Yiddish language


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Yiddish language

(yĭd`ĭsh), a member of the West Germanic group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Germanic languagesGermanic languages,
subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages, spoken by about 470 million people in many parts of the world, but chiefly in Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
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; German languageGerman language,
member of the West Germanic group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Germanic languages). It is the official language of Germany and Austria and is one of the official languages of Switzerland.
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).

Although it is not a national language, Yiddish is spoken as a first language by approximately 5 million Jews all over the world, especially in Argentina, Canada, France, Israel, Mexico, Romania, the United States, and the republics of the former USSR. Before the annihilation of 6 million Jews by the Nazis, it was the tongue of more than 11 million people. Growing out of a blend of a number of medieval German dialects, Yiddish arose c.1100 in the ghettos of Central Europe. From there it was taken to Eastern Europe by Jews who began to leave German-speaking areas in the 14th cent. as a result of persecution. By the 18th cent. Yiddish was almost universal among the Jews of Eastern Europe. It has generally accompanied Eastern European Jews in their migrations to other parts of the world.

Phonetically, Yiddish is closer to Middle High German than is modern German. Although the vocabulary of Yiddish is basically Germanic, it has been enlarged by borrowings from Hebrew, Aramaic, some Slavic and Romance languages, and English. Written from right to left like Hebrew, Yiddish also uses the Hebrew alphabet with certain modifications. In 1925 the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) was established in Vilnius, Lithuania. It served as an academy to oversee the development of the language. Later its headquarters were transferred to New York City, where in time it became the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research. Coping with the problem of dialects, this institute has done much to bring about the standardization of Yiddish.

In the eyes of many, Yiddish has significance both as the language of an important literature as well as a unique expression of the Jewish people. It is widely thought that modern Yiddish literature began in 1864 with the publication of Das Kleyne Mentshele (The Little Man) by Mendele mocher sforimMendele mocher sforim
[Yid.,= Mendele the book peddler] , pseud. of Sholem Yakov Abramovich
, 1836–1917, Yiddish novelist. Born in Minsk, and orphaned at 14, he traveled with beggars through Ukraine.
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. Among the best-known writers in Yiddish literature are Sholem AleichemAleichem, Sholem
[Heb.,=Peace be upon you!], pseud. of Sholem Rabinowitz
, 1859–1916, Yiddish author, b. Russia. One of the great Yiddish writers, he is best known for his humorous tales of life among the poverty-ridden and oppressed Russian Jews of the late 19th
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, I. L. PeretzPeretz or Perez, Isaac Loeb
, 1852–1915, Jewish poet, novelist, playwright, and lawyer, b. Zamosc, Poland.
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, Isaac Meier Dik, and Isaac Bashevis SingerSinger, Isaac Bashevis
, 1904–91, American novelist and short-story writer in the Yiddish language, younger brother of I. J. Singer, b. Leoncin, Poland (then in Russia).
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, the first writer in the language to be awarded (1978) the Nobel Prize in Literature. Thousands of Yiddish works are housed at the Yiddish Book Center at Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass.

Bibliography

See M. I. Herzog et al., ed., The Field of Yiddish: Studies in Language, Folklore, and Literature (1969); M. Weinreich, History of the Yiddish Language (1980); D. Katz, Grammar of the Yiddish Language (1987); D. G. Roskies, A Bridge of Longing: The Lost Art of Yiddish Storytelling (1995).

References in periodicals archive ?
ABOUT YIVO: Founded in 1925, the YIVO Institute is headquartered in New York City, and is the world's premier teaching and research institute devoted to East European Jewish Studies with specializations in the Yiddish language, literature and folklore; the Holocaust; and the American Jewish experience.
The post-Holocaust migrant influx strengthened that situation--in the space of a decade, the Yiddish language was flourishing and in its prime as the lingua franca of Jewish residents in Carlton and surrounding areas, parts of Kew and parts of St Kilda, Elwood and Caulfield.
Rather, the Jewish immigrant community maintained its own set of institutions rooted in Yiddish language and religious culture.
Much of the heartland of the territory is in today's Belarus, and for much of the 1990s, the second named author carried out one or two expeditions a year to Belarus, each time covering another section of the country and eventually crossing borders to pursue the dialect to its contemporary limits, for example to Brest in the southwest, discovered to be a mixed dialect, with many aspects characteristic of the southerly Ukrainian (Southeastern) Yiddish; but, extending all the way to Kherson, on the Black Sea, in the southeast, where the current Belarus-Ukraine border has no significance for the historical patterning of the Yiddish language.
Given the range of options within the Yiddish language mentioned above, the most remarkable thing about the translations of Einspruch and Krelenbaum--completed almost simultaneously in the late 1930's, 5,000 miles apart--is their similarity of intent.
In 1911 Spivak and the famous Yiddish poet Yehoash (Solomon Bloomgarden), who was a patient at the JCRS, coauthored a dictionary for the Hebrew and Aramaic elements of the Yiddish language.
completely covered with musical notation, some with Hebrew letters, to represent the Yiddish language, the songs, the words, the books and the sacred texts that were also murdered.
gt;In a nutshell: Touching documentary about octogenarian actress Zypora Spaisman's struggle to keep Yiddish language stage productions alive in 21st-century New York.
He was a lover of the Yiddish Language and he imparted his knowledge to everyone he could, in order to keep the language alive.
According to the author, the traditional Yiddish Bible translation idiom took a vital role in the formation process of the Yiddish language as a whole by enriching the vocabulary, the semantics, the idioms, and, to a certain extent, even the morphology of ordinary Yiddish in a way that resulted in a progressive divergence from the mainstreams of German language history.
Moreover, translation itself is charged with a special cultural onus: As Green explains in the introduction to his exceptional translation, the mission of these efforts is ultimately concerned with extra-linguistic and extra-literary issues of maintaining and actualizing Jewish identity: "Many contemporary Jews share a strong sense of pride and affection towards the Yiddish language.
Szymel lived the life of a poet-gypsy and, with difficulty, supported himself by writing poetry, literary articles and criticism, weekly columns, and translations from the Yiddish language.