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The Romance Component in Yiddish: A Reassessment

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AbstractThe presence of a lexical stock of Romance origin in Yiddish has been interpreted differently by various authors. For D. S. Blondheim they represent a direct continuation of Judeo-Latin. For Max Weinreich, those Romance components go back to specifically Jewish languages, which he called southern and western Loez (a variation on the terms “Italkic” and “Zarphatic” once used by Salomon Birnbaum). This study reconsiders the history of those Yiddish words of Romance origin, focusing on the phonetic development they underwent as they integrated into Yiddish. The contribution of Romance historical linguistics confirms the huge importance of the Italo-Romance connection in this lexical stock, which may reflect the phase when Jews from Byzantine Italy began to settle beyond the Alps. A pinpointed examination of the morphophonemic shape of the loanwords may even hint at specific places of origin on the Italo-Romance dialectal maps. In spite of the dominance of Italo-Romance dialects in the Romance-borrowed lexical stock of Yiddish, some terms attested in both Western and Eastern Yiddish obviously have an Old French origin.

Affiliations: 1: The Hebrew UniversityJerusalemIsrael


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