Only books dealing specifically with Yiddish are listed. For references to other works consulted by the author, and for additional comments on the works listed in the bibliography, the reader is referred to the main text.
Bernstein, Ignac. Yiddishe Shprikhvehrter en Reydensaarten (Yiddish Proverbs and Sayings), reproduced from the second enlarged and revised edition of Warsaw, 1908. New York, (n.d.).
Birnbaum, S. Das Hebräische und Aramäische Element in der Jiddischen Sprache, Leipzig, 1922. The doyen of Yiddish linguisticians wrote this treatise while a patient in a field hospital in the autumn of 1918 “without any reference material to hand”. It was used, with only minimal revision, as the basis of a Ph.D. thesis in 1921. Yiddish words are given in Hebrew characters, with “phonetic transcription according to Sweet-Sievers”.
“Die Umschrift des Jiddischen.” Teuthonista, vol. ix, no.2. Reprinted by Max Niemeyer Verlag, Halle/Saale,1933. Lists some two hundred and fifty Yiddish words in Hebrew characters, and gives the (original) spelling in Roman characters of the languages – (Heb.-Aram.), Middle High German, Slavic – of origin, with transcription, based on the Polish ooh-dialect, in Roman characters having their German values.
“Jewish Languages”. In Essays Presented to J.H.Hertz, Chief Rabbi, London, 1942. A scholarly, dispassionate presentation of the case for considering Yiddish a distinct language, not a jargon or corrupt form of German.
Yiddish: A Survey And A Grammer, Manchester University Press,1979.
Praktische Grammatik der Jiddischen Sprache, Vienna,1919.
“Yiddish from Eight Centuries.” In The Field of Yiddish, The Hague, Mouton, 1965. A varied selection of prose and verse passages in Roman-character transcription, including an extract from a book dealing with Ainśtains relativitets-teoriy.
Feinsilver, Lillian Mermin. The Taste of Yiddish, New York,Thomas Yoseloff,1970. The author’s enthusiasm for Yiddish is infectious. She examines in minute detail Yiddish influences on American English speech, and throws many interesting sidelights on Jewish psychology and on both Jewish and Gentile American sociology. Her bibliography lists cassettes and records.
Geipel, John. The Making of Yiddish. London, The Journeyman Press, 1982. An extremely readable linguistic analysis of Yiddish containing multum in parvo, with an interesting chapter on Jewish names. One or two howlers, e.g. shnur is not “sister in law,” but “daughter-in-law,” but otherwise remarkably informative within its limited compass.
Harkavy, Alexander. Yiddish-English, English-Yiddish Dictionary, 6th revised and enlarged edition, New York, 1898 (frequently re-issued). Intended mainly for Jewish immigrants learning English, this pioneering work still usefully complements Uriel Weinreich’s lexicographically more advanced dictionary published in 1968. A caveat must be entered, however, against Harkavy’s daatchmerizmen (Germanisms) in the English-Yiddish section. Everybody knows, for example, that the Yiddish for “drunk” is shikker (Hebrew shikkor), and for “mad” meshighe (Hebrew meshugga), but Harkavy gives, dead-pan, betrinken and fehrikt’, respectively (German betrunken, verrückt), as first choice. And for both “glory” and “honour”, which again everyone knows is koovit (Hebrew kavod), he gives only German equivalents.
Joffe, Judah A. and Yudel Mark, Editors in chief. Groyser Verterbukh fun der Yiddisher Shprakh (Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language),New York, Yiddish Dictionary Committee, 1961. Three volumes of this 10-volume all-Yiddish dictionary have so far appeared; the fourth is scheduled for publication in 1975. It is to be hoped that, in spite of the magnitude of the task, the remaining volumes will appear while “there are still scholars for whom Yiddish is a mother-tongue and who reached adulthood before the language suffered so terribly from the annihilation of Eastern European Jewry” – Roman Jakobson. (From the English-language introduction to the first volume).
Katz, Dovid. Grammar of the Yiddish Language. London, Duckworth, 1987.
Landmann, Salcia. Jiddisch, Das Abenteuer einer Sprache, Olten und Freiburg im Breisgau, Walter Verlag, 1962. Contains a useful Lexicon indicating the provenance of the Yiddish words listed. Also an interesting section on the Gaunersprache (German thieves’ slang) in which the author argues convincingly that although the Gaunersprache contains many words of Hebrew origin, the Gauner – crooks – were not Jewish. (Though she artlessly admits the receivers were, since only Jews were engaged in the petty commerce through which the Gauner could dispose of their wares).
Jüdische Anekdoten und Sprichwörter. Munich, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1965. The anecdotes and proverbs are given in Roman characters, with German translation on the facing page; key words are glossed.
Piness, M. Dee Geshikhte fin dehr Yiddishen Litteraatoohr’ Bizzen Yoohr 1890 (History of Yiddish literature to 1890). Warsaw, 1911. Contains a useful introductory chapter on the evolution of the language.
Rosten, Leo. The Joys of Yiddish,London, W.H.Allen, 1970. (Penguin, 1971) By the genial creator of the immortal H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N. Brilliantly entertaining, and informative on Yiddish despite the author’s avowal that the book is about “language – more particularly the English language”, and how English has been enriched by Yiddishisms. Many excursuses on Jewish religion, history, sociology, folklore.
Samet, Chaim Shlomoh. Hashpaat Sifrutenu Haatikah al Pitgamei Haam (The Influence of our Ancient Literature on Popular Sayings). I have only the first half of this book, and do not know whether the second half was ever published.
Samuel, Maurice. In Praise of Yiddish, Chicago, Cowles Book Company, Inc 1971. Stylish essays on Yiddish idioms, but the system of transliteration is faulty.
Stutchkoff, Nahum. Dehr Oitser fin dehr Yiddisher Shpraakh (The Treasury of the Yiddish Language),New York, Yivo, 1950. Displays the Yiddish word-hoard on the lines of Roget’s Thesaurus.
Taviov, I.H. “Hayesodot Haivrim Bazhargohn” (The Hebrew Elements in Yiddish) in Hazeman, vol. iii, 1904, and “Hayesodot Haslaviim Bazhargohn” (The Slav Elements in Yiddish), in Hashiloach, vol. xxx, no.2, 1914. Both reprinted in Kitvei I. H. Taviov, Berlin, 1923. I have indicated passim my indebtedness to these two Hebrew monographs, which may, indeed, be regarded as the chief begetter of this book.
Weinreich, Max. Geshikhte fun der Yiddisher Shprakh (History of the Yiddish Language), four volumes,New York, Yivo, 1973. A work of impressive but lightly-borne learning on which the author was engaged throughout his life. The Yiddish language, he claims – he is referring solely to the language, not to its literature – can be reckoned among the highest achievements of the Jewish national genius.
The originality of the author’s approach lies in his emphasis on the “specificity” of Yiddish and in his treatment of the language as the creation of Ashkenaz, by which term he denotes the Jews who settled in Germany from the ninth century and who from the thirteenth century took with them their “Ashkenazic” tongue into the territories of Eastern Europe. This Ashkenazic language was impressed with its own specific Jewish image chiefly through derekh hushuss “the learning of the Talmud” (see Chapter lX endnote [ii]).
In the first two volumes the author gives an account of previous Jewish languages: Biblical Hebrew, Mishnaic Hebrew, Aramaic, Judaeo-Greek, and of other subsequent Jewish languages: Judaeo-Latin, Judaeo-French, Judaeo-Provencal, Judaeo-Spanish. He discerns a possible parallel between the Mishnaic Hebrew in which the Mishnah was written and the Aramaic in the oral “learning” of the Talmud and rabbinical Hebrew as the written language of the codes and response. The third and fourth volumes give bibliographical references and amplify the observations in the first two volumes. Unfortunately there are no word or subject indexes. These are promised for a fifth volume.
Weinreich, Uriel. College Yiddish, New York, Yivo, 4th revised ed., 1965. Like all Yivo publications, impeccable in scholarship and presentation. As well as the usual textbook features, each lesson includes an exposition, in English, of some aspect of Yiddish language and literature, Jewish history, demography, education, humour, etc. The words and music of a number of songs are given, among them such favourites as often pripitchik, yommu shpeel mer u leeddéle, boollves hehr nor dee sheyn meyddéle. The last lesson concludes with the moving hymn Zog nit keynmoll’ uzz dooh geyst demm lettsten vekk (“Never say this is your last journey”), by Hirsch Glick, a partisan who was killed by the Nazis.
Modern English-Yiddish, Yiddish-English Dictionary,New York, Yivo, McGraw-Hill, 1968.Dr Weinreich was able to complete the MS of his dictionary before his early death at the age of forty deprived the world of Yiddish scholarship of one of its outstanding contributors. His dictionary contains many neologisms coined by him.
For the serious student of Yiddish the Field of Yiddish collections, 1st 1954, 2nd 1965, edited by Uriel Weinreich; 3rd 1969 edited by Marvin I. Herzog, Wita Ravel and Uriel Weinreich; For Max Weinreich on his 70th Birthday, all published by Mouton, The Hague; and the periodical issues of yidishe shprakh (in Yiddish), published by Yivo, are indispensable.