germany I was delighted to see, among all the other translations of the “Asterix and Obelix” comic books, translations into the Swabian dialect.

Items such as “bissle”, “farsht’n”, “hob’n” sound Swabian to me.

Rowan, you’re going way beyond my ability here… I got most of what you were saying but “inyan” is still escaping me. Good practice though! Thanks :slight_smile:

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

I don’t think “inyan” is easy to understand if it is being explained in a language in which you are shaky.

(Inyan: A spiritual concept or idea. A general idea as opposed to specifics. The specifics would be “bechinos”).

Perhaps loosely interpreted as “religion”?

I was raised a Methodist, but I’ve been an atheist for far longer than I was a churchgoer by now…

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

>>I don’t think “inyan” is easy to understand if it is being explained in a language in which you are shaky.

(Inyan: A spiritual concept or idea. A general idea as opposed to specifics. The specifics would be “bechinos”).<< --Jens

>>>Perhaps loosely interpreted as “religion”?

I was raised a Methodist, but I’ve been an atheist for far longer than I was a churchgoer by now…<<< --Olentzero


Actually, all I meant is “motivation”-- what is your motivation, or purpose, for studying Yiddish.

Jen is correct too, though-- “inyan” could mean “big picture”-- “bechinos” is “details.”

FTR: for “religion,” I would have said “religiya.”

Hey, Jen? I learned to say that Yiddish is based on “High Middle German,” but I don’t really know what High Middle German is. I assume that the “Middle” refers to “Middle Ages,” but I don’t know whather “High” means that the vowels are high on the palate, or the people who first used the dialogue lived on a hill.

Do you know exactly what “High Middle German” is?

>>Items such as “bissle”, “farsht’n”, “hob’n” sound Swabian to me.<< --Jen

How are they different from “regular” German words?

A gut’n. --Rivkele

Uh, ::cough:: change “dialogue” above, to “dialect.” Brain cramp.

Returning you now to your regularly scheduled thread.


Rowan: Seriously, the people “lived up on a hill”. “High” German is distinguished from “Low” German because the “Low” (or “Flat”) Germans lived on the northern plains rather than the southern hilly/mountainous country.

“Bissle” -> “Bisschen”
“Farsht’n” -> “Verstehen”
“Hob’n” -> “Haben”

In general, my Swabian relatives use an “oh” sound where High German would use the “ah” sound. “Jo, froilich” (yaw, froylikh)instead of “Ja, freilich” (yah, frylikh).

Far vos talmud ikh Yidish? Vos iz mein inyan?

S’iz dort, dos iz far vos.

And there you have it :slight_smile:

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

High Middle German would be the “educated” dialect of medieval German; that is, the Middle German spoken by the rulers, scholars, and probably the more well-off tradesmen and artisans.
I wouldn’t know when exactly Middle German was spoken, but it would correspond roughly (as far as development and linguistics are concerned) to Middle English, i.e. if Shakespeare or Chaucer were German they’d have used Middle German.
Speculation: Old English had a number of variants (Kentish, Wessex, etc.) that were only tenuously connected - they were just close enough to be considered the same language, but only just. Middle English had a lot less variation - grammar had become more universal but there was still a lot of variation in vocabulary. I suspect there was the same difference in Old and Middle German, but I leave that to the professional linguists here to expound upon.

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!