Science in Context



Articles

Ber Borochov's “The Tasks of Yiddish Philology”


Barry Trachtenberg a1
a1 University at Albany

Article author query
trachtenberg b   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 

Abstract

Argument

Ber Borochov (1881–1917), the Marxist Zionist revolutionary who founded the political party Poyle Tsien (Workers of Zion), was also one of the key theoreticians of Yiddish scholarship. His landmark 1913 essay, “The Tasks of Yiddish Philology,” was his first contribution to the field and crowned him as its chief ideologue. Modeled after late nineteenth-century European movements of linguistic nationalism, “The Tasks” was the first articulation of Yiddish scholarship as a discrete field of scientific research. His tasks ranged from the practical: creating a standardized dictionary and grammar, researching the origins and development of the language, and establishing a language institute; to the overtly ideological: the “nationalizing and humanizing” of the Yiddish language and its speakers. The essay brought a new level of sophistication to the field, established several of its ideological pillars, and linked Yiddish scholarship to the material needs of the Jewish people. Although “The Tasks” was greeted with a great deal of skepticism upon its publication, after his death, Borochov became widely accepted as the “founder” of modern Yiddish studies.