Thu, Jul 11
02:00PM ET
Thu, Jul 11
02:00PM ET

lecture

Testimonies in Response and What They Tell Us about the Development of Spoken Yiddish (in Yiddish) - Live on Zoom

Moshe Taube | Delivered in Yiddish. 

Since the 15th century, many testimonies in "Loshn Ashkenaz" (which may refer both to Yiddish and to German) have been preserved in responsa(rabbinic pronouncements on matters of Jewish law written in response to questions asked of halakhic authorities). The testimonies appear in the rabbinical court records, otherwise written in Hebrew, and are quoted inside the halakhic question. Although the testimonies themselves begin and end with Hebrew abbreviations that frame the quotations (functioning like the English terms quoteunquote), they contain many words of Loshn-koydesh (Hebrew/Aramaic) origin such as kale, milkhome, khasene, efsher from everyday Yiddish usage ("Merged Hebrew"), but much material from "Whole Hebrew" as well.

On the phonetic level, not much is to be learned about the pronunciation of the words in the testimonies since their spelling is not consistent and, furthermore, because Hebrew script is underspecified in many regards, often not reflecting the distinction between many sounds, especially vowels and diphthongs. The domains where we may learn the most from these testimonies about the development of spoken and written Yiddish are syntax, morphology, and the lexicon. Many phenomena thought to belong to Early Modern Yiddish (18th century onward) are attested in 17th century testimonies and thus appear to be at least one century older.

About the Speaker
Moshe Taube is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Slavic Studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research focuses on two main domains: syntax of modern Yiddish and philology of medieval translations from Hebrew. He taught in the two departments numerous courses on both topics, as well as courses on general linguistics. He served as head of the Department of Linguistics and as Head of the Institute of General Humanities. He is the author of The Logika of the Judaizers: A Fifteenth-Century Ruthenian Translation from Hebrew (2016) and The Cultural Legacy of the Pre-Ashkenazic Jews in Eastern Europe (2023). He published numerous articles in both domains, which can be viewed at his Academia page: huji.academia.edu/MosheTaube.

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