I am interested in conditions under which a community adopts (or does not adopt) another language, even though this community is sufficiently isolated to be able to continue the use of its previous language. There are two examples that I have in mind:

  • Yiddish is a Germanic language adopted by European Jews, even though being a religiously closed community they didn't necessarily need to adopt it for their internal communication, as they did not adopt later Polish, Russian, or Lithuanian, despite living for centuries in the lands where these langauges are spoken. However, I guess a possible answer to this question may be that in the period of adopting Yiddish the Jewish community was not as isolated as in later centuries (when it was essentially forced to live in Ghettos).
  • French as the language of Russian aristocracy I posed this question in the French forum, but did not receive answers based on any real data. Therefore, my grounds for believing that it was adopted as a mother tongue by the majority of the Russian aristocracy are anecdotal (based on reading Pushkin and Tolstoy). Still, assuming that this was the case: how could a foreign language penetrate so deeply into a society geographically and politically isolated from France, and why French and, e.g., not German (which seems to me a more natural choice, given Russia's political ties to Germany and Austria and the fact that it was the native language of many of the Russian rulers in the preceding century)?

Other examples are welcome as well.

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    Many if not most communities in the world are polyglot. That is, it is normal for people to have several languages that they use, for various purposes, with various people, in various circumstances. One new one is nothing special. For instance, not only is there Judaeo-German, or Yiddish, as well as Judaeo-Spanish, or Ladino -- there are over 50 Judaic languages, all written in Hebrew letters, all with Hebrew borrowings, that are nevertheless real dialects of the languages they're offshoots from.
    – jlawler
    Nov 9, 2020 at 19:34
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    @jlawler true, I could have mentioned other Jewish languages. I don't see however the relation with polyglot communities - many Yiddish speakers were monolingual. Also, being polyglot doesn't quite explain to me adopting a new language as the primary one and passing it as the first language to children. Nov 9, 2020 at 20:24
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    Monolingual Yiddish speakers are (and were) very rare. If you're interested in language contact, however, you can't do better than starting off with Sally Thomason's book Language Contact. It touches on everything (and there are a lot things to touch on in language contact).
    – jlawler
    Nov 9, 2020 at 22:20


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