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Genome Biol Evol. 2016 Apr 19;8(4):1132-49. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evw046.

Localizing Ashkenazic Jews to Primeval Villages in the Ancient Iranian Lands of Ashkenaz.

Author information

1
Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK Manipal Centre for Natural Sciences (MCNS), Manipal University, Manipal, Karnataka, India.
2
Department of Linguistics, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel.
3
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University.
4
Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK e.elhaik@sheffield.ac.uk.

Abstract

The Yiddish language is over 1,000 years old and incorporates German, Slavic, and Hebrew elements. The prevalent view claims Yiddish has a German origin, whereas the opposing view posits a Slavic origin with strong Iranian and weak Turkic substrata. One of the major difficulties in deciding between these hypotheses is the unknown geographical origin of Yiddish speaking Ashkenazic Jews (AJs). An analysis of 393 Ashkenazic, Iranian, and mountain Jews and over 600 non-Jewish genomes demonstrated that Greeks, Romans, Iranians, and Turks exhibit the highest genetic similarity with AJs. The Geographic Population Structure analysis localized most AJs along major primeval trade routes in northeastern Turkey adjacent to primeval villages with names that may be derived from "Ashkenaz." Iranian and mountain Jews were localized along trade routes on the Turkey's eastern border. Loss of maternal haplogroups was evident in non-Yiddish speaking AJs. Our results suggest that AJs originated from a Slavo-Iranian confederation, which the Jews call "Ashkenazic" (i.e., "Scythian"), though these Jews probably spoke Persian and/or Ossete. This is compatible with linguistic evidence suggesting that Yiddish is a Slavic language created by Irano-Turko-Slavic Jewish merchants along the Silk Roads as a cryptic trade language, spoken only by its originators to gain an advantage in trade. Later, in the 9th century, Yiddish underwent relexification by adopting a new vocabulary that consists of a minority of German and Hebrew and a majority of newly coined Germanoid and Hebroid elements that replaced most of the original Eastern Slavic and Sorbian vocabularies, while keeping the original grammars intact.

KEYWORDS:

Ashkenaz; Ashkenazic Jews; Rhineland Hypothesis; Yiddish; archaeogenetics; geographic population structure (GPS)

PMID:
26941229
PMCID:
PMC4860683
DOI:
10.1093/gbe/evw046
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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