[Marxism] Yiddish and Khazar migration
erniehalfdram at yahoo.ca
Sat Oct 24 04:50:41 MDT 2009
1. I couldn't understand Doğan's post either.
2. If Koestler et al are right that the Ashkenazim migrated into
Europe from Khazaria, that would have been from the area between the Caspian
and Black Seas, north of modern Georgia, not from Turkey. In any case, the
Khazar Kingdom is supposed to have collapsed in the 10th century and the
Turkic speaking peoples didn't invade Anatolia until the 11th century, so
there was no place you could describe as 'Turkey' at the time.
3. The publication of the Yiddish dialect atlas, which I hadn't
heard of, is interesting, but the rest of the speculation in that old NYT
article is just garbled.
For one thing, Johnson seems to assume that standard modern High German has
existed in its current form since at least mediaeval times and that Bavarian
and Yiddish somehow decided to vocalise final consonants. In reality, of
course, all languages are evolving all the time. Final consonant
devocalisation is a very common phenomenon, e.g. Dutch, Russian, Turkish...,
and even final vowel devocalisation occurs, as in Tongan. I wouldn't rule
it out, but I'm not aware of any language that has vocalised voiceless
consonants - it's kind of counterintuitive.
The relexification hypothesis also strikes me as kind of outlandish. Even a
creole, like Tok Pisin, or modern English, for that matter, retains a higher
proportion of substrate lexicon than I think Yiddish has, or would have if
it were indeed a Slavic language. Furthermore, I'm neither a Yiddishist nor
a Slavicist, but the morphology and syntax of Yiddish, from what I know of
it, is more Germanic than Slavic.
In any case, if the Khazar hypothesis were correct, you would expect not a
Slavic substrate, but a Turkic one. One way or the other, there is an
underlying assumption that migrating populations retain at least the basic
structure of the language they bring with them. In fact, it's not just
plausible, but downright normal for migrating populations to adopt the
language of their hosts, unless they come as conquerors, and sometimes even
then. Johnson seems to assume that the migrating Khazars adopted whatever
Slavic language of the areas they passed through, abandoning their Turkic
substrate, and then retained that as they continued migrating westward.
Since the Khazars were allegedly converts, rather than migrants from the
Levant, it also strikes me as farfetched that they would have 'preserved'
the Hebrew lexicon evident in Yiddish from a language they never spoke in
the first place.
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