Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

The Languages of the Jews
A Sociolinguistic History

$99.99 (P)

  • Date Published: May 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107055445

$ 99.99 (P)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact [email protected] providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Historical sociolinguistics is a comparatively new area of research, investigating difficult questions about language varieties and choices in speech and writing. Jewish historical sociolinguistics is rich in unanswered questions: when does a language become 'Jewish'? What was the origin of Yiddish? How much Hebrew did the average Jew know over the centuries? How was Hebrew re-established as a vernacular and a dominant language? This book explores these and other questions, and shows the extent of scholarly disagreement over the answers. It shows the value of adding a sociolinguistic perspective to issues commonly ignored in standard histories. A vivid commentary on Jewish survival and Jewish speech communities that will be enjoyed by the general reader, and is essential reading for students and researchers interested in the study of Middle Eastern languages, Jewish studies, and sociolinguistics.

    • Explores the history of Jewish multilingualism, a vivid commentary on Jewish survival and Jewish speech communities
    • Examines patterns of language maintenance and shift, including the revival of Hebrew - a discussion relevant to anyone concerned with language endangerment around the world
    • Explores the relationship between a community's situation and history and the language patterns it develops
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘Bernard Spolsky's magnum opus shows us the complexities of a globalized sociolinguistic system within a relatively small community of people. It is a sobering book for those who still cherish a one culture - one language image of societies, and an encouragement to all those who take delight in the unexpected intricacies of language in society.' Jan Blommaert, Tilburg University

    ‘… an impressive tour de force through time and space, tracing three millennia of multilingualism of the Jewish people.’ Benjamin Hary, Emory University

    ‘An engaging and panoramic vade mecum through four millennia of Jewish history, the languages they spoke, and the essential formative role of Hebrew throughout … laced with intimate and questioning reflections of a distinguished scholar.’ Norman A. Stillman, Schusterman/Josey Professor of Judaic History, University of Oklahoma

    '… a masterpiece that in one fell swoop replaces the earlier partisan, parochial works emanating from this or that theory-pusher … Spolsky lays out on his generous table the vast universe of ideas and facts, beautifully structured. Yet for all his love of the languages covered, he is able to stand back and give the reader a meticulously honest selection of interpretations and sources from which to choose. [This] is the first (and only) work to tell the general reader about the ongoing robust debates about each language and period (and indeed about all of them), with fairness to all sides and PR for none; with clarity … about each position, and with careful compilation of bibliography enabling you to continue study of whichever language (or theory) attracts you. A magnificent contribution to the study of Jewish languages. At long last.’ Dovid Katz, formerly Vilnius University

    "Spolsky's book is an important addition to the literature of [the] field, a must-have reference for historians of the Jews and scholars of Jewish languages."
    Sarah Bunin Benor, Marginalia Review of Books

    'For the first time we have a remarkable book summarizing in a very clear way the complex history of Jewish languages, and presenting to specialists an erudite and breathtaking sociolinguistic study. I hope that this important book will raise debate and discussion among specialists of general linguistics helping to understand the birth, evolution and structure of languages. It will become, without a doubt, one of the most important books on the languages spoken by Jewish people, past and present, studied from a sociolinguistic perspective.' Jean Baumgarten, Journal of Sociolinguistics

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107055445
    • length: 376 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.67kg
    • contains: 11 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Is Hebrew an endangered language?
    2. The emergence of Hebrew
    3. Hebrew-Aramaic bilingualism and competition
    4. Three languages in Hellenistic and Roman Palestine
    5. From statehood to diaspora
    6. The Arabian and African connections
    7. The spread of Islam
    8. The Jews of France
    9. The Jews of Spain and their languages
    10. Loter-Ashkenaz and the creation of Yiddish
    11. The Yavanic area - Greece and Italy
    12. Jews in Slavic lands
    13. Linguistic emancipation and assimilation in Europe
    14. Britain, its former colonies and the New World
    15. Islam and the Orient
    16. The return to Zion and Hebrew
    Appendix: estimated current status of Jewish languages.

  • Resources for

    The Languages of the Jews

    Bernard Spolsky

    General Resources

    Find resources associated with this title

    Type Name Unlocked * Format Size

    Showing of

    Back to top

    This title is supported by one or more locked resources. Access to locked resources is granted exclusively by Cambridge University Press to instructors whose faculty status has been verified. To gain access to locked resources, instructors should sign in to or register for a Cambridge user account.

    Please use locked resources responsibly and exercise your professional discretion when choosing how you share these materials with your students. Other instructors may wish to use locked resources for assessment purposes and their usefulness is undermined when the source files (for example, solution manuals or test banks) are shared online or via social networks.

    Supplementary resources are subject to copyright. Instructors are permitted to view, print or download these resources for use in their teaching, but may not change them or use them for commercial gain.

    If you are having problems accessing these resources please contact [email protected].

  • Author

    Bernard Spolsky, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
    Bernard Spolsky is Professor Emeritus of the English Department at Bar-Ilan University and editor of The Cambridge Handbook of Language Policy.

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email [email protected]

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.