College of Liberal Arts

Yiddish

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Yiddish is a Germanic language, usually written in Hebrew characters, which contains many words borrowed from Hebrew and Slavic. For over one thousand years, Yiddish was spoken as a vernacular by Ashkenazi Jews living in Central and Eastern Europe. As such, Yiddish was the language of Jewish social and economic life, and later also came to represent a vibrant literary and cultural life.

When in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century millions of Jews emigrated from Europe, they spread the Yiddish language all over the world, with the United States becoming one of the major new centers of Yiddish and Jewish life and culture. The Holocaust, Soviet repression of Jewish cultural life, and linguistic assimilation in the United States, Israel, and other countries have led to a dramatic reduction of the number of Yiddish speakers in the world. But Yiddish remains relevant for all those interested in Jewish history and literature written in Yiddish as well as those interested in Germanic linguistics.

Yiddish studies at UT uniquely stress intercultural contacts--from Russia and Galicia to Broadway. The Department of Germanic Studies offers Yiddish language courses as well as courses in Yiddish literature, theater, film, and culture in English translation. The English-language courses may be cross-listed as Jewish Studies courses. YID 604 and YID 612 complete the intermediate level proficiency sequence.