The vocabulary of Yiddish-Hebrew speaking children – A CDI study

Odelya Ohana, Mitchell Schertz, Sharon Armon-Lotem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Yiddish-Hebrew speakers residing in Israel are primarily Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Jews, living in relatively closed communities, characterized by their large number of children, low parental formal education, and low family income. Religious literacy and schooling are highly respected. We tested the impact of these demographic factors on children's vocabulary size and language dominance. Data was collected for 34 bilingual children aged 2–4, in Yiddish, the Minority Language (MiL-Yiddish), and in Hebrew, the Majority Language (MaL-Hebrew). Demographic and language use information was gathered using a multicultural questionnaire, completed by the mothers. Significantly larger vocabulary sizes were observed across the group for Yiddish, and significant correlations were found between vocabulary measures and exposure variables. Vocabulary size in the MiL-Yiddish increased with family size. This unbalanced bilingualism may be explained by the strong Yiddish-based identity of this population and the support of MiL-Yiddish by these closed communities and particularly by their schools. The positive effect of family size on Yiddish may stem from the number of children attending these Yiddish-speaking schools. The unexpected role of family size and the dominance of MiL-Yiddish among these bilinguals undermines the definition of Yiddish as the MiL, calling for a different paradigm of in-group and out-group languages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100167
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • Language exposure
  • Minority language
  • Multiculturalism
  • Multilingualism

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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