Based on German with Hebrew and Slavic words. It has its origins in central Europe in the middle ages.

Yiddish is written in Hebrew characters (some of them used differently than for writing Hebrew) even though it is Germanic. Yiddish (meaning "Jewish") developed between the 9th and 12th centuries in Southwest Germany from German dialects. Hebrew religious words were added to the original German and later, when the bulk of European Jewry moved East into Slavic-speaking areas, some Slavic influences were also added.

The vocabulary of the Yiddish spoken in eastern Europe during recent times comprised about 85 percent German, 10 percent Hebrew, and 5 percent Slavic, with traces of Romanian , French , and other languages. Many English words and phrases have entered Yiddish and have become an integral part of the language as it is spoken in the United State and other English-speaking countries.

Apart from vocabulary changes, modern Yiddish differs from modern German through simplified inflections and syntax, the acquisition of a few grammatical features influenced by Slavic languages, and its looser pronunciation of Germanic words. Yiddish is similar to English in the formation of verbs and the use of auxiliary verbs.

Since Yiddish was spoken by ordinary people rather than by scholars, it has a wealth of words and expressions descriptive of character and of relations between people. It makes liberal use of terms of endearment and has a variety of expletives. Yiddish has a unique warmth and personal character.

Station identification: "Hert zu der yisrael odzie im yiddish fyn yerushaalayion"


Name Where spoken Language Family How many (000s)
Yiddish (Judaeo-German) C & E Europe, USA, Israel Indo-European (Germanic) 200-500

Table source: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, David Ctystal, Cambridge University Press

Send mail to simon.collings@cableinet.co.uk with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 1997 CompanyLongName
Last modified: April 24, 2000