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Complete loss of case and gender within a generation: evidence from Stamford Hill Hasidic Yiddish

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I report on our recent fieldwork on Yiddish as spoken in the Hasidic community in London’s Stamford Hill, in collaboration with Lily Kahn (UCL, Hebrew and Jewish Studies) and Zoe Belk (UCL, Linguistics). We have found that the language has lost morphological gender marking and case marking on nominals within decades after the Holocaust. As evidence, I will present elicited spoken and written data and published written data, comparing present-day language practices to equivalent pre-Holocaust data samples. If we are on the right track, this means that a new variety of Yiddish has born in front of our eyes over the last seventy years, Hasidic Yiddish. I will also propose that this kind of pervasive and rapid language change has perhaps never been documented before and explore the implications of this.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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