A rough draft of a Paper i am writing on Orthodox Jewish English- will post updates

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A rough draft of a Paper i am writing on Orthodox Jewish English- will post updates

Post by Shemtov » Fri 11 May 2018, 20:26

Orthodox Jewish English (from now on OJE) is a dialect not much acknowledged by academia. Most linguists either discuss either "Yinglish", a dialect of English spoken also by non-Orthodox Jews, or "Yesheivish", a sub-subdialect of OJE that ignores Chasidic speakers, which is natural, as most Chasidim are either Yiddish monolingual native speakers, who speak OJE as a bridge between them and the imperfectly acquired Yiddish of Yesheivish speakers, or are Natively Bilingual in OJE and Yiddish, which might lead some to exclude them as "Code Switchers". However, this is inaccurate, as the latter have natively acquired OJE, which might have started as code-switching, and the former temper their Yiddish-English codeswitching with specifically OJE features. OJE is indeed a subdialect of Yinglish, which a general term for a dialect of English with a Yiddish substratum, however, it is spoken by non-Orthodox Jews (or as OJE speakers call them "Frei Yiddin" /frai jɪdn̩/), and the substratum is not as high as OJE in Non-Orthodox Yinglish.



Before continuing, it is important to discuss the very nature of Yiddish itself, as it itself is basically Middle High German, that had undergone independent parallel developments as between Old and Middle English, such as a shift from the indefinite article being /ain/ to /a/, and has a significant substratum from Ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, Various Slavic Languages (Mostly Polish and Ukranian), and since end of the Holocaust, English and (to varying degrees) Modern Hebrew. This fact has led to a popular Yiddish saying "Mit Yiddish men ken oysfort a velt" /mɪt jɪdɪʃ mɛn kɛn ojsfort ə vɛlt/ "With Yiddish one travel the world". Thus, it is natural for former Yiddish speakers to carry on this carefree linguistic attitude in their English.



OJE is spoken wherever one can find Orthodox Jews who speak English. Its hub, however, is New York City, but it is generally homogenous. For example, this paper's author's OJE is standard, the only feature showing he comes from Philadelphia is his pronunciation of "Water". This is not just within the United States, but throughout the English-speaking world; British OJE speakers use the same loanwords and grammatical structures as American speakers, just with their area of Britain's pronunciation of the English matrix. Heavier OJE is mostly spoken by men, with women speaking a dialect leaning more toward SE or their local dialect.



At this point, one must consider what makes OJE a dialect, rather than simple code-switching or a Creole. The first possibility may be dismissed by the fact that the Yiddish, Hebrew and Aramaic loanwords are used regularly, with predictability. For example, one can predict that an OJE speaker would always say "Lo Y'tzor" /lo jɪt͡sɚɹ/ when a SE speaker would use "Theoretically" or "If". The second possibility may be refuted by Chaim M. Weiser's comment in his monograph on the Yeshivish subdialect, Frumspeak, that it "is a result of an infusion of a limited lexicon, not a complete language, into...spoken English.....It would be hard to prove historically that Yeshivish arose to resolve difficulties of communication among exclusive Yiddish speakers and exclusive English speakers." In this paper's author opinion, it is more like AAE, being an Ethnodialect of English. However, an important difference is that given AAE's exposure in the media, an African-American could use it with other groups and be understood, while an OJE speaker must switch to SE or a Local dialect to be understood by Non-Jews, as the lack of exposure, and the heavy use of loan vocabulary, leads to mutually incomparability. Though this might imply that it a separate language, the paucity of research leaves this an open question.



In addition to the loans, there are two distinct features of OJE that must be discussed. The first is the use of Yiddish syntax and semantic spread of cognates. For example, the following sentence would be unacceptable to an SE speaker, but is fine for an OJE speaker: "Who do you think I am, asking for such money? Bill Gates?". Another example: "What do you think this is, dancing? A Chassane [wedding]?" The dialect also uses topic-comment constructions: "As for Dovid Auerbach, he is gantze meshugane [Completely insane]: An example of Yiddish Influence on the semantics is the use of the word "By" to mean "At": "There is a vort [Engagement party] by the Meyerwitz's." The second is the fact that in loan words, /x/ is kept, despite it being absent from the English Matrix. For an example of the loanwords, we will quote Weiser's translation of first part of the Pledge of Allegiance:

"I am meshabed myself, bli neder, to hold shtark to the siman of the United States of America and to the medina which is gufa its tachlis...."

"Meshabed" means "Obligated" and comes from a Biblical Hebrew word meaning "Enslave". "Bli neder" is rabbinic Hebrew for "without a vow", used here to show that the obligation is not a religious oath, an important point to make in Orthodox Judaism. "Shtark" is Yiddish for "strong", here used adverbially "Strongly", while "siman" is Modern Hebrew for "Flag". "Medina" is Yiddish via ancient Hebrew for "country". "Gufa" comes from the same source and means "In essence", while "Tachlis" is rabbinic Hebrew for "Porpuse". Thus, Translating it back:

" I obligate myself, with no religious oath implied, to strongly hold the Flag of the USA, and to the country which is in essence its purpose....."

Questions that might make it easier to write the paper are appreciated.
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Re: A rough draft of a Paper i am writing on Orthodox Jewish English- will post updates

Post by eldin raigmore » Fri 11 May 2018, 23:32

1. Very interesting!

2. All news to me!
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Re: A rough draft of a Paper i am writing on Orthodox Jewish English- will post updates

Post by Salmoneus » Wed 16 May 2018, 11:46

No offence, but if this is a paper for publication, you might really want to revise a lot of the English. Semicolons are a thing! More generally, I would encourage greater clarity of tone: is this meant to sound academic, or like a chatty blog post?
Shemtov wrote:
Fri 11 May 2018, 20:26
OJE is spoken wherever one can find Orthodox Jews who speak English. Its hub, however, is New York City, but it is generally homogenous. For example, this paper's author's OJE is standard, the only feature showing he comes from Philadelphia is his pronunciation of "Water". This is not just within the United States, but throughout the English-speaking world; British OJE speakers use the same loanwords and grammatical structures as American speakers, just with their area of Britain's pronunciation of the English matrix. Heavier OJE is mostly spoken by men, with women speaking a dialect leaning more toward SE or their local dialect.
Well, you're making three massive and seemingly highly questionable claims here:
a) exactly the same word use is found everywhere on earth, so long as the speakers hold a particular religious belief
b) the same word choice is only found by those who hold that particular religious belief (so if someone stops being Orthodox, they stop having that dialect!?)
c) you basically admit that this is not one dialect, because you concede that people just use the same phonological rules as the real English dialect that they speak. All that you're really talking about seems to be the use of certain slang words in code-switching, and a bunch of slang code is not a dialect.

At this point, one must consider what makes OJE a dialect, rather than simple code-switching or a Creole. The first possibility may be dismissed by the fact that the Yiddish, Hebrew and Aramaic loanwords are used regularly, with predictability. For example, one can predict that an OJE speaker would always say "Lo Y'tzor" /lo jɪt͡sɚɹ/ when a SE speaker would use "Theoretically" or "If".
Yeah right. So in talking to someone who they knew was a monolingual English speaker, no Orthodox Jew would ever say 'if'? Well, I've seen Orthodox Israelis on the news talking English with no difficulty, so I'm pretty sure that this isn't true.

And if you're just talking about an English speaker who regularly replaces certain English words with words from other languages when talking to members of their in-group, then this is the definition of code-switching.
In addition to the loans, there are two distinct features of OJE that must be discussed. The first is the use of Yiddish syntax and semantic spread of cognates. For example, the following sentence would be unacceptable to an SE speaker, but is fine for an OJE speaker: "Who do you think I am, asking for such money? Bill Gates?". Another example: "What do you think this is, dancing? A Chassane [wedding]?" The dialect also uses topic-comment constructions: "As for Dovid Auerbach, he is gantze meshugane [Completely insane]: An example of Yiddish Influence on the semantics is the use of the word "By" to mean "At": "There is a vort [Engagement party] by the Meyerwitz's." The second is the fact that in loan words, /x/ is kept, despite it being absent from the English Matrix.
All these features are completely commonplace in non-Jewish English. Yes, in the first case, standard written English would prefer "to be asking" rather than just "asking", but that's the kind of simplification very often found in speech. In the second case I literally don't even know what you're trying to point to - that's a perfectly ordinary English utterance. English also makes extensive use of topic-comment constructions, and /x/ is often kept in loanwords in higher registers (Bach with /x/, for instance).

I'll admit that that use of 'by' is unusual in standard English, but it's a relatively tiny word choice difference to be founding a hypothetical global dialect on.
For an example of the loanwords, we will quote Weiser's translation of first part of the Pledge of Allegiance:

"I am meshabed myself, bli neder, to hold shtark to the siman of the United States of America and to the medina which is gufa its tachlis...."

"Meshabed" means "Obligated" and comes from a Biblical Hebrew word meaning "Enslave". "Bli neder" is rabbinic Hebrew for "without a vow", used here to show that the obligation is not a religious oath, an important point to make in Orthodox Judaism. "Shtark" is Yiddish for "strong", here used adverbially "Strongly", while "siman" is Modern Hebrew for "Flag". "Medina" is Yiddish via ancient Hebrew for "country". "Gufa" comes from the same source and means "In essence", while "Tachlis" is rabbinic Hebrew for "Porpuse". Thus, Translating it back:

" I obligate myself, with no religious oath implied, to strongly hold the Flag of the USA, and to the country which is in essence its purpose....."
This looks exactly like code-switching. And also, incidentally, like a misunderstanding of the oath, which certainly never suggests that the USA is the "purpose" of its flag. And the oath IS a religious vow, which is why many religious groups traditionally refuse to take it, and the original reason why it couldn't constitutionally be made compulsory...
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Re: A rough draft of a Paper i am writing on Orthodox Jewish English- will post updates

Post by Shemtov » Wed 16 May 2018, 13:16

Salmoneus wrote:
Wed 16 May 2018, 11:46
Well, you're making three massive and seemingly highly questionable claims here:
a) exactly the same word use is found everywhere on earth, so long as the speakers hold a particular religious belief
b) the same word choice is only found by those who hold that particular religious belief (so if someone stops being Orthodox, they stop having that dialect!?)
c) you basically admit that this is not one dialect, because you concede that people just use the same phonological rules as the real English dialect that they speak. All that you're really talking about seems to be the use of certain slang words in code-switching, and a bunch of slang code is not a dialect.
It's not true "code switching" because a. even those who don't know Yiddish use it, and b. even those who speak Yiddish, will usually use Yiddish terms not in their native Yiddish dialect, and in general, the loans come from various Yiddish dialects (it might have started as Code-mixing for ESL Yiddish speakers and their Bilingual children, but now people who don't speak Yiddish use the same loans
Also, I should have been more clear: In America, the English Matrix tends to converge on a New York dialect with some level of rhotacism. However, there is some regional variation, if a certain phonological feature that is strong locally, but otherwise it tends to converge on the aforementioned dialect.
. In the second case I literally don't even know what you're trying to point to - that's a perfectly ordinary English utterance.
I would say in SE- "What do you think this is that you're dancing?" The Dialect sentence would mean to me in SE "What do you think this is- a dance?
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Re: A rough draft of a Paper i am writing on Orthodox Jewish English- will post updates

Post by Shemtov » Thu 17 May 2018, 19:12

Here's an Updated Version, based on Sal's Criticism:
American Orthodox Jewish English (from now on AOJE) is a dialect not much acknowledged by academia. Most linguists either discuss either "Yinglish", a dialect of American English spoken also by non-Orthodox Jews, or "Yesheivish", a sub-subdialect of Yinglish and a subdialect of AOJE that ignores Chasidic speakers, which is natural, as most Chasidim are either Yiddish monolingual native speakers, who speak AOJE as a bridge between them and the imperfectly acquired Yiddish of Yesheivish speakers, or are Natively Bilingual in AOJE and Yiddish, which might lead some to exclude them as "Code Switchers". However, this is inaccurate, as the latter have natively acquired AOJE, which might have started as code-switching, and the former temper their Yiddish-English codeswitching with specifically AOJE features. AOJE is indeed a subdialect of Yinglish, which a general term for a dialect of English with a Yiddish substratum, however, it is spoken by non-Orthodox Jews (or as AOJE speakers call them "Frei Yiddin" /frai jɪdn̩/), and the substratum is not as high as AOJE in Non-Orthodox Yinglish.



Before continuing, it is important to discuss the very nature of Yiddish itself, as it itself is basically Middle High German, that had undergone independent parallel developments as between Old and Middle English, such as a shift from the indefinite article being /ain/ to /a/, and has a significant substratum from Ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, Various Slavic Languages (Mostly Polish and Ukranian), and since end of the Holocaust, English and (to varying degrees) Modern Hebrew. This fact has led to a popular Yiddish saying "Mit Yiddish men ken oysfort a velt" /mɪt jɪdɪʃ mɛn kɛn ojsfort ə vɛlt/ "With Yiddish one travel the world". Thus, it is natural for former Yiddish speakers to carry on this carefree linguistic attitude in their English.



AOJE is spoken wherever one can find Orthodox Jews who speak English in America. Its hub, however, is New York City, and it is generally homogenous, the English Matrix tends to converge on a New York (specifically a a mix of Lower East Side and Brooklyn) dialect with some level of rhotacism. However, there is some regional variation, if a certain phonological feature that is strong locally, but otherwise it tends to converge on the aforementioned dialect. For example, this paper's author's AOJE is standard, the only feature showing he comes from Philadelphia is his pronunciation of "Water". Heavier AOJE is mostly spoken by men, with women speaking a dialect leaning more toward SAE or their local dialect.



At this point, one must consider what makes AOJE a dialect, rather than simple code-switching or a Creole. The first possibility may be dismissed by the fact that the Yiddish, Hebrew and Aramaic loanwords are used regularly, with predictability. For example, one can predict that an AOJE speaker would always say "Lo Y'tzor" /lo jɪt͡sɚɹ/ when a SE speaker would use "Theoretically" or "If". Another factor, that differentiates it from code-switching is that non-Yiddish speakers use it and Yiddish speakers will usually use Yiddish terms and phonetics not in their native Yiddish dialect (as in Modern Yiddish, there is a strong divide between those whose ancestors originated in the Northeast Dialect Area and the Southeast Area), and in general, the loans come from various Yiddish dialects. AOJE also uses loanwords differently then in the original Yiddish- an example is the term "Shvartze", which in Orthodox Yiddish (though non-Orthodox heritage speakers of Yiddish will treat it as the Yinglish lexical item) is a neutral term for "African-American", and the feminine form of the adjective for the color "Black", while in AOJE (and in Yinglish in general) it has gained pejorative connotations. The second possibility may be refuted by Chaim M. Weiser's comment in his monograph on the Yeshivish subdialect, Frumspeak, that it "is a result of an infusion of a limited lexicon, not a complete language, into...spoken English.....It would be hard to prove historically that Yeshivish arose to resolve difficulties of communication among exclusive Yiddish speakers and exclusive English speakers." . In this paper's author opinion, it is more like AAE, being an Ethnodialect of English. However, an important difference is that given AAE's exposure in the media, an African-American could use it with other groups and be understood, while an AOJE speaker must switch to SAE or a Local dialect to be understood by Non-Jews, as the lack of exposure, and the heavy use of loan vocabulary, leads to mutually incomparability. Though this might imply that it a separate language, the paucity of research leaves this an open question.



In addition to the loans, there are two distinct features of AOJE that must be discussed. The first is the use of Yiddish syntax and semantic spread of cognates. For example, the following sentence would be unacceptable to an SAE speaker, but is fine for an AOJE speaker: "Who do you think I am, asking for such money? Bill Gates?". Another example: "What do you think this is, dancing? A Chassane [wedding]?" The word "dancing" is not interpreted as a gerund relating to "what...this is", but a short form of the phrase "that you are dancing". The dialect also uses topic-comment constructions more heavily then SAE: "As for Dovid Auerbach, he is gantze meshugane [Completely insane]: An example of Yiddish Influence on the semantics is the use of the word "By" to mean "At": "There is a vort [Engagement party] by the Meyerwitz's." The second feature is the fact that in loan words, /x/ is kept, despite it being absent from the English Matrix. For an example of the loanwords, we will quote Weiser's translation of first part of the Pledge of Allegiance:

"I am meshabed myself, bli neder, to hold shtark to the siman of the United States of America and to the medina which is gufa its tachlis...."

"Meshabed" means "Obligated" and comes from a Biblical Hebrew word meaning "Enslave". "Bli neder" is rabbinic Hebrew for "without a vow", used here to show that the obligation is not a religious oath, an important point to make in Orthodox Judaism (note that "religious oath" is a more narrow term in the cultural context then how it is interpreted in Constitutional Law). "Shtark" is Yiddish for "strong", here used adverbially "Strongly", while "siman" is Modern Hebrew for "Flag". "Medina" is Yiddish via ancient Hebrew for "country". "Gufa" comes from the same source and means "In essence", while "Tachlis" is rabbinic Hebrew for "Purpose". Thus, Translating it back:

" I obligate myself, with no religious oath implied, to strongly hold [to the concept of] the Flag of the USA, and to the country which is in essence its [the flag's] purpose....."
Many children make up, or begin to make up, imaginary languages. I have been at it since I could write.
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Re: A rough draft of a Paper i am writing on Orthodox Jewish English- will post updates

Post by Porphyrogenitos » Sat 25 Aug 2018, 04:17

This is a really interesting topic! I've read Frumspeak and I gave a presentation on Jewish English in an undergraduate class once.

And I assumed, this being a rough draft, that of course all the phrasing would be cleaned up for an academic context.
Salmoneus wrote:
Wed 16 May 2018, 11:46
Well, you're making three massive and seemingly highly questionable claims here:
a) exactly the same word use is found everywhere on earth, so long as the speakers hold a particular religious belief
b) the same word choice is only found by those who hold that particular religious belief (so if someone stops being Orthodox, they stop having that dialect!?)
c) you basically admit that this is not one dialect, because you concede that people just use the same phonological rules as the real English dialect that they speak. All that you're really talking about seems to be the use of certain slang words in code-switching, and a bunch of slang code is not a dialect.
I can't help but feel as if this is a really bad-faith reading of Shemtov's claims - clearly he's just speaking in generalities here, and has yet to articulate the finer points of the paper, perhaps aided by further literature or field study, right? Obviously the usage of speakers in the US and UK is not going to be exactly the same - but he didn't say it would, did he?
Salmoneus wrote:
Wed 16 May 2018, 11:46
b) the same word choice is only found by those who hold that particular religious belief (so if someone stops being Orthodox, they stop having that dialect!?)
What on earth is the point of this pedantry? Of course Shemtov knows that "Orthodox Jew" is a complicated social category that people can enter and exit. Pennsylvania German is the language of the Amish - oh, but sometimes people stop being Amish, does that mean they instantly stop speaking Pennsylvania German? Frankly this is rather rude to Shemtov, who as far as I understand is an Orthodox Jew himself and has obviously thought about these kinds of things once or twice in his life, while here you're acting as if a few generalities in a very sketchy rough draft posted on a conlang forum for a paper about a community he's been immersed in for much of his life show that he hasn't put an ounce of thought into any of this.
Salmoneus wrote:
Wed 16 May 2018, 11:46

This looks exactly like code-switching. And also, incidentally, like a misunderstanding of the oath, which certainly never suggests that the USA is the "purpose" of its flag. And the oath IS a religious vow, which is why many religious groups traditionally refuse to take it, and the original reason why it couldn't constitutionally be made compulsory...
Again, why be this pedantic? He's quoting a re-translation of the "translation", which is often done to exhibit difference between the literal phrasing of each language, something many conlangers do on here. The stretch from "standing for X" to "X is its purpose" is a perfectly natural semantic shift; clearly the word tachlis just has a somewhat different semantic extension than the English purpose.

And yes, the whole point of the phrasing "obligate oneself, with no religious oath implied" is that the pledge is (nominally) religious - it's the same thing as when certain presidents have said "I solemnly affirm..." instead of "I solemnly swear..." when taking the oath of office, which I know you must know is a thing.
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