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  • Writer's pictureBecky Neiman

A Brief History of the Jewish People Part 2

A Jewish Language, essentially, a Jewish dialect of the local language spoken by the non-Jewish inhabitants of that land developed as a result of two significant conditions. One is the separation of the Jewish community from the general population, either by compulsion or by choice. The other is the religious distinction between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors. Separation of the Jews from the non-Jewish inhabitants of the same polity by compulsion is, of course, a constant in the history of the Jews in the Christian world and, to a similar extent in the world ruled by the nations of Islam. There was also the desire on the part of the Jews to live in residential areas where they could be close to other Jews and preferably close to the synagogue.

Judaism, the faith of the Jews also separated us from our non-Jewish fellow-urbanites. In speaking of Jewish matters in which our traditions and religious practices were topics of discussion, we invariably used Hebrew terms for matters which were intrinsic to our faith. The use of a Hebrew term when referring to a matter intimately bound to religious life is so personal a part of Jewish speech that we naturally incorporate it into the grammatical patterns of the local vernacular. Thus, for eaxmple, the slaughtering of an animal for food is always bound to the Hebrew word shakhat. The act is known as Shekhitah, thus rendering it Kasher or Kosher, "fit, proper," and permitted to be eaten by observant Jews. In Yiddish this Hebrew root would be incorporated into the Germanic verb form as Shekhten, and the past tense, which is Judeo-German or Yiddish becomes hot geshokhten. The same phenomenon occurs in the Judeo-Italian dialect, where the verb becomes an Italian infinitive form as sciachtare and the past tense is in the Italian grammatical form of sciachtara.

Obviousy, when speaking of the religious ritual circumcision of a male child, the Hebrew term Brit Milah is used in Judeo-Italian, in Yiddish, Bris Mileh, translation unnecessary. The Cantor in the synagogue is called Chazzan in Yiddish and in Judeo-Italian, because that is his title, and not the Latin term Cantor. The same applies to hundreds of words in which the Hebrew term became a part of the local language spoken by the Jews. They are naturalized and incorporated into the Jewish dialect which is derivative from the language of the local non-Jewish population.

Over the centuries, given the remarkable extent of Jewish dispersion, the following Jewish dialects of various languages have developed.

Jewish Aramaic Yevannic=Judeo-Greek La'az=Judeo-Latin

Judeo-Italian Judeo-Provençal Judeo-French

Ladino=Djudezmo Judeo-Catalan Judeo-Portuguese

Judeo-Arabic Judeo-Persian Judeo-Uzbeq

Judeo-Turkish Judeo-Gruzinic Judeo-Chinese

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