July 17, 2013 | Yiddish

Yiddish Causation

Causes and effects work differently than in English.

This past weekend I went on a walking tour of the Lower East Side with YIVO summer students. I will try to write up some more of the tour in coming days, but in the meantime, here’s a picture of a Schapiro’s Kosher Wines sign on the side of a building. (Not sure whether it is/was Schapiro’s actual building or not.)

Schapiro's Kosher Wines, the Lower East Side

Schapiro’s Kosher Wines, the Lower East Side

Apparently the kosher certification of Schapiro’s products took precedence over vintage quality. The company’s slogan was, “You can almost cut it with a knife.” The business closed in 2007, but I see a June 2013 article on the Bowery Boogie website about its revival!

We are in the midst of a massive heat wave in New York City. I guess people in some parts of the world would not be too impressed by our version of a heat wave, but I am.

I was pretty proud of myself for running twice in recent days in 88-degree heat and humidity while doing Pimsleur Hebrew lessons out loud and still getting enough air to keep moving—but mostly I have been hiding out inside in the company of air conditioners.

I continue to work along in Basic Yiddish: A Grammar and Workbook by Rebecca Margolis. Currently I am in Unit 9, which is economically entitled “Yiddish word order 2: conjunctions, relative pronouns, relative clauses, consecutive word order (‘so’).”

Ms. Margolis has just informed me that “There is no word in Yiddish to express the cause-effect relationship between two clauses in a declarative sentence.” If you want to translate “You are writing, so I am sleeping” into Yiddish (this is her example, not mine), you do it with word order rather than a “so”-like word. 

You are writing, so I am sleeping. In Yiddish.

You are writing, so I am sleeping. In Yiddish.

In translating, you end up with the equivalent of “You write, sleep I.” Here’s the Yiddish version at left.

And you are to interpret that as a causal relationship based just on structure. Wow!

I love “so” in English. Living without it could be hard.

One thing I enjoy about Yiddish is that the commas and question marks face the same direction as in English, even though the words don’t.

See my west-facing comma in the picture? 

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