Tag Archives: Yugntruf Yiddish

Dovid Katz’s Works on Yiddish Stylistics


descriptivism vs. normativism

variationism vs. purism

notions of ‘dáytshmerish’

internationalisms & adapted nativisms vs. extremist neologisms

mainstream spelling for traditionalist-secular reunification vs. radical Soviet-inspired ultra-antitraditional

evaluation & status of the language & norms of hundreds of thousands of native speakers in Hasidic/Haredi communities

standard pronunciation + dialects vs. standard only

other issues in Yiddish language usage and standardization


  1. Amended Amendments: Issues in Yiddish Stylistics [in Yiddish: Tikney Takones. Fragn fun yidisher stilistik], Oxforder Yidish Press & Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies: Oxford 1993, 356 pp. Online.

  2. Code of Yiddish Spelling [in Yiddish: Klal-takones fun yidishn oysleyg] (ed), Oksforder Yidish Press & Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies (/Oxford Programme in Yiddish): Oxford 1992, 55 pp. PDF of print edition. Digital version.

  3. Words on Fire. The Unfinished Story of Yiddish, Basic Books, New York 2007 (second revised edition), 494 pp. See pp. 67, 80, 146, 204-205, 277, 380-390, 395, 410-411, 413-414. Online.

  4. Yiddish and Power, Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke 2015, 330 pp. See pp.  23, 33, 36, 52-56, 64, 76, 102, 152, 182, 184-185, 193-194, 206, 214-217. 234, 235,265, 268-271, 280, 285, 290,  303.

  5. A Yiddish Cultural Dictionary (www.YiddishCulturalDictionary.org), in progress, initiated Jan. 2018. Online. Note: Scholars interested in the arguments over specific usages are invited to key in to Search אזהרה (‘warning’) for a flavor of contemporary debate.

  6. Translations of Books of the Bible into Lithuanian Yiddish [and with implicit views on some supradialectal issues of syntax, lexicon, orthography]. In progress. Initiated Aug. 2013. Online.

  7. Yiddish fiction: four volumes to date, exemplifying distinct stylistic templates for prewar Northeastern (Lithuanian) Yiddish and 21st century general international usage. Page with links.

  8. Yiddish books edited (in the spirit of stylistic principles in nos. 1 & 2 above): Editor (or coeditor) and Yiddish language director for series of books published by the 1990s Yiddish publishers Oxford Yiddish Press and Three Sisters Press.

  9. Yiddish journal edited (in the spirit of stylistic principles in nos. 1 & 2 above)Yiddish Pen (Oxford), issues 1-27. Contents pages (also here). Scans of entire issues (1-30).


  1. Fee-fi-fo-fum, the Daytshmerish Scare is Over and Done [in Yiddish: A shtekele arayn, a shtekele aroys, di saytshmerishe gefar iz oys] in Yidishe kultur 53.5 (Sept-Oct 1991), pp.  24-31. Online.

  2. The Crisis of Yiddish Stylistics [in Yiddish: Der krizis fun der yidisher stilistik] in Yidishe kultur 54.3 (May-June 1992), pp. 38-44. Online [A press release (with personalized greeting to editors, educators, sudents etc.) followed from the “Committee for the Implementation of Standard Yiddish Orthography”; re: the press release’s reference to Language journal saga .

  3. Musia Stekin-Landau is Quite Right (on  Principles of Yiddish Stylistics) [in Yiddish: Zeyer gerekht, Musye Stekin-Landoy (tsu di printsipn fun der yidisher stilistik) in Lebns-fragn 481-2, pp. 14-15.

  4. On the Shtumer Alef in the Twenty-First Century [in Yiddish: Tsum shtumen alef in eyn-un-tsvankikstn yorhundert], accepted by Yidishe kultur, set up in galley proofs but withdrawn from the press after the journal’s funding was threatened by the “Committee for the Implementation of StandardYiddish Orthography”. Typescript online. A version then published in Undzer tsayt 602-603 (Jan.-Feb. 1993), pp. 35-42.

  5. and Dov-Ber Kerler, Sorry Buddy, but Yiddish is Just Not Rusinic (reply to Joshua A. Fishman) [in Yiddish: Yidish iz fort nit kin rusinish: an entfer Shikl Fishmanen] in Yerusholaymer almanakh 23 (1993), pp. 162-172.

  6. A Tale of Three Cities: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Oxford (reply to A. Novershtern) [in Yiddish: A mayse mit dray shtet: Tel Avivm Yerusholayim un Oksford (an entfer A. Novershtern) in Letste nayes, 19 Feb. 1993, pp. 8, 14.

  7. Chapters in Yiddish: a series of ten columns on Yiddish issues in Algemeyner zhurnal, 2009-2010: links listed here.

  8. Internationalisms vs. Neologisms (email vs. ‘blitspost’ etc.) in Chapters in Yiddish 9 in the Algemeyner zhurnal, 11 June 2010, p. 3.

  9. History and  Symbology of the Variant Yiddish Spellings of Words for ‘Yiddish’ and ‘Jew’  [in Yiddish: Ver, vos un ven: Di shraybungen yod un yudish, yid un yidish, id un idish: zeyer geshikhte un zeyer simbologisher mehus] in Algemeyner zhurnal, 14 Oct. 2005: 15 and 28 Oct. 2005: 11-12.

  10. The Present-Day Mission of Czernowitz [in Yiddish: Der hayntiker takhles fun Tshernevits (batrakhtungen tsum hundert-tsentn yoyvl) in Wolf Moskovich (ed.),  Yiddish — 110 Years of a Jewish National Language. Proceedings of the Czernowitz International Conmmemorative Yiddish L:anguage Conference 2018 [= Jews and Slavs, vol. 26],  Dukh i Litera: Jerusalem & Kiev 2020, pp. 11-20, see pp. 15-18. Online.

Papers and Reviews

  1.  Alexander Harkavy and His Trilingual Dictionary = introduction to Alexander Harkavy, Yiddish-Hebrew-English Dictionary, Yivo & Schocken Books: New York  1988, pp. vi-xx111, see pp. xiv-xix; also in Yiddish [Aleksander Harkavi un zayn drayshprakhiker verterbukh], pp. xxiv-xli, see pp. xxxiii-xxxvii. Online.

  2. New Incarnations of Old Debates: The Lithuanian Standard and the Disputes Arising [in Yiddish: Naye gilgulim fun alte makhloykesn: di litvishe norme un di sikhsukhim vos arum ir] in Yivo bleter , n.s. 2: 205-257 (1994). Online.

  3. The Religious Prestige of the Gaon and the Secular Prestige of Lithuanian Yiddish in Izraelis Lempertas and Lara Lempertiene (eds), The Gaon of Vilnius and the Annals of Jewish Culture, Vilnius University Press: Vilnius 1998, pp. 187-199. Online.

  4. Review of N. JacobsYiddish: A Linguistic Introduction (2005) in AJS Review 30.2 (2006): 471-473. Online.

  5. The Yiddish Conundrum. A Cautionary Tale for Language Revivalism in G. Hogan-Brun and  B. O’Rourke (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Minority Languages and Communities, Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke 2019, pp. 553-587. Online.

  6. Reflections on Czernowitz (on the 110th Anniversary) in Wolf Moskovich (ed.),  Yiddish — 110 Years of a Jewish National Language. Proceedings of the Czernowitz International Commemorative Yiddish Language Conference 2018 [= Jews and Slavs, vol. 26],  Dukh i Litera: Jerusalem & Kiev 2020, pp. 21-50, see pp. 33-43. Online.

  7. Zalmen Reyzen’s Perception of the Common Ground on Issues of Standard Yiddish and Extreme Purism [in Yiddish: Zalmen Reyzens daas haklal vos shaeykh dem standardn yidish un dem ekstremen purizm] in D. Katz, Responsa in Yiddish Linguistics, no. 4 (Feb. 2021). Online.

  8. Review of J. ShandlerYiddish: Biography of a Language (2020)  in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development (2021).  Online.


  1. Compilation of materials for international Yiddish Teachers Program course taught at Vilnius University (Program in Yiddish Language and Literature) in 2005 (participant included then or future instructors/professors/program directors in London, Oxford, New York, Melbourne etc. Online.

See also: Works on Yiddish Linguistics; Books; Oxford; Lithuania and other pages at



Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dovid Katz’s Works on Yiddish Stylistics

The Yiddish Conundrum: A Cautionary Tale for Language Revivalism


by Dovid Katz

This paper appeared this month as: Dovid Katz, “The Yiddish Conundrum: A Cautionary Tale for Language Revivalism” in: G. Hogan-Brun  and B. O’Rourke  (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Minority Languages and Communities (Palgrave Macmillan: London 2019), pp.  553-587.

For those who cherish the goal of preserving small, endangered languages, some developments (and lessons) from the case of Yiddish might be illuminating, though not in the sense of some straightforward measure of ‘success’ or ‘failure’. There is no consensus on the interpretation of the current curious — and contentious — situation. If the issues raised might serve as a point of departure for debate on its implications for other languages, particularly the potential damage from exaggeratedly purist ‘corpus planning movements’ as well as potentially associated ‘linguistic disrespect’ toward the majority of the living speakers of the ‘language to be saved’, then this paper’s modest goal will have been realized. Moreover, the perils of a sociolinguistic theory overapplied by a coterie with access to funding, infrastructure and public relations need to be studied.[1]

Ultimately, the backdrop for study of the current situation is the pre-Holocaust status quo ante of a population of Yiddish speakers for which estimates have been in the range of ten to thirteen million native speakers.[2]

Nowadays, on the one hand, millions of dollars a year are spent on ‘saving Yiddish’ among ‘modern Jews’ (secular and ‘modern religious’), interested non-Jews. People may be academically, culturally, literarily, musically, sentimentally, ideologically, and otherwise attracted. The number of Yiddish speaking families these efforts have generated is in dispute, but it is under a dozen. A high proportion of those hail from a postwar movement of normativist language revision, on the Ausbau model of Heinz Kloss. This conscious process has taken their variety ever further from native Yiddish speech of any naturally occurring variety while retaining a steadfast, profound commitment to actually using the language in daily life. Lavish subsidies provide for a newspaper, magazines, myriad programs and a few large architectural edifices dedicated, one way or another, to ‘saving Yiddish’. In academia, endowments have provided a number of positions that are ironically known in the field as ‘poetry fellowships’ in so far as their incumbents may try to be ‘Yiddish writers’ while under no pressure to produce successful doctoral programs that would be generating new generations of scholar specialists who can themselves write and teach in the language (say for advanced courses). In the case of some Yiddish chairs, the elderly East European born donor ‘had the chutzpah to go ahead and die’, leaving his or her children amenable to a program’s ‘rapid enhancement’ via conversion from the low-student-number (‘failing’) Yiddish to the ‘higher student takeup’ (‘winning’) menu of ‘Judaic Studies’ or ‘comparative Jewish literature’ courses.[3] Much of the current ‘language movement’ is focused on ‘Yiddish products’ in English (and other national languages) about Yiddish that have engendered fundraising campaigns for buildings and centers, without seriously attempting to produce new speakers, let alone writers. This has been made possible by what I have called massive American-style PR driven ‘delinguification’ of Yiddish (Katz, 2015: 279-290). The satire, ‘A conference of Yiddish savers’ by Miriam Hoffman, the last major actual Yiddish author born in Eastern Europe before the war, now based in Coral Springs, Florida, continues to delight readers from all sides of the argument (Hoffman 1994). Note that none of this is to suggest that any of these efforts are ‘wasted’.

Continue reading

Posted in Dovid Katz, Yiddish Affairs | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Yiddish Conundrum: A Cautionary Tale for Language Revivalism