Skip To Content

Uriel Weinreich’s 50th Yahrzeit Honored With Special Issue Of Linguistics Journal

This article originally appeared in the Yiddish Forverts.

Although he is better known in the Yiddish cultural world for his landmark textbook “College Yiddish” and his “Modern English-Yiddish/Yiddish-English Dictionary”, Uriel Weinreich was also a pioneer in the field of sociolinguistics.

Even today, 50 years after his tragic death from cancer at the age of 40, the Vilna-born Weinreich’s theories about the ways in which languages influence one another and how bilingual speakers switch between languages continue to have an enormous impact on sociolinguistic studies. It’s almost impossible to find a modern textbook on the theoretical underpinnings of bilingualism, language mixing, code-switching or dialectology that does not frequently cite Weinreich’s work.

The field of sociolinguistics continues to enjoy the fruits of Weinreich’s labors through the work of a generation of graduate students whom he trained. Most notable among them is Dr. William Labov of the University of Pennsylvania, the doyen of sociolinguistics who founded the discipline of variationist linguistics, which studies the relationship between language variation, linguistic change and social class.

Recently the Journal of Jewish Languages, the editors of which are Dr. Ofra Tirosh-Becker and Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor, released a special issue, guest-edited by doctoral student Isaac Bleaman of New York Universit and Dr. Brian Joseph of Ohio University in honor of Weinreich’s life and work. The issue includes an overview of Weinreich’s life and primary scholarly interests, including contact linguistics, historical linguistics and Yiddish, by Bleaman and an essay by Labov on the empirical foundations of Weinreich’s theories.

In addition to the two essays about Weinreich, the special issue includes four new scholarly articles on topics that were close to Weinreich’s heart. Dr. Rachel Steindel Burdin explains how three Yiddish-English bilinguals alter their intonation when speaking. Dr. Netta Avineri explains how different secular Jewish communities relate to Yiddish and Dr. Paul Glasser explores various phonological features of Southeastern Yiddish. Stepping away from Yiddish, Dr. David M. Bunis explores the Slavic words that were used in the version of Ladino spoken in the Balkans.

Find more information about the special issue here.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.