23 September 2009

Hebrew and Yiddish

Soo we always make fun of my friend Magee for being a Jew. He's not actually Jewish, he just fits a lot of the negative stereotypes.
Anyway, one day he texted me "Mazel Tov" when I called him a Jew, which I knew to be a completely inappropriate response. I didn't say anything, but he soon replied "After looking up yiddish phrases, I think 'ikh hob dir in drerd' is more appropriate." and then "Or even better: a kholeryeh."
This all looked surprisingly German to me--so I started wondering what the connection/difference between Hebrew and Yiddish is. I asked ChaCha, who responded "Hebrew is the ancient language of the Jews. Yiddish is a modern language, more similar to German, that uses the Hebrew alphabet." As I suspected!
So Hebrew came first, obviously.

Modern Hebrew is currently spoken in Israel, and classical Hebrew is spoken around the world in Jewish communities.
Linguistically, Hebrew is related to Arabic and Aramaic (during the Babylonian captivity, more Aramaic got mixed in there. But... culturally speaking... Aramaic represented the hated language of slavery, conquest, and occupation, while Hebrew remained the language of Israel's history and national pride. Preserved largely by Israel proper, Hebrew continued to be a thriving language until shortly before the Byzantine era.)
Anyway, proper Hebrew became scholarly, and between the 2nd and 19th centuries, dialects formed all over the place, seeing as how there were Jews all over the place. These dialects included Ladino (aka Judezmo aka Judeo-Spanish), Yiddish and a slew of Judeo-Arabic tongues.
The Second Aliyah refers to when a bunch of Jews--mostly from Russia and Poland--came to Ottoman Palestine. Due to this, around this time (early 1900s) a lot of those other Hebrew dialects died out and traditional Hebrew was re-vamped to include a bunch of that stuff left over from those dialects, as well as more Arabic and Aramaic, not to mention English and other European languages. In 1948 Hebrew became the official language of Israel.
So where did Yiddish come from!?
Well... the Ashkenazi Jews are the ones that came from the Rhineland valley (in the west of Germany) and northern France around the 10th century... when all those dialects were spreading. Hasidic Jews still grow up speaking Yiddish today.
Traces remain in the contemporary Yiddish vocabulary: for example, בענטשן (bentshn, to bless), from the Latin benedicere; and the personal name Anshl, cognate to Angel or Angelo. Western Yiddish includes additional words of Latin derivation (but still very few): for example, orn (to pray), cf. Latin "orare."
But it seems to have really been born out of a mix of German with Hebrew words tossed in. The big difference is that it was always written with the Hebrew alphabet. Not until the 15th century could you even really say that German and Yiddish were two different languages if you heard them spoken. So really, Yiddish developed as a transliteration of German into the Hebrew alphabet. How cool!
גוּט טַק אִים בְּטַגְֿא שְ וַיר דִּיש מַחֲזֹור אִין בֵּיתֿ הַכְּנֶסֶתֿ טְרַגְֿא

gut tak im betage se vaer dis makhazor in beis hakneses trage

May a good day come to him who carries this prayer book into the synagogue.

How wild!
So... "Mazel Tov" did indeed come from Yiddish...
There are also some words that Yiddish speakers who live in English speaking countries have adopted into their vocabulary. They call this

1 comment:

Chela said...

Heidenkind said:
Yup. I do wonder if German has borrowed words from Hebrew--it probably has, German is one of those languages that loves to borrow words.