Weinreich, Uriel

Weinreich, Uriel, 1926–67, Polish-American linguist, b. Vilnius, Poland (now in Lithuania), Ph.D. Columbia Univ., 1951. Weinreich taught linguistics at Columbia (1951–67) and is noted for his contributions to Yiddish studies, sociolinguistics, dialectology, and for the increased acceptance of semantics as a branch of linguistics. His dissertation (1951) on bilinguals in Switzerland was adapted into Languages in Contact (1953). In 1952 he demonstrated that what had been regarded as the mysterious reappearance of an older form of Yiddish pronunciation in NE Europe was the result of immigrants moving there from regions where the older pronunciation had never disappeared. In his work in semantics Weinreich argued for a narrow rather than a broad concept of meaning. He was concerned with the distinction as well as the relation between the syntactic (involving word order and sentence structure) and the semantic (what words and sentences mean) analysis of language. Much of his semantic theory was influenced by Noam Chomsky and transformational grammar.

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