Polish Borrowings in Yiddish

פּױליש-שטאַמיקע װערטער אין ייִדיש

Long-Lasting Language Contact and its Lexical
and Semantic Outcome Based on the Example
of Polish Lexical Borrowings in Yiddish *

About the Project

װעגן דעם פֿאָרש־פּראָיעקט

The Goal of our Research.

Our goal is to study the transfer of vocabulary from Polish to Yiddish, the language of Eastern-European Jews. The latter is a clear example of a mixed language significantly influenced by Polish.

By conducting a meticulous analysis of Polish-origin words in Yiddish, their meanings, grammatical properties and relations to other words, we hope to find answers to more general questions. We are comparing the semantic and grammatical connections of specific words within the new environment of Yiddish with those of their etymological ancestors in Polish. By doing so, we aim to show for instance how to distinguish words originating from the speakers’ ancestral mother tongue from later borrowings within a mixed language (see below).

Answers to these kinds of questions will enrich the existing body of knowledge of the consequences of language contact.

What is Language Contact

Direct language contact is primarily linked to human migration and occurs whenever individuals or groups sharing the same space are forced to communicate using more than one language.

Therefore, it ultimately comes down to finding strategies for overcoming communication barriers. Most of the time this leads to contact-induced changes within the vocabulary, phonetics and grammar of the languages involved, which, in cases of long-lasting contact, occur unconsciously to the speakers. The most common results are lexical borrowings, perhaps some grammatical influence as well, but in extreme cases a group may abandon its mother tongue in favor of another language. Sometimes a form of “linguistic compromise” is reached, which appears to have happened in the case of Yiddish when Jews who spoke Judeo-Slavic languages (also called Knaanic) integrated with their mostly German-speaking co-religionists immigrating from Western Europe. In contact linguistics, this process is called language shift. One of its results was the carryover of certain Slavic words into the emergent mixed language of Yiddish. This inherited vocabulary is one of our research topics.

Although these linguistic processes are universal phenomena, Slavic-Jewish-German contact provides a good illustration for them.

Long-lasting Jewish-Slavic contact and its lexical outcome

The figure below presents the outcome of Jewish-Slavic language contact in its consecutive stages.
Click on each point to view content.

Slavic glosses The Knaanic language Inscriptions on Hebrew coins Words of Slavic origin in old Yiddish texts Polish Yiddish Slavic-Jewish folk songs Standard Yiddish Yiddishisms in Polish language

What are Lexical Borrowings?

These are words taken over from the speakers of another language and integrated into one’s own as a result of direct or indirect language contact.

Colloquially, the term “borrowings” includes all foreign lexical material, from occasional insertions, through well-known but recognizably alien words, to vocabulary used commonly within a community without knowledge of its origin. In the case of a mixed language, the latter are hard to distinguish from so-called lexical relics – old words stemming from the group’s original mother tongue. In situations of intense and long-lasting contact, new words (coinages) may also be created out of foreign material that do not exist in the latter’s source language. Therefore, one can say that words commonly called borrowings may have varying degrees of rootedness in their recipient language, based on the intensity and duration of contact, which is depicted in the graphic below.

Yiddish as a Mixed Language

The Jews have been a multilingual people since the biblical times as a result of their living in a diaspora for the greater part of their history. Besides Hebrew, used among scholars as a language of religion, law and science, they also spoke the languages of the peoples among whom they lived.

Therefore, as the German-speaking Jews from the West migrated East, they encountered and absorbed their Slavic-speaking co-religionists. With time, the latter changed their mother tongue to the German ethnolect of their kin due to the prestige and dominance of German in the cities in which they settled. This language shift was incomplete, however, as these Jews (often unwittingly) introduced many significant grammatical and lexical elements of their speech into the newly acquired idiom (the so-called Slavic component of Yiddish). The mixed character of this new language was subsequently reinforced by lasting and intense contact with the Slavic speech of the surrounding peoples, particularly Polish. This process of language fusion is visible in the mixed structure of Yiddish vocabulary. For example, the dominance of Slavicisms within complete sets of concepts, especially those closely related to the human being itself, may be a proof of their relic status.

The Human Body. A semantic field dominated by Slavicisms.

Contact linguistics generally makes the distinction between core vocabulary and borrowings (Tadmor/Haspelmath/Taylor 2010). The former seems to form the stable part of the lexicon, highly resistant to replacement. Body-part names are for the most part included in this group, as they describe a universal reality, very close to the human experience. That is why borrowings should theoretically be very rare in the area of the human body. In Yiddish however, many body-part names are of Slavic origin which may testify to their relic status.

Click on the points below for information on each word, described as it will be in the upcoming dictionary (see below).

די פּאָטיליצע די באַרקע די פּאַכע די באָקע דער פּאַס דער זאָדיק די דלאָניע דער קאַרק די לאָפּעטקע די פּלײצע דער קריזש די ביאָדרע די ליטקע די פּיענטע

About the Dictionary

װעגן דעם װערטערבוך

The interactive dictionary of Polish loanwords in Yiddish is the investigative team’s primary research tool. Firstly, it makes it possible to describe each word with numerous types of data, such as pronunciation, grammatical gender, inflection or inclusion in semantic fields such as the human body. Secondly, it enables searching and filtering the gathered material based on all types of the mentioned information.

Moreover, the structure of the dictionary, based on a wordnet-like architecture, allows a visualization of the relations between specific words in Yiddish and a comparison with analogous relations in the source language. Thanks to these features, the dictionary takes lexical analysis to a new level by mapping the process of language contact.

The network of semantic, interlingual and derivational relations based on the example of Y nudne | נודנע

Click below to view presentation.

Literature

ביבליאָגראַפֿיע

PRIMARY SOURCES

  1. Astravuh, Aljaksandar. 2008. „Idysh-Bjelaruski Slownik.” Minsk: Medisont.
  2. Beinfeld, Solon, and Harry Bochner (eds.). 2013. “Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary.” Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press.
  3. Berenstein, Icchak. 1941. “Hunger.” ARG 1210 Ring I 600.
  4. Geller, Ewa. 1994. “Jidysz – język Żydów polskich.” Warszawa: PWN.
  5. Geller, Ewa. 2001. “Warschauer Jiddisch.” Tübingen: Niemeyer Verlag.
  6. Geller, Ewa 2015. „Sejfer-derech ejc ha chajim. Przewodnik po drzewie żywota.” Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Muzeum im. Jana III Sobieskiego w Wilanowie.
  7. Harkavy, Alexander. [1928] 1988. „Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary.” New York: Schocken Books.
  8. Kerler, Dov-Ber. 1999. “The Origins of Modern Literary Yiddish.” Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  9. Kondrat, Agata. 2012. “Der Jidiszer Sznajder: Żydowsko-Polski Kontakt Językowy Na Przykładzie Pola Semantycznego ‘Krawiectwo’ w Języku Jidysz.” Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis.
  10. Kotik, Jecheziel. 1922. „Majne zixrojnes. Eršter tejl.” Berlin: Klal-Farlag.
  11. Kunin, I. 1939. „Mener-šnajderaj. Praktišer hantbux lojt dem sistem ‘Adam’.” Paris. Vilne.
  12. Kupfer, Franciszek, and Tadeusz Lewicki. 1956. „Źródła hebrajskie do dziejów Słowian i niektórych innych ludów środkowej i wschodniej Europy.” Wrocław, Warszawa: Ossolineum.
  13. Levando, Fanni. 1938. „Vegetariš-dietetišer koxbuch.” Vilne: Kleckin-Farlag.
  14. Moskovich, Wolf. 2013. „From Leshon Kna’an to Yiddish: Some case studies.” In Knaanic Language: Structure and Historical Background, edited by Ondřej Bláha, Robert Dittmann and Lenka Ulična. 191-99. Prague: Academia.
  15. Neuberg, Simon. 1999. „Pragmatische Aspekte der jiddischen Sprachgeschichte am Beispiel der ‘Zenerene‘.“ 89-102. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
  16. „Proletarišer Gedankt.“ 1941. ARG 1328 Ring I 694.
  17. Pryłucki, Cwi. 1940-1941. „Pamiętnik.“ ARG 510 Ring II 175.
  18. Schaechter-Viswanath, Gitl, and Paul Glasser, eds. 2016. “Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary.” Bloomington-Indiana: Indiana University Press.
  19. Schaechter, Mordkhe. 2005. “Plant Names in Yiddish.” New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
  20. Stutchkoff, Nahum. 1950. “Der Ojcer Fun Der Jidišer Šprax.“ New York: YIVO.
  21. Tytelman, Nechemiasz. 1942. “Fun der serje hojf-zinger, betler-kinder, zejere milxome-lider.“ ARG 1243 Ring I 1053.
  22. Tytelman, Nechemiasz. 1942. „Fun der serje hojf-zinger, betler-kinder, zejere milxome-lider.“ ARG 1242 Ring I 172.
  23. Tytelman, Nechemiasz. Glater. 1941. “Baj komunikat.” ARG 1218 Ring I 1166.
  24. Wexler, Paul. 2002. “Two-tiered Relexifiaction in Yiddish.” Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Online sources:

  1. Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry EYDES
  2. Corpus of Modern Yiddish
  3. Jiddische Nederlands Woordenboek
  4. Stutchkoff’s Oytser

SECONDARY LITERATURE (selected)

  1. Auer, Peter. 2014. “Language mixing and language fusion: when bilingual talk becomes monolingual.”  In Congruence in Contact-Induced Language Change, edited by Juloiane Besters-Dilger et al. 294-333. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.
  2. Bakker, Peter (ed.). 2016. “Contact Languages.” De Gruyter Mouton.
  3. Beider, Alexander. 2015. “Origins of Yiddish Dialects.” Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. Besters-Dilger, Juiane et al. 2014. „Congruence in Contact-Induced Language Change.” Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.
  5. Birnbaum, Solomon A. 2016. “Yiddish. A survey and grammar.” Toronto: Toronto University Press.
  6. Chambers, J. K., and Natalie Schilling. 2013. “The Handbook of Language Variation and Change.” Hoboken, N. J.: Wiley-Blackwell.
  7. Eggers, Ekhard. 1998. Sprachwandel und Sprachmischung im Jiddischen. Frankfurt am Main et. al: Peter Lang
  8. Gajek, Michał. 2013. “The Diaphoneme ei|ai as a Reflex of the Old Slavic Vowel ě in Yiddish.” In Knaanic Language: Structure and Historical Background, edited by Ondřej Bláha, Robert Dittmann and Lenka Ulična. 92-107. Prague: Academia.
  9. Gajek, Michał. 2016. „Wpływy polskie w jidysz według ‘History of the Yiddish Language’ Maxa Weinreicha.” Studia z filologii polskiej i słowiańskiej. 51: 88-118.
  10. Geller, Ewa. 2013. „Knaanic Glosses as Code-Switching Phenomenon.” In Knaanic Language: Structure and Historical Background, edited by Ondřej Bláha, Robert Dittmann and Lenka Ulična. 108-28. Prague: Academia.
  11. Geller, Ewa. 2015. „Sejfer-derech ejc ha chajim. Przewodnik po drzewie żywota.” Warsaw: Wyd. Muzeum im. Jana III Sobieskiego w Wilanowie.
  12. Haspelmath, Martin, and Uri Tadmor. 2009. „Loanwords in the World’s Languages. A Comparative Handbook.” Berlin: De Gruyter/Mouton.
  13. Hickey, Raymond. 2013.  “The Handbook of Language Contact.” Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
  14. Kerler, Dov-Ber. 1999. “The Origins of Modern Literary Yiddish.” Oxford: Clarednon Press.
  15. Kupfer, Franciszek, and Tadeusz Lewicki. 1956. “Źródła hebrajskie do dziejów Słowian i niektórych innych ludów środkowej i wschodniej Europy.” Wrocław, Warsaw: Ossolineum.
  16. Matras, Yaron, and Janett Sackel. 2007. “Grammatical Borrowing in Cross-linguistic  Perspective. Empirical Approaches to Language Typology.” Berlin: De Gruyter/Mouton.
  17. Matras, Yaron, and Peter Bakker. 2008. “The Mixed Language Debate. Theoretical and Empirical Advances.” Berlin: De Gruyter/Mouton.
  18. Matras, Yaron. 2009. “Language Contact.” Cambridge et al.: Cambridge University Press.
  19. Moskovich, Wolf. 2013. „From Leshon Kna’an to Yiddish: Some case studies.” In Knaanic Language: Structure and Historical Background, edited by Ondřej Bláha, Robert Dittmann and Lenka Ulična. 191-99. Prague: Academia.
  20. Muysken, Peter. 2000. “Bilingual Speech. A Typology of Code Mixing.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  21. Neuberg, Simon. 1999. P”ragmatische Aspekte der jiddischen Sprachgeschichte am Beispiel der ‘Zenerene‘.“89-102. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
  22. Noonan, Michael. 2013. “Genetic Classification and Language Contact.” In: The Handbook of Language Contact, edited by Raymond  Hickey. 48-65. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
  23. Poplack, Shana. 2018. “Borrowing Loanwords in the Speech Community and in the Grammar.” New York: Oxford University Press.
  24. Spolsky, Bernard. 2014. “The Languages of the Jews: A Sociolinguistic History.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  25. Tadmor, Uri, and Martin Haspelmath, and Bradley Tylor. 2010. “Borrowability and the Notion of Basic Vocabulary.” Diachronica 27: 226-246.
  26. Taylor, John R.. 2015. “The Oxford Handbook of the Word.” Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  27. Timm, Erika. 2005. “Historische jiddische Semantik.“ Tübingen: Max  Niemeyer Verlag.
  28. Weinreich, Max. 1956. “Yiddish, Knaanic, Slavic: The Basic Relationships.” In For Roman Jakobson. Essays on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday, 11 October 1956, edited by Morris Halle et. al. 622-32 The Hague: Mouton.
  29. Weinreich, Max. 2008. “History of the Yiddish Language.” [edited by P. Glaser, translated from Yiddish by Sh. Noble] Vol. 1-2. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.
  30. Weinreich, Uriel. 1953. “Languages in Contact. Findings and Problems.” The Hague  et. al.: Mouton
  31. Wexler, Paul. 1987. “Explorations in Judeo-Slavic Linguistics.” Leiden: E. J. Brill.
  32. Wexler, Paul. 1990. “The Schizoid Nature of Modern Hebrew: A Slavic Language in Search of a Semitic Past.” Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.
  33. Wexler, Paul. 1991. “Yiddish, the fifteenth Slavic language a study of partial language shift from Judeo-Sorbian to German.” Berlin et al.: Mouton de Gruyter.
  34. Wexler, Paul. 2002. “Two-tiered Relexification in Yiddish: Jews, Sorbs, Khazars, and the Kiev-Polessian Dialect.” De Gruyter.
  35. Zenner, Eline, and Gitte Kristiansen. 2014. “New Perspectives on Lexical Borrowing. Onomasiological, Methodological and Phraseological.” Boston, Berlin: de Gruyter.
  36. Zenner, Eline, and Dirk Speelman, and Dirk Geeraerts. 2014. “Core vocabulary, borrowability and entrenchment: A usage-based onomasiological approach.” Diachronica 31 (1): 74-105.
  37. Zuckermann, Ghil`ad. 2003. “Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew.” Palgrave Macmillan.

The Team

פֿאָרשערס־גרופּע

Prof. Ewa Geller

Institute of German Studies
Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Warsaw
www: https://neofilologia.wn.uw.edu.pl/profile/10/
principal investigator

Agata Kondrat, PhD

Graduate of the Institute of German Studies
Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Warsaw
investigator

Michał Gajek, MA

Institute of German Studies
Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Warsaw
doctoral student/scholar, investigator

Zuzanna Łapa, BA

Chair of General and
Indo-European Linguistics
Faculty of Philology
at the Jagiellonian University
in Krakow
intern, investigator

Collaboration

Tomasz Naskręt M. Eng.
Wrocław University of Science and Tchnology
CLARIN-PL
programming services

Prof. Mariola Jakubowicz
Institute of Slavic Studies,
Polish Academy of Sciences
specialist consultant in Slavic Studies

Miłosz Lindner, BA
Mordechai Anielewicz Centre for the Study
and Teaching of the History
and Culture of Jews in Poland
University of Warsaw
scholar (01.2017-06.2018), investigator

Contact

Please review our call for submissions for a monograph publication on Yiddish-Slavic language contact. (click here)

 

*Project funded by the National Science Centre (NCN) as part of the Opus 11 competition,

UMO-2016/21/B/HS2/02549, 2017‑2020.

Contractor:

Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Warsaw

ul. Dobra 55, 00-312, Warsaw

Poland

www.neofilologia.uw.edu.pl

http://plwordnet.pwr.wroc.pl/wordnet/

polonjid@wn.uw.edu.pl