A subkultur iz a shprakh mit an armey un a flot

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/07/25 12:42 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2005/07/25/443046.aspx

The title of this post is inspired by a quote from Max Weinrich, a Yiddish linguist -- A shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un a flot. I think it can be understood by many without knowledge of Yiddish, especially if they know German (as German-knowledgable Cathy likes to tell me, in a lot of ways Yiddish is like 16th century German with Hebrew letters). I knew what it meant but I don't know any German at all. Basically it can be translated as "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy."

He was speaking somewhat ironically when he said this, since obviously Yiddish has neither but nobody would presume to call it a dialect at this point.

But it does raise an interesting question about one of the difficulties of creating locales -- what would be the location of a Yiddish locale if one were to be added? There isn't one (though I think it might be fun to call it Yiddish - Shtetl, I doubt that would get past the lawyers!). And then of course we would need a Yiddish - Shtetl (Latin) and a Yiddish - Shtetl (Hebrew) to account for the fact that both scripts are used in these times. And the question of what to do wih collation is a fascinating one for the Latin script (though fairly obvious for the Hebrew script one).

Thus my modified quote, to cover the Windows requirement for cultures and locales as they are defined -- A subkultur iz a shprakh mit an armey un a flot (a culture is a language with an army and a navy). :-)

Or using the Hebrew script for the Yiddish phrase, something like:

אײ סובקולטור איז אַ שפּראַך מיט אַן אַרמײ און אַ פֿלאָט

The same problem exists for Esparanto, and really any language that crosses so many borders and lacks a specific origin location. It is just too hard to figure how they fit into the model of locales that Microsoft ships in Windows and the .NET Framework.

This is one of the REAL benefits to both opening it all up and getting out of the way, since the difficulties that Microsoft would run into in trying to define a specific locale should not block an individual customer or even a community of customers from defining one that they would like to use.


This post brought to you by  "װ" (U+05f0, HEBREW LIGATURE YIDDISH DOUBLE VAV)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 25 Jul 2005 3:12 PM:

Now I do not want anyone to take this *too* literally; I know that the people on the Language Roadmap committee do not use military presence as their meter! :-)

# Mihai on 25 Jul 2005 3:57 PM:

For some reason the title reminds me of the famous "blinkenlights warning": www.blinkenlights.nl

# Jonathan on 28 Jul 2005 4:00 AM:

"Yiddish has neither but nobody would presume to call it a dialect at this point."

It actually was called "Jargon" by Hebrew advocators during the early times of Hebrew langauge revival (1920s-1930s or so).

# Michael S. Kaplan on 28 Jul 2005 4:29 AM:

I probably should have been more specific -- what *linguist* would call it a dialect at this point? :-)

John Cowan on 10 Apr 2008 10:11 AM:

There are probably more Yiddish-speakers in Israel than in the U.S., though not by much.

BTW, what's with the אײ (alef tsvey-yudn) at the beginning of the sentence?  It should be just אַ (alef-pasekh) -- at least in YIVO Standard Yiddish.  AFAIK, Yiddish doesn't have the variation between [ə] and [ej] in its indefinite article that English has.

Michael S. Kaplan on 10 Apr 2008 6:06 PM:

It could be. I got the string from one of those Yiddish  "Latin transliteration ---> Hebrew" converters on the web, and my made-up word might have been easy to choke on. :-)

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2010/03/04 Having neither army nor navy, Invariant is apparently just a dialect

2007/03/12 Ask 'em if their language is Montenegrin; their answer may surprise you

2006/01/31 And while I'm on the subject, there is the rest of the world

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