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:about|the linguistic aspects of the word Yeshivish|an article about the culture|Yeshivish Jews
Yeshivish is a form of English spoken mainly by English-speaking Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews who attend or have attended a
yeshiva. Yeshivish is the primary vehicle of spoken communication in major American and British yeshivot. At present, only one serious study of Yeshivish has been made, "Frumspeak: The First Dictionary of Yeshivish" by Chaim Weiser. Weiser maintains that Yeshivish is not a pidgin, creole, or an independent language, nor is it precisely a jargon. He refers to it instead, with tongue-in-cheek, as a "shprach", a Yeshivish word meaning "language" or " communication", derived from Yiddish, and from the German "Sprache".
Linguist and Yiddishist Dovid Katz describes it in "Words on Fire: the Unfinished Story of Yiddish" as a "new
dialectof English," which is "taking over as the vernacularin everyday life in some ... circles in America and elsewhere." [Katz, Dovid. "Words on Fire: the Unfinished Story of Yiddish", p 384 Basic Books, 2004.]
Comparison with Yiddish
Yiddish use developed among German-speaking Jews in the
Middle Ages, diverging from German with the addition of words from other languages known to Jews. Yeshivish appears to have followed a similar path of development from English. In addition, Yiddish and Yeshivish each have native lexical and grammatical features not found in the languages they are primarily drawn upon.
The development of Yiddish as a language distinct from German was probably aided by the fact that Yiddish became the spoken vernacular for Jews in non-Germanic countries. Yeshivish has not evolved into a separate language from English, perhaps for lack of sufficient time, and perhaps also because American Jews are more integrated into general society than their European forebears were in earlier centuries. Yiddish speakers and German speakers have some difficulty understanding each other although there is some degree of mutual intelligibility. Yeshivish speakers can understand standard English speakers, although the reverse is not always the case.
Yiddish dates back more than ten centuries; Yeshivish, perhaps a few decades. Written Yiddish uses the
Hebrew alphabet; written Yeshivish usually uses the Latin alphabet, although words of Hebrew or Aramaicorigin are often written in Hebrew characters with English suffixes added using Roman characters. Occasionally, Yeshivish is written in the Hebrew alphabet using an orthography based on Yiddish.
There do not seem to be any native speakers of Yeshivish to the degree that it is spoken in yeshivot. While children certainly do pick up Yeshivish terms and patterns of speech from parents, there is no evidence of any two-year olds, for example, who speak as do yeshiva students. In addition, Yeshivish is primarily a male spoken dialect, as documented in "Talmid Chachams and Tsedeykeses: Language, Learnedness, and Masculinity Among Orthodox Jews," by Sarah Bunin Benor Jewish Social Studies; Fall2004, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p147-170. Fathers and sons might speak Yeshivish, particularly of teenage years and above, while mothers and daughters generally do not.
Some observers predict that Yeshivish may develop further to the point that it could become one of the historical Judeo-hybrid languages like Yiddish, Ladino or
Judeo-Arabic. The Judeo-hybrid languages were spoken dialects which mixed elements of the local vernacular, Hebrew, Aramaic and Jewish religious idioms. As Yiddish was to Middle High German, Yeshivish may be to Standard American English. However, the integration of modern-day Jews with non-Jews may keep their speech from diverging as far from the standard language as it did in the past.
Israeli Haredimhave not developed any language or dialect comparable to Yeshivish. They generally speak standard Israeli Hebrew or standard Yiddish. However, many Israeli Haredim speak mostly modern Hebrew, but use Ashkenazic pronunciations when speaking of "Jewish" words, such as "Shabbos", rather than "Shabbat", or "Toireh" rather than "Torah".
The vocabulary of Yeshivish is drawn primarily from English, although it includes terms from other languages, especially Hebrew, Yiddish, and
Aramaic. It is similar to Yinglish, except with more words from other languages and with many Talmudic phrases. The preposition "by" can be used in Yeshivish where "at," "among," "beside," and "with" would be required in English, as in "I ate by my brother last night", or "I left my tallis by my seat in shul". This use of "by" is simply a transference of the meaning of the Yiddish word "bay" (German: "bei") to the Yeshivish context in English.
In general, the grammar of Yeshivish is English grammar. Thus, a non-Yeshivish English-speaker who hears a Yeshivish sentence will perceive a normal English sentence with unknown vocabulary words as the "ikar" (most important [part] ) of the sentence. The English is used to set the sentence structure with the Yiddish, Hebrew, or Aramaic words used to fill in the blanks.
This often leads to words of non-English origin being given plurals and verb tenses inconsistent with their language of origin. Most often, the singular form of a Yeshivish noun becomes a plural by adding an "s" to it, as in English, even when the base word is not an English one. Thus, the plural of "yeshiva" is "yeshivas," not "yeshivos" or "yeshivot" (although these may be corruptions of the Hebrew plural where "-os" becomes "-as" due to its similarlity to English plurals).
Hebrew nouns ending in "-us," which in Hebrew become plural by changing the ending to "uyos," merely have an "in" added to their ending in Yeshivish. For example, the plural form of "shlichus" (mission) is "shlichusin." The plural of "Mashmaus" (implication in
Mishnaic Hebrew, meaning in Modern Hebrew) is "mashmausin." Note that in Hebrew the proper form would be Shlichuyos and Mashmauyos. This may have evolved from Aramaic where "in" is added to make a noun plural, but is more likely to have come from from German, through Yiddish.Verbs in past tense ("I already davened mincha.") or present ("Quiet, I'm davening.") are commonly used, even though these verbs (daven = "to pray") are not of English origin.
Some verbs, particularly those of Hebrew origin, are often treated as participles, and inflected by English auxiliary verbs, in the same way that "periphrastic verbs" are constructed in Yiddish. Thus, for example:
:"He was moideh that he was takeh wrong."::"He was" puts "moideh"ndash "to admit"ndash into the third-person singular past tense, creating the present meaning of "He admitted that he was takeh (definitely) wrong.":"We'll always be soimech on Rav Plony's p'sak that the eruv is kosher."::"We'll always be" puts "soimech"ndash "to rely"ndash into the first-person plural future tense, creating the present meaning of "We'll always rely upon Rabbi So-and-So's ruling that the
Sentence structure is slightly different in Yeshivish than in other dialects of English. Take for example the sentence "I threw my mother out the window, a towel." A yeshivish speaker will immediately understand that the towel was thrown to the mother, who was outside the window.
For a more in-depth discussion of Yeshivish grammar, consult the explanation "The Grammar of Yeshivish," found at the start of Weiser's dictionary (see reference below).
While much attention has been given to Yiddish/English Yeshivish vernacular, it should be noted that a Hebrew-Yiddish Yeshivish also exists.
While Yeshivish is the spoken language in most American Yeshivas with a modern twist, there has been a great shift and drive to speak Yiddish. In many of these communities, only basic Yiddish and Hebrew words are known, thus a creole of Yiddish, Hebrew, and Aramaic is formed, for example, a speaker of Yeshivish-Hebrew may say "Geb mir der chavilah fun beitzim, un ich vell zey gut mevashel zain" (=Give me the egg carton, and I will cook them well) in which the words "Geb, mir, der, fun, un, ich, vell, zey" meanining Give, Me, The(se), From, And, I, Will, Them; respectively. While Yiddish is partly comprised of Hebrew, these terms are not part of standard Yiddish, and "Mevashel" - in Hebrew meaning "Will Cook" is ungrammatical in standard Yiddish, (in which the correct form would be "Ich vell zay kochen (or Brien, or Baken).
* Weiser, Chaim M (1995). "Frumspeak: The first dictionary of Yeshivish." Northvale: Aronson. ISBN 1-56821-614-9.
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