Page 59 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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TH E G R E A T D I C T I O N A R Y OF
Y I D D I S H L A N G U A G E
B
y
G
er sh o n
W
in er
T
HE first volume of
The Great Dictionary of the Yiddish
Language,
edited by Judah A. Joffe and Yudel Mark, is an
auspicious beginning to a remarkable Jewish cultural achieve-
ment of permanent value. It is monumental in the two-fold
meaning of the term: comprehensive coverage and memorial
symbolism. Envisaged is a ten-volume lexicographic collection
of all words in the Yiddish language of all times and all places,
each entry augmented by etymology, idiomatic usage, dialectical
differences and appropriate source references. In these dimen-
sions, the Dictionary will represent an imposing and appropriate
monument to the flourishing language and culture of the East
European Jewish civilization and its transplanted colonies
throughout the world.
Similar linguistic projects in other languages were launched
in immeasurably more favorable circumstances, with considerable
investment of time and resources at hand. Both factors place the
Yiddish Dictionary at a serious disadvantage. Competent philol-
ogists rooted in Yiddish language and Jewish culture, capable
of implementing such an ambitious program, are few and aging.
Nor has any American Jewish group or higher academic institu-
tion assumed responsibility for one of the major tasks of Jewish
creative activity in this century.
The famed
Oxford English Dictionary,
which may have served
as a model for the present undertaking, took forty-four years
before its final completion in 1928. Nevertheless, the first volume
of the Yiddish Dictionary is now available, and it marks more
than just a beginning of the gigantic enterprise. For it should
be noted that the raw material for the entire structure has been
carefully assembled. The editorial files contain over 180,000
words with tens of thousands of quotations gleaned from literary,
journalistic and documentary sources of world-wide origin, of
which many have already been arranged and defined.
Work on the complete Yiddish Dictionary is less than a decade
old. I t was originally inspired by Nahum Stutchkoff, author of
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