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Event Details

Tue, April 04, 2017

18::00 – 20:00

Villa La Pietra
Via Bolognese, 120
50139 Firenze

Benjamin Hary, Director, NYU Tel Aviv; Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, NYU

This lecture investigates the concept of the Jewish linguistic spectrum within the framework of sociolinguistics. I argue that around the world, wherever Jews have lived and either wished to distinguish themselves from their neighbors or were encouraged or (sometimes) forced to distinguish themselves, they did so in clothing, in food, in ritual, and also in language: they have spoken and written somewhat differently from their neighbors around them. The Jewish linguistic spectrum allows us to place Jewish language varieties on a continuum stretching from those with a high concentration of distinct linguistic characteristics that differentiate them from the surrounding “majority” language varieties (e.g. Yiddish) to those with only few and marginal traits (e.g. varieties of secular Jewish English). Other forms of Jewish linguistic practice (such as Judeo-Italian) are located somewhere between these two poles. This lecture will look into this spectrum in Italy and will refer to the connection between Language and Religion using terms and concepts such as religiolect, calques, crossing religious boundaries, language contact, migration languages and archaic features.

Featured Biographies

Benjamin Hary


Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at NYU and the Director of NYU Tel Aviv. Before coming to NYU, Professor Hary taught at Emory University, where he was the Director of the Program in Linguistics and the Chair of the Emory Humanities Council. A distinguished scholar of Judeo-Arabic in particular and Jewish Languages in general, Hary is the recipient of many prizes and honors, such as the Emory Winship Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities; Lady Davis Visiting Professorship at the Hebrew University; the Frankel Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies fellowship at the University of Michigan; the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies fellowship; the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award; the Emory International Teaching Award; Social Science Research Council Award; and more. Hary is the author of Multiglossia in Judeo-Arabic (1992); Translating Religion (2009); Daily Life in Israel (2012, with R. Adler) and Sacred Texts in Judeo-Arabic (forthcoming). He is also the editor and co-editor of several volumes and the author of over 50 articles and book reviews on Judeo-Arabic and Jewish languages, as well as Arabic and Hebrew linguistics. Hary has recently focused his research on issues such as why and how Jews (and for that matter, Christians and Muslims as well) speak and write differently from people who are not Jews (or Christians and Muslims).