Amsterdam Yiddish Symposium 10: Dutch in Yiddish, Yiddish in Dutch

Amsterdam Yiddish Symposium 10: Dutch in Yiddish, Yiddish in Dutch 

It is a well-known fact that Yiddish was the lingua franca of the Ashkenazi diaspora until the middle of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, Yiddish was also influenced by languages in the locations where a Jewish community settled. The universal and particular characteristics of Yiddish are clearly apparent in the Amsterdam case as well. Local usage began to penetrate Yiddish in the second half of the seventeenth century, and the process intensified throughout the eighteenth century. Moreover, during the next century Yiddish began to play a role in the local Amsterdam dialect of the Dutch, and similar developments can be identified in the eastern provinces of the Netherlands as well. After an introductory lecture on the languages of Jewish Amsterdam, each of the other two lectures of the symposium attempt to map both trajectories of influences: Dutch on Yiddish, and Yiddish on Dutch.


Het Menasseh ben Israel Instituut organiseert voor de tiende maal het jaarlijkse symposium Jiddisj: 

Datum:               donderdag 4 december 2014,  13.00-17.30 uur

Plaats:                 Doelenzaal, Universiteitsbibliotheek, Singel 425  Amsterdam

Kosten:                € 10,-; voor donateurs van het instituut  € 5.-


Reserveren via, per telefoon 020-5310325, of via de webformulier

Programma (alle lezingen in het Engels):

13.00 - 13.15      Opening (prof. Shlomo Berger)

13.15 - 14.00     Shlomo Berger (Universiteit van Amsterdam), "The Languages of Amsterdam Ashkenazim"

14.00 – 14.15     Vragen en discussie

14:15 – 14:30     Koffie/thee

14.30 – 15.15     Marion Aptroot (Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf), "Dutch and Dutch influences in the Yiddish of Amsterdam  Jewry"

15.15 – 15.30     Vragen en discussie

15.30 – 15:45     Koffie/thee

15.45 – 16.30     Marc van Oostendorp (Universiteit Leiden, Meertens Instituut), "Speaking Jewish: The Undercover Life of Yiddish in Amsterdam"

16.30 – 16.45     Vragen en discussie

16.45 – 17.30      Borrel


Informatie over de sprekers en hun lezingen: 

Shlomo Berger: The Languages of Amsterdam Ashkenazim

This lecture will discuss basic issues of Yiddish sociolinguistics, as internal bilingualism and external multilingualism, roles of Yiddish in Ashkenazi society, speaking, writing and reading Yiddish. These questions will be demonstrated on the basis of local Amsterdam examples.    

Shlomo Berger is professor of Yiddish at the University of Amsterdam and his research is concentrated on the history of the Early Modern Yiddish book. He has published four books and edited or co-edited six volumes. He is now preparing two books for publication: an analytical anthology of Yiddish prefaces in Amsterdam books as well as a book on the history of reading Yiddish between the sixteenth and the late eighteenth centuries.


Marion Aptroot, Dutch and Dutch influences in the Yiddish of Amsterdam Jewry

The contacts Ashkenazic Jews had with their surroundings influenced their everyday language, Yiddish. This also happened in Amsterdam, where Yiddish was spoken and written over a period of more than two hundred years. The influence of Dutch on the Yiddish Amsterdam Jews spoke can be seen in the words and idiomatic expressions they used, but also in their grammar and pronunciation. Most speakers of Amsterdam Yiddish won’t have given it much thought, but others deplored the fact that their mother tongue was “corrupted” by Dutch, a language in which words didn’t “have proper endings”.

Marion Aptroot will discuss these influences and the underlying mechanisms and structures. She will also show how and why Dutch was sometimes used within Yiddish texts.

Prof. Marion Aptroot teaches Yiddish Culture, Language and Literature at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. Her main areas of research are the history of the Yiddish language and on Yiddish literature of the Early Modern period and the Enlightenment. Her publications on Yiddish in the Netherlands include Storm in the Community: Polemical Pamphlets of Amsterdam Jewry, 1797–1798 (together with Jozeph Michman, 2002) and articles on Yiddish “poerimkranten”.


Marc van Oostendorp "Speaking Jewish: The Undercover Life of Yiddish in Amsterdam"

Whenever inhabitants of Amsterdam are asked to pick their favourite word which they consider typical for their town, they choose a word of Yiddish origin. Although this effect is not as strong in other Dutch cities, we can still see that 'typically local' words in larger cities are often chosen from Yiddish stock. 

In the scholarly literature, it has sometimes been suggested that Yiddish has also influenced Dutch in more subtle, less directly visible ways. For instance, the initial sound of words like 'goed' (good) and 'groot' (big) in the Western parts of the country are called 'loud', and this loudness has something been ascribed to influence by Yiddish, which indeed has a similar sound. Also some forms of pronunciating the r sound are sometimes seen as being influenced by Yiddish.

How is it possible that a relatively small minority language, which furthermore disappeared by and large from the scene in the course of the 19th Century still has a relatively large impact on Dutch and its (city) dialects? And to what extent are Jewish inhabitants of the cities still recognizable by their specific use of Dutch? 

Prof. Marc van Oostendorp (1967) is a linguist and works as a researcher at the Meertens Instituut of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam, and as a Professor of Phonological Microvariation at Leiden University. He has published books and articles on Dutch dialects, on the way in which language plays a role in thought and communication, on Esperanto, and on the role of English in the modern world.

4 December 2014