In this printing of the Iggeres Hagra (1937) it is written entirely in Yiddish. As is known, he wrote it originally in Yiddish and it was later translated into the Hebrew we have.

Is it correct to assume that the Yiddish is exactly how the Gra wrote it in his own tongue (besides maybe a couple words of discrepancy here and there) or was it rewritten in Yiddish and is therefore not how he wrote it at first?

  • 1
    what do you mean "as is known..." I never heard of it, so maybe some other people didn't either (i'm not a scholar btw) – heshy Apr 3 '18 at 16:12

The third paragraph and second footnote in the introduction in the Hebrew version that you linked to (page 1 in the text, page 3 in the PDF) implies that we no longer have the original (probably-written-in-Yiddish) version. Thus, the Yiddish version you linked to would be a retranslation if the Hebrew.

(Also, the language1 of the Yiddish version you posted doesn't correspond to what I expect of a Lithuanian dialect of Yiddish, but I've never seen anything else written by the Gra in Yiddish, so I can't compare.)

1 The spelling is inconsistent, but it suggests a certain pronunciation. For example, it has נישט and ניש (="nish(t)") instead of the expected Lithuanian ניט (="nit"); it has דיא for "you", which suggests "di" instead of the expected Lithuanian "du"; it has פין (="fin") and קימט (="kimt") and װעסטי (="vesti") instead of the expected "fun" and "kumt" and "vestu", among others; it has both זײן and זאן for "to be", which suggests the pronunciation "zan" instead of the expected Lithuanian "zayn"; similarly, it has גלאך (="glakh") and דאן (="dan") instead of the expected "glaykh" and "dayn", among others; it has טאוט (="taut"!) instead of the expected "teyt". (We generally see a written "u", "ey", and "ay" pronounced as "i", "ay", and "a", but not the other way around, so the spellings here really do suggest the pronunciations.)

Additionally, it has דעס (="des") as an article, when Lithuanian Yiddish has no neuter gender.

All the evidence above points to Polish Yiddish as a likely dialect. I haven't mentioned the pointing of the text, as that could be reasonably assumed to be added, but it also points to a Polish pronunciation.

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  • Lithuanian Yiddish is fickle. Although YIVO tries to claim they follow the Lithuanian dialect, that simply isn't true. I've seen people who speak the Lithuanian dialect write יאר or יאהר; it varies on the person and the place where they're from. (YIVO uses a mixture of Lithuanian and Polish Yiddish, drawing the pronunciation of Lithuania but the grammar of Poland.) – ezra Apr 5 '18 at 12:43
  • @ezra See edits. – magicker72 Apr 5 '18 at 16:24
  • I hadn;t looked at the PDF file until now. I've read your edit. I agree with you, this doesn't look anything like a Lithuanian dialect. Interestingly, it's not very consistent Polish Yiddish either in spelling, but we all know that Yiddish doesn't have standard spelling (unless your a YIVO person). – ezra Apr 5 '18 at 16:33
  • Mr. Magicker, I understand your comments regarding the spelling of the letter, however, I don’t know if we can necessarily bring proof from there. For, as is known, today on a large scale the spelling of Yiddish is standardized, meaning spelled פון but read פין. And דו read די etc. so the way it is spelled is hard to get to the next step. What type of Yiddish did HaGra speak, anyway? – Dr. Shmuel Apr 5 '18 at 19:33
  • @Shmuel Indeed, as I said: We generally see a written "u", "ey", and "ay" pronounced as "i", "ay", and "a", but not the other way around, so the spellings here really do suggest the pronunciations. In any case, the main argument was in the first paragraph. – magicker72 Apr 5 '18 at 19:52

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