Saturday, February 18, 2017

Spolsky, The Languages of Diaspora and Return

The Languages of Diaspora and Return

by Bernard Spolsky (Bar-Ilan University).

Until quite recently, the term Diaspora (usually with the capital) meant the dispersion of the Jews in many parts of the world. Now, it is recognized that many other groups have built communities distant from their homeland, such as Overseas Chinese, South Asians, Romani, Armenians, Syrian and Palestinian Arabs. To explore the effect of exile of language repertoires, the article traces the sociolinguistic development of the many Jewish Diasporas, starting with the community exiled to Babylon, and following through exiles in Muslim and Christian countries in the Middle Ages and later. It presents the changes that occurred linguistically after Jews were granted full citizenship. It then goes into details about the phenomenon and problem of the Jewish return to the homeland, the revitalization and revernacularization of the Hebrew that had been a sacred and literary language, and the rediasporization that accounts for the cases of maintenance of Diaspora varieties.