Tuesday, August 23, 2011

yeshivish orthography

Despite the lack of seriousness with which it is treated, it seems to me that the Yeshivish sociolect of English bears great similarity to other Jewish languages in their formative states. It is interesting to speculate how it would be written if the Hebrew alphabet were adapted to it, as happened to many other Jewish languages. Although I doubt this will ever happen given the contemporary sociolinguistic situation, here is an experimental proposal (which probably requires some tweaking):

1) Hebrew and Yiddish loanwords are written in their original orthography. Thus nezek = נזק, Yiddish = אידיש, etc.

2) English words which contain sounds that also exist in Yiddish are written phonetically according to Yiddish conventions:
soon = סון
eat = איט
table = טייבל

This allows acceptable variation where Yiddish orthography would also vary:
do = דו or דוא
nod = נאַד or נאד

Silent consonants may be included if desired:
debt = דעט or דעבט

3) The English consonants /θ ð ŋ w/ (written ) have the following representations:

/θ/ : ת
thimble = תימבל
(other options: ת', תה)

/ð/ : ד
this = דיס
(other options: ד', ת, תה, דה)

/ŋ/ : נג
thing = תינג

/w/ : ו; if needed to distinguish from vocalic ו or consonantal וו, use וא;
week = ואיק
well = ועל
womb = ואומב

4) Each word below shows how its first vowel is written. Note the influence of Daytshmerish-style doubled consonants on vowel quality:

cat = קאַטט
cot = קאַט
caught = קאָט
about = עבאַוט
[spott]ed = ספ?טעד
sit = סיטט
seat = סיט
date = דייט
bed = בעד
bird = בערד
bared = ביירד
but = באָט
put = פוטט
you = יו
my = מײַ
boy = בוי
no = נאָו
now = נאַו

Note that there is some ambiguity (the quality of אָ), but this is probably an acceptable amount. Also, the Daytshmerish doubling is optional and lengthening ה's may be used instead or in addition, e.g. סיהט = seat.

Now to illustrate this orthography, here is an excerpt from the Yeshivish Gettysburg address:
בערך א יובל אַנד א האַלף עגאָו, דע מייסדים שטעלד אַוועק אָן דיס מקום א נײַע מלכות ואית דע כוונה דאטט נאָואָן שולד האוו בעלות אָואווער דייר חבר, אנד אָן דיס יסוד דאטט עווריואָן האזז דע זעלבע זכותים.
Be'erech a yoivel and a half ago, the meyasdim shtelled avek on this makom a naiya malchus with the kavana that no one should have bailus over their chaver, and on this yesoid that everyone has the zelba zchusim.

1 comment:

  1. I think that if there were a standard Yeshivish orthography, /æ/ would probably be rendered non-Daytshmerishly with an ע. Thus cat = קעט.