All around the world Hebrew and Yiddish can be found but what about the languages that mix with those two? There are so many languages that are dying or already near extinction. A few of those languages can be found here in New York. A dying language is a language that only a few people speak, and which isn’t taught to the younger generation. A nearly extinct language is a language that no one can speak but there are recordings and writings in that language so that isn’t completely gone from the world yet. There are nearly 6,800 languages spoken in the world today and linguist say that by the end of this century approximately 90% of them will disappear. 1
One dying language in the Jewish world is Ladino, which is from the Sephardic community. It is seriously in trouble because so few people are speaking it. Another extinct language is Judeo-Greek which existed from the Hellenistic period to about the 19th century.2 The language is pretty much extinct; we learned from Ross Perlin that there are no more speakers of it all the have is documentation that it ever existed.2
There is documentation of these dying languages; here is one example of Ladino, a preface of Sa’adi’s soletero manuscript.
From the looks of this picture it appears to be very old writing. It can be found in the National Library of Israel. It is said to be one of the first memoirs ever to be written in Ladino. For Judeo-Greek, there isn’t much documentation, although I found one picture online: a stone tablet with text inscribed on top. If you look closely you can see the large Menorah inscribed onto it and what appears to be an olive tree leaves and olives. This is probably representing the burning of the candle using pure olive oil.
There are many ways that these languages can be preserved and possibly saved. There are many communities and organizations that try to help endangered languages; like the Endangered Language Alliance, which try to help dying languages. There are also many linguistic specialists who will try to preserve a language and because of this maybe many languages won’t die out anytime soon.
- “Path to Extinction – The Declining Health of Jewish Languages.” – Jewish History. Web. 13 Apr. 2016
- Perlin, Ross. “Endangered Languages.” Guest Lecturer. 6 Apr. 2016. Lecture.