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Language and Culture Archive of Ashkenazic Jewry, 1949-1997 

Creator: 
Language and Culture Archive of Ashkenazic Jewry
Phys. Desc: 
129 linear feet (238 document boxes 21 flat boxes 24 card file boxes)
Location: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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Biographical Note

In 1959 Uriel Weinreich, who was Atran Professor of Yiddish Studies at Columbia and Chairman of Columbia University’s Department of Linguistics, began to develop a linguistic questionnaire of approximately 2000 questions which would serve as the basis for the development of a Yiddish language atlas. By the end of 1959 Weinreich and his doctoral student Marvin (Mikhl) Herzog had begun interviewing Eastern European Jews with the linguistic questionnaire. These interviews were conducted and recorded on tape and on question-answer sheets until 1972. In total, 5,755 hours of audio tape and ca. 100,000 pages of accompanying linguistic field notes were collected. Both native speakers of Eastern and Western Yiddish were interviewed. The archive does not, however, include transcriptions of the interviews. The data that constitutes the LCAAJ was collected from 603 locations in Central and Eastern Europe carefully chosen to reflect the distribution of the Yiddish speaking population on the eve of World War II. In a series of interviews lasting anywhere from 2.5 to 16 hours, informants answered questions on a wide variety of topics concerning Yiddish language and culture. After Weinreich’s pre-mature death in 1967 Dr. Herzog became lead researcher of the Atlas project and Atran Professor of Yiddish. Beginning in the 1960s the linguistic interview data was evaluated and analyzed with early computer technology and the researchers produced a variety of maps and scholarly articles based on this data. In the aftermath of Weinreich’s death, during the 1970s and 1980s, the research efforts surrounding the atlas project slowed down. After several efforts to find an American publisher had failed, Marvin Herzog secured the Max Niemeyer Verlag in Germany as a publisher for printed volumes of the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry in the 1990s and subsequently published three out of a projected ten volumes in collaboration with German institutions and researchers Ulrike Kiefer (a former doctoral student at Columbia University) and Robert Neumann, who worked at the Institut für Deutsche Sprache in Mannheim. Marvin Herzog also secured funding for the archival preservation of the decades-old audio tapes in the 1990s. Dr. Herzog donated the Archive to the Columbia University Libraries in 1995. He passed away in 2013.

Scope and Contents

A collection of materials related to the research project of the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry produced from 1949 to 1997. The project was spearheaded by Columbia University’s Yiddish department and the primary researchers involved in the project were Uriel Weinreich, Marvin (Mikhl) Herzog, Mordkhe Schaechter, Vera Baviskar, Robert Neumann, and Ulrike Kiefer. The materials include administrative records, fieldwork and research notes, materials relating to the publication of the second and third volume of the Atlas , as well as other research materials of Uriel Weinreich, and materials related to the publication of The Field of Yiddish . The materials are primarily in English, Yiddish and German. The collection consists of a variety of materials, such as notes, manuscripts and typescripts, correspondence, maps and other records related to the research surrounding the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry . The collection covers all periods of the Atlas project from its incipience based on linguistic research by Uriel Weinreich in the 1950s to the publication of three Atlas volumes and collaboration with German research institutions in the 1990s under the auspices of Marvin (Mikhl) Herzog. The collection contains a strong selection of material related to the fieldwork, research and preparation for publication of the linguistic Atlas , such as notes, data output, and maps generated by the analysis and processing of the linguistic data obtained in the interviews with native Eastern European Yiddish speakers. In addition to this core material the collection also contains administrative records related to the finances and funding of the Atlas project, other research material produced by Uriel Weinreich and manuscripts, typescripts and offprints of articles generated by researches involved with the Atlas project and published, for example, in the series The Field of Yiddish . Content from Series III: Collected Data has been digitized. The answers to the questionnaire have been digitized, from three different formats: blue books, answer sheets, and printouts. These materials are available online here .