Francesco Zamblera


The term “Lithuanian” Yiddish popularly refers to the dialectal varieties of the Yiddish Language which were spoken not only in today’s Republic of Lithuanian, but also in northern Poland and most of Belarus. This variety is known in Yiddish dialectological studies as Northwestern Yiddish. This article reviews two main facts of Northwestern (“Lithuanian”) Yiddish: the vocalism of the accented syllable and the two-gender system. The former is introduced using Weinreich’s system, a combined synchronic-diachronic approach which allows a quick overall comparison among all Yiddish varieties. The linguistic data support the hypothesis, already put forth in my 2005 doctoral dissertation, of a double substrate in Lithuanian Yiddish: a Judeo-Slavonic and a Judeo-Lithuanian substrate. After a quick overview of the (historical) geographical extension of Lithuanian Yiddish (sect. 1), Max Weinreich’s “diaphonemic” system is introduced, and applied to Lithuanian Yiddish (sect. 2.1). Sect. 2.2 presents some examples of Lithuanian Yiddish. These examples show the most interesting facts which characterize the Lithuanian variant of the Yiddish language as opposed to the other variants. Although the Standard Yiddish phonological system is based on the Lithuanian Yiddish one, there is an interesting difference, namely, the increased frequency of the diphthong ej which corresponds to Standard Yiddish oj in words with diaphonemes 42 and 44. This could also point to the influence of the Lithuanian language, where ei is a frequent diphthong, and oi is almost absent. Sect. 2.3 reviews the hypothesis of a Judeo-Slavonic influence in Lithuanian, which caused the loss of vowel length opposition. The two-gender system of Lithuanian Yiddish and the hypothesis of a Judeo-Lithuanian substrate is presented in sect. 3, and, finally, sect. 4 closes the article with some final observations.




Lithuanian Yiddish; Judeo-Slavonic; Judeo-Lithuanian; dialectology; diaphoneme; historical phonology

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