Isaac Bleaman (UC Berkeley): “Contemporary and historical perspectives on sociolinguistic variation in Yiddish”

Please join us this Friday, January 20th from 15:30-17:00 in Cobb Hall 107 for the first LVC of the winter! Prof. Isaac Bleaman will be speaking on Yiddish varieties and what they could say about differences between communities. This meeting will be both in-person and on Zoom; if you would like the Zoom link for the presentation, please email one of the workshop coordinators.

Contemporary and historical perspectives on sociolinguistic variation in Yiddish.

Although Yiddish figures prominently in early research in sociolinguistics and language contact (most notably in the work of Uriel Weinreich and Joshua Fishman), very little quantitative variationist research has been conducted on either contemporary or historical varieties of the language. In this talk, I will present my findings on the social significance of variation in New York-based communities that are committed to language maintenance in Yiddish. The results show how differences in communities’ maintenance practices and ideologies (e.g., whether to prioritize language dominance; whether to promote standardization) have contributed to inter-community differences in the quantitative patterning of two variables: voice onset time (VOT) and number agreement. At the end of the talk, I will preview the resources that will become available under the planned Corpus of Spoken Yiddish in Europe (CSYE), which is being developed through a National Science Foundation CAREER grant. Among other applications in research and language revitalization, the CSYE will provide the data necessary to address research questions related to the social meaning of variation and the direction of language change in the pre-Holocaust period.

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