What is Yevanic?

By: | Post date: 2017-03-31 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

Yevanic, or Judaeo-Greek, or Romaniote, is the version of Greek formerly spoken by Romaniote (Greek-speaking) Jews. Yevanic language – Wikipedia:

There are no longer any native speakers of Yevanic, or have less than 50 speakers, for the following reasons:

  • The assimilation of the tiny Romaniote communities by the more numerous Ladino-speaking Sephardi Jews;
  • The emigration of many of the Romaniotes to the United States and Israel;
  • The murder of many of the Romaniotes during the Holocaust;
  • The adoption of the majority languages through assimilation.

“A few semi-speakers left in 1987 [in Israel], and may be none now [as of 1996 or earlier]. There may be a handful of elderly speakers still in Turkey. There are less than 50 speakers (2011).” Ethnologue, 13th edition, 1996

http://ins.web.auth.gr/images/ME… (E. Vlahou, G. Kotzoglou & Ch. Papadopoulou, Γεβανική: μια πρόσφατη καταγραφή, Studies in Greek Linguistics 36 (2016): 51–65) presents results of a recent study of Yevanic spoken in New York and Yannina, Yannina being one of the main centres of Romaniote Jewry. The speakers are overwhelmingly over 70, with one speaker under 60 (38); they all report using Yevanic only in childhood or in synagogue (Manhattan’s Kehila Kedosha Janina; Yannina’s own synagoge, Kahal Kadosh Yashan, hasn’t had a bar mitzvah since 2000).

The dialect as described in the paper looks to be what you’d expect: Yannina dialect Greek, with a lot of Hebrew loans. Apparently New York Yevanic has some Yiddish influence as well. There are a couple of idiosyncracies in verb aspect, and some Hebrew or Turkish idioms: “I was struck by desolation” = “I am all alone”, “From today, eight [days] with health” = “Have a good week”, the use of dzes < Hebrew yesh? Hebrew ze? to mean “so-and-so”.

Hebrew loans;

axla “good” < ohel, jeuðis “Jew” < jehudi, kesef “money”, samas “beadle” < ʃamaʃ, taleθ “prayer shawl” (in New York, with Yiddish influence: talis).

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