Literacy, spelling and the Hebrew alphabet #germany

Peter Straus


As I said in my post yesterday, I have found the discussion initiated by Eva
Lawrence (about the use of the Hebrew alphabet to write German text)
fascinating in understanding this aspect of our ancestors' lives.

Thank you to the various subscribers who responded both on- and
off-line to my post, all of you confirming that gravestones
in fact often used Hebrew characters for linguistically German
inscriptions, in various parts of the German speaking world.

No, I was not inquiring about any particular geographic
area or grave markers I was working with (my own family is almost
exclusively >from the Pfalz and nearby), but I will have to dust off my
knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet rather than putting aside gravestone texts
seemingly in the Hebrew language.

More generally, this discussion paints a picture of a Jewish community in
the 1800s more literate in the Hebrew alphabet than the German gothic print
or associated frakturscrift. It parallels what for years merely frustrated
me-and I'm sure many others-in dealing with spelling variations of names,
trying to discern the actual "correct" spelling. I now think of spelling
variations as the mark of a society evolving in literacy and just using
written language to document the spoken tongue:
*** the sounds were important, the spelling was not. ***

Perhaps one of our German scholars in the community could insert a note
about how literacy developed in our German Jewish communities, and if my
suspicions are correct.

Best, Peter Straus, San Francisco, CA pstrausSF@...

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