Uriel Weinreich bigraphy, stories - American linguist

Uriel Weinreich : biography

23 May 1926 - 30 March 1967

Uriel Weinreich (‎; 23 May 1926 – 30 March 1967) was a Polish-American linguist.


Uriel Weinreich was born in Wilno (since 1945: Vilnius) to a family of Polish Jews, the first child of Max Weinreich () and Regina Szabad. He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University, and went on to teach there, specializing in Yiddish studies, sociolinguistics, and dialectology. He advocated the increased acceptance of semantics, and compiled the iconic Modern English-Yiddish, Yiddish-English Dictionary, published shortly after his death.

Weinreich was the son of the linguist Max Weinreich, and the mentor of both Marvin Herzog, with whom he laid the groundwork for the Language and Cultural Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry (LCAAJ), and William Labov. Weinreich is also credited with being the first linguist to recognize the phenomenon of interlanguage 19 years before Larry Selinker coined the term in his 1972 article "Interlanguage". In his benchmark book Languages in Contact, Weinreich first noted that learners of second languages consider linguistic forms from their first language equal to forms in the target language. However, the essential inequality of these forms leads to speech which the native speakers of the target language consider unequal. He died in New York of cancer prior to the publication of his Yiddish-English dictionary.

In a tribute by Dovid Katz, "Though he lived less than forty-one years, Uriel Weinreich ... managed to facilitate the teaching of Yiddish language at American universities, build a new Yiddish language atlas, and demonstrate the importance of Yiddish for the science of linguistics."Dovid Katz, Words on Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish (Basic Books, 2004: ISBN 0-465-03728-3), pp. 356–57.


  • College Yiddish: An Introduction to the Yiddish Language and to Jewish Life and Culture (YIVO, New York, 1st edition 1949, 6th edition 1999), ISBN 0-914512-26-9.
  • Languages in Contact: Findings and Problems. New York, 1953. Reprint, Mouton, The Hague, 1963, ISBN 90-279-2689-1.
  • Say It In Yiddish: A Phrase Book for Travelers (with Beatrice Weinreich). Dover, New York, 1958, ISBN 0-486-20815-X.
  • Modern english-yidish yidish-english verterbukh. Modern English-Yiddish, Yiddish-English Dictionary (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1968 and Schocken, new paperback edition 1987), ISBN 0-8052-0575-6.
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