Phonic Convergence in Estonian Yiddish

In: Journal of Jewish Languages
Anna Verschik Professor of General Linguistics, Tallinn University Tallinn Estonia

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Karl Pajusalu Professor of the History of the Estonian Language and Estonian Dialect, University of Tartu Tartu Estonia

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Multilingualism is a characteristic feature of Yiddish speakers in the Baltic region, and contact-induced language change is natural in this case. To date, some Baltic German impact on the local varieties of Yiddish has been discussed in the literature. This article focuses on the phonic impact of Estonian on Estonian Yiddish. The study is based on acoustic analysis of Estonian Yiddish sound recordings. The North Baltic area forms a separate region in the Baltic Sprachbund; Yiddish spoken in Samogitia and Courland as well as Estonian Yiddish exhibit several features typical of this language area. It is demonstrated that there is an overlap of basic prosodic categories with co-territorial languages, such as centralized stress and a quantity opposition. A distinctive feature common to Estonian and Estonian Yiddish is the limited reduction of vowels and a tendency to maintain stable durational ratios of the primary stressed syllable and following unstressed syllables.

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