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Jewish Religious Multilingualism

  • Bernard Spolsky
Chapter

Abstract

The boundaries between sacred and profane language are not fixed. One of the most famous international language management actions of recent years was the decision of Vatican II to permit conducting the mass in the vernacular rather than in the traditional Latin, thus moving a large number of modern languages into the sacred category. Fishman (2002) demonstrates that even without adding specific religious functions, Yiddish in the twentieth century took on many of the attributes of holiness.1 Some religions are less flexible: the fact that Arabic is so widely spoken today is partly accounted for by the insistence of Islam that all religious services be conducted only in it. Hebrew was kept alive for nearly 2000 years after people stopped speaking it by its continued use as language of prayer and religious learning. In much of Africa and in other parts of the world too, the current sociolinguistic situation owes a great deal to decisions by missionaries on which local dialects to standardize for Bible translation and prayer. All of these point to the central role that religion and religious institutions play in language policy. Thus, there is a fruitful mutual influence between religions and language policies — religions and their institutions have language policies, and these in turn have wider influences on the societies in which they exist.

Keywords

Language Policy Jewish Community Sacred Text Language Choice Heritage Language 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Bernard Spolsky 2010

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  • Bernard Spolsky

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