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Obituary: Petr Sgall (1926-2019)

Professor Emeritus Petr Sgall, professor of Indo-European, Czech studies, and general linguistics at Charles University in Prague, and an Honorary Member of the LSA since 2002, passed away on May 28, 2019 in Prague, the day after his 93rd birthday.

Over a lifetime of distinguished work in theoretical, mathematical and computational linguistics, he did more than any other single person to keep the Prague School linguistic tradition alive and dynamically flourishing. He was the founder of mathematical and computational linguistics in the Czech Republic, and the principal developer of the Praguian theory of Functional Generative Description as a framework for the formal description of language, which has been applied primarily to Czech, but also to English and in typological studies of a range of languages.

Petr Sgall was born in in České Budějovice in southern
Bohemia, but
spent most of his
childhood in the small
town Ústí nad Orlicí in
eastern Bohemia and
lived in Prague from the time of his
university studies.

He studied typology under Rudolf Skalička, with a PhD dissertation on the
development of
inflection in Indo-
European languages. His habilitation thesis in 1958 was based on his postdoctoral study in Cracow on the infinitive in Old Indian; it earned him a position as docent (associate professor) of general and Indoeuropean linguistics at Charles University.

At the beginning of the 1960s, Sgall was one of the first European scholars who became familiar with the newly emerging Chomskyan generative grammar. He immediately understood the importance of an explicit description of language, but at the same time, he was concerned that the early generative approach lacked a full appreciation of the functions of language (see his analysis of Prague School functionalism in his paper in the renewed series Prague Linguistic Circle Papers, the Travaux linguistiques de Prague Vol. I (1964)). Based on the Praguian tenets, Sgall formulated and developed an original framework of generative description of language, the so-called Functional Generative Description (FGD). His papers in the early sixties and his book presenting FGD (Sgall 1967) (http://ufal.mff.cuni.cz/~sgall/doc/sgall-bibl.pdf) were the foundation stones of an original school of theoretical and computational linguistics that has been alive and flourishing in Prague since then. Sgall’s innovative approach builds on three main pillars: (i) dependency syntax, (ii) information structure as an integral part of the underlying linguistic structure, and (iii) attention to the distinction between linguistic meaning and cognitive content.

The linguistics group that was established under his leadership in 1959 flourished in an interdisciplinary environment that included both the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University and the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics until political difficulties under the Communist regime led to his removal from his post as head of the Laboratory of Algebraic Linguistics, and nearly led to his expulsion from the University and the dissolution of the linguistics group. The Laboratory was disbanded, but courageous colleagues in the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics enabled the transfer of the staff of the Laboratory to that Faculty, where it thrived and became the Institute of Formal and Applied Linguistics (UFAL). Throughout the difficult years from 1972 until the fall of Communism in 1989 (with gradual improvements starting in the early 1980s), Sgall helped the group maintain ties with many international colleagues and continue to develop their productive work in formal and functional linguistics and pioneering computational applications. (The author remembers from visits in 1981, 1985, and a semester in 1989 how weekly seminars were held at 5pm so that talented young colleagues who were barred from university participation could attend after finishing their work days in factories and technical institutes.)

In the post-Communist era starting in 1990, the group was able to maintain UFAL, finally with permission to teach and to have their own graduate students, and they were also able to establish the Institute of Theoretical and Computational Linguistics back in the Philosophical Faculty. They could then regularize their ties with many colleagues and programs abroad, including a cooperative computational linguistics program with Johns Hopkins University and a collaboration between the Prague Dependency Treebank and the Penn Treebank.

Also in the post-Communist era after 1989, Professor Sgall was able to travel freely, hold guest professorships at foreign universities and a fellowship semester at NIAS, and to receive some of the public recognition he long deserved. He was elected a member of Academia Europea, awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize, and received Honorary Doctorates from the Institut National des Langues Orientales in Paris and from Hamburg University. He was named an Honorary Member of the Linguistic Society of America in 2002.

Petr Sgall will be remembered with admiration, respect, and gratitude by generations of students and colleagues for his untiring and successful personal and intellectual leadership of the development of Prague School linguistics, helping it to maintain a valued place in the contemporary international linguistics world, and for his own major contributions to typological studies and to theoretical and mathematical linguistics.

An obituary written by his Prague colleagues, from which the photograph above and some parts of this text were taken, can be found at http://ufal.mff.cuni.cz/obituary-petr-sgall .

 

-Barbara Partee

Some Post Fund-drive Words and a Final Rising Star: Meet Anastasia Panova!

Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for your contributions this year. It is true that the fund drive is over but you can always donate by visiting our donation page here and searching for the the “Linguist List Discretionary Fund.”

As a post-fund-drive treat we have one final rising star to present. Meet Anastasia Panova! She is a 4th year BA student in the Linguistic Convergence Laboratory at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and has done substantial work. She is involved in a field project for the documentation of Abaza, a Northwest Caucasian language, and has published a great journal article comparing morphologically-bound complementation in several languages of Eurasia and the Americas. She has also co-authored several talks given at international conferences. In her lab, she has assisted by compiling a corpus of Russian as it is spoken in Daghestan, developing a web interface for this data and also manages online access to the data. These are only a few of the many technical solutions that she has provided for the lab. On top of all this, according to her mentors she is also an excellent team worker. With all of that said… lets get to her piece.

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Anastasia Panova

What all linguistic theories as well as computational technologies face at some moment is linguistic diversity. A formal theory designed on the basis of well-described languages may be unable to adequately account for data from little-known languages whose good descriptions are either lacking or have appeared only recently. Likewise, NLP tools are hard to imagine working with all existing languages with equal ease. I am especially sorry for psycho- and neurolinguistics where all studies are still limited to a very small range of languages. Even typologists are not able to build databases covering more than half of all existing languages due to the lack of data, and usually their samples contain only about 200 languages. I think that if we want to do more than just investigate the most widespread or best described languages but rather to understand something about the boundaries of linguistic diversity (if any) and in the end about Language in general, then the first thing that we still need to do is high-quality language documentation and description.

Language description is not only extremely important but also really interesting. Perhaps we can compare linguists to astronomers who also are still able to study only a small part of the universe, and every new piece of data appears to be a discovery. A crucial difference is that linguistic fieldwork is mostly not about technical measurements but about interaction with living people. What will end up being written in the grammar of the language one is working on largely depends on one’s interaction with the native speakers and on one’s interpretation of the results thereof. That’s why any fieldworker has a great responsibility towards those who will rely on her data. I admire linguists who spend months and even years in the field and work on the documentation of the whole language alone, but I also really appreciate the Russian tradition of collective fieldtrips where students are allowed to work in the field on a par with professional linguists. For many of our students, the real interest in linguistics began with fieldwork.

Talking about my current research interests, I must admit that I certainly cannot name the closed list thereof. At the School of Linguistics of the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow, where I am finishing my BA studies, all BA students at some moment have to choose between two profiles: theoretical linguistics and computational linguistics. Forced to somehow define my research interests I have chosen theoretical linguistics, but, fortunately, I still have a lot of opportunities to learn computational tools for linguistic analysis and these skills help me a lot in my theoretical studies.

I also have been lucky to be involved in several scientific projects carried out at my university. First, I am working with great scholars such as Johanna Nichols at the Linguistic Convergence Laboratory, where I do corpus linguistics. We collect recordings of different varieties of the languages of Russia, compile spoken corpora of these varieties (some corpora are already available online at https://ilcl.hse.ru/en/corpora/) and then use them to investigate the processes and mechanisms of language contact. Second, I am a member of the research team studying Abaza, a polysynthetic language spoken by approximately 50,000 people in the Russian North Caucasus and in Turkey and currently the least studied language of the Northwest Caucasian family. We are indebted to the people in the village Inzhich-Chukun (Abazinsky district, Karachay-Cherkess Republic, Russia) where our team has been working on the description of Abaza during last three years thanks to their extraordinary hospitality and tireless efforts to facilitate our research. Recently, we have just returned from another field trip to Inzhich-Chukun, where I had been collecting data for my BA thesis. This thesis is the accumulation of the results of my fieldwork on the aspectual, modal and evaluative verbal suffixes of Abaza, whose order in the wordform presumably results from their scopal relations and compatibility restrictions. In my thesis, I elaborate this approach on the basis of my analysis of the interaction of the semantics of these suffixes, many of which are polysemous, with the event structure of verbs. I hope that my study of Abaza suffixation will contribute both to the description of this fascinating language and to the deeper understanding of the workings of polysynthetic morphology in general.

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Thanks so much for all of your support and donations during this year’s fund drive. Have a great summer!

Rising Stars: Meet Sean Lang!

Dear Readers,

This year we will be continuing our Rising Stars Series where we feature up and coming linguists ranging from impactful undergraduates to prolific PhD candidates. These rising stars have been nominated by their mentors for their exceptional interest in linguistics and eager participation in the global community of language researchers.

Today we share with you the cutting-edge work of Sean Lang. He is a Senior at the University of Michigan where he is a double major in Spanish and Neuroscience. He is currently a member of the University of Michigan Speech Lab where he is working on analyzing a corpus of data from the Afrikaans-Argentine bilingual community that resides in Patagonia, Argentina. His work has ramifications for the Afrikaans language as a whole since the last group of Afrikaans-Spanish bilingual speakers resides in Patagonia, thus making the particular language variety an endangered one. He has received very high praise from his mentors and his work quality is said to be among that of the top undergraduates ever to work in the lab. He has even been interviewed by NPR! While doing all of this great work, Sean has also still found the time to be a mentor and thesis advisor to younger students. And with that… we introduce Sean’s work!

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Between 1902 and 1906, approximately 600 Afrikaans speakers migrated to Chubut Province, Argentina from South Africa. Over the course of the 20th century, the community gradually shifted from Afrikaans-dominant to Spanish-dominant. The year 1954 marks the first record of a church service held in Spanish, though Afrikaans was still the dominant language through the 1960s. In May of 2014, a team of University of Michigan faculty was sent on a fieldwork trip to visit the community and interview its members, a subset of whom were (indeed, still are) Afrikaans-Spanish bilinguals.

Anthropologically and linguistically speaking, this community presents as a unique case, especially the oldest living generation, individuals who learned Afrikaans as a first language (L1) and later, when they entered school, began learning Spanish as a second language (L2). Now, though, as these speakers enter their 70s and 80s, they have been dominant speakers of Spanish (over Afrikaans) for the last 50 years or more, to such a degree that many of them have suffered partial attrition of their L1 Afrikaans.

Studying the many facets of the individuals living in the community has become an active collaboration between historians, anthropologists, and linguists. Specifically, though, my work over the past year has focused on the cross-language influence between the L1 Afrikaans and L2 Spanish of these Argentine bilinguals, with attention to filled pauses in particular. Past studies of the influence between bilinguals’ languages has shown, as we might intuit, an influence of an L1 on an L2. However, there also exists a body of research evidencing the influence of an L2 on an L1, also suggesting that this influence is greater in cases of increased exposure to and proficiency in the L2. We elected to focus on filled pauses because, as discourse byproducts of lexical retrieval and syntactic planning, they constitute an informative feature through which to understand second-language fluency.

An analysis of over 3,000 filled pauses produced by the Afrikaans-Spanish bilinguals, Afrikaans monolinguals, and Spanish monolinguals suggests that filled pauses are multi-faceted, and that their various facets may pattern independently. For example, Spanish monolinguals and the bilinguals while speaking Spanish produced three types of filled pauses: vowel-only (e.g., “uh”, “eh”), vowel followed by nasal consonant (e.g., “um”, “em”), and nasal consonant-only (e.g., “mm”). Meanwhile, Afrikaans monolinguals and bilinguals while speaking Afrikaans only produced two types: vowel-only and vowel followed by nasal consonant. Essentially, that the bilinguals are target-like in their filled pause “inventories” suggests a lack of influence between languages.

However, gradient analyses of the formants, F1 and F2, in Praat of the vocalic segments of filled pauses showed evidence of robust bidirectional influence between the languages of the bilinguals. The two monolingual groups fell on extreme ends of the continuum, while bilinguals occupied an intermediate space between the two. The vowel durations of the filled pauses also suggested bidirectional influence, while the nasal consonant durations suggested unidirectional influence of the L1 Afrikaans on the L2 Spanish.

All taken together, these results suggest that filled pauses are multifaceted. Furthermore, those facets are capable of patterning independently, which is analogous to what occurs with “regular” lexical items, suggesting that filled pauses belong to the same grammar as those lexical items.

As a final note, the study described above constituted my undergraduate honors thesis, which has provided me with great challenges, fulfillment, and myriad opportunities to grow over the last eight months. Following my graduation (May 2019), I will be flying to Guatemala to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years, after which I plan to apply to PhD programs.

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If you have not yet– please visit our Fund Drive page to learn more about us and why we need your help! The LINGUIST List relies on your generous donations to continue its support of linguists around the world.

Rising Stars: Meet Tyler Kibbey!

Dear Readers,

This year we will be continuing our Rising Stars Series where we feature up and coming linguists ranging from impactful undergraduates to prolific PhD candidates. These rising stars have been nominated by their mentors for their exceptional interest in linguistics and eager participation in the global community of language researchers.

Selected nominees were asked to share their view of the field of linguistics: what topics they see emerging as important or especially interesting, what role they see the field filling in the coming decades, and how they plan to contribute. We hope you will enjoy the perspectives of these students, who represent the bright future of our field.

For today’s post we come to you with a great contribution from Tyler Kibbey. He is an MA student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Kentucky, a co-convener of the LSA Special Interest Group on LGBTQ+ Issues in Linguistics, and an affiliate of the upcoming Linguistics Institute at the University of California, Davis. His work applies Conceptual Metaphor Theory to religious language and ideology with the aim of mitigating anti-LGBTQ+ religious violence. His recent work has also explored the moral responsibilities of linguists beyond the descriptivist framework. According to his mentors, he has gone far above and beyond the requirements of the normal MA student. He has presented research on metaphors in very conservative religious language, on language ideologies within the discipline, and on the use of religious discourse in political contexts among other issues. Keep up the great work, Tyler! Now lets move on to his piece…

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In this historical moment, one of the most important areas of linguistics is the study of extremist language as it structures and creates systems of violence which affect marginalized groups the world over. New perspectives on the role of linguists as moral agents in society, rather than being simply indifferent observers, is breaking new ground in how the discipline should approach issues of violence wherein such acts are related to language. Specifically in the case of the many manifestos and articles of extremist propaganda that have found wider circulation in the modern age of communication, the role of linguists in attempting to understand and mitigate these acts of linguistic violence is paramount to the responsibility of language experts in contemporary research. Whereas humanity has a terrifying capacity, if not proclivity, for violence, the next wave of modern linguistics must seek to account for how language can be used to promote intolerance in our communities and to develop evidence-based programs for the pursuit of peace on all fronts.

In the coming decades, one area where linguistics will once again be required to apply itself is the domain of religion. Though the subdiscipline of theolinguistics has long since fallen apart, current research in cognitive linguistics and the scientific study of religion is continuing to unveil the ways in which language facilitates religious experience, ideology, and all too often violence. One current line of thought, Conceptual Metaphor Theory, is well situated for undertaking these tasks. The semantic representations of religious objects of faith, such as supernatural agents or deities, are often conceptualized as beyond the limits of human understanding, and thus, neither true nor false. Within various theological traditions, this has often caused doctrinal shifts between viewing religious language as either highly metaphorical or fundamentally literal, which has further caused problems for linguists seeking to place religious language within a bivalent framework of truth. This has also allowed individuals of faith to arrive at their own determinations of the meaning of religious language and conceptual frameworks. Admittedly, this is not immediately concerning at face-value. However, when the dramatic flourishes of religious rhetoric encompass the semantic domains of war, morality, or sovereignty, language can galvanize an individual’s perception of the world and allow them to justify tremendous acts of violence in the name of faith. Language is fundamental to this process, and it is through linguistics that religious violence can be successfully understood and hopefully mitigated.

This is ultimately the line of research that my own work assumes in attempting to understand religious violence, principally, and anti-LGBTQ+ violence, generally. Over the last five years, I have conducted critical metaphor analysis on white supremacist manifestos,  Westboro Baptist Church sermons, ISIS propaganda, and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the hopes of understanding how language facilitates these systems of violence, as well as their linguistic positioning within universal cognitive processes. As an organizer, I have also worked to promote LGBTQ+ equality within the discipline, founding the Linguistic Society of America’s Special Interest Group on LGBTQ+ Issues in Linguistics in 2017 and organizing LGBTQ+ Linguistics events at various conferences and institutions. In line with my research and organizational work, I sincerely believe that linguistics has the potential to effect real change in contemporary society and that together we can pursue peace through the study of language.

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If you have not yet– please visit our Fund Drive page to learn more about us and why we need your help! The LINGUIST List relies on your generous donations to continue its support of linguists around the world.

The last 6 days of the Fund drive

Dear LINGUIST List readers and subscribers,

Our 2019 Fund Drive is coming to a close with only 6 days left, and we still have less than half of our goal. Without the support of our readers, there is a very real possibility that the LINGUIST List could die out. As many of you rely on our services to stay informed, this would be an unfortunate loss.

To those of you who have already donated, we are eternally grateful. Your support allows us to continue serving the linguistics community. We want to keep these services available to the global linguistics community, and we need your help sometimes to make it happen! If just one thirtieth of our subscribers donated the lowest possible amount allowed by the host institutions donation counter, we would reach our goal immediately.

Thanks for being with us all these almost three decades, and here’s to being here, serving linguists all over the world, for decades to come.

All the best,
-The LL Team

Fun Facts: Linguist or Polyglot?

Hello all,

It’s time for our next Linguist List fun fact! As linguists, we’ve all had the conversation at some point that goes, roughly, “Oh, you’re a linguist? How many languages do you speak?” followed by a hasty explanation of what linguistics actually is and how it is not about learning languages. It certainly doesn’t help that many linguists also happen to be polyglots. This is the case for all of us here at the Linguist List, so for our fun fact this week we’d like to tell you a bit about the languages we speak here, besides the obvious English.

In no particular order, Becca (Jobs) speaks French and Swedish. Nils (Web Development) speaks German and a little bit of Danish. Sarah (Journals and TOCs) really loves Germanic, and knows German, some Icelandic, Old Norse, and various other dead germanic languages. Everett (Conferences and Miscellaneous) knows Spanish, Japanese, and a little German. Jeremy (Books) knows Swahili, Hadza, Nigerian Pidgin, Welsh, German, and Arabic. He’s also teaching his adorable son some Swahili. Gosia (Moderator) knows Russian, Croatian, Polish, and Serbian. Peace (System Administrator) knows Korean. And Yiwen (Web Development, Supports, and Internships) knows Mandarin, Cantonese, German, and some French.

Even though learning languages isn’t what linguistics is about, they’re still pretty neat, so we do it anyway. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a broader knowledge of languages.

That’s it for today! Thanks for reading. If you appreciate services provided by the LINGUIST List like book and job announcements, please consider donating to our annual fund drive campaign. We rely on your donations to continue operating and supporting our editors.

LINGUIST List potrzebuje Waszego wsparcia

Kochani,

zwracam się do wszystkich miłośników języków i językoznawstwa. LINGUIST List potrzebuje Waszego wsparcia. Od prawie trzydziestu lat służymy dyscyplinie, staramy się łączyć, bezstronnie informować, zapewniać czytelnikom poczucie uczestnictwa w szerszej wspólnocie akademickiej, ponadnarodowej i interdyscyplinarnej. Przez lata pomogliśmy tysiącom ludzi znaleźć pracę, ogłosiliśmy tysiące konferencji, książek, artykułów, publikowaliśmy recenzje, opinie, dyskusje, około setki studentów ukończyło studia bez długów dzięki pracy w LINGUIST List.

Nasza działalność może się skończyć z dnia na dzień. Tylko mały ułamek naszego budżetu pochodzi ze środków uniwersytetu, który nas gości. Reszta to reklamy i wsparcie czytelników. Jeżeli nie będzie wsparcia czytelników, nie będzie dochodu z reklam i nie będzie wsparcia administracji naszego uniwersytetu. Rozumiem, że minimalna suma donacji – 10$ – nie jest małą sumą, ale zapraszam wszystkich, którzy mogą sobie na to pozwolić, żeby wsparli LINGUIST List. Jeśli 10$ to zbyt dużo, zawsze można złożyć się w kilka osób. Jeśli nie możecie wesprzeć nas finansowo, podajcie dalej informację o naszej akcji zbierania funduszy, To jest Wasz serwis, Wy z niego korzystacie i Wy tworzycie tę wspólnotę.

https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/
lub bezpośrednio:
https://iufoundation.fundly.com/the-linguist-list-2019

Pozdrawiam.

Malgosia Cavar
Moderatorka, LINGUIST List

Challenges Update!

Hello all, welcome to another Challenges Update!

It looks like Syntax is still in the lead with $2050! They are followed pretty closely by Semantics with $1894, and in third we still have Sociolinguistics with $1365.

These three subfields seem to have solidified their places in this Fund Drive’s Challenges, will there be some changes before it’s over?

The top three for universities are as follows: Stanford is still in the lead with $1230.00 (12 donors), followed by University of South Carolina with $885.00 (13 donors), and Southern Illinois University Carbondale with $500.00 (1 donor).

It looks like Stanford would like to win this year over University of Washington!

North America is first place for regions with 118 donors. Europe takes second place with 90 donors, and is followed by Asia with 14 donors.

With 109 donors, USA takes first place for the countries challenge. Germany comes in second with 22 donors, and Spain takes third with 12 donors!

Thank you all again for your continuous support! Please check the Fund Drive page for more updates and to donate!

Sincerely,
The LL Team

Staff Letter: Everett Green

Hello Linguist Listers,

I hope my message finds all of you well. This is Everett Green checking in. I’m the calls and conferences editor for the LINGUIST List. If you have sent a conference call, program or announcement through our website, it was almost certainly posted by me. I’m also responsible for editing submissions to FYI’s, Media, Software, Discussions, Queries and Summaries. This may seem like a disproportionate amount of work but these areas don’t receive quite as many submissions as Calls & Conferences, hence my being responsible for all of them at once. I have had very pleasant interactions with many of you in emails and I always enjoy helping top-notch researchers like yourselves in getting the word out about your conferences, calls for papers and other important pieces of information.

At the office.

Working on conferences gives me a very interesting snapshot of the kinds of work that people are doing within linguistic sub-fields and in interdisciplinary spaces. I must say that the sheer breadth and scope of the work being done is quite vast. So vast in fact, that a person could easily dedicate their life to studying the topics and questions addressed at a single, very specialized conference, not to mention any of the more broadly focused conferences which can cover countless numbers of topics. This bird’s eye view of the field of linguistics is an unofficial perk of the job since it has very much assisted me in deciding which area of research I would like to contribute to. Though I have not fully committed to a particular subject of study (there are so many interesting fields!), I have been able to narrow my preferences down in very meaningful ways thanks to my job here at the LINGUIST List.

Outside of the LINGUIST List, I am a dual PhD student in Computational Linguistics and Cognitive Science. I have currently been studying how artificial neural networks can be used for better natural language processing and how we can apply that language processing to give our computers a superior understanding of natural languages. Ideally, in the future, we would be able to interact optimally with our computers(or robots) through natural language alone. This wouldn’t just make things more convenient for the average computer user but it would also increase accessibility for those who cannot currently use computers due to disabilities.

Hopefully I’ll have more time for these one day…

In terms of recreation, I have many interests though most have been shelved in the pursuit of higher goals. The interests that have managed to survive the culling are music and video games which fit together quite well since music is integral to video game development. The latter subject actually has minor applications for my research as well. Before attending graduate school, I had done some recreational video game design with my friends and gained some useful programming skills in the process. As duolingo has shown, gamification of language acquisition is quite popular among the general public and I believe that it is another tool that can be leveraged to help researchers collect data and publish more robust studies when utilized carefully.

I will have worked at the LINGUIST List for two years come May and I can easily say that it is one of the best jobs that I have ever worked in. None of it would be possible without the donations that all of you provide us with and I sincerely thank all of you for your continued support of our work. I only hope that I can repay the favor by contributing research that makes all of your lives healthier and happier. If you haven’t donated and you would like to, you can find our donation page here. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy day to read about me and I hope to keep assisting all of you in whatever way that I can here at the LINGUIST List.

元気で
Everett Green

Old Musical, Old Language, New Experience

Hello LINGUIST Listers,

On the topic of language maintenance and revitalization efforts that we have been discussing during our 2019 LINGUIST List Fund Drive, let’s look at an exciting development in the world of musical theater.

The critically-acclaimed Broadway classic “Fiddler on the Roof” premiered off-Broadway entirely in the Yiddish language for the first time earlier this year. This newly re-imagined version of the musical pays greater homage to its roots; the original musical was based on Yiddish novels written by Sholem Aleichem around the turn of the twentieth century. Theater-goers reported an exciting authenticity watching the production in the language that Tevye and his village-mates would have been speaking in the early 1900s.

The Yiddish language has undergone seriously decline in recent decades but the creators of the new version hope that having such an iconic musical entirely in Yiddish will encourage an improved image for the language. Much of the Yiddish-speaking population now resides in the New York City area. With the production of “Fiddler of the Roof” happening nearby, it is hoped that increased exposure will strengthen the language’s vitality in the region and encourage the rising generation to respect their heritage.

Whether this will be the case will have to be seen but overall it is an enthralling project for Yiddish-speakers, “Fiddler” fans, and proponents of minority languages everywhere.

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Fund Drive 2019 is among us! To donate please visit this link: https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/

Please be sure to check out our new and revamped site at: https://new.linguistlist.org/ and let us know if you have concerns or recommendations. Please note that it is still a work in progress. Thank you!
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