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Jewish, Tatar and Karaite communal dialects and their Importance for Byelorussian Historical Linguistics

Authors:
THE
JOURNAL
OF
BYELORUSSIAN
STUDIES
Jewish,
Tatar
and
Karaite
communal
dialects
and their Importance for Byelorussian Historical Linguistics*
BY
PAUL
WEXLER
41
Almost
every
speech
community
comprises
dialects
which
are
geographically,
socially
and
sometimes
even
ethnically
defined.
The
historical
linguist
can
to
some
degree
reconstruct
the
geographical
relationship
of
dialects
in
earlier
periods
by
comparing
modern
day
dialect
groupings
with
the
language
of
older
texts
written
in
the
same
territories.
The
student
of
Byelorussian
historical
dialectology
is
in
a
relatively
favourable
position
since
he
has
at
his
disposal
numerous
descriptive
monographs
and
dialect
atlases
for
most
areas
of
Byelorussia:
cf. e.g.,
the
first
dialect
atlas
published
by
P.
Buzuk,
Sproba
linhvistycnaje
hieahrafii
Bielarusi, I,
Minsk,
1928,
and
the
more
comprehensive
Dyjalektalahicny
atlas
bielaruskaj
movy,
Minsk,
1963,
edited
by
R. I.
Avanesau
et
al.
(henceforth
abbreviated
as
DABM).
1
On
the
other
hand,
social
and
ethnic
differentiation
within
the
speech
community
is
much
more
difficult
to
reconstruct
and
hence
is
usually
totally
ignored
by
historical
linguists.
In
this
regard,
Christian
S.
Stang,
the
eminent
Norwegian
Slavicist,
seems
to
be
alone
in
suggesting
the
desirability
of
reconstructing
both
the
geographical
and
social
parameters
of
Old
Byelorussian
(see
his
Die
westrussische
Kanzleisprache
des
Grossfilrstentums
Litauen,
Oslo,
1935,
p.
125).
The
purpose
of
the
present
paper
is
twofold:
(1)
to
explore
the
possibility
of
reconstructing
the
broad
outlines
of
Byelorussian
communal
dialects
in
earlier
periods,
and
(2)
to
try
to
evaluate
the
importance
of
communal
dialects
for
the
description
and
reconstruc-
tion
of
the
'general'
Byelorussian
language
in
earlier
periods.
By
the
term
'communal
dialects',
we
have
in
mind
the
Byelorussian
speech
peculiar
to
each
ethnic
group.
2
(For
further
discussion,
the
reader
may
consult
the
appropriate
chapters
of
my
forthcoming
monograph,
The
Historical
Phonology
of
Belorussian,
Carl
Winter
Universi-
tatsverlag,
Heidelberg.)
Byelorussian
speakers
have
come
into
contact
with
a
variety
of
colloquial
Indo-European
and
Altaic
languages
-e.g.,
Lithuanian
and
Lettish
dialects,
Kipcak
Turkic
dialects,
Yiddish,
German
dialects
and
Romany
(Gypsy)
-
as
well
as
with
a
number
of
un-
*)
Parts
of
the
present
article
were
presented
in
a
paper
read
at
the
18th
Annual
Conference
on
Linguistics
of
the
International
Linguistics
Association
held
at
the
Universidad
Nacional
de
San
Agustin,
Arequipa,
Peru,
on
9-13
March
1973.
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42
THE
JOURNAL
OF
BYELORUSSIAN
STUDIES
spoken
languages
whose
functions
were
primarily
liturgical
and/or
scholarly
-e.g.,
Latin,
Church
Slavic,
Hebrew
and
Arabic.
Of
all
the
Slavic
languages,
Byelorussian
and
Ukrainian
are
the
only
languages
which
have
had
prolonged
contact
with
both
of
the
other
Slavic
dialect
groups
-
Western
Slavic
(primarily
with
Polish
and
secondarily
with
Czech)
and
Southern
Slavic
(Church
Slavic).
Surprisingly,
the
contact
experiences
of
these
groups
with
Byelo-
russian
and
the
description
of
the
Byelorussian
speech
of
bilingual
communities
have
been
largely
ignored
in
Byelorussian
linguistic
and
ethnographic
literature.
This
neglect
is
especially
striking
since
Byelorussians
historically
have
had
exceptionally
rich
contact
with
other
language
communities.
To
be
sure,
these
heterogeneous
linguis-
tic
and
cultural
contacts
differ
greatly
in
the
duration,
intensity
and
direction
of
the
influences
and
in
the
extent
of
geographic
overlap
with
Byelorussian
-
from
minor
contacts
with
Romany
or
Lettish
(specifically
the
Latgalian
dialect
spoken
in
Eastern
Latvia)
to
relatively
prolonged
exposure
to
all
the
neighbouring
Eastern
and
Western
Slavic
languages
and
East
Lithuanian
dialects.
The
issue
of
a
separate
communal
dialect
of
Byelorussian
can
be
investigated
both
for
the
minority
groups
which
were
to
some
extent
bilingual
(e.g.,
the
Yiddish-speaking
Jews,
the
Gypsies
and
the
Turkic-speaking
Karaites),
for
groups
whose
members
eventually
became
monolingual
speakers
of
Byelorussian
(e.g.
the
Tatars
-
though
in
some
areas
the
Tatars
spoke
Polish
or
Ukrainian
besides
Byelorussian),
as
well
as
for
the
three
major
Christian
sects
in
Byelorussia:
the
Orthodox
majority
and
the
Roman
Catholic
(Uniate)
and
Protestant
minorities.
From
the
point
of
view
of
Byelorussian
historical
linguistics,
the
most
important
ethnic
·communities
are
the
Jews,
Tatars
and
Kara-
ites,
since
they
wrote
Byelorussian
in
a
non-Cyrillic
script.
Yiddish-speaking
Jews
coming
from
Germany
and
Poland
appear
in
the
Byelorussian
territories
of
the
Grand
Duchy
of
Lithuania
in
the
late
fourteenth
century
when
Jewish
settlements
are
founded
in
Brest,
Hrodna
and
Troki.
These
were
not
the
first
Jewish
communities
in
the
area
since
by
then
Slavic-speaking
Jews
ignorant
of
Yiddish
probably
had
been
residing
in
Byelorussian
towns
for
some
time.
The
number
of
Yiddish-speaking
Jewish
settlements
increased
rapidly
despite
some
intermittant
periods
of
expulsion
in
the
early
fifteenth
century,
eventually
spreading
towards
the
east
and
north
of
Byelorussia.
Eventually,
the
Yiddish-speaking
Jews
thoroughly
assimilated
the
autochthonous
non-Yiddish-speaking
Jews.
Besides
their
Yiddish
vernacular,
the
Byelorussian
Jews
used
Hebrew
for
written
and
liturgical
purposes.
These
Hebrew
sources
are
rich
in
Slavic
place
names
and
occasional
Byelorussian
glosses
and
connected
texts.
The
mediaeval
Hebrew
materials
from
western
Slavic
territories
have
been
studied
in
the
past
for
their
information
on
coterritorial
Slavic
languages,
but
the
Byelorussian
(and,
in
general,
eastern
Slavic)
sources
have
yet
to
be
explored
to
the
same
degree.
The
utilization
of
Slavic
place
names
recorded
in
Hebrew
script
is
hampered
by
the
lack
of
a
dictionary
of
Yiddish
and
Hebrew
place
names
for
Eastern
Europe.
3
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THE
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STUDIES
43
Byelorussian
has
had
contact
with
two
Kipcak
Turkic
languages,
Karaite
(called
Karaj
by
native
speakers)
and
Tatar.
The
Karaites
are
followers
of
a
Judaic
sect
founded
in
the
Middle
East
in
the
ninth
century
which
rejects
the
authority
of
the
Talmud.
Of
all
the
Turkic-speaking
groups
which
settled
in
Eastern
Europe
and
the
Balkans
(independent
of
the
Ottoman
invasions),
only
the
Karaites
have
preserved
their
native
language
up
to
the
present
time
(though
the
language
is
now
threatened
with
extinction
in
Lithuania
and
Byelorussia
as
the
younger
generation
becomes
predominantly
monolingual
Slavic
speakers).
Like
the
Jews,
the
liturgical
language
of
the
community
was
Hebrew.
The
Turkic-speaking
adherents
of
the
sect
settled
in
the
western-most
areas
of
Byelorussia
and
in
the
eastern
and
northern
Lithuanian
lands
in
the
early
fifteenth
century,
and
maybe
even
earlier.
The
major
Karaite
settlements
were
histo-
rically
in
the
north
(in
Panevezys,
Troki
and
Vilna)
and
in
the
south,
in
Galicia
(in
Luck
and
Halyc). A
number
of
place
names
linked
with
the
Karaites
are
also
found
in
the
neighborhoods
of
Hrodna,
Brest,
Pinsk
and
Navahrudak.
Old
Karaite
texts,
written
in
Hebrew
script
for
religious,
and
in
Latin
for
secular,
purposes,
contain
Byelorussian
place
names.
(The
orthography
of
the
place
names
recorded
in
Karaite
and
Jewish
documents
does
not
seem
to
differ,
but
this
question
still
requires
further
investigation.)
According
to
J.
Mann,
Karaite
Turkic
texts
written
in
Hebrew
characters
are
preserved
from
the
eighteenth
century
(Texts
and
Studies
in
Jewish
History
and
Literature.
II, Karaitica,
Philadelphia,
1935, p. 1133).
Tatar
Muslims
from
the
Crimea
founded
communities
in
the
Grand
Duchy
of
Lithuania
in
the
beginning
of
the
fourteenth
century.
Unlike
their
Karaite
kinsmen,
the
Tatars
abandoned
their
native
language
in
favour
of
the
local
Slavic
speech,
either
Byelorussian
or
Polish.
To
judge
from
contemporary
sources,
the
linguistic
shift
was
in
full
force
after
the
late
sixteenth
century.
4
Arabic
continued
to
serve
as
the
liturgical
language
of
the
community
and
Turkish
was
also
known
in
certain
circles.
In
view
of
the
fact
that
their
linguistic
output
was
largely
in
Byelorussian,
we
will
refer
to
the
group
as
'Byelorussian
Tatars',
though
in
the
literature
they
are
also
referred
to
as
'Lithuanian'
or
'Polish'
Tatars.
For
the
student
of
Byelorussian
historical
linguistics,
the
importance
of
the
Byelorussian
Tatars
lies
precisely
in
the
fact
of
their
linguistic
assimilation
to
Slavic
langu-
ages.
The
Tatars
made
translations
into
colloquial
Polish,
Byelorussian
and
Ukrainian
of
Muslim
liturgical
writings
and
folklore,
and
these
materials
were
recorded
exclusively
in
a
Turko-Arabic
orthography.
Observers
have
long
been,
and
continue
to
be,
imprecise
about
the
character
of
the
Slavic
language
of
some
of
the
Tatar
documents.
For
example,
A.
Muchlinskij
describes
the
language
of
his
texts
as
'Russian-Lithuanian'
and
'Russian-Ukrainian'
(Issledovanije o pro-
ischozdenii
i sostojanii
litovskich
tatar,
SPB,
1857, p. 29),
and
A. K.
Antonovic
speaks
of
'Polish-Byelorussian'
and
'Byelorussian-Polish'
texts
(Belorusskije
teksty,
pisannye
arabskim
pis'mom, Vilna, 1968,
p. 334).
Most
recent
scholarship
dates
the
earliest
Byelorussian
texts
of
the
Tatars
from
the
seventeenth
century,
though
some
earlier
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44
THE
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STUDIES
writers
have
suggested
the
sixteenth
cntury.
The
existence
of
the
Byelorussian
documents
in
Turco-Arabic
script
has
been
known
for
over
a
century
but
the
analysis
of
fragments
and
their
publication
in
Latin
or
Cyrillic
transliteration
began
for
the
most
part
only
in
the
late
1920s
and
early
1930s.5
The
first
issue
of
the
Polish-language
Tatar
journal
Rocznik
tatarski
(Vilna, 1932),
proposed
the
influence
of
Tatar
on
the
Polish
language
and
geographical
names
as
topics
for
future
research,
but
these
subjects
were
not
discussed
in
the
two
subsequent
numbers
of
the
journal
(2,
Zamosc;
3,
Warsaw).
There
is
varied
evidence
that
the
Byelorussian
speech
of
the
ethnic
communities
may
have
differed
in
some
details.
For
example
the
Christian
groups
presently
prefer
different
names
for
males.
6
It
is
not
clear
whether
other
defining
features
exist
now,
or
existed
in
the
past.
In
the
case
of
different
speech
patterns
among
bilingual
groups,
we
could
postulate
interference
from
the
speakers'
native
language
and/or
ignorance
of
Byelorussian
as
the
most
likely
causes
for
the
genesis
of
a
communal
dialect.
In
other
cases,
communal
dialects
may
have
their
origin
in
geographical
differences;
this
seems
to
be
the
motivation
for
the
Byelorussian
speech
of
the
Jews
with
its
widespread
sibilant
confusion, as
well
as
for
the
Baghdad
Arabic
situation
that
Blanc
was
describing
(see
note
2 above).
The
confusion
of
sibilants,
known
as cokannie,
was
mainly
a
characteristic
of
northern
Byelorussian
dialects.
So
far,
the
evidence
that
some
linguistic
features
of
earlier
periods
can
be
correlated
with
the
speaker's
ethnic
or
religious
affiliation
is
fragmentary
and
to
some
extent
contradictorv.
Let
us
examine
cases
where
communal
dialects
theoretically
could
develop
due
to
exposure
(or
lack
of
exposure)
of
an
ethnic
group
to
an
exclusive
foreign
influence.
For
instance,
we
might
assume
that
the
Old
Byelorussian
literature
of
non-Orthodox
Byelorussians
would
have
been
less
exposed
to
Church
Slavic
influences
than
the
writings
of
Orthodox
Byelorussians,
since
non-Orthodox
Byelorussians
might
have
been
more
attracted
to
Latin
(and/or
Polish)
influences,
or
simply
preferred
a
written
language
more
closely
based
on
colloquial
norms
(as
was
the
case
with
the
Byelorussian
Tatar:,.).7
There
is
some
evidence
to
the
contrary
-
for
example,
that
Church
Slavic
norms
were,
in
fact,
appealing
to
Byelorussian
Lutherans
(see V.
Vouk-Levanovic,
Mova
vydanniau
Franciska
Skaryny,
Minsk, 1927, p. 7 - also
published
as
an
article
in
Catyrochsotleccie
bielaruskaha,
druku,
Minsk,
1926,
pp.
262-83 -
and
I.
O.!!.Uenko,
'Je,zyk cerkicw:'1o-slowianski
na
Litwie
i
Polsce
w
ww.
XV-XVIII',
Prace filologicz:ne, 16,
Warsaw,
1929,
pp.
525-43).
The
Catechism
of
the
Byelorwsian
Protestant
writer,
Simon
Budny,
originally
published
in
Niasviz
in
1562
and
reprinted
in
Stockholm
in
1628
after
the
Stockholm
Treaty
in
1617
should
be
studied
from
the
point
of
view
of
communal
dialects.
The
Byelo-
russian
Tatar
t.ranslations
of
Muslim
religious
writings
have
been
studied
as a
source
of
information
on
contemporary
Byelorussian
pronunciation
norms,
but
not
from
the
point
of
view
of
communal
dialects.
At
first
glance,
there
is
no
indication
that
the
Byelorussian
Tatars
sooke
differently
from
the
Byelorussian
Christians.
In
fact,
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THE
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45
Antonovic
(op. cit., p. 350)
praises
the
fit
of
the
Arabic
graphemic
system
to
the
Byelorussian
sound
system,
thus
implying
that
the
Tatars
spoke
the
same
Byelorussian
as
the
Christian
populace.
Native
speakers
of
Byelorussian
who
know
Byelorussian
Tatars
personally
assert
that
the
Byelorussian
of
the
Tatars
is
identical
to
the
Byelo-
russian
speech
of
the
Christians.
8
In
one
contemporary
description,
the
dialect
of
Byelorussian
spoken
by
the
Tatars
is
said
to
be
often
unintelligible
to
non-Tatar
Byelorussians
due
to
the
use
of
oriental
loanwords:
'Trzeba
posluchac
Tatar6w
litewskich
wtedy,
gdy
rozma-
wiac
pocznq o
swoich
modlitwach
i
obrzqdkach
religijnych,
o
slubach,
pogrzebach,
o
duchach
i
czarodziejskich
praktykach,
o
tradycyjnych
potrawach.
W
takich
momentach
bialoruszczyzna
ich
rozbrzmiewa
dziwnymi
wyrazami,
nabierajqc
cech
jakiejs
osobliwej
gwary,
w
kt6rej
slowa
arabskie
i
tureckie
splqtajq
si~ mocno a
prawie
nie-
dostrzezenie
z
ruskimi.
Bialoruskiego
zdania:
"malna
u
dzubieju
i
czalmie
da
mieczeci
czerez
zirec iszow i
jasien
piew"
nie
zrozumie
Bialorusin,
kt6ry
nie
zetknql
si~ blizej z
Tatarami'
(St.
Kryczynski,
Tatarzy
litewscy,
Warsaw,
1938,
pp.
231-2 (publ.
as
vol. 3 of
Rocznik
tatarski)
).
Moreover,
the
Tatar
character
who
appears
in
K.
Maru-
seiiski's
play
Kamedyja
(1787)
speaks
a
broken
Byelorussian
(though
perhaps
he
represents
a
different
community
of
Tatars
-say,
from
the
Crimea
or
Central
Asia).9
The
status
of
Byelorussian
among
the
Jews
raised
some
interesting
problems.
The
question
of
what
language
the
Byelorussian
Jews
originally
spoke
has
occupied
scholars
from
the
mid-nineteenth
century
up
to
recent
years.
10
Here
it
is
useful
to
distinguish
between
monolingual
and
bilingual
Jewish
comm
uni
ties.
From
the
existence
of