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Yiddish as a Contact Language

By Ellen F. Prince, Old Yiddish and Is Often


this paper, I shall first sketch what I take to be the motivation for the vast majority of contact effects in Yiddish: not an imperfect competence in the Germanic system on the part of the speakers but a particular semantic or pragmatic intent: to exploit the formal possibilities of Yiddish in order to express in it concepts which were expressed in some different but 'analogous' way in the contact languages. Furthermore, there is no reason to think that Yiddish is not unique: quite possibly, the overwhelming majority of cases of language contact phenomena involve importing new meanings to old forms and the borrowing of new forms, at least at the syntactic level, is highly unlikely. Therefore, after giving a brief overview of the types of contact phenomena found, I shall look more closely at a few of these, in an effort to see more clearly what exactly has changed and why the changes may be seen as having had a semantic/pragmatic motivation. Finally, I shall discuss a case where the form may have in fact changed as a result of language contact, but where I believe the contact effect on form is indirect, the direct contact-inspired change being at the semantic level, the formal change being language-internal, following a change in the distribution and frequency of the affected form due to the semantic change

Year: 1998
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