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50 Years of Linguistic Research within Jewish Studies

Mon, December 17, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Beacon Hill 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


This roundtable will review the progress in the study of language use by Jews over the first 50 years of AJS and discuss directions for future research within the context of Jewish studies more broadly. While there has been much work on individual Jewish language varieties, especially Judeo-Arabic, Ladino, and Yiddish, there has also been some comparative analysis of multiple Jewish language varieties (e.g., Weinreich 1973, Bunis 1981, Fishman 1981, Gold 1981, Rabin 1981, Wexler 1981) – mostly structural, but some sociological. More recent research (e.g., Alvarez-Péreyre and Baumgarten 2003, Myhill 2004, Wexler 2006, Benor 2008, Hary 2009, Bunis 2013, Hary and Wein 2013) has built on this base and offered new theoretical approaches, including an analytic shift from language to community, the discarding of criteria for inclusion in the category “Jewish language,” the incorporation of contemporary communities in comparative analysis, and the importance of conversion and Judaization in linguistic change. This research has also introduced new concepts: religiolect, a repertoire of distinctive features, Hebreotropism, a continuum of Jewish linguistic distinctiveness, and systematic analysis of sociological and historical correlations with linguistic features.

Benor and Hary will briefly introduce these advances, and then Cohen, Kokin, and Aranoff will discuss how they relate to Jewish ethnomusicology, history, and other areas of Jewish studies. How can this work contribute to our understanding of historical and contemporary social, cultural, and political trends? How might studies of Jewish music, food, literature, and other cultural domains utilize these theoretical concepts? How can recent advances in these fields inform future research in Jewish linguistic studies? In addition, panelists will discuss desiderata for future comparative and theoretical research in Jewish Linguistic Studies, including interdisciplinary collaboration. Tirosh-Becker will moderate the conversation among panelists and with the audience.

Intro: 2 min
Panelists (about 5 minutes each):
• Benor
• Hary
• Cohen
• Kokin
• Aranoff
Discussion among panelists: about 30 minutes
Discussion with audience: about 30 minutes

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