Language exposure practices among Hasidic Yiddish-Hebrew speaking children – in support of Yiddish vitality in Israel

Hadar Abutbul-Oz, Dafna Yitzhaki, Sharon Armon-Lotem

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Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic communities in Israel maintain the use of Yiddish as a prestigious language, connecting generations and preserving the communities’ traditional way of living (Hary and BenorBerlin, 2019)). Yiddish, the Community Language (CL), is supported within the family and the Hasidic community outside the family, while Hebrew, the Majority Language (ML), is used with members outside the community. Hasidic communities present a unique model of bilingualism to be discussed within the framework of the Ethno-linguistic Vitality Theory (Giles et al., 1977). The current study presents language exposure practices among bilingual Yiddish-Hebrew-speaking children in Israel and aims to reveal its possible influence on both language abilities and the communities’ vitality. Thirty-five parents and children (aged 37 months–80 months) participated in the study. Parents filled out the Bilingual Parents' Questionnaire (BIPAQ) (Abutbul-Oz and Armon-Lotem, 2022) addressing the children's language-exposure practices as well as linguistic abilities and children's ML-Hebrew abilities were assessed with the Goralnik (2009) standardized test. Results indicated higher exposure to Yiddish when significant differences between daily hours of exposure for each language, number of months in an educational setting of CL-Yiddish and ML-Hebrew as well as the richness of the languages the children are exposed to. Furthermore, interpersonal exchanges conducted in CL-Yiddish outside the family supported Yiddish and influenced ML-Hebrew abilities; more usage of Yiddish with grandparents, teachers and peers was related to lower results of ML-Hebrew assessment whereas Yiddish use with younger siblings was related to higher evaluation of Yiddish abilities. Support of CL-Yiddish usage combined with its prestigious status and demographic characteristics of the Hasidic communities suggests a high vitality of the Yiddish-speaking community in Israel and its success in maintaining its language despite the dominance of the majority language (Hebrew).

Original languageEnglish
Article number100163
StatePublished - Jun 2024

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  • Community language
  • Ethnolinguistic vitality
  • Language exposure practices
  • Yiddish


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