Page 61 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

Basic HTML Version

in e r
— T
h e
ict io nary
id d ish
timely functions and limited purposes. Chief among these is
Alexander Harkavy’s
Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary
and the
Yehoash-Spivak Dictionary, the latter lim ited to Hebrew elements
in the Yiddish language. Both appeared nearly forty years ago.
T h e present volume, with over 17,000 words defined, includes
only half of the letter Aleph. T h e fact tha t most prefixes in
Yiddish begin with the first letter, gives a disproportionate place
to the Aleph. At the same time, even the one volume is quite
representative of Yiddish vocabulary, since most verbs and pre-
positions combine with prefixes to indicate different nuances of
meaning. Most entries in the 508-page book are followed, wher-
ever possible, by illustrative references demonstrating their usage
in proper context. Thus, in addition to its philological sig-
nificance, the work becomes a repository of valuable historical
and sociological information on Jewish attitudes and concepts
and local customs and institutions over a period extending at
least three or four centuries.
An interesting item depicting the scope and content of the
Dictionary is the Yiddish entry for “eye,” which is followed
by thirty-four definitions and over 175 related idioms, with
perhaps half as many quotations from Hebrew and Yiddish
sources. Th is is sufficient material for an entire treatise on the
socio-psychological makeup of the Jewish personality in preceding
Hebrew scholarship, too, has much to gain, as is evidenced on
nearly every page in the first volume. In one place the reviewer
spotted nearly nine consecutive pages of Hebrew terms used in
Yiddish. T h e Hebrew student would be interested in the Hebrew
vocabulary and phrases tha t vary in their Hebrew and Yiddish
connotations, some terms appearing only in Yiddish, w ithout
equivalent usage in Hebrew.
Erud ition is combined w ith precision and skill in producing
this work of scholarship which is as attractive to the layman as
to the student and scholar. T he reading is facilitated by variety
in typography to distinguish definitions, references and proper
names. Occasional pictorial illustrations aid comprehension. T h e
extent of preparatory research embraces hundreds of books and
periodicals quoted throughout the Dictionary. Some go back as
far as the 16th century, especially Hebrew responsa which were
combed for Yiddish terms. T h e geographical range of quoted
sources includes Holland, Alsace and Italy in Western Europe,
the main centers in Eastern Europe, and countries in both North
and South America. Yet, in spite of its inter-continental scope,
the Yiddish Ditcionary in substance represents an ingathering
of words, phrases and ideas which express Jewry and Judaism
in a kaleidoscopic panorama of life and creativity manifested in