This is the first systematic attempt to trace the beginnings of modern literary Yiddish, an issue of great significance in the linguistic, literary, and social history of the Yiddish language. The eighteenth century marked the turning point in the history of literary Yiddish, a period of rapid linguistic assimilation to German and Dutch in the West and, by sharp contrast, the increasing cultural autonomy of Eastern European Jewry. Books printed in the West reflected the impact of New High German and contemporary Western Yiddish. Books published in Eastern Europe, the new centre for Yiddish printing, used Eastern Yiddish both for new works and for new editions of old Yiddish works. Dr Kerler examines hitherto neglected Yiddish books from the period in order to analyse the linguistic changes manifest in both the transition and shift from old to nascent Modern Literary Yiddish within the broader context of genre and literary traditions and in the framework of Yiddish dialectology, grammar, and sociolinguistics. Many of the grammatical norms of nineteenth and early twentieth-century literary Yiddish are shown to have their origins in the eighteenth century.
A major work of linguistic scholarship, The Origins of Modern Literary Yiddish is an important contribution to the study of the crystallization process of literary languages, highlighting in the case of Yiddish the dynamics of emergence in the absence of the usual governmental support.