Language Syncretism and the Hybridization of Religious Jewish Identity in Postmodern America

By Chaya Nove

Columbia University, February 2011


This paper attempts to synthesize recent scholarship in the area of language and identity among contemporary religious Jews in America, and to highlight the common findings that may be shedding new light on this topic. It offers a theoretical framework for considering language as a marker of Jewish identity. It discusses recent views on language and ethnicity and examines how these theories relate to American Jewish identity. Next, it provides background information on Jewish language varieties, initially considering the literature on Jewish languages, then focusing more specifically on a distinctive variety some scholars are calling 'Jewish English.' It then reviews studies by various scholars investigating Jewish language at multiples levels, i.e., lexicon, phonology, lexical semantic and discourse style. The final section summarizes the findings on language and Jewish identity and synthesizes them into a representation of the complex interplay between Jewish language and identity in postmodern America. A sampling of an actual online discussion on the use of Yiddish loanwords is included as an Appendix, as it highlights some of the language points illustrated in the paper.


Topic: Hasidim, Language, Jewish Identification, Jewish Identity, Ethnicity, Yiddish, Chasidim, Scholarship, Postmodernism, Hasidism, Academic Research, Identity

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Genre: Thesis

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Author

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Nove, Chaya. Language Syncretism and the Hybridization of Religious Jewish Identity in Postmodern America. Columbia University. February 2011:


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