Category Archives: Balto-Slavic-Germanic

The Jewish Languages of the Jewish Diaspora

Sam asks:

Robert I should have asked you this before but I had forgotten it. This post jogged my memory. I read once…somewhere…that all Jewish languages were bastardizations of whatever language they were using at the time. The idea being that they could converse amongst themselves without others knowing what they are saying. Seems also the way they transformed the language was supposed to be a bit tricky so as to make it even harder to understand. Does that sound as if that scenario is true or could be true?

I am not sure if they did it on purpose so as not to be understood or if their versions are bastardizations (a term we linguists do not use) of the native tongue, but in just about every nation in which Jews were living in a large number, the Jews were speaking a different language than the natives. In Europe, the Ashkenazim were speaking Yiddish in the north and the Sephardics were speaking Ladino in the South. In the Crimea, the Karaite Jews spoke Ukrainian Karaim and other Jews spoke Krypchak, both of which are closely related to but not the same language as Crimean Tatar. In other parts of Ukraine and in Lithuania and Poland, other Jews also spoke Lithuanian Karaim, a different language from Ukrainian Karaim.

In the Arab World, in each nation where the Arab Jews reside, they speak a different form of Arabic than the natives, for instance, Moroccan Jews might have spoken something called Moroccan Jewish Arabic instead of Moroccan Arabic. They also spoke their own forms of Aramaic where they were living with a lot of Arab Christians in the north of Iraq, Syria and Iran. The Jewish language often had many Hebrew loans in it and was different in other ways. In each case, Ethnologue regards the Jewish language as actually a separate language from the native tongue of the land.

In Northern Europe, Jews took Palatinian German and fashioned a new Jewish language out of it. In the South, they did the same with Spanish. In Ukraine, the Jews melded Crimean Tatar into three separate Jewish languages. In the Arab Muslim and Arab Christian worlds, the Jews took the common and Arabic or Aramaic languages of those lands and fashioned them into separate Jewish languages.

It seems as though everywhere they lived, the Jews desired to be different and set themselves apart from the rest, even in a linguistic sense.

N.B. Most of these Jewish languages are now in very bad shape and by the year 2100, most will probably be extinct with the probable exception of Yiddish and Lithuanian Karaim.

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Filed under Africa, Afroasiatic, Altaic, Arabic, Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Crimean Tatar, Culture, Europe, Europeans, German, Germanic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Jews, Kipchak, Language Families, Linguistics, Lithuania, Middle East, Morocco, North Africa, Poland, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, Semitic, Sociolinguistics, Turkic, Ukraine

How Close Is Yiddish to English?

Here.

Yiddish: A matone di ale vos bay zeyere kinder in moyl vet yidish lebn.

English: A gift to all those in whose children’s mouths Yiddish will live

Interlineal translation: I am guessing at meanings, but even where the definitions are wrong, that is not of much importance. For instance, if I read zeyere as their then that is successful bilingual communication on my part, even if zeyere does not mean their. I assigned it a token meaning that works perfectly in this context and communication is all that matters in bilingualism, not perfect definitions:

A matone di ale vos   bay zeyere kinder   in moyl    
A        to all those     their  children in mouths

vet yidish  lebn.
yet Yiddish learn.

Not bad. Notice all the cognates. You can do much the same with any German or Frisian or possibly even Dutch sentence.

Yiddish is only a German dialect, closely related to the Palatinian German language as spoken along the Rhine. It is so close to the Mannheim and Speyr dialects Palatinian that it may be nearly intelligible with them. Yiddish has also incorporated a lot of Slavic and Hebrew loans which complicate matters.

German and English are separated by 1,900 years. So after 2,000 years separation, really there is nothing left. An English speaker cannot understand one single word of spoken German. I know this because I have listened to German speakers and I can’t get even one word of their speech. This is true even though German and English are loaded with cognates. But you can’t recognize the cognates because they are “masked.”

So in the sentence above, the English speaker might hear kinder, moyl and lebn, all of which have obvious English cognates, but they still would not make sense of them because they were not recognize the fact that they are cognates. That is, they would hear the word kinder, but have no idea that that referred to children, etc.

If you can’t sort out the cognates and recognize them and connect them up to some word in your own language, they are as good as useless.

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Filed under Applied, Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Dialectology, English language, German, Germanic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Jews, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Sociolinguistics

Synonyms in English

Look at all the synonyms for one simple word!

Look at all the synonyms for one simple word! That is quite an impressive list!

Amazing. I knew a young Korean woman once, a friend of the family. She knew Korean of course, and she was learning English and could speak it pretty well.

Once she said that she thought all of the synonyms in English were ridiculous and idiotic and that Korean has few synonyms. The Koreans have the attitude that if you have one word that connotes a given meaning, what is the purpose of having another word, basically a duplicate word, for the same meaning? You now have two words that mean exactly the same thing. What exactly have you accomplished other than to clutter up your language and your brain?

In Semantics there is the notion that there is probably no such thing as a synonym other than for slang words. Semanticists believe that most synonyms have slightly different meanings from each other – that is, they have a tiny shade of a different meaning from the word or words that they are synonymous with.

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Filed under English language, Linguistics

Beherrschen Linguisten viele Sprachen?

This is a German translation of the post, Linguists Know Lots of Languages? that appeared first on the old site. I used to have a lot of folks translating articles for me on the old site because I had so much traffic coming in and I wanted to accomodate international readers. I would keep track of how many would come from any country for any post and then tally them up. At some point, I would have enough demand for a transation. The blog was making no money at all, so I was volunteering, so I asked all of my translators to volunteer also.

This post might be interesting to any of you who know German. If you want, I can put the English version of the post in too.

Beherrschen Linguisten viele Sprachen?

Ein weit verbreitetes Mißverständnis ist, dass Linguisten viele Sprachen beherrschen. Eine Abwandlung davon ist, dass wer nicht polyglott ist, auch nicht für einen Linguitik-Studiengang zugelassen wird – und schon gar nicht, wer nur eine Sprache spricht.

Viele ältere Leute denken, das Wort “Linguist” sei ein Synonym für “polyglott”.

Ich habe einen Master in Linguistik und spreche nur eine Sprache gut: Das ist Englisch. Mit Spanisch komme ich einigermaßen zurecht, aber ich beherrsche es nicht fließend und schon gar nicht wie ein Muttersprachler. Ich verstehe ein bisschen Italienisch, Französisch, Portugieseich und Chukchansi Yokuts (eine Sprache kalifornischer Indianer), aber mein Spanisch ist besser, als diese Sprachen.

Als Linguist muss man nicht mehr als eine Sprache beherrschen. Beispielsweise habe ich etwa die Hälfte eines Wörterbuches und Sprachführers in Chukchansi Yokuts fertig gestellt, aber eher würde die Hölle vereisen als dass ich diese Sprache wirklich zu beherrschen lernte. Ich habe nur die Daten gesammelt, organisiert, analysiert und in eine Lexikon und etwas Lehrmaterial umgearbeitet.

Für meinen Linguistik-Studiengang war es nicht einmal Voraussetzung, zweisprachig zu sein, um zugelassen zu werden. Ihn haben Viele studiert, die nur eine Sprache beherrschten. Sicherlich, es gab auch viele ausländische Studenten, die jedoch alle auf einen ESL-Abschluß hinarbeiteten (ESL = English as a second language) und dann wieder im Ausland Englisch als Zweitsprache unterrichten wollten.

Alles was wir machen, ist das Studium von Sprachen. Aber man muss die Sprachen nicht wirklich erlernen um sie studieren zu können. Aus irgend einem Grund verstehen viele Leute das nicht.

Es ist wirklich wahr [in diesem Sinn], dass viele Linguisten mehr als eine Sprache kennen, lesen können und schreiben können.

Ein Linguisten-Witz (Mal seh’n, ob Sie ihn verstehen. Sie müssen viellecht ein bisschen nachdenken.): Man sagt, der berühmte Linguist Roman Jacobsen spräche Russisch in 17 verschiedenen Sprachen.

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Filed under Applied, German, Linguistics, Multilingualism, Translations

Stupidest Word Ever Invented in the English Language

Cisgendered.

Ridiculous or what?

In case you are wondering what it means, all of the present commenters on the site are “cis.” We had one oddbody weirdo, but thank the Lord he left and took all of his endless strands of trailing weirdness with him.

Way to go feminists. Thanks a lot, political gays. Thanks for nothing, Cultural Left Freakshow.

The Cultural Left – whittling away at the concept of normal one day at a time. Honestly, I think the Cultural Left actually hates that word and the hate the very idea and concept. I am certain that they want to eliminate that word from our discourse altogether. The Cultural Left probably considers the word “normal” to be on a par with “nigger.”

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Filed under Cultural Marxists, English language, Gender Studies, Left, Ridiculousness, Scum, Sex

The Roots of the English Language

I was finally able to get a good breakdown of English language roots with the exact percentages. In a previous post I had only guessed at the figures.

According to a 1973 analysis of the shorter (but still 80,000 words) Oxford Dictionary:

28% of English words came from Latin
28% came from French (which is largely Latin)
25% came from elsewhere in the Germanic family
5% came from Greek.

Long story short, more than half of our words (56%) come from the Romance branch and one quarter of our words are more or less from German. Romance and German account for 81% of English words. If we add in the 5% Greek, fully 86% of English words (or almost all of them) come from Romance, German and Greek. Of course the Romance words are all borrowings and only the German words are truly genetically English.

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Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, English language, French, German, Germanic, Greek, Hellenic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Indo-Irano-Armeno-Hellenic, Italic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Linguistics, Romance

The Craziness of English Plurals

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes; but the plural of ox became oxen not oxes. One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese, yet the plural of moose should never be meese. You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice; yet the plural of house is houses, not hice. If the plural of man is always called men, why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen? If I spoke of my foot and show you my feet, and I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet? If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth, why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those, yet hat in the plural would never be hose, and the plural of cat is cats, not cose. We speak of a brother and also of brethren, but though we say mother, we never say methren. Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him, but imagine the feminine, she, shis and shim.’

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Mark Twain on English Spelling Reform

Funny, never read this tidbit.

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling

by Mark Twain

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped to be replased either by “k” or “s,” and likewise “x” would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which “c” would be retained would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish “y” replasing it with “i” and Iear 4 might fiks the “g/j” anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez “c,” “y” and “x”–bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez–tu riplais “ch,” “sh,” and “th” rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

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Filed under English language, Humor

Duplicate Letters in English

English has some letters such as c, x and q that make the same sounds as other letters. So why not just get rid of them. Why do we have them in the first place?

This is how I feel about the matter:

U kan tshange the duplikats, of korce. But then kweschuns start to arize y not tshange other duplikats as wel. Bekuz ‘oo’ and ‘u’ sownd cimilar, so y not redus al cimilar-sownding vowels to komon leters? So after a fyu frutles atempts, u wil be left with sumthing that luks liyk this. And that’s not even the end of it! Perhaps we kud remuv al unesesary duplikats altogether and remuv cilent sownds, tu?

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Filed under English language, Linguistics

Round Heels

What does the phrase “round heels” mean? Here is an example of a sentence using the phrase.

You know what they say about models – a lot of women who do modeling have round heels.

State what the phrase means and the genesis or etiology of the phrase.

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Filed under English language, Linguistics