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A Goy Who Speaks YiddishChristians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany$
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Aya Elyada

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780804781930

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804781930.001.0001

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Yiddish and German in the Judenmission

Yiddish and German in the Judenmission

The Limits of Linguistic Adaptation

(p.155) Eight Yiddish and German in the Judenmission
A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish
Stanford University Press

Christian preoccupation with Yiddish in early modern Germany involved two tendencies: the attempt of Christians to use the Jewish language for their own purposes, and their severe criticism of Yiddish with regards to its linguistic qualities, the literature written in it, and its functions within German society. In some cases, both tendencies posed dilemmas to Christian Yiddishists, particularly in relation to their reliance on the Yiddish language to produce missionary literature. Yiddish literature on missionary work consistently emphasized the importance of linguistic adaptation for this cause, but some of the most important “Yiddish” missionary writings were written in German with Hebrew or Yiddish letters, or at least in a very “Germanized” version of Yiddish, rather than in pure Yiddish. One possible purpose of trying to accustom the Jews to the German language was to achieve Jewish conversion, linguistically and religiously. For missionaries, true conversion was a transition involving two stages: from Judaism to Christianity, and from Yiddish to German.

Keywords:   Yiddish literature, Yiddish language, missionary literature, missionary work, Jewish language, German language, conversion, Judaism, Christianity, linguistic adaptation

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