By Rebekah Wolferts
Perspectives: Student Journal of Germanic and Slavic Studies, Vol.10 (2001)
Introduction: Yiddish is best described by Leo Rosten when he wrote:
Yiddish is the Robin Hood of languages. It steals from the linguistically rich to give to the fledgling poor . . . It has displayed immense resourcefulness, immenser resilience, and immensest determination-not-to-die-properties . . . I think it a tongue that never takes its tongue out of its cheek.
Indeed, Yiddish displays the characteristics of Robin Hood. The Ashkenazic people’s many wanderings produced a language far more open, far more mixed than most. Journalist Charles Rappaport claims, “I speak ten languages-all of them in Yiddish”. Among those ten languages Rappaport refers to, is German.
Today, scholars of various backgrounds dispute the amount of influence German has had on the development of the Yiddish language. While some scholars claim that German has had minimal influence on Yiddish, others say it is the core resource of the language. Modern Yiddish and modern German are both derived from the same source: Middle High German, but they have developed separately for at least one thousand years. An examination of Yiddish in light of both its German and non-German components is essential to understanding the language in its present form.