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, dictates a list of dozens of must-know Yiddish words, which he claims have already entered American English: not just bagel and klutz, but also heymish, yortsayt, and yok.

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Yiddish-language institutions such as the Vilnius Yiddish Institute have received funding from cultural preservation commissions in the European Union.

The language also lives in the fantastically mundane Alaska of Michael Chabon’s, where the hardened detectives, street junkies, shabby chess masters, and dowagers all speak Yiddish, though we are, sad to say, given their world only in American English, for Chabon himself is of the rootless modern American generation.

Yiddish speakers are found in the last remnants of Jewish villages in Moldova, Romania, Hungary, and Ukraine.

Ethnographers, led by Indiana University historian Jeffrey Veidlinger, are trying to record their voices and memories for the Archive of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories before they die out.

They also provide a subtle counter-argument to his lifelong thesis.

Weinreich was a careful, fair, and judicious scholar, and it was in the notes to his monumental work that he gave place to the vexing confusion of counter-evidence to his main, and beloved, story of Yiddish origins and, by implication, the origins of millions of East European Jews and their descendants in America.

They extend for over 750 pages, are now published in English for the first time in the new Yale edition, and contain the most interesting, and controversial, part of what had seemed till now a fairly straightforward and unchallenged historical narrative.

Weinreich’s original text and notes were published in 1973, four years after his death.

The notes cite research in two dozen languages and took more than a decade to edit and check even after they were translated.

These notes are not just the usual formal apparatus, reassuring to any scholarly reader: They are essential to understanding Weinreich’s many-stranded argument about the relationship between culture and language.

This is the first of two articles on the origins of the Yiddish language.

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