Knaanic (also called Canaanic, Leshon Knaan, Judaeo-Czech, Judeo-Slavic) is an extinct West Slavic Jewish language
, formerly spoken in the lands of the Western Slavs
, notably the Czech lands
, but also the lands of modern Poland
, and other Sorbian regions
. It became extinct in the Late Middle Ages
The name comes from the land of Knaan, a geo-ethnological term denoting the Jewish populations living east of the Elbe
River (as opposed to the Ashkenazi Jews
, living to its west, or the Sephardi Jews
of the Iberian Peninsula).
As such, the land is often translated as simply ''Slavonia'' or Slavic Europe
The term is derived from ancient Canaan
: כנען "kəna'an").
The language became extinct some time in the Late Middle Ages
, possibly because of the expansion of the Ashkenazi
culture and its own Yiddish language
, based on German
. That hypothesis is often backed by the large number of Yiddish loanwords of Slavic origin, many of which were no longer in use in Slavic languages
at the time of the Ashkenazi expansion. They are believed to come from Knaanic rather than from Czech
. The linguist Paul Wexler
has hypothesised that Knaanic is actually the direct predecessor of Yiddish and that the language later became Germanised
In other words, the Knaanim, that is, the people speaking the Judaeo-Slavic languages, were the main cause of changes in Yiddish.
That view has been dismissed by nearly all mainstream academics, however, and contrasts with the more widely accepted theories of Max Weinreich
, who argued that Slavic loanwords were assimilated only after Yiddish had already been fully formed.
[for instance ] [''History of the Yiddish Language'', op.cit., pp. 727]
The Jewish commentator Rashi
was aware of this language.
A possible early example of Knaanic is a 9th-century letter for a Jewish community of Ruthenia
One of the very few commonly-accepted examples of Knaanic is inscriptions on bracteate
coins issued under Mieszko the Old
and Leszek the White
, two Polish
rulers of 12th and 13th century. The last evidence of usage of the language (written with the Hebrew script
) comes from the 16th century.
The reason that Knaanic inscriptions, which use Hebrew letters, appear on coins minted for a Polish duke is that at the time, he leased some mints to Jews. The mint masters were responsible for collecting bullion and striking coins as well as periodically taking in and restriking existing coins.
The inscriptions on the coins range widely. Some are Hebrew names, possibly those of the mintmasters. Some are the names of the towns in which the mint operated, for instance Kalisz
, the burial place of Mieszko the Old. Some have the duke's name. One in the National Bank of Poland
's numismatic collection bears the word ''bracha
'', Hebrew for blessing.
* Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino)
* The book documents languages used by Jews in the Czech lands during 12–20th century
in Czech, pages 28–33.
* Šedinová, Jiřina
"Literatura a jazyk Židů v Českých zemích"
in ''EUROLITTERARIA & EUROLINGUA'' 2005, Technická univerzita v Liberci, Liberec 2005. Jiřina Šedinová from the Charles University in Prague seems to be the only specialist to study the glosses written in ''leshon kenaan'' which appear in some Jewish religious texts from Bohemia. In this article the author affirms ''leshon kenaan'' is just the Hebrew term for the local Slavic language.
* Max Weinreich, ''History of the Yiddish Language'', 1980,
Category:Extinct Slavic languages
Category:Jewish Czech history
Category:Languages extinct in the 2nd millennium
Category:West Slavic languages