Weinreich, Uriel

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, sociolinguistics, 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 Chomsky and transformational grammar.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


“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.


Malkiel, Y. “Uriel Weinreich.” Language, 1967, vol. 43.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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