17 July 2008

Survey: Yiddish, Hebrew usage - LINK CORRECTION

Here's an interesting language survey produced by two researchers at HUC-JIR. I just completed it and found it fast, easy and informative. Tracing the Tribe's readers are encouraged to participate.
You are invited to participate in an interesting and entertaining survey about language. Essentially, we're asking about the spread of Yiddish (and some Hebrew) among English speakers in North America. We're turning to both Jews and non-Jews to answer questions like these: Who uses Yiddish words like "shmooze" and "daven" and phrases like "Money, shmoney"? Why do some people say "temple" while others say "shul"? Who prefers biblical names for their babies? Your responses will help us answer these and other questions, and you might learn something about yourself in the process. Please set aside 15-20 minutes, and click on this link [or copy-and-paste this long URL into your browser: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=9eQwWyblG_2b8ixLqbt6QFhg_3d_3d] to participate. [THE LINK HAS BEEN CORRECTED]

Please forward this e-mail to your friends and family. We are hoping to get thousands of responses from people of all religions, ages, and regions of the United States and Canada. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail Prof. Sarah Bunin Benor
sbenor@huc.edu or Prof. Steven M. Cohen Steve34nyc@aol.com .
Jews throughout history have spoken distinctively Jewish languages. What about American Jews? Two researchers from Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion want to find out. Linguist Sarah Bunin Benor and Sociologist Steven M. Cohen are conducting a large-scale survey of Jews and non-Jews in the United States to determine just who uses Hebrew and Yiddish words and other distinctive language.
"This study has been several years in the making," says Dr. Benor, who has published several papers on the Yiddish-influenced English speech of Orthodox Jews. "Some people say that the only American Jews who speak distinctly are Orthodox, but among non-Orthodox Jews I know who are highly engaged in religious life, I've heard sentences that have more Hebrew and Yiddish words than English ones." An example: "At my /shul/, /balabatim/ /daven/ /musaf/ on /Yom Kippur/." "We want to know how widespread this phenomenon is."
Benor adds, "Three, four, and even five generations after their Yiddish-speaking ancestors immigrated to the U.S., some Ashkenazic American Jews still use Yiddishisms, like 'I need that like I need a hole in the head' and 'Money, shmoney.' Do Jews use these more than non-Jews? Do they use them only in certain situations? This survey will help us answer questions like these."
The researchers are also interested as to what extent Sephardi and Mizrahi background Americans have incorporated these Yiddishisms into their speech and how they pronounce Hebrew words. Regional accents are also studied.

They are investigating how widespread Yiddishisms are among non-Jews and how their use relates to individuals' social networks with Jews and time spent in New York. Results should be ready by the end of the calendar year. To participate, click here.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is the nation's oldest institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism.
For more information, click here.


  1. Anonymous5:31 PM


    The link to the survey doesn't appear to be functioning!

  2. Thanks for letting me know - the link has now been corrected.