Yiddish Radios app. Yiddish is a High German language of Ashkenazi Jewish origin, spoken throughout the world. It developed as a fusion of German dialects with Hebrew, Slavic languages and traces of Romance languages. It is written in the Hebrew alphabet.
The language originated in the Ashkenazi culture that developed from about the 10th century in the Rhineland and then spread to Central and Eastern Europe and eventually to other continents. In the earliest surviving references to it, the language is called לשון־אַשכּנז (loshn-ashknez = "language of Ashkenaz") and טײַטש (taytsh, a variant of tiutsch, the contemporary name for the language otherwise spoken in the region of origin, now called Middle High German). In common usage, the language is called מאַמע־לשון (mame-loshn, literally "mother tongue"), distinguishing it from Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, which are collectively termed לשון־קודש (loshn-koydesh, "holy tongue"). The term "Yiddish" did not become the most frequently used designation in the literature of the language until the 18th century.
For a significant portion of its history, Yiddish was the primary spoken language of the Ashkenazi Jews and once spanned a broad dialect continuum from Western Yiddish to three major groups within Eastern Yiddish, namely Litvish, Poylish and Ukrainish. Eastern and Western Yiddish are most markedly distinguished by the extensive inclusion of words of Slavic origin in the Eastern dialects. While Western Yiddish has few remaining speakers, Eastern dialects remain in wide use.
Yiddish is written and spoken in many Orthodox Jewish communities around the world, although there are also a number of Orthodox Jews who do not know Yiddish. It is a home language in most Hasidic communities, where it is the first language learned in childhood, used in schools and in many social settings. Yiddish is also the academic language of the study of the Talmud according to the tradition of the great Lithuanian Yeshivohs.
Yiddish is also used in the adjectival sense to designate attributes of Ashkenazic Jewish culture (for example, Yiddish cooking and Yiddish music).
The Ashkenazi culture that took root in 10th century Central Europe derived its name from Ashkenaz (Genesis 10:3), the medieval Hebrew name for the territory centred on what is now the westernmost part of Germany. Its geographic extent did not coincide with the German Christian principalities; Ashkenaz included Northern France. It also bordered on the area inhabited by the Sephardim, or Spanish Jews, which ranged into Southern France. Ashkenazi culture later spread into Eastern Europe.
The first language of European Jews may have been Aramaic, the vernacular of the Jews in Roman-era Palestine and ancient and early medieval Mesopotamia. The widespread use of Aramaic among the large non-Jewish Syrian trading population of the Roman provinces, including those in Europe, would have reinforced the use of Aramaic among Jews engaged in trade. In Roman times, many of the Jews living in Rome and Southern Italy appear to have been Greek-speakers, and this is reflected in some Ashkenazi personal names (e.g., Kalonymus). Much work needs to be done, though, to fully analyze the contributions of those languages to Yiddish.
Nothing is known about the vernacular of the earliest Jews in Germany, but several theories have been put forward. It is generally accepted that it was likely to have contained elements from other languages of the Near East and Europe, absorbed through dispersion. Since many settlers came via France and Italy, it is also likely that the Romance-based Jewish languages of those regions were represented. Traces remain in the contemporary Yiddish vocabulary: for example, בענטשן (bentshn, to bless), from the Latin benedicere; לייענען (leyenen, to read), from the Latin legere; and the personal names Anshl, cognate to Angel or Angelo; Bunim (probably from "bon homme").
(ייִדיש yidish or אידיש idish, literally "Jewish")