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Natalie Zemon Davis - Languages of the People: A Romanian-Jewish Philologist on Yiddish, Romanian and French

Wednesday, February 14, 2018,
  • Location: Divinity School, Reading Room

Program in Jewish Studies Lecture Series

Talk Description:

Laz'r Ș'ineanu (1859-1934) was a pioneering philologist and folklorist in his native Romania, bringing to bear on Yiddish and Romanian the historical and pluralistic approach to language developed in France by Michel Bréal and in Germany by Hugo Schuchardt. His early interest in collecting Jewish folk-sayings and his pioneering lexicographical study of Yiddish (1889) fit well with the historical orientation of the new Romanian philology and led to his publications on Romanian folktales and on the influence of Turkish and other foreign languages on the Romanian language.   When anti-Semitism and nationalistic controversy about his approach to the Romanian language drove him to France in 1901, Lazare Sainéan (as he was now called) applied his method successfully to the history of French argot and to the language of Rabelais, but got little response to his work on Yiddish.  “Languages of the People” traces the relation of this philological trajectory to the conflicts of the time –in Romania and in France and among Jewish groups in Europe – about what constitutes a nation and who can belong to it.

Co-sponsored by the Department of History, European Studies, and German and Eastern European Studies.