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The lost literary languages of Poland


delphiandomine 83 | 17,771
19 Jul 2015 #1
I just read this article - it's very interesting, particularly for Anglophones who aren't so familiar with how Poland used to be so ethnically and linguistically diverse.

Throughout the centuries, Poland has been populated by very diverse ethnicities and linguistic groups, all of which have left a mark. Here's a look at some of the languages spoken in these lands, and a short manual to the linguistic idiosyncrasies which often entailed complicated issues of ethnic, social and even economical background.

1. Macaronic
2. Lithuanian
3. Belarusian
4. Ukrainian
5. Yiddish
6. Hebrew
7. Esperanto

culture.pl/en/article/poland-didnt-always-speak-polish-the-lost-linguistic-diversity-of-europe

It's a shame that it's all been lost. I would've loved to have lived in a country where Ukrainian, Yiddish, German and other languages were all spoken side by side with Polish.
DominicB - | 2,678
19 Jul 2015 #2
If your Polish and German are good, you will thoroughly enjoy Tuwim's one-page short story called "Hydraulik" (The Plumber). It's a hilarious example of how people spoke in £ódź in Tuwim's time. The modern equivalent would be Polish businesspeople speaking in a weird mixture of Polish and (what they think is) English.

forum.gazeta.pl/forum/w,12359,127812718,127823290,Julian_Tuwim_HYDRAULIK.html
Harry
19 Jul 2015 #3
It's a shame that it's all been lost. I would've loved to have lived in a country where Ukrainian, Yiddish, German and other languages were all spoken side by side with Polish.

It hasn't entirely been lost: Warsaw is still possibly the Yiddish-speaking capital of the world. People come here from Israel to learn it (I really must get round to having some lessons myself).
DominicB - | 2,678
19 Jul 2015 #4
Warsaw is still possibly the Yiddish-speaking capital of the world.

Dubious to the extreme. The overwhelming majority of active Yiddish speakers are in the US, almost all in New York City. Also, the overwhelming majority of elderly people who still remember Yiddish, though they may not actively speak it any more, are also in the US, especially in Florida and, again, New York City. The number of active Yiddish speakers in Poland is microscopic in comparison.
Lyzko 24 | 6,786
19 Jul 2015 #5
Yet considerably greater and more visible/audible than, say, the two Baltic states, especially Lithuania, now basically a graveyard for traditional Jewish life (not to mention Yiddish)! Israeli school groups regularly visit Auschwitz and Majdanek. Furthermore, the fossilized histories of the likes of Ida Kamińska and other stars of the Yiddish-speaking legitimate Polish stage, are making a comeback, BIG TIME!!!
OP delphiandomine 83 | 17,771
19 Jul 2015 #6
If your Polish and German are good, you will thoroughly enjoy Tuwim's one-page short story called "Hydraulik" (The Plumber). It's a hilarious example of how people spoke in £ódź in Tuwim's time. The modern equivalent would be Polish businesspeople speaking in a weird mixture of Polish and (what they think is) English.

Alas, my German is non-existent. But I'll give it a try anyway - for some reason, German has always been incredibly difficult for me to even begin to understand.
Lyzko 24 | 6,786
19 Jul 2015 #7
@delphiandomine, probably because of its sometimes dizzying word order and sentence length.
DominicB - | 2,678
20 Jul 2015 #8
more visible/audible than, say, the two Baltic states

Probably the only time you would even have a chance of hearing Yiddish spoken is during the Hasidic pilgrimage to Leżajsk, where the speakers will almost exclusively be from the US or Israel. And perhaps occasionally in Warsaw or Kraków, again almost exclusively among Hasidic tourists from the US or Israel.
Harry
20 Jul 2015 #9
Probably the only time you would even have a chance of hearing Yiddish spoken is during the Hasidic pilgrimage to Leżajsk, where the speakers will almost exclusively be from the US or Israel.

Unless, to give just one example, you decide you want to go to the only year-round Yiddish-only theatre in the world, which just happens to be found in Warsaw.
DominicB - | 2,678
20 Jul 2015 #10
only year-round Yiddish-only theatre in the world

Not according to their website, which says that they are one of two year-round theaters in Europe that present performances in Yiddish, which is very much different from what you wrote.

It seems to perform primarily in Polish nowadays. There might be occasional performances in Yiddish, but the schedule on their website doesn't seem to mention any, though they say they still do. Probably only as an occasional curiosity, though.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,609
20 Jul 2015 #11
I just read this article - it's very interesting, particularly for Anglophones who aren't so familiar with how Poland used to be so ethnically and linguistically diverse.

This is beacause Poland has different borders now.

'Macaronic' is strangely number one on your list. I doubt if it was ever heard in Poland later than in the 18th century, mostly not later than in the first half of that century.

The modern equivalent would be Polish businesspeople speaking in a weird mixture of Polish and (what they think is) English.

This is probably only a passing fashion. Personally, I never hear this in spite of working in Warsaw. My guess is that they use this language between themselves only, once they hear someone who is able to use "queen's" Polish all the time they just stop, intimidated that they may sound so very backward.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,671
20 Jul 2015 #12
Warsaw is still possibly the Yiddish-speaking capital of the world.

I doubt it Harry, as DominicB said, that would be NY, TelAviv, or possibly London.
InPolska 11 | 1,821
20 Jul 2015 #13
@Rozu: why London? Check the numbers of Jews per country.

After Isreal and the US, France has by far the largest Jewish population.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_population_by_country
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,671
20 Jul 2015 #14
I was thinking of the large amount of Hasidic Jews in London, inPolska, who still use Yiddish, while a lot of Jewish people simply do not.

An awful lot of London slang comes from the Yiddish, interestingly.
DominicB - | 2,678
20 Jul 2015 #15
Hasidic Jews

It is exceedingly unlikely that anyone except a Hasidic Jew would be able to speak Yiddish fluently and actively. Perhaps a few old people who learned it it childhood, but I would expect their Yiddish to be quite rusty from disuse. Any Yiddish speaker under 60 years old is almost certainly a Hasidic Jew.

Stamford Hill in London is home to about 30,000 Hasidim. Chances are some of them speak Yiddish.
englishbird
20 Jul 2015 #16
yes I think most of them do dominic, even the young ones.

Too many usernames on this ip, 25 at the last count.
DominicB - | 2,678
20 Jul 2015 #17
most of them do

Probably not. There are only about 4000 people who claim to speak Yiddish, and 3000 of them live in Hackney.

hackneypost.co.uk/2013/03/08/oy-vey-what-did-you-say-the-yiddish-language-in-hackney

How many of those actually speak Yiddish fluently and actively versus just claim to speak Yiddish is anyone's guess, but I would be conservative and go with less than half. Maybe only a few hundred.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,671
20 Jul 2015 #18
oh they are pretty frum that lot. Most of them speak it.
I only know that cos they used to come to this seaside town for the summer.
Wulkan - | 3,251
20 Jul 2015 #19
I really must get round to having some lessons myself

Quite a bad idea for someone who can't learn Polish in 20 years but for anyone with the average linguistic abilities is an interesting idea. I heard Yiddish language once and it sounded really nice.

It's a shame that it's all been lost. I would've loved to have lived in a country where Ukrainian, Yiddish, German and other languages were all spoken side by side with Polish.

It is not lost, those languages contributed to the developement of Polish language adding and changing a lot of vocabulary that is used in today's Polish.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,609
23 Jul 2015 #20
This is very true. Polish people do not even realize that this vocabulary came from Yiddish and think it is Slavic.
Y12$
23 Jul 2015 #21
Polish has been influenced by many more languages that you have listed -- Latin, German, French, and more recently English. It's interesting though that some volcabulary is very much Polish -- even in scientific areas. I find the names of elements in the periodic table especially interesting. In many languagues, you can actually guess the elements (even without the symbols), but not so in Polish... they are so different -- wodór=hydrogen, azot=nitrogen, miedź=copper, etc.

I'm surprised that no one mentioned that Yiddish is actually classified as a Germanic language, alongside with German. Actually large number of Yiiddish words are borrowed from German with modified spelling or pronunciation. I'm not clear if the Yiddish grammer is based on German (especially with the rigid word order or the four cases) While Polish probably borrowed some words from Yiddish, I wonder if these words really came from German.
TheOther 5 | 3,872
23 Jul 2015 #22
I'm not clear if the Yiddish grammer is based on German

Check this one out: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiddish_grammar
Lyzko 24 | 6,786
23 Jul 2015 #23
Granddad always used to quip, Yiddish sounds like German damaged on delivery!
TheOther 5 | 3,872
24 Jul 2015 #24
Have you learned any Yiddish from your grandfather? Just curious.
Lyzko 24 | 6,786
24 Jul 2015 #25
Uh-uh!! Always found it a decidedly ugly language, neither fish nor fowl, neither Germanic, nor Slavic, nor Hebraic nor much of anything. To be frank, I felt it a sort of "throw-away" language.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,609
24 Jul 2015 #26
Here are some Yiddish words currently used in Polish:
bachor, belfer, hucpa, cymes, kapcan (rare these days), ksywa, rejwach, machlojka, mamona, mecyje (becoming rare), misz-masz, siksa, sitwa.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,671
24 Jul 2015 #27
" hucpa " chutzpah in English?

we also have mish-mash and shiksa in English!

Also 'nosh'...

plus London slang 'keep stum' (keep mouth shut) 'schmatta' (quality of cloth, as in 'feel the schmatta, Bennie'), dumb schmuck,....( will think of more later_
Y12$
24 Jul 2015 #28
I looked into this topic further... actually Wikipedia seems like a good resource: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Yiddish_origin

Some words are definitely Yiddish-origin, but others are actually derived from Slavic languages or German, and entered into Yiddish and then into English. I think the borrowing of words went both ways (from Yiddish and to Yiddish).

Some examples from Wikipedia:

kasha: porridges (from קאַשע, the plural form Yiddish קאַשע "kash" which is derived from a Slavic word meaning porridge: каша)[4] Polish - buckwheat groats. (Polish : kasza)

tchotchke: knickknack, trinket, curio (from Yiddish צאַצקע tsatske, טשאַטשקע tshatshke, from Polish cacko)

mensch: an upright man; a decent human being (from Yiddish מענטש mentsh 'person', cf. German Mensch)

kosher: correct according to Jewish law, normally used in reference to Jewish dietary laws; (slang) appropriate, legitimate (originally from Hebrew כּשר kašer,kasher)

schmatta: a rag (from Yiddish שמאַטע shmate, from Polish szmata) (OED); also means junk or low-quality merchandise: "Don't buy from Silverman; all he sells is schmatta."
TheOther 5 | 3,872
24 Jul 2015 #29
There are still tons of Yiddish words used in modern German such as ...

meschugge = crazy
koscher = kosher
schmusen = to cuddle
dufte = great
Schlamassel = mess
malochen = to work

... and many more.
Lyzko 24 | 6,786
24 Jul 2015 #30
.....Daffke, Mischpocha (but only derogatorily, e.g. about a sort of gypsy-style ragamuffin bunch of poorly clad, screaming, braty types..), Reibach....

The Viennese typically use "Beizl", "Kiberer" etc...


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