An announcement from the Jewish Institute of Religion:
Yiddish. Ladino. Judeo-Arabic. 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 she gives is:
“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.” They are also curious to what extent Americans of Sephardi and Mizrahi background have incorporated Yiddishisms into their speech and how they pronounce Hebrew words. They even include a few words common in Judeo-Arabic and Ladino.
Here‘s a direct link to the survey; if you give them an e-mail address, they’ll send you the results when they have them. (Via MetaFilter, where several commenters pointed out they should have asked about childhood acquaintance with Mad magazine.)
While I’m at it, Clint Schmidt of Livemocha.com is “seeking someone with high-caliber academic credentials and passion for linguistics to work with Livemocha on a summer project to improve our learning experience. There are many variables within our language learning experience that we want to assess and improve, and I think there’s value in getting an unbiased expert perspective.” This is a paid consulting position; if you’re interested, write clint -at- livemocha dot com.