Yiddish is the ancient language of Jews, that presumably originated in the 10th century in the area of the Rhineland. After traveling to Eastern Europe and absorbing aspects of multiple Germanic and Slavic languages Yiddish arrived in the United States during the 19th century where it started out in an important position as a means of identification among the immigrants (cf. Katz, 1). Today, however, Yiddish seems to more and more disappear.
In this paper I will try to determine whether Yiddish is likely to vanish from the landscape of languages spoken in the US in the future or whether it still has a chance of survival. In addition I want to determine if non-Jews in America are able to understand Yiddish and maybe even use it. To do that I will first give an overview over the origins and the progress of the Yiddish language. Following I will describe its emergence in the United States of America to then try and determine the influence it has had on American English by means of theories published in literature and finally by looking at the use of Yiddish in the TV show “The Nanny” that starred a protagonist of Jewish origin and thematized this topic in various episodes. In the last part of this paper I will present the results of this research and compare them with the theories established by different academics. In the conclusion I will then sum up my findings and give an outlook on the development of Yiddish in the United States in the future.
2 The origins of Yiddish
The name “Yiddish” for the language was presumably developed around the 15th or 16th century but was only documented as late as the 19th century when the “Oxford English Dictionary” (OED) notes the first occurrence of the word in a novel of Sir Walter Besant. According to the OED the expression “Yiddish” is the anglicized form of the German word “jüdisch”.
Yiddish has its basis in four main languages: German, Hebrew, Loez and Slavic. Weinreich therefore calls it a...