Page 24 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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1 8
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
into Hebrew, Latin and leshon ashkenaz. Here leshon ashkenaz
is elucidated in the brief Latin preface to the book as nostra
germanica—“our German,” in contrast to the germanica voca-
bula . . . quibus Iudei G e rm an i . . . u tun tur—“the German words
in usage among the German Jews.” The two para lle l columns,
i.e. the German words in usage among the German Jews and
“our German,” are very illuminating. In the Yiddish column
the word for ‘vein ’ is oder and in the German ader. Sim ilarly,
in the one column the words appear as shlofn, brotn, nodi, hor
and in the other as schlaffen, braten, nadel, har, respectively.
Besides the vocalic changes are the characteristic consonantal
changes. The Yiddish bezem (broom) and bodem (attic) appear
in the German column as besen, boden. Most revealing is the
use of different terms for the same concept or object. Yiddish
imen (bees), zinter (sin ter), gefes (utensils), shnit (harvest), are
rendered in German as binen, schaum, hausrath, ernd, respec­
tively.
Shemot Devarim represents the high-water mark of Yiddish
lexicography in the early period. In fact, it is the only dictionary
based on the alphabetical order of Yiddish words in that period.
It was followed in the next century by Moses Shertels’ Beer
Moshe (Prague, 1604) and Lekah Tov (Prague, 16 05 ) , Hebrew-
Yiddish dictionaries to the Pentateuch, and to the Prophets and
Hagiographa, respectively, based on the order of the Hebrew
words in the Bible. The significance attaching to these diction­
aries is that they do not merely translate words, but occasionally
entire sentences. Of a somewhat different order is Nathan Nata
Hanover’s Safah Berurah (Prague, 1660), a Hebrew-Yiddish-
Italian-Latin dictionary, arranged according to categories, e.g.
kinship, household utensils, and the like.
The 18th century saw a rise of interest in Yiddish among
Christian circles in Germany. In response to this interest was the
publication of several “introductions” to the Yiddish language.
Practically all these primers had dictionaries appended to them.
The authors of these textbooks figured, however, that the stu­
dents would have no difficulty w ith the words of German stock
—they were leshon ashkenaz after a l l—and they concentrated only
on the Hebraisms.
I wish to dwell here on several of these primers. The first is
Judischteutsches Worterbuchlein (Halle, 1736) by J. H. Callen-
berg, a professor in Halle and founder of the Jewish Institute
for instruction in the Hebrew and Yiddish languages. Consider­
able significance attaches to this dictionary. It shows that in the
18th century the number of Hebraisms in the Yiddish language
—at any rate, that of the German Jews—was much greater than
today. In most instances these Hebraisms consisted of a Hebrew
stem and a German affix or auxiliary. I cull at random some
of these Hebraisms no longer current in Yiddish. ‘T o spend’