Historische jiddische Semantik. Die Bibelübersetzungssprache als Faktor
der Auseinanderentwicklung des jiddischen und des deutschen Wortschatzes.
Niemeyer: Tübingen. 2005. ISBN 3-484-73063-3.
(Published June 2006. HSL/SHL 6)
Max Weinreich created
the term ‘fusion language’ (shmeltsshprakh) to describe the
process by which four languages were combined over centuries to form
Yiddish. Judeo-Romance was according to Weinreich the language of the
first Jews to settle in Ashkenaz, the German-speaking language area. The
others were Hebrew-Aramaic, varieties of first Old High German and later
Middle High German, and finally Slavic languages, after a majority of
Ashkenazic Jews migrated eastward as a consequence of persecution in the
West. Although not unquestioned (see e.g. Krogh 2001), there is wide
agreement among scholars on this concept of amalgamation. However, there
are diverse views on the role and importance of each of the components
in the process. Some argue for Judeo-Romance, Aramaic or Sorbian as the
substrate of Yiddish (see Katz 1985 and Wexler 1991), whilst others
would say that these languages influenced Yiddish as adstrates (Krogh
2001). Although the Germanic component in Yiddish is the most dominant
in phonology, morpho-syntax and the lexicon, the majority of research
over the last fifty years has concentrated on the impact of the other
components. This was perhaps due to the desire to separate the study of
Yiddish from German linguistics and philology, which had traditionally
ignored Yiddish or perceived it as a minor variety of German, obscurely
characterized by Hebrew letters.
imbalanced approach has been counteracted to a certain extent by the
Department of Yiddish at Trier University, notably by Erika Timm, who
contributed a major study Graphische und phonische Struktur des
Westjiddischen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Zeit um 1600 to
the field of Yiddish historical linguistics in 1987. Earlier, in 1986,
Timm had published an article outlining structural differences between
German varieties and the emerging Yiddish language, focussing on the
distinct development of the Germanic component in Yiddish. In this
article Timm already refers to the important role the Yiddish calque
language used to translate the Bible might have played in the process
towards a Germanic component distinct from other German varieties. Her
latest publication Historische jiddische Semantik. Die
Bibelübersetzungssprache als Faktor der Auseinanderentwicklung des
jiddischen und des deutschen Wortschatzes in 2005 is the result of a
research project led by Timm over more than a decade, partly funded and
supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. In her book she looks
at the distinct development of the Germanic component in Yiddish,
focussing on its semantics by examining the impact of the Yiddish
translation of the Bible as learned and memorized by schoolchildren in
the traditional Jewish elementary school, the Kheder. The institution of
the Kheder dates back to the second century AD, if not earlier, and its
main method of teaching involves the cantillation of passages from the
Bible in Hebrew in order to learn them by heart, followed by a
word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase translation into the vernacular. The
translation of the Bible into Yiddish, although a calque language rather
than a medium for spoken language, developed into a fairly customized
form through its institutional use. As Timm shows convincingly in her
book, it influenced the semantics of the Germanic component in the
language in a remarkable way.
her team based their research on the Hebrew–Yiddish Bible dictionary
first printed around 1534, which gives a more or less complete overview
of the Yiddish calque language. The relevant translations from the
Biblical text into Yiddish were compared with historical and recent
sources and dictionaries of Yiddish, Middle High German and Early New
High German. Furthermore, words offered by the calque language were
contrasted with a number of Yiddish sources dating from the first half
of the fifteenth century. In doing so Timm can show that the calque
language preserved forms in Yiddish which were abandoned by German
varieties and/or the German standard language, e.g.
“to spread” or the verbal prefix der-. Furthermore the calque
language created many words unknown in German dialects or in the
emerging German standard language by using Germanic derivational affixes
, e.g. -ung, -nisch, -kejt or –haftig. A
main translation principle of the Kheder made it necessary to find
Germanic equivalents even for Hebrew component words in Yiddish since
the biblical texts were not supposed to be translated by Hebrew words.
Many of the resulting neologisms were not common in old Yiddish sources
but made their way into modern Yiddish. Timm shows how Hebrew influenced
and formed the Germanic component of Yiddish indirectly through the
established calque language for bible translation, thus contributing to
the distinct development away from German varieties. It is, however, not
only the lexicon but also parts of morphology which are influenced,
formed or simply reinforced by the calque language, e.g. the s-plural,
diminutive plurals or the Yiddish demonstrative construction der
dosiger (“the same”).
second part of the book is devoted to a thorough and meticulous
discussion of those German compound words from Mircevess hamišne
which show considerable differences when compared to German. Thus, Timm
most remarkably specifies in her study what can be hidden beneath the
somewhat vague notion of contact induced language change in highlighting
the sociolinguistic and institutional background of language use which
contributed to the distinct development of the Germanic component in
Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham
Katz, Dovid. 1985.
Aramaic and the Rise of Yiddish”.
In: Joshua A. Fishman (ed.), Readings in the Sociology of Jewish
Languages. Leiden: Brill. 85-103.
Steffen. 2001. Das Ostjiddische im Sprachkontakt. Deutsch im
Spannungsfeld zwischen Semitisch und Slavisch. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Jiddische als Kontrastsprache bei der Erforschung des
Zeitschrift für germanistische Linguistik 14, 1-22.
Erika. 1987. Graphische und phonische Struktur des Westjiddischen
unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Zeit um 1600.
Weinreich, Max. 1980.
History of the Yiddish Language. Chicago: University of Chicago
Wexler, Paul. 1991.
– the fifteenth Slavic Language. A study of partial language shift from
Judeo-Sorbian to German”.
International Journal o0f the Sociology of Language 91, 9-150.