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Yiddish Language and Yiddish Linguists

Mon, December 18, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, Union Station Room

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


Yiddish Language and Yiddish Linguists
(In Yiddish)

This year marks the fiftieth yortsayt of Uriel Weinreich (1926 -1967) and the tenth yortsayt of Mordkhe Schaechter (1927 – 2007), two Yiddish linguists who had a profound influence on the field of Yiddish in the second half of the twentieth century. This panel in Yiddish on Yiddish language research pays tribute to their work but looks critically at their accomplishments and their legacy. Alec Burko analyzes the recently published (2016) prize-winning COMPREHENSIVE ENGLISH-YIDDISH DICTIONARY based on the lexical research of Mordkhe Schaechter. Burko places the dictionary in the context of the history of Yiddish dictionaries, most importantly referring to Uriel Weinreich’s MODERN ENGLISH-YIDDISH YIDDISH-ENGLISH DICTIONARY published posthumously in 1968. He maintains that this major achievement in the field of Yiddish has serious flaws as the Yiddish speaking population becomes overwhelmingly Hasidic.
Inspired by Joshua Fishman’s sociological approach to language in general, and to the Yiddish language in particular, Miriam Isaacs examines an area of Yiddish linguistics not touched upon directly by Weinreich or Schaechter: how religion affects language survival. In her paper she will not only focus on Yiddish among the Hasidim, but Yiddish and religion among secular Yiddishists around the world.
Both Weinreich and Schaechter included the study of Yiddish folklore as part of their language studies. Weinreich co-edited an important bibliography YIDDISH LANGUAGE AND FOLKLORE (1959) with his wife Beatrice (Bina); and Schaechter, as editor of the YIVO journal YIDISHE SHPRAKH often included many collections of proverbs and local expressions.
Itzik Gottesman analyzes a small collection of children’s Yiddish counting–out rhymes that Schaechter collected from survivors in displaced persons camps in Vienna after the war. This collection was supposed to be sent to YIVO but was never published in any form. This genre of folklore has fascinated Jewish folklorists for its use of nonsense, parody and occasional vulgarity.
The respondent Isaac Bleaman will comment on
the three papers, offering a critical assessment of of Weinreich and Schaechter's legacy in light of the goals and priorities of contemporary linguistics.

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