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Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a
West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the others being the North Germanic languages, North Germanic and the extinct East Germanic languages, East Germani ...
language historically spoken by
Ashkenazi Jews Ashkenazi Jews ( are a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in ...
. It originated during the 9th century in Central Europe, providing the nascent Ashkenazi community with a High German-based
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language A first language, native tongue, native langua ...
fused with many elements taken from
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
(notably Mishnaic) and to some extent
Aramaic Aramaic (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that originated among the in the ancient , at the end of the , and later became one of the most prominent languages of the . During its three thousand years long history, Aramaic went thr ...
; most varieties also have substantial influence from
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are spoken primarily by the or their descendants. They are thought to descend from a called , spoken during the , which in turn is thought to have descended from the earlier , lin ...

Slavic languages
, and the vocabulary contains traces of influence from
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) ...

Romance languages
.Aram Yardumian
"A Tale of Two Hypotheses: Genetics and the Ethnogenesis of Ashkenazi Jewry".
University of Pennsylvania. 2013.
Yiddish writing uses the
Hebrew alphabet The Hebrew alphabet ( he, wikt:אלפבית, אָלֶף־בֵּית עִבְרִי, ), known variously by scholars as the Ktav Ashuri, Jewish script, square script and block script, is an abjad script used in the writing of the Hebrew language ...

Hebrew alphabet
. In the 1990s, there were around 1.5–2 million speakers of Yiddish, mostly
Hasidic Hasidism, sometimes spelled Chassidism, and also known as Hasidic Judaism ( he, חסידות, Ḥăsīdut, ; originally, "piety"), is a subgroup of Haredi Judaism that arose as a spiritual revival movement in the territory of contemporary Wester ...
and
Haredi Jews Haredi Judaism ( he, יהדות חֲרֵדִית ', ; also spelled ''Charedi'' in English; plural ''Haredim'' or ''Charedim'') consists of groups within Orthodox Judaism which are characterized by their strict adherence to ''halakha'' (Jewish law ...

Haredi Jews
. , the
Center for Applied Linguistics The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1959 and headquartered in Washington, DC ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washi ...
estimated the number of speakers to have had a worldwide peak at 11 million (prior to
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
), with the number of speakers in the United States and Canada then totaling 150,000. An estimate from
Rutgers University Rutgers University (RU; ), officially known as Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a Public university, public land-grant research university based in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Chartered in 1766, Rutgers was originally called Queen ...
gives 250,000 American speakers, 250,000 Israeli speakers, and 100,000 in the rest of the world (for a total of 600,000). The earliest surviving references date from the 12th century and call the language (''loshn-ashknaz'', "language of Ashkenaz") or (''taytsh''), a variant of ''tiutsch'', the contemporary name for
Middle High German Middle High German (MHG; german: Mittelhochdeutsch (Mhd.)) is the term for the form of German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * ...
. Colloquially, the language is sometimes called (''mame-loshn'', ), distinguishing it from ('' loshn koydesh'', "holy tongue"), meaning Hebrew and Aramaic. The term "Yiddish", short for ''Yidish Taitsh'' ("Jewish German"), did not become the most frequently used designation in the literature until the 18th century. In the late 19th and into the 20th century, the language was more commonly called "Jewish", especially in non-Jewish contexts, but "Yiddish" is again the more common designation today. Modern Yiddish has two major forms. Eastern Yiddish is far more common today. It includes Southeastern (Ukrainian–Romanian), Mideastern (Polish–Galician–Eastern Hungarian) and Northeastern (Lithuanian–Belarusian) dialects. Eastern Yiddish differs from Western both by its far greater size and by the extensive inclusion of words of Slavic origin. Western Yiddish is divided into Southwestern (Swiss–Alsatian–Southern German), Midwestern (Central German), and Northwestern (Netherlandic–Northern German) dialects. Yiddish is used in a number of Haredi Jewish communities worldwide; it is the first language of the home, school, and in many social settings among many Haredi Jews, and is used in most
Hasidic Hasidism, sometimes spelled Chassidism, and also known as Hasidic Judaism ( he, חסידות, Ḥăsīdut, ; originally, "piety"), is a subgroup of Haredi Judaism that arose as a spiritual revival movement in the territory of contemporary Wester ...
yeshiva A yeshiva (; he, ישיבה, , sitting; pl. , or ) is a Jewish education, Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and the Torah, and halacha (Jewish law). The studyin ...
s. The term "Yiddish" is also used in the adjectival sense, synonymously with "Jewish", to designate attributes of
Yiddishkeit Yiddishkeit ( yi, ייִדישקייט ) literally means "Jewishness", i.e. "a Jewish way of life". It can refer to Judaism Judaism ( he, יהדות, ''Yahadut''; originally from Hebrew , ''Yehudah'', "Kingdom of Judah, Judah", via Ancient ...
("Ashkenazi culture"; for example, Yiddish cooking and "Yiddish music" –
klezmer Klezmer ( yi, קלעזמער) is an instrumental musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Central Europe, Central and Eastern Europe. The essential elements of the tradition include dance tunes, ritual melodies, and virtuosic improvisations p ...
). Prior to
the Holocaust The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the genocide Genocide is the intentional action to destroy a people—usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural syste ...
, there were 11–13 million speakers of Yiddish among 17 million Jews worldwide. 85% of the approximately 6,000,000 Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust were Yiddish speakers,
Solomon BirnbaumSolomon Asher Birnbaum, also ''Salomo Birnbaum'' ( yi, שלמה בירנבוים ''Shlomo Barenboym'', December 24, 1891 in Vienna en, Viennese , iso_code = AT-9 , registration_plate = Vehicle registratio ...
, ''Grammatik der jiddischen Sprache'' (4., erg. Aufl., Hamburg: Buske, 1984), p. 3.
leading to a massive decline in the use of the language. Assimilation following
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
and ''
aliyah Aliyah (, ; he, עֲלִיָּה ''aliyah'', "ascent") is the immigration of Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites ...
'', immigration to Israel, further decreased the use of Yiddish among survivors and Yiddish-speakers from other countries (such as in the Americas). However, the number of Yiddish-speakers is increasing in Hasidic communities.


History


Origins

By the 10th century, a distinctive Jewish culture had formed in Central Europe. By the high medieval period, their area of settlement, centered on the
Rhineland The Rhineland (german: Rheinland; french: Rhénanie; nl, Rijnland; ksh, Rhingland; Latinised name: ''Rhenania'') is the name used for a loosely defined area of Western Germany The old states of Germany (german: die alten Länder) are the t ...

Rhineland
(
Mainz Mainz (; ) is the capital and largest city of Rhineland-Palatinate Rhineland-Palatinate (german: Rheinland-Pfalz, ) is a western state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine ...

Mainz
) and the Palatinate (notably
Worms The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) is a taxonomic database that aims to provide an authoritative and comprehensive list of names of marine organisms. Content The content of the registry is edited and maintained by scientific specialists ...
and
Speyer Speyer (, older spelling ''Speier'', known as ''Spire'' in French and formerly as ''Spires'' in English) is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany with approximately 50,000 inhabitants. Located on the left bank of the river Rhine, Speyer lies ...

Speyer
), came to be known as ''
Ashkenaz Ashkenaz ( he, אַשְׁכְּנָז) in the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. Thes ...

Ashkenaz
'' (), originally a term used of
Scythia lands (shown in orange) c. 170 BC Scythia (, ; from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ) was a region of Central Eurasia in classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultur ...
, and later of various areas of Eastern Europe and Anatolia. In the
medieval Hebrew Medieval Hebrew was a literary and liturgical language that existed between the 4th and 19th century. It was not commonly used as a spoken language, but mainly in written form by rabbis, scholars and poets. Medieval Hebrew had many features that ...
of
Rashi Shlomo Yitzchaki ( he, רבי שלמה יצחקי; la, Salomon Isaacides; french: Salomon de Troyes, 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), today generally known by the acronym Rashi (see below), was a medieval French rabbi A rabbi is a spi ...
(d. 1105), ''Ashkenaz'' becomes a term for Germany, and ''
Ashkenazi Ashkenazi Jews ( are a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in ...
'' for the Jews settling in this area. Ashkenaz bordered on the area inhabited by another distinctive Jewish cultural group, the
Sephardi Jews Sephardi Jews, also known as Sephardic Jews, ''Sephardim'',, Modern Hebrew: ''Sefaraddim'', Tiberian Hebrew, Tiberian: Səp̄āraddîm, also , ''Ye'hude Sepharad'', lit. "The Jews of Spain", es, Judíos sefardíes (or ), pt, Judeus sefarditas ...
, who ranged into
southern France Southern France, also known as the South of France or colloquially in French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, Répub ...
. Ashkenazi culture later spread into Eastern Europe with large-scale population migrations. Nothing is known with certainty about the vernacular of the earliest Jews in Germany, but several theories have been put forward. As noted above, the first language of the Ashkenazim may have been
Aramaic Aramaic (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that originated among the in the ancient , at the end of the , and later became one of the most prominent languages of the . During its three thousand years long history, Aramaic went thr ...
, the vernacular of the Jews in Roman-era Judea and ancient and early medieval
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
. The widespread use of Aramaic among the large non-Jewish
Syrian Syrians ( ar, سُورِيُّون, ''Sūriyyūn''), also known as the Syrian people ( ar, الشَّعْب السُّورِيّ, : eş''-Şa‘b es-Sūrī''; syr, ܣܘܪܝܝܢ), are the majority inhabitants of and share common ine roots. The ...
trading population of the Roman provinces, including those in Europe, would have reinforced the use of Aramaic among Jews engaged in trade. In Roman times, many of the Jews living in
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
and
Southern Italy Southern Italy ( it, Sud Italia; nap, 'o Sudde; scn, Italia dû Sud), also known as ''Meridione'' or ''Mezzogiorno'' (, literally "Midday"; in nap, 'o Miezojuorno; in scn, Mezzujornu), is a macroregionA macroregion is a geopolitical subdivisi ...
appear to have been
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
-speakers, and this is reflected in some Ashkenazi personal names (e.g., ''Kalonymos'' and Yiddish ''Todres''). Hebrew, on the other hand, was regarded as a holy language reserved for ritual and spiritual purposes and not for common use. The established view is that, as with other
Jewish languages Jewish languages are the various languages A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system comp ...
, Jews speaking distinct languages learned new co-territorial vernaculars, which they then Judaized. In the case of Yiddish, this scenario sees it as emerging when speakers of Zarphatic (Judeo-French) and other Judeo-Romance languages began to acquire varieties of
Middle High German Middle High German (MHG; german: Mittelhochdeutsch (Mhd.)) is the term for the form of German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * ...
, and from these groups the Ashkenazi community took shape. Exactly what German base lies behind the earliest form of Yiddish is disputed. The Jewish community in the Rhineland would have encountered the
Middle High German Middle High German (MHG; german: Mittelhochdeutsch (Mhd.)) is the term for the form of German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * ...
dialects from which the Rhenish German dialects of the modern period would emerge. Jewish communities of the high medieval period would have been speaking their own versions of these German dialects, mixed with linguistic elements that they themselves brought into the region, including many Hebrew and Aramaic words, but there is also Romance, Slavic, Turkic and Iranian influence. In
Max Weinreich Max Weinreich (russian: Мейер Лазаревич Вайнрайх, ''Meyer Lazarevich Vaynraykh''; 22 April 1894 – 29 January 1969) was a Russian Jewish The history of the Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pr ...
's model, Jewish speakers of
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spok ...
or
Old Italian Italian (''italiano'' or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages (less commonly Latin languages, or Neo-Latin languages) are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin between the third and eighth centuries. They are a su ...
who were literate in either liturgical
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
or
Aramaic Aramaic (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that originated among the in the ancient , at the end of the , and later became one of the most prominent languages of the . During its three thousand years long history, Aramaic went thr ...
, or both, migrated through Southern Europe to settle in the
Rhine Valley Rhine Valley (German: ''Rheintal'') is the valley, or any section of it, of the river Rhine ), Surselva, Graubünden, Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type ...
in an area known as
Lotharingia Lotharingia (Latin: ''regnum Lotharii, regnum Lothariense, Lotharingia'', French: ''Lotharingie'', German: ''Reich des Lothar'', ''Lotharingien'', ''Mittelreich'') was a short-lived medieval successor kingdom of the Carolingian Empire The Caro ...
(later known in Yiddish as ''Loter'') extending over parts of Germany and France. There, they encountered and were influenced by Jewish speakers of
High German languages The High German languages or High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten) comprise the variety (linguistics), varieties of German language, German spoken south of the Benrath line, Benrath and Uerdingen line, Uerdingen isoglosses in ce ...
and several other German dialects. Both Weinreich and
Solomon BirnbaumSolomon Asher Birnbaum, also ''Salomo Birnbaum'' ( yi, שלמה בירנבוים ''Shlomo Barenboym'', December 24, 1891 in Vienna en, Viennese , iso_code = AT-9 , registration_plate = Vehicle registratio ...
developed this model further in the mid-1950s. In Weinreich's view, this Old Yiddish substrate later bifurcated into two distinct versions of the language, Western and Eastern Yiddish. They retained the Semitic vocabulary and constructions needed for religious purposes and created a Judeo-German form of speech, sometimes not accepted as a fully autonomous language. Later linguistic research has refined the Weinreich model or provided alternative approaches to the language's origins, with points of contention being the characterization of its Germanic base, the source of its Hebrew/Aramaic adstrata, and the means and location of this fusion. Some theorists argue that the fusion occurred with a Bavarian dialect base. The two main candidates for the germinal matrix of Yiddish, the Rhineland and Bavaria, are not necessarily incompatible. There may have been parallel developments in the two regions, seeding the Western and Eastern dialects of Modern Yiddish.
Dovid Katz Dovid Katz (Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a High German languages, High German–derived language historically spoken by Ashkenazi Jews. It originated during the 9th century in Central Europe, p ...

Dovid Katz
proposes that Yiddish emerged from contact between speakers of High German and Aramaic-speaking Jews from the Middle East. The lines of development proposed by the different theories do not necessarily rule out the others (at least not entirely); an article in ''
The Forward ''The Forward'' ( yi, פֿאָרווערטס, Forverts), formerly known as ''The Jewish Daily Forward'', is an American news media organization for a Jewish American American Jews or Jewish Americans are Americans Americans are the C ...
'' argues that "in the end, a new 'standard theory' of Yiddish’s origins will probably be based on the work of Weinreich and his challengers alike." Paul Wexler proposed a model in 1991 that took Yiddish, by which he means primarily eastern Yiddish, not to be genetically grounded in a Germanic language at all, but rather as " Judeo-Sorbian" (a proposed
West Slavic language The West Slavic languages are a subdivision of the Slavic language group. They include Polish, Czech, Slovak, Kashubian, Upper Sorbian and Lower Sorbian. The languages are spoken across a continuous region encompassing the Czech Republic ...
) that had been relexified by High German. In more recent work, Wexler has argued that Eastern Yiddish is unrelated genetically to Western Yiddish. Wexler's model has been met with little academic support, and strong critical challenges, especially among historical linguists. Das et al. (2016, co-authored by Wexler) use
human genetics Human genetics is the study of inheritance as it occurs in human beings. Human genetics encompasses a variety of overlapping fields including: classical genetics, cytogenetics, molecular genetics, biochemical genetics, genomics, population genet ...
in support of the hypothesis of a "a Slavic origin with strong Iranian and weak Turkic substrata".


Written evidence

Yiddish orthography Yiddish orthography is the writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subjec ...
develops towards the end of the high medieval period. It is first recorded in 1272, with the oldest surviving literary document in Yiddish, a blessing found in the Worms
machzor The ''machzor'' ( he, מחזור, plural ''machzorim'', and , respectively) is the prayer book used by Jews on the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Many Jews also make use of specialized ''machzorim'' on the three pilgrimage festi ...

machzor
(a Hebrew prayer book). This brief rhyme is decoratively embedded in an otherwise purely Hebrew text. Nonetheless, it indicates that the Yiddish of that day was a more or less regular Middle High German written in the Hebrew alphabet into which Hebrew words – , (prayerbook for the
High Holy Days The High Holidays or High Holy Days, in Judaism Judaism ( he, יהדות, ''Yahadut''; originally from Hebrew , ''Yehudah'', "Kingdom of Judah, Judah", via Ancient Greek, Greek ''Ioudaismos''; the term itself is of Anglo-Latin origin c. 1 ...
) and , "synagogue" (read in Yiddish as ''beis hakneses'') – had been included. The
niqqud In Hebrew language, Hebrew orthography, niqqud or nikud ( or ) is a system of diacritical signs used to represent vowels or distinguish between alternative pronunciations of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Several such diacritical systems were ...
appears as though it might have been added by a second scribe, in which case it may need to be dated separately and may not be indicative of the pronunciation of the rhyme at the time of its initial annotation. Over the course of the 14th and 15th centuries, songs and poems in Yiddish, and
macaronic Macaronic language uses a mixture of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system ...
pieces in Hebrew and German, began to appear. These were collected in the late 15th century by Menahem ben Naphtali Oldendorf. During the same period, a tradition seems to have emerged of the Jewish community's adapting its own versions of German secular literature. The earliest Yiddish epic poem of this sort is the '' Dukus Horant'', which survives in the famous Cambridge Codex T.-S.10.K.22. This 14th-century manuscript was discovered in the
Cairo Geniza The Cairo Geniza, alternatively spelled Genizah, is a collection of some 400,000 Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelit ...
in 1896, and also contains a collection of narrative poems on themes from the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, with a f ...

Hebrew Bible
and the
Haggadah The Haggadah ( he, הַגָּדָה, "telling"; plural: Haggadot) is a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder. Reading the Haggadah at the Seder table is a fulfillment of the mitzvah to each Jew to "tell your children" the s ...
.


Printing

The advent of the
printing press A printing press is a mechanical device for applying pressure to an ink Ink is a gel, sol, or solution Image:SaltInWaterSolutionLiquid.jpg, Making a saline water solution by dissolving Salt, table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) in water ...
in the 16th century enabled the large-scale production of works, at a cheaper cost, some of which have survived. One particularly popular work was
Elia Levita Elia Levita (13 February 146928 January 1549) ( Hebrew: אליהו בן אשר הלוי אשכנזי), also known as Elijah Levita, Elias Levita, Élie Lévita, Elia Levita Ashkenazi, Eliahu Levita, Eliyahu haBahur ("Elijah the Bachelor"), Elye B ...
's '' Bovo-Bukh'' (), composed around 1507–08 and printed several times, beginning in 1541 (under the title ''Bovo d'Antona''). Levita, the earliest named Yiddish author, may also have written ''Pariz un Viene'' (''Paris and
Vienna Vienna ( ; german: Wien ; bar, Wean, label=Bavarian language, Austro-Bavarian ) is the Capital city, national capital, largest city, and one of States of Austria, nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's List of cities and towns in Austria, mos ...

Vienna
''). Another Yiddish retelling of a chivalric romance, װידװילט ''Vidvilt'' (often referred to as "Widuwilt" by Germanizing scholars), presumably also dates from the 15th century, although the manuscripts are from the 16th. It is also known as ''Kinig Artus Hof'', an adaptation of the Middle High German romance ''Wigalois'' by Wirnt von Grafenberg. Another significant writer is Avroham ben Schemuel Pikartei, who published a paraphrase on the
Book of Job The Book of Job (; he, אִיּוֹב – ''ʾIyyōḇ'') is a book of the Hebrew Bible. It addresses the problem of theodicy, meaning why God permits evil in the world, through the experiences of the eponymous protagonist. Job (biblic ...
in 1557. Women in the Ashkenazi community were traditionally not literate in Hebrew but did read and write Yiddish. A body of literature therefore developed for which women were a primary audience. This included secular works, such as the ''Bovo-Bukh'', and religious writing specifically for women, such as the ''
Tseno Ureno The ''Tseno Ureno'' ( yi, צאנה וראינה), also spelt Tsene-rene, Tz'enah Ur'enah, sometimes called the ''Women's Bible'', is a Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a High German languages, High ...

Tseno Ureno
'' and the '' Tkhines''. One of the best-known early woman authors was
Glückel of Hameln Glückel of Hameln (; also spelled Glückel, Glüeckel, or Glikl of Hamelin; also known as Glikl bas Judah Leib) ( – September 19, 1724) was a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are ...
, whose memoirs are still in print. The segmentation of the Yiddish readership, between women who read ''mame-loshn'' but not ''loshn-koydesh'', and men who read both, was significant enough that distinctive
typeface A typeface is the design of lettering Lettering is an umbrella term In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying ...

typeface
s were used for each. The name commonly given to the semicursive form used exclusively for Yiddish was (''
vaybertaytsh ''Vaybertaytsh'' () or ''mashket'' (), is a cursive, semi-cursive script typeface for the Yiddish alphabet. From the 16th until the early 19th century, the ''mashket'' font distinguished Yiddish publications, whereas Hebrew language, Hebrew Hebrew ...

vaybertaytsh
'', 'women's ''taytsh'', shown in the heading and fourth column in the ''Shemot Devarim''), with square Hebrew letters (shown in the third column) being reserved for text in that language and Aramaic. This distinction was retained in general typographic practice through to the early 19th century, with Yiddish books being set in ''vaybertaytsh'' (also termed ''mesheyt'' or ''mashket''—the construction is uncertain). An additional distinctive semicursive typeface was, and still is, used for rabbinical commentary on religious texts when Hebrew and Yiddish appear on the same page. This is commonly termed
Rashi script Rashi script or Sephardic script (), is a typeface for the Hebrew alphabet based on 15th-century Sephardi Jews, Sephardic Solitreo, semi-cursive handwriting. It is named for the Rabbinic literature, rabbinic commentator Rashi, whose Rashi#Works, ...
, from the name of the most renowned early author, whose commentary is usually printed using this script. (Rashi is also the typeface normally used when the Sephardic counterpart to Yiddish,
Judaeo-Spanish Judaeo-Spanish or Judeo-Spanish (autonym , Hebrew script The Hebrew alphabet ( he, אָלֶף־בֵּית עִבְרִי, ), known variously by scholars as the Ktav Ashuri Ktav Ashuri ( he, כְּתָב אַשּׁוּרִי, ' "Assyr ...
or ''Ladino'', is printed in Hebrew script.)


Secularization

The Western Yiddish dialect—sometimes pejoratively labeled ''Mauscheldeutsch'', i. e. "Moses German"—declined in the 18th century, as the
Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment); ger, Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie , "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, link= ...
and the ''
Haskalah The ''Haskalah'', often termed Jewish Enlightenment ( he, השכלה; literally, "wisdom", "erudition" or "education"), was an intellectual movement among the Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organ ...
'' led to a view of Yiddish as a corrupt dialect. A ''
Maskil The ''Haskalah'', often termed Jewish Enlightenment ( he, השכלה; literally, "wisdom", "erudition"), was an intellectual movement among the Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are ...
'' (one who takes part in the ''Haskalah'') would write about and promote acclimatization to the outside world. Jewish children began attending secular schools where the primary language spoken and taught was German, not Yiddish. Owing to both assimilation to German and the
revival of Hebrew The revival of the Hebrew language took place in Europe and Palestine (region), Palestine toward the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, through which the language's usage changed from the sacred language of Judaism to a spoken langu ...
, Western Yiddish survived only as a language of "intimate family circles or of closely knit trade groups". ( Liptzin 1972). In eastern Europe, the response to these forces took the opposite direction, with Yiddish becoming the cohesive force in a secular culture (see the Yiddishist movement). Notable Yiddish writers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are Sholem Yankev Abramovitch, writing as
Mendele Mocher Sforim Mendele Mocher Sforim ( yi, , he, מנדלי מוכר ספרים, also known as Moykher, Sfarim; lit. "Mendele the book peddler"; January 2, 1836, Kapyl – December 8, 1917 .S. Odessa), born Sholem Yankev Abramovich ( yi, , russian: Со ...

Mendele Mocher Sforim
; Sholem Rabinovitsh, widely known as
Sholem Aleichem ) , birth_date = , birth_place = Pereiaslav, Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . was a historical empire that extended across Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primar ...

Sholem Aleichem
, whose stories about (''Tevye der milkhiker'', "
Tevye Tevye the Dairyman, also translated as Tevye the Milkman ( yi, טבֿיה דער מילכיקער, ''Tevye der milkhiker'' ) is the fictional narrator and protagonist of a series of short stories by Sholem Aleichem ) , birth_date = , bir ...
the Dairyman") inspired the Broadway musical and film ''
Fiddler on the Roof ''Fiddler on the Roof'' is a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics Lyrics are word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective ...

Fiddler on the Roof
''; and
Isaac Leib Peretz Isaac Leib Peretz ( pl, Icchok Lejbusz Perec, yi, יצחק־לייבוש פרץ) (May 18, 1852 – April 3, 1915), also sometimes written Yitskhok Leybush Peretz was a Yiddish language Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-T ...
.


20th century

In the early 20th century, especially after the Socialist
October Revolution The October Revolution,. officially known as the Great October Socialist Revolution. under the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence ...

October Revolution
in Russia, Yiddish was emerging as a major Eastern European language. Its rich literature was more widely published than ever,
Yiddish theatre Yiddish theatre consists of plays written and performed primarily by Jew Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ) is an international standard are technical standards deve ...
and
Yiddish cinema Yiddish cinema ( yi, יידישע קינא, יידיש-שפראכיגע קינא; trans. ''Idish-Sprakhige Kino'', ''Idishe Kino'') refers to the Yiddish language film industry which produced some 130 full-length motion pictures and 30 short during ...
were booming, and for a time it achieved the status of one of the
official language An official language is a language given a special status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically the term "official language" does not refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government (e.g. judiciar ...

official language
s of the
Ukrainian People's Republic The Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR), or Ukrainian National Republic (UNR), was a country in Eastern Europe that existed between 1917 and 1920. It was Ukraine after the Russian Revolution, declared following the February Revolution in Russia. ...

Ukrainian People's Republic
, the
Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR, or Byelorussian SSR; be, Беларуская Савецкая Сацыялістычная Рэспубліка, Bielaruskaja Savieckaja Sacyjalistyčnaja Respublika; russian: Белорус ...
and the short-lived
Galician Soviet Socialist Republic The Galician Soviet Socialist Republic (russian: Галицкая Социалистическая Советская Республика, Г.С.С.Р.) was a Bolshevik's self-declared and short-lived political entity that existed from 15 July t ...
, and the
Jewish Autonomous Oblast The Jewish Autonomous Oblast (JAO; russian: Евре́йская автоно́мная о́бласть, ; yi, ייִדישע אװטאָנאָמע געגנט, ; )In standard Yiddish: , ''Yidishe Oytonome Gegnt'' is a federal subject The fed ...

Jewish Autonomous Oblast
. Educational autonomy for Jews in several countries (notably
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...

Poland
) after
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
led to an increase in formal Yiddish-language education, more uniform orthography, and to the 1925 founding of the Yiddish Scientific Institute,
YIVO YIVO (Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the o ...
. In
Vilnius Vilnius ( , ; see also other names Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also refer to: Books * The Other (Tryon novel), ''The Other'' (Tryon novel), a 1971 horror n ...

Vilnius
, there was debate over which language should take primacy, Hebrew or Yiddish. Yiddish changed significantly during the 20th century. Michael Wex writes, "As increasing numbers of Yiddish speakers moved from the Slavic-speaking East to Western Europe and the Americas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were so quick to jettison Slavic vocabulary that the most prominent Yiddish writers of the time—the founders of modern Yiddish literature, who were still living in Slavic-speaking countries—revised the printed editions of their oeuvres to eliminate obsolete and 'unnecessary' Slavisms." The vocabulary used in Israel absorbed many Modern Hebrew words, and there was a similar but smaller increase in the English component of Yiddish in the United States and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom. This has resulted in some difficulty in communication between Yiddish speakers from Israel and those from other countries.


Phonology


Grammar


Writing system

Yiddish is written in the
Hebrew alphabet The Hebrew alphabet ( he, wikt:אלפבית, אָלֶף־בֵּית עִבְרִי, ), known variously by scholars as the Ktav Ashuri, Jewish script, square script and block script, is an abjad script used in the writing of the Hebrew language ...

Hebrew alphabet
, but its
orthography An orthography is a set of conventions for writing Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions b ...
differs significantly from that of Hebrew. Whereas, in Hebrew, many vowels are represented only optionally by
diacritical marks A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph The term glyph is used in typography Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language A written langua ...
called
niqqud In Hebrew language, Hebrew orthography, niqqud or nikud ( or ) is a system of diacritical signs used to represent vowels or distinguish between alternative pronunciations of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Several such diacritical systems were ...
, Yiddish uses letters to represent all vowels. Several Yiddish letters consist of another letter combined with a niqqud mark resembling a Hebrew letter-niqqud pair, but each of those combinations is an inseparable unit representing a vowel alone, not a consonant-vowel sequence. The niqqud marks have no phonetic value on their own. In most varieties of Yiddish, however,
loanwords A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gesture ...
from Hebrew are spelled as they are in Hebrew, not according to the usual Yiddish orthographical rules.


Numbers of speakers

On the eve of
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
, there were 11 to 13 million Yiddish speakers.
The Holocaust The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the genocide Genocide is the attempted destruction of a people, usually defined as an ethnic An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify wi ...
, however, led to a dramatic, sudden decline in the use of Yiddish, as the extensive Jewish communities, both secular and religious, that used Yiddish in their day-to-day life were largely destroyed. Around five million of those killed85 percent of the Jews murdered in the Holocaustwere speakers of Yiddish. Although millions of Yiddish speakers survived the war (including nearly all Yiddish speakers in the Americas), further assimilation in countries such as the United States and the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
, in addition to the strictly monolingual stance of the
Zionist was the founder of the Modern Zionist movement. In his 1896 pamphlet ''Der Judenstaat ''Der Judenstaat'' ( German, literally ''The Jews' State'', commonly rendered as ''The Jewish State'') is a pamphlet written by Theodor Herzl and publishe ...
movement, led to a decline in the use of Eastern Yiddish. However, the number of speakers within the widely dispersed Haredi (mainly Hasidic) communities is now increasing. Although used in various countries, Yiddish has attained official recognition as a
minority language A minority language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between sel ...
only in
Moldova Moldova (, ; ), officially the Republic of Moldova ( ro, Republica Moldova), is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to ...

Moldova
,
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina,, abbreviated BiH or B&H, sometimes called Bosnia–Herzegovina and often known informally as Bosnia, is a country in South South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north a ...

Bosnia and Herzegovina
, the
Netherlands ) , national_anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = EU-Netherlands.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = BES islands location map.svg , map_caption2 = , image_map3 ...

Netherlands
, and Sweden. Reports of the number of current Yiddish speakers vary significantly. ''
Ethnologue ''Ethnologue: Languages of the World'' (stylized as Ethnoloɠue) is an annual reference publication in print and online that provides statistics and other information on the living language A language is a structured system of communicat ...
'' estimates, based on publications through 1991, that there were at that time 1.5 million speakers of Eastern Yiddish, of which 40% lived in Ukraine, 15% in Israel, and 10% in the United States. The
Modern Language Association The Modern Language Association of America, often referred to as the Modern Language Association (MLA), is the principal professional association A professional association (also called a professional body, professional organization, or prof ...
agrees with fewer than 200,000 in the United States. Western Yiddish is reported by ''Ethnologue'' to have had an ethnic population of 50,000 in 2000, and an undated speaking population of 5,000, mostly in Germany. A 1996 report by the
Council of Europe The Council of Europe (CoE; french: Conseil de l'Europe, ) is an international organisation ''International Organization'' is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal that covers the entire field of international relations, international aff ...

Council of Europe
estimates a worldwide Yiddish-speaking population of about two million. Further
demographic Demography (from prefix ''demo-'' from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark Ages (), the period ...

demographic
information about the recent status of what is treated as an Eastern–Western dialect continuum is provided in the YIVO ''Language and Cultural Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry''. In the Hasidic communities of Israel, boys speak more Yiddish amongst themselves, while girls use Hebrew more often. This is probably due to the fact that girls tend to learn more secular subjects, thus increasing contact with the Hebrew language, and boys are usually taught religious subjects in Yiddish.


Status as a language

There has been frequent debate about the extent of the linguistic independence of Yiddish from the languages that it absorbed. There has been periodic assertion that Yiddish is a dialect of German, or even "just broken German, more of a linguistic mishmash than a true language". Even when recognized as an autonomous language, it has sometimes been referred to as Judeo-German, along the lines of other Jewish languages like
Judeo-Persian Judeo-Persian refers to both a group of Jewish dialects spoken by the Jews living in Iran and Judeo-Persian texts (written in Hebrew alphabet). As a collective term, Judeo-Persian refers to a number of Judeo-Iranian languages spoken by Jewish comm ...
,
Judeo-Spanish Judaeo-Spanish or Judeo-Spanish (autonym , Hebrew script: , Cyrillic , bg, кирилица , mk, кирилица , russian: кириллица , sr, ћирилица, uk, кирилиця , fam1 = Egyptian hieroglyphs Egyptian hierog ...
or Judeo-French. A widely cited summary of attitudes in the 1930s was published by
Max Weinreich Max Weinreich (russian: Мейер Лазаревич Вайнрайх, ''Meyer Lazarevich Vaynraykh''; 22 April 1894 – 29 January 1969) was a Russian Jewish The history of the Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pr ...
, quoting a remark by an auditor of one of his lectures: (''a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot'' — " A language is a dialect with an army and navy").


Israel and Zionism

The national language of Israel is Hebrew. The debate in Zionist circles over the use of Yiddish in Israel and in the diaspora in preference to Hebrew also reflected the tensions between religious and secular Jewish lifestyles. Many secular Zionists wanted Hebrew as the sole language of Jews, to contribute to a national cohesive identity. Traditionally religious Jews, on the other hand, preferred use of Yiddish, viewing Hebrew as a respected holy language reserved for prayer and religious study. In the early 20th century, Zionist activists in
Palestine Palestine ( or ) most often refers to: * State of Palestine, a ''de jure'' sovereign state in the Middle East * Palestine (region), a geographical and historical region in the Middle East Palestine may also refer to: * Palestinian National Aut ...
tried to eradicate the use of Yiddish among Jews in preference to Hebrew, and make its use socially unacceptable. This conflict also reflected the opposing views among secular Jews worldwide, one side seeing Hebrew (and Zionism) and the other Yiddish (and Internationalism) as the means of defining Jewish nationalism. In the 1920s and 1930s, , "
Battalion for the Defence of the Language The Battalion for the Defence of the Language (Hebrew: גדוד מגיני השפה, pronounced ''gdud meginey hasafa'') was a small but militant body established by Jewish students at the The Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium in ...
", whose motto was " ", that is, "Hebrew [i.e. Jew], speak Hebrew!", used to tear down signs written in "foreign" languages and disturb Yiddish theatre gatherings. However, according to linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann, the members of this group in particular, and the Hebrew revival in general, did not succeed in uprooting Yiddish patterns (as well as the patterns of other European languages Jewish immigrants spoke) within what he calls "Israeli", i.e. Modern Hebrew. Zuckermann believes that "Israeli does include numerous Hebrew elements resulting from a conscious revival but also numerous pervasive linguistic features deriving from a subconscious survival of the revivalists’ mother tongues, e.g. Yiddish." After the founding of the State of Israel, a massive wave of Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries, Jewish immigrants from Arab countries arrived. In short order, these Mizrahi Jews and their descendants would account for nearly half the Jewish population. While all were at least familiar with Hebrew as a liturgical language, essentially none had any contact with or affinity for Yiddish (some, of Sephardi Jews, Sephardic origin, spoke Judeo-Spanish, others various Judeo-Arabic dialects, Judeo-Arabic varieties). Thus, Hebrew emerged as the dominant linguistic common denominator between the different population groups. Despite a past of marginalization and anti-Yiddish government policy, in 1996 the Knesset passed a law founding the "National Authority for Yiddish Culture", with the aim of supporting and promoting contemporary Yiddish art and Yiddish literature, literature, as well as preservation of Yiddish culture and publication of Yiddish classics, both in Yiddish and in Hebrew translation. In religious circles, it is the Ashkenazi
Haredi Jews Haredi Judaism ( he, יהדות חֲרֵדִית ', ; also spelled ''Charedi'' in English; plural ''Haredim'' or ''Charedim'') consists of groups within Orthodox Judaism which are characterized by their strict adherence to ''halakha'' (Jewish law ...

Haredi Jews
, particularly the Hasidic Jews and the Lithuanian yeshiva world (see Lithuanian Jews), who continue to teach, speak and use Yiddish, making it a language used regularly by hundreds of thousands of Haredi Jews today. The largest of these centers are in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. There is a growing revival of interest in Yiddish culture among secular Israelis, with the flourishing of new proactive cultural organizations like YUNG YiDiSH, as well as
Yiddish theatre Yiddish theatre consists of plays written and performed primarily by Jew Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ) is an international standard are technical standards deve ...
(usually with simultaneous translation to Hebrew and Russian) and young people are taking university courses in Yiddish, some achieving considerable fluency.


South Africa

In the early years of the 20th century Yiddish had been classified as a 'Semitic Language'. After much campaigning, the South African legislator Morris Alexander (1877–1945) won a parliamentary fight to have Yiddish reclassified as a European language, thereby permitting the immigration of Yiddish-speakers to South Africa.


Former Soviet Union

In the Soviet Union during the era of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in the 1920s, Yiddish was promoted as the language of the Jewish proletariat. It was one of the official languages of the
Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR, or Byelorussian SSR; be, Беларуская Савецкая Сацыялістычная Рэспубліка, Bielaruskaja Savieckaja Sacyjalistyčnaja Respublika; russian: Белорус ...
. Until 1938, the Emblem of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic included the motto ''Workers of the world, unite!'' in Yiddish. Yiddish was also an official language in several agricultural districts of the
Galician Soviet Socialist Republic The Galician Soviet Socialist Republic (russian: Галицкая Социалистическая Советская Республика, Г.С.С.Р.) was a Bolshevik's self-declared and short-lived political entity that existed from 15 July t ...
. A public educational system entirely based on the Yiddish language was established and comprised kindergartens, schools, and higher educational institutions (technical schools, rabfaks and other university departments). At the same time, Hebrew was considered a bourgeois and reactionary language and its use was generally discouraged. While schools with curriculums taught in Yiddish existed in some areas until the 1950s, there was a general decline in enrolment due to preference for Russian-speaking institutions and the declining reputation of Yiddish schools among Yiddish speaking Soviets. General Soviet denationalization programs and secularization policies also led to a further lack of enrolment and funding; the last schools to be closed existed until 1951. It continued to be spoken widely for decades, nonetheless, in areas with compact Jewish populations (primarily in Moldova, Ukraine, and to a lesser extent Belarus). In the former Soviet states, recently active Yiddish authors include Josef Burg (writer), Yoysef Burg (Chernivtsi 1912–2009) and Olexander Beyderman (b. 1949, Odessa). Publication of an earlier Yiddish periodical ( – der fraynd; lit. "The Friend"), was resumed in 2004 with (''der nayer fraynd''; lit. "The New Friend", Saint Petersburg).


Russia

According to the Russian Census (2010), 2010 census, 1,683 people spoke Yiddish in Russia, approximately 1% of all the Jews of the Russian Federation. According to Mikhail Shvydkoy, former Minister of Culture of Russia and himself of Jewish origin, Yiddish culture in Russia is gone, and its revival is unlikely.


= Jewish Autonomous Oblast

= The Jewish Autonomous Oblast was formed in 1934 in the Russian Far East, with its capital city in Birobidzhan and Yiddish as its official language. The intention was for the Soviet Jewish population to settle there. Jewish cultural life was revived in Birobidzhan much earlier than elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Yiddish theaters began opening in the 1970s. The newspaper (Birobidzhaner Shtern, ''Der Birobidzhaner Shtern''; lit: "The Birobidzhan Star") includes a Yiddish section. In modern Russia, the cultural significance of the language is still recognized and bolstered. The First Birobidzhan International Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Culture was launched in 2007. , according to data provided by the Russian Census Bureau, there were 97 speakers of Yiddish in the JAO. A November 2017 article in The Guardian, titled, "Revival of a Soviet Zion: Birobidzhan celebrates its Jewish heritage", examined the current status of the city and suggested that, even though the Jewish Autonomous Region in Russia's far east is now barely 1% Jewish, officials hope to woo back people who left after Soviet collapse and to revive the Yiddish language in this region.


Ukraine

Yiddish was an official language of the
Ukrainian People's Republic The Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR), or Ukrainian National Republic (UNR), was a country in Eastern Europe that existed between 1917 and 1920. It was Ukraine after the Russian Revolution, declared following the February Revolution in Russia. ...

Ukrainian People's Republic
(1917–1921).


Council of Europe

Several countries that ratified the 1992 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages have included Yiddish in the list of their recognized minority languages: the Netherlands (1996), Sweden (2000), Romania (2008), Poland (2009), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2010). In 2005, Ukraine did not mention Yiddish as such, but "the language(s) of the Jewish ethnic minority".European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. List of declarations made with respect to treaty No. 148
Status as of: April 29, 2019


Sweden

In June 1999, the Swedish Parliament enacted legislation giving Yiddish legal status as one of the country's official minority languages of Sweden, official minority languages (entering into effect in April 2000). The rights thereby conferred are not detailed, but additional legislation was enacted in June 2006 establishing a new governmental agency, The Swedish National Language Council, the mandate of which instructs it to "collect, preserve, scientifically research, and spread material about the national minority languages", naming them all explicitly, including Yiddish. When announcing this action, the government made an additional statement about "simultaneously commencing completely new initiatives for... Yiddish [and the other minority languages]". The Swedish government has published documents in Yiddish detailing the national action plan for human rights. An earlier one provides general information about national minority language policies. On September 6, 2007, it became possible to register Internet domains with Yiddish names in the national top-level domain .se. The first Jews were permitted to reside in Sweden during the late 18th century. The Jewish population in Sweden is estimated at around 20,000. Of these, according to various reports and surveys, between 2,000 and 6,000 claim to have at least some knowledge of Yiddish. In 2009, the number of native speakers among these was estimated by linguist Mikael Parkvall to be 750–1,500. It is believed that virtually all native speakers of Yiddish in Sweden today are adults, and most of them elderly.


United States

In the United States, at first most Jews were of Sephardi Jews, Sephardic origin, and hence did not speak Yiddish. It was not until the mid-to-late 19th century, as first German Jews, then Central and Eastern European Jews, arrived in the nation, that Yiddish became dominant within the immigrant community. This helped to bond Jews from many countries. (''Forverts'' – ''
The Forward ''The Forward'' ( yi, פֿאָרווערטס, Forverts), formerly known as ''The Jewish Daily Forward'', is an American news media organization for a Jewish American American Jews or Jewish Americans are Americans Americans are the C ...
'') was one of seven Yiddish daily newspapers in New York City, and other Yiddish newspapers served as a forum for Jews of all European backgrounds. In 1915, the circulation of the daily Yiddish newspapers was half a million in New York City alone, and 600,000 nationally. In addition, thousands more subscribed to the numerous weekly papers and the many magazines. The typical circulation in the 21st century is a few thousand. The ''Forward'' still appears weekly and is also available in an online edition. It remains in wide distribution, together with (''der algemeyner zhurnal'' – ''Algemeiner Journal''; ''algemeyner'' = general), a Chabad newspaper which is also published weekly and appears online. The widest-circulation Yiddish newspapers are probably the weekly issues ( "The Jew"), (; ''blat'' "paper") and ( "the newspaper"). Several additional newspapers and magazines are in regular production, such as the weekly אידישער טריביון ''Yiddish Tribune'' and the monthly publications (''Der Shtern'' "The Star") and (''Der Blik'' "The View"). (The romanized titles cited in this paragraph are in the form given on the masthead of each publication and may be at some variance both with the literal Yiddish title and the Yiddish orthography#Transliteration, transliteration rules otherwise applied in this article.) Thriving Yiddish theater, especially in the New York City Yiddish Theatre District, kept the language vital. Interest in
klezmer Klezmer ( yi, קלעזמער) is an instrumental musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Central Europe, Central and Eastern Europe. The essential elements of the tradition include dance tunes, ritual melodies, and virtuosic improvisations p ...
music provided another bonding mechanism. Most of the Jewish immigrants to the New York metropolitan area during the years of Ellis Island considered Yiddish their native language; however, native Yiddish speakers tended not to pass the language on to their children, who assimilated and spoke English. For example, Isaac Asimov states in his autobiography ''In Memory Yet Green'' that Yiddish was his first and sole spoken language, and remained so for about two years after he emigrated to the United States as a small child. By contrast, Asimov's younger siblings, born in the United States, never developed any degree of fluency in Yiddish. Many "Yiddishisms", like "Italianisms" and "Spanishisms", entered New York City English, often used by Jews and non-Jews alike, unaware of the linguistic origin of the phrases. Yiddish words used in English were documented extensively by Leo Rosten in ''The Joys of Yiddish''; see also the list of English words of Yiddish origin. In 1975, the film ''Hester Street (film), Hester Street'', much of which is in Yiddish, was released. It was later chosen to be on the Library of Congress National Film Registry for being considered a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" film. In 1976, the Canadian-born American author Saul Bellow received the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was fluent in Yiddish, and translated several Yiddish poems and stories into English, including Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Gimpel the Fool". In 1978, Singer, a writer in the Yiddish language, who was born in
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...

Poland
and lived in the United States, received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Legal scholars Eugene Volokh and Alex Kozinski argue that Yiddish is "supplanting Latin as the spice in American legal argot".


Present U.S. speaker population

In the 2000 United States Census, 178,945 people in the United States reported speaking Yiddish at home. Of these speakers, 113,515 lived in New York (state), New York (63.43% of American Yiddish speakers); 18,220 in Florida (10.18%); 9,145 in New Jersey (5.11%); and 8,950 in California (5.00%). The remaining states with speaker populations larger than 1,000 are Pennsylvania (5,445), Ohio (1,925), Michigan (1,945), Massachusetts (2,380), Maryland (2,125), Illinois (3,510), Connecticut (1,710), and Arizona (1,055). The population is largely elderly: 72,885 of the speakers were older than 65, 66,815 were between 18 and 64, and only 39,245 were age 17 or lower. In the six years since the 2000 census, the 2006 American Community Survey reflected an estimated 15 percent decline of people speaking Yiddish at home in the U.S. to 152,515. In 2011, the number of persons in the United States above the age of five speaking Yiddish at home was 160,968. 88% of them were living in four metropolitan areas – New York City and another metropolitan area Poughkeepsie–Newburgh–Middletown metropolitan area, just north of it, Miami, and Los Angeles. There are a few predominantly
Hasidic Hasidism, sometimes spelled Chassidism, and also known as Hasidic Judaism ( he, חסידות, Ḥăsīdut, ; originally, "piety"), is a subgroup of Haredi Judaism that arose as a spiritual revival movement in the territory of contemporary Wester ...
communities in the United States in which Yiddish remains the majority language including concentrations in the Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Crown Heights, Borough Park, Brooklyn, Borough Park, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Williamsburg neighborhoods of Brooklyn. In Kiryas Joel, New York, Kiryas Joel in Orange County, New York, in the 2000 census, nearly 90% of residents of Kiryas Joel reported speaking Yiddish at home.


United Kingdom

There are well over 30,000 Yiddish speakers in the United Kingdom, and several thousand children now have Yiddish as a first language. The largest group of Yiddish speakers in Britain reside in the Stamford Hill district of North London, but there are sizable communities in northwest London, Leeds, Manchester and Gateshead. The Yiddish readership in the UK is mainly reliant upon imported material from the United States and Israel for newspapers, magazines and other periodicals. However, the London-based weekly ''Jewish Tribune (UK), Jewish Tribune'' has a small section in Yiddish called ''Yidishe Tribune''. From the 1910s to the 1950s, London had a daily Yiddish newspaper called די צײַט (''Di Tsayt'', ; in English, ''The Time''), founded, and edited from offices in Whitechapel Road, by Romanian-born Morris Myer, who was succeeded on his death in 1943 by his son Harry. There were also from time to time Yiddish newspapers in Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Leeds.


Canada

Montreal had, and to some extent still has, one of the most thriving Yiddish communities in North America. Yiddish was Montreal's third language (after French and English) for the entire first half of the twentieth century. ''Der Keneder Adler'' ("The Canadian Eagle", founded by Hirsch Wolofsky), Montreal's daily Yiddish newspaper, appeared from 1907 to 1988. The Monument-National was the center of Yiddish theater from 1896 until the construction of the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts (now the Segal Centre for Performing Arts), inaugurated on September 24, 1967, where the established resident theater, the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre, remains the only permanent Yiddish theatre in North America. The theatre group also tours Canada, US, Israel, and Europe. Even though Yiddish has receded, it is the immediate ancestral language of Montrealers like Mordecai Richler and Leonard Cohen, as well as former interim city mayor Michael Applebaum. Besides Yiddish-speaking activists, it remains today the native everyday language of 15,000 Montreal Hasidim.


Religious communities

Major exceptions to the decline of spoken Yiddish are found in Haredi Judaism, Haredi communities all over the world. In some of the more closely knit such communities, Yiddish is spoken as a home and schooling language, especially in Hasidic, Lithuanian Jews, Litvish, or Yeshivish communities, such as Brooklyn's Borough Park, Brooklyn, Borough Park, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Crown Heights, and in the communities of Monsey, New York, Monsey, Kiryas Joel, New York, Kiryas Joel, and New Square, New York, New Square in New York (over 88% of the population of Kiryas Joel is reported to speak Yiddish at home.) Also in New Jersey, Yiddish is widely spoken mostly in Lakewood Township, New Jersey, Lakewood Township, but also in smaller towns with
yeshiva A yeshiva (; he, ישיבה, , sitting; pl. , or ) is a Jewish education, Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and the Torah, and halacha (Jewish law). The studyin ...
s, such as Passaic, New Jersey, Passaic, Teaneck, New Jersey, Teaneck, and elsewhere. Yiddish is also widely spoken in the Jewish community in History of the Jews in Antwerp, Antwerp, and in Haredi communities such as the ones in London, Manchester, and Montreal. Yiddish is also spoken in many Haredi communities throughout Israel. Among most Ashkenazi Haredim, Hebrew is generally reserved for prayer, while Yiddish is used for religious studies, as well as a home and business language. In Israel, however, Haredim commonly speak modern Hebrew, with the notable exception of many Hasidic communities. However, many Haredim who use Modern Hebrew also understand Yiddish. There are some who send their children to schools in which the primary language of instruction is Yiddish. Members of anti-Zionist Haredi groups such as the Satmar (Hasidic dynasty), Satmar Hasidim, who view the commonplace use of Hebrew as a form of Zionism, use Yiddish almost exclusively. Hundreds of thousands of young children around the globe have been, and are still, taught to translate the texts of the Torah into Yiddish. This process is called (''taytshn'') – "translating". Many Ashkenazi yeshivas' highest level lectures in Talmud and Halakha are delivered in Yiddish by the rosh yeshivas as well as ethical talks of the Musar movement. Hasidic rebbes generally use only Yiddish to converse with their followers and to deliver their various Torah talks, classes, and lectures. The linguistic style and vocabulary of Yiddish have influenced the manner in which many Orthodox Judaism, Orthodox Jews who attend yeshivas speak English. This usage is distinctive enough that it has been dubbed "Yeshivish". While Hebrew remains the exclusive language of Jewish prayer, the Hasidim have mixed some Yiddish into their Hebrew, and are also responsible for a significant secondary religious literature written in Yiddish. For example, the tales about the Baal Shem Tov were written largely in Yiddish. The Torah Talks of the late Chabad leaders are published in their original form, Yiddish. In addition, some prayers, such as "God of Abraham", were composed and are recited in Yiddish.


Modern Yiddish education

There has been a resurgence in Yiddish learning in recent times among many from around the world with Jewish ancestry. The language which had lost many of its native speakers during the Holocaust has been making something of a comeback. In Poland, which traditionally had Yiddish speaking communities, a museum has begun to revive Yiddish education and culture. Located in Kraków, the Galicia Jewish Museum offers classes in Yiddish Language Instruction and workshops on Yiddish Songs. The museum has taken steps to revive the culture through concerts and events held on site. There are various universities worldwide which now offer Yiddish programs based on the
YIVO YIVO (Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the o ...
Yiddish standard. Many of these programs are held during the summer and are attended by Yiddish enthusiasts from around the world. One such school located within Vilnius University (Vilnius Yiddish Institute) was the first Yiddish center of higher learning to be established in post-Holocaust Eastern Europe. Vilnius Yiddish Institute is an integral part of the four-century-old Vilnius University. Published Yiddish scholar and researcher Dovid Katz is among the Faculty. Despite this growing popularity among many American Jews, finding opportunities for practical use of Yiddish is becoming increasingly difficult, and thus many students have trouble learning to speak the language. One solution has been the establishment of a farm in Goshen, New York, for Yiddishists. Yiddish is the medium of instruction in many Hasidic חדרים ''khadoorim,'' Jewish boys' schools, and some Hasidic girls' schools. Sholem Aleichem College, a secular Jewish primary school in Melbourne teaches Yiddish as a second language to all its students. The school was founded in 1975 by the Bundism, Bund movement in Australia, and still maintains daily Yiddish instruction today, and includes student theater and music in Yiddish.


Internet

Google Translate includes Yiddish as one of its languages, as does Yiddish Wikipedia, Wikipedia. Hebrew alphabet keyboards are available and right-to-left writing recognised. Google Search accepts queries in Yiddish. Over ten thousand Yiddish texts, estimated as over half of all the published works in Yiddish, are now online based on the work of the Yiddish Book Center, volunteers, and the Internet Archive. There are many websites on the Internet in Yiddish. In January 2013, ''The Forward'' announced the launch of the new daily version of their newspaper's website, which has been active since 1999 as an online weekly, supplied with radio and video programs, a literary section for fiction writers and a special blog written in local contemporary Hasidic dialects. Computer scientist Raphael Finkel maintains a hub of Yiddish-language resources, including a searchable dictionary and spell checker. In late 2016, Motorola, Inc. released its smartphones with keyboard access for the Yiddish language in its foreign language option. On 5 April 2021, Duolingo added Yiddish to its courses.


Influence on other languages

As this article has explained, Yiddish has influenced Modern Hebrew and New York English, especially as spoken by yeshivah students (sometimes known as Yeshivish). It has also influenced Cockney English, Cockney in England. Paul Wexler proposed that Esperanto was not an arbitrary pastiche of major European languages but a Latinate relexification of Yiddish, a native language of its L. L. Zamenhof, founder. This model is generally unsupported by mainstream linguists.Bernard Spolsk
''The Languages of the Jews: A Sociolinguistic History,''
Cambridge University Press, 2014 pp.157,180ff. p.183


Language examples

Here is a short example of the Yiddish language with standard German as a comparison.


See also

* List of Yiddish-language poets * List of Yiddish newspapers and periodicals * ''The Yiddish King Lear'' * Yinglish * Yiddish symbols *Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Persian (Jiddi)


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * *
* * * * * *
* * * * * Shternshis, Anna (2006). ''Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939.'' Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. * * * * *


Further reading

* ''YIVO Bleter'', pub. YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, NYC
initial series
from 1931
new series
since 1991. * ''Afn Shvel'', pub. League for Yiddish, NYC, since 1940
sample article אונדזער פרץ – Our Peretz
* ''Lebns-fragn'', by-monthly for social issues, current affairs, and culture, Tel Aviv, since 1951

* ''Yerusholaymer Almanakh'', periodical collection of Yiddish literature and culture, Jerusalem, since 1973
ירושלימער אלמאנאךnew volume, contents and downloads
* ''Der Yiddisher Tam-Tam'', pub. Maison de la Culture Yiddish, Paris, since 1994, also available i

* ''Yidishe Heftn'', pub. Le Cercle Bernard Lazare, Paris, since 1996
subscription info
* ''Gilgulim, naye shafungen'', new literary magazine, Paris, since 2008
גילגולים, נייע שאפונגען


External links


Yiddish Book CenterYIVO Institute for Jewish Research: Yiddish DictionariesThe Israeli National Authority of Yiddish CultureComparison of Eastern and Western Yiddish
based on stable vocabulary. EVOLAEMP Project, University of Tübingen.
In Geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies
{{DEFAULTSORT:Yiddish Language Yiddish, Ashkenazi Jews topics Jewish languages Jews and Judaism in Germany German dialects High German languages Languages of Israel Languages of Poland Languages of Russia Languages of Ukraine Languages of Georgia (country) Diaspora languages Subject–verb–object languages Verb-second languages Endangered diaspora languages