Weinreich, Uriel

Weinreich, Uriel,

1926–67, Polish-American linguist, b. Vilnius, Poland (now in Lithuania), Ph.D. Columbia Univ., 1951. Weinreich taught linguistics at Columbia (1951–67) and is noted for his contributions to Yiddish studies, sociolinguisticssociolinguistics,
the study of language as it affects and is affected by social relations. Sociolinguistics encompasses a broad range of concerns, including bilingualism, pidgin and creole languages, and other ways that language use is influenced by contact among people of
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, dialectology, and for the increased acceptance of semantics as a branch of linguistics. His dissertation (1951) on bilinguals in Switzerland was adapted into Languages in Contact (1953). In 1952 he demonstrated that what had been regarded as the mysterious reappearance of an older form of Yiddish pronunciation in NE Europe was the result of immigrants moving there from regions where the older pronunciation had never disappeared. In his work in semantics Weinreich argued for a narrow rather than a broad concept of meaning. He was concerned with the distinction as well as the relation between the syntactic (involving word order and sentence structure) and the semantic (what words and sentences mean) analysis of language. Much of his semantic theory was influenced by Noam ChomskyChomsky, Noam
, 1928–, educator and linguist, b. Philadelphia. Chomsky, who has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1955, developed a theory of transformational (sometimes called generative or transformational-generative) grammar that revolutionized
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 and transformational grammar.

Weinreich, Uriel

 

Born May 23, 1926, in Vilnius; died Apr. 9, 1967, in New York. American linguist. Doctor of philosophy (1951). Lived in the USA from 1940; graduated from Columbia University in 1948.

Weinreich was the author of a monograph on the mixing (interference) of languages and dialects (Languages in Contact, 1953). He was one of the founders of the American linguistic journals Word and Linguistics Today. Under the combined influence of the American (L. Bloomfield) and European (F. de Saussure) schools of structuralism, Weinreich studied the problems of bilingualism and minority languages and questions of lexicology and semantics. He helped in acquainting American linguists with the achievements of Soviet linguistics.

WORKS

“Webster’s Third New International Dictionary” (review). Voprosyiazykoznaniia, 1965, no. 1.
College Yiddish. New York, 1949.
“[Soviet] Lexicology.” In Current Trends in Linguistics, vol. 1. The Hague, 1963.
“On the Semantic Structure of Language.” In Universals of Language, 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass., 1966.
“Explorations in Semantic Theory.” In Current Trends in Linguistics, vol. 3. The Hague, 1966.

REFERENCE

Malkiel, Y. “Uriel Weinreich.” Language, 1967, vol. 43.
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