Why did Ashkenazi Jews historically speak Yiddish?

Oct 2012
795
Among other things, asking around, I've got that Khazars spoke Ancient Gothic [or "Crimean Gothic"]. This would suggest an alternative for the Germanic origin of the Yiddish, but the reality is that a good 80% of the words in Yiddish are Medieval German as for etimology.

To wonder where did the Khazars go requires to consider the Medieval context. When the Lord of a land changed, local population simply followed the new chief almost in all. If the Khazars who converted to Judaism did that just because of political reasons ... may be they converted to the religion of the new invader as well.

If there are no evidences of mass migrations from East to West in that period, the hypothesis of a further mass conversion ["mass" ... are we sure that so many Khazars converted to Judaism?] is the most simple explanation for the "disappearance" of the Khazars.
Quite so.
 
Aug 2014
296
New York, USA
The question should be:what was the Ashkenazi population growth from 11th century to 12th century? In absolute numbers?
What happened to the Khazars? Maybe they were absorbed into the surrounding Turcic population.
Before even looking into it, I originally thought that Bukharian Jews were related to Khazars, since they speak a central Asian language and come from that region. However, apparently they come from Persia and actually predate the Khazars by some ~500 years...
My opinion is that Khazars simply adopted Islam. It is not like they were some kind of branch of Jews that were practicing Judaism for thousands of years, as they converted to Judaism only sometime in the 8th century. The whole "Jewish" Khazaria lasted 100-200 years max, so the culture was not really embedded in the population. It is also not clear how many people in Khazaria even practiced Judaism in the first place.
 
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Isleifson

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,022
Lorraine tudesque
Why did Ashkenazi Jews historically speak Yiddish? Was it because they originated in Germany and thus brought their language with them once a lot of them settled in Eastern Europe? Or was there another reason as to why Ashkenazi Jews historically spoke Yiddish?

Indeed, it's interesting that Ashkenazi Jews created a pseudo-German language when they lived in Germany but not a pseudo-Polish or pseudo-Ukrainian language once a lot of them moved to Eastern Europe.
It is
Among other things, asking around, I've got that Khazars spoke Ancient Gothic [or "Crimean Gothic"]. This would suggest an alternative for the Germanic origin of the Yiddish, but the reality is that a good 80% of the words in Yiddish are Medieval German as for etimology.

To wonder where did the Khazars go requires to consider the Medieval context. When the Lord of a land changed, local population simply followed the new chief almost in all. If the Khazars who converted to Judaism did that just because of political reasons ... may be they converted to the religion of the new invader as well.

If there are no evidences of mass migrations from East to West in that period, the hypothesis of a further mass conversion ["mass" ... are we sure that so many Khazars converted to Judaism?] is the most simple explanation for the "disappearance" of the Khazars.
No need for Ancient Gothic. The language of trade in the middle ages from the Rhine to the Danube was Middle High German. The Jews were merchants, that's why they adopted this language.
After the plague they left for the East. When they started to move back to the West the language was still there: Yiddish.

What did the Jews in Lorraine , which were coming from the Rhineland and Alsace spoke? Yiddish at home and Judendeutsch with the other people.

Wenn die Stern fallen vom Himmel gehen alle Spatzen kaputt.
When the stars are falling from the sky all the sparrows will perish.


This were the words of an old Jew talking with my grand-father in early 1940. Judendeutsch, High-German with a strong Yiddish accent.
 
Mar 2014
1,993
Lithuania
Just to make matters more complicated there was group of people that practiced weird kind of Judaism in Krimean Khanate. They are called Karaims or Karaites, usually spoke Turckik language. They might be answer what happened to mysterious Khazars, even some serious scientists think so. Some of them run away to former territories of Grand Duchy of Lithuania when Duchy was tolerant to all faiths.

Crimean Karaites - Wikipedia
 

Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
4,867
India
Khazars were not a single ethnic group, the empire was polyethnic, and they spoke multiple languages. That's made tracking their movements extremely difficult.

Considering the proximity it's not unlikely that they had a Slavic language in their repertoire. They might started speaking a different language - Slavic one, and thus wouldn't be too noticeable linguistically.
Original Turkics people looked identical to Mongols, how we know that Ashkenazi have a Turkic origin.
 
Mar 2014
1,993
Lithuania
I had impression that we mostly have images of Turkic people that look pretty much like Europeans.


 
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M.S. Islam

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
3,333
Dhaka
Among other things, asking around, I've got that Khazars spoke Ancient Gothic [or "Crimean Gothic"]. This would suggest an alternative for the Germanic origin of the Yiddish, but the reality is that a good 80% of the words in Yiddish are Medieval German as for etimology.
You said (in post #34) that in 19th century, Yiddish was consciously harmonized with German. It is a possibility that in earlier times, the harmonization (with German) occurred gradually and naturally. Is it possible, in your opinion, that the ancient Gothic that the Khazars also spoke might evolve into a language that's close to Medieval German?

Edit: Wrote the above before seeing Isleifson's post.

To wonder where did the Khazars go requires to consider the Medieval context. When the Lord of a land changed, local population simply followed the new chief almost in all. If the Khazars who converted to Judaism did that just because of political reasons ... may be they converted to the religion of the new invader as well.
Judaization of the Khazar people happened gradually, that took centuries. It would be highly improbable for a people with Abrahamic faith to convert en masse into Paganism ( of the Kievan Rus).

If there are no evidences of mass migrations from East to West in that period, the hypothesis of a further mass conversion ["mass" ... are we sure that so many Khazars converted to Judaism?] is the most simple explanation for the "disappearance" of the Khazars.
See post # 9. That somewhat seals that Khazar people did convet to Judaism.
 
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M.S. Islam

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
3,333
Dhaka
Before even looking into it, I originally thought that Bukharian Jews were related to Khazars, since they speak a central Asian language and come from that region. However, apparently they come from Persia and actually predate the Khazars by some ~500 years...
My opinion is that Khazars simply adopted Islam. It is not like they were some kind of branch of Jews that were practicing Judaism for thousands of years, as they converted to Judaism only sometime in the 8th century. The whole "Jewish" Khazaria lasted 100-200 years max, so the culture was not really embedded in the population. It is also not clear how many people in Khazaria even practiced Judaism in the first place.
Highly unlikely.

There were Palestinian Jews settled in Khazaria for a long time. And once the empire started to become Jewish top down, more Palestinian Jews from other places started to move into Khazaria. I had the impression that rulers of Khazaria considered themselves as a beacon for all Jews.
 
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Feb 2011
1,091
Scotland
The degrees of ifs, buts and maybes piling one upon the other in profusion to make this hypothesis work are so far-fetched as to make it exceedingly unlikely. In effect, a people in the Caucasus are hypothesised to migrate en masse to mid Europe leaving no historical record of the event, then although they come from a non-Germanic language area, they evolve Yiddish. There are no other mid-European Jews in any significant number (despite the massacre in England in 1190 and expulsion from England in the 1280s). So these translated Turks suddenly become the entire or main mass of European Jews. It doesn't remotely fit facts,.

In fact, reading the post 9 extract referred to in post 78 about Judaisation, Khazarsn and burial customs, Khazars
that article concludes:-

Debate
Date and extent of the conversion
The date of the conversion, and whether it occurred as one event or as a sequence of events over time, is widely disputed. The issues surrounding this controversy are discussed above.
The number of Khazars who converted to Judaism is also hotly contested. D.M. Dunlop was of the opinion that only the upper class converted; this was the majority view until relatively recently. The relatively sudden shift in burial customs during the mid 800s suggests a more widespread conversion, which hypothesis has been recently championed by Kevin A. Brook.

Alleged Khazar ancestry of Ashkenazim
The novelist Arthur Koestler alleged in a book (in The Thirteenth Tribe), that modern Ashkenazi Jews are of Khazarian ancestry rather than Jewish. According to Bernard Lewis:
This theory... is supported by no evidence whatsoever. It has long since been abandoned by all serious scholars in the field, including those in Arab countries, where the Khazar theory is little used except in occasional political polemics.​
DNA studies .................................................................................................................................................................................. So although Khazars might have been absorbed into the Jewish population it is unlikely that they formed a large percentage of the ancestors of modern Ashkenazim.

Another criticism that has been leveled against Koestler's work is that he largely appropriated his history from such sources as D.M. Dunlop, sometimes without proper attribution. Moreover, it has been pointed out that his more speculative second half (discussing his theories about Ashkenazi descent) is largely unsupported; to the extent that Koestler referred to place-names and documentary evidence his analysis has been described as a mixture of flawed etymologies and misinterpreted primary sources.

Other critics of the Khazar-Ashkenazi theory have stated that the prime motive for even the small degree of acceptance of these ideas is because they have become political and anti-Zionist in nature. The Khazar theory has been adopted by many anti-Zionists, especially in the Arab world; such proponents of the theory argue that if Ashkenazi Jews are primarily Khazar in origin, then they would be outside the scope of God's promise of Canaan to Israelites as recorded in the Bible. This ignores, of course, the fact that the Biblical promise explicitly includes converts, and the fact that over half of Israeli Jews are not Ashkenazi. (see Demographics of Israel, Jewish exodus from Arab lands) Some have countered that such charges of a political motive are not relevant to the core of the argument; in any event, Koestler himself was emphatically pro- Zionist based upon secular considerations.

The Khazar claim has also served as a catalyst for state anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and a justification for conquest by Russian nationalists.
Others have claimed Khazar origins for such groups as the Karaim, Krymchaks, Mountain Jews, and Georgian Jews. There is little evidence to support any of these theories, although it is possible that some Khazar descendants found their way into these communities. Non-Jewish groups who claim at least partial descent from the Khazars include the Kumyks and Crimean Tatars; as with the above-mentioned Jewish groups, these claims are subject to a great deal of controversy and debate.
Anti-Semites and anti-Zionists use the alleged Khazarian ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews as a means of dismissing Jewish claims to Israel.


I have dotted out one sentence which adds information about DNA studies, as required under the forum rules. The sentence after contains a conclusion.
 
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