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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • I think it's easier to learn Hebrew first. Learning Yiddish first is like learning calculus by skipping algebra altogether.

    Any good introductory text will have a few chapters on learning the alphabet. It's actually reasonably simple to learn the Hebrew alphabet, because it's all phonetic. There are only a few exceptions to the pronunciation in [Sephardic] Hebrew. Also, spelling is very regular and almost algebraic enough to be mechanical in some cases, without losing a sense of poetry. Modern Hebrew

    • I think it's easier to learn Hebrew first. Learning Yiddish first is like learning calculus by skipping algebra altogether.

      But learning Hebrew in order to learn Yiddish sounds really the long way around. I mean, Yiddish borrows a lot of nouns from Hebrew, but I don't see how one would have to know all the scary details of the Hebrew's morphology and syntax, to say nothing of its kooky vowel-marking system.

      • I don't see how one would have to know all the scary details of the Hebrew's morphology and syntax, to say nothing of its kooky vowel-marking system.

        I believe that Yiddish does use Hebrew vowels. It also adds some vowels of its own I think (using Hebrew consonants to mimic the Germanic spelling or something).

        The usage of vowels is so regular in Hebrew that it's possible to ignore (once you know what vowels are typically used where), and the redundancy tends not to be necessary once you've got a firm

        • I believe that Yiddish does use Hebrew vowels

          Not [salon.com] really. [yivoinstitute.org]

          In fact, the only vowel pointing in the system is the squiggle under the alef to distinguish it from a silent (word-initial) alef. YIVO says to use one squiggle to show it's an  /o/ and another to show it's a  /a/, but apparently some people [amazon.com] don't distinguish those vowels at all. (Incidentally, merging those two vowels is actually relatively common in Germanic languages, I think.)

          • Cool. Guess it is simpler than I had thought. It's been a while since I attempted to read Yiddish, and I thought I saw some more vowels than just the kametz and patach under the Aleph. Typically, the letter vav is used as a pseudo-silent letter to produce the vowels "oh" and "oo", but it is really one of the letters that is used for a "v" consonant. Interesting that Yiddish switches this to emphasize the common use. (This explains why written Modern Hebrew (without vowels) uses the double-vov to indicate "V" instead of the single-vov, which generally indicates "oh".)

            Some of the letter combinations involving "shin" still look strange to me. I thought there were more letter combinations all together than the seven listed here. Then again, I never expected to see that long bar over the Vet or Fey to emphasize the difference between Bet and Pey.

            Still, if you think most of the letters look similar (the serif between bet and kof is significant, as it is between daled and resh), then perhaps the best thing you can do is find a good introductory Hebrew text in a used book store. The first chapter or two should have a few phonetic exercises at the beginning to learn the aleph bet. Unfortunately, there is a strong emphasis on the Hebrew vowel system, which won't matter much to you in learning Yiddish, but the consonants should be demystified.  :-) It's also important to remember the difference between shin and sin. The shin is more commonly used (since there are so many other ways to express "s" as a consonant), but the sin does appear occasionally. I've forgotten the reason why, though. (There are a few words, probably from Biblical Hebrew, where both dots are on the shin. Pronounciation? "Sho"; it's a shin with a dot at the top left, indicating an "oh" vowel in Hebrew...)

            There are a few important differences between Yiddish (Ashkenazi pronunciation) and Hebrew (Sephardic pronunciation). Sephardic is considered the "better" pronunciation for Hebrew, although some of the over-80 immigrant crowd still use Ashkenazi pronunciation for their Hebrew. The main difference is that the kametz and patach vowels are voiced identically in Sephardic, but differently in Askenazi pronunciation. And the letter tof is always proununced as a "t" in Sephardic, but pronounced as an "s" (sof) in Askenazi when the dot is missing from the middle (no dagesh, IIRC).