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Filologishe Shriftn

Three-volume series published in Vilna by the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) in 1926, 1928, and 1929. Filologishe shriftn (Studies in Philology) was coedited by Zalmen Reyzen and Max Weinreich. The publication continued the tradition established by the pioneer Yiddish academic collection Der pinkes: Yorbukh fun der geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur un shprakh, far folklor, kritik un bibliografye (The Chronicle: Yearbook for the History of Yiddish Literature and Language, for Folklore, Criticism, and Bibliography; 1913), edited by Shmuel Niger, which had also been produced by the Kletskin Publishing House in Vilna.

The title of the series alluded to Ber Borokhov’s 1913 definition, formulated in his article “Di oyfgabn fun der yiddisher filologye” (The Tasks of Yiddish Philology) published in Der pinkes, of philology as a national field of studies and his assertion that philology “stipulates that the language it deals with has, at least in retrospect, a cultural and historical value.” The inaugural volume of Filologishe shriftn, titled the Landoy-bukh (Landau Book), was a Festschrift in honor of the German Jewish philologist Alfred Landau (1850–1935). The series, especially its first volume, underscored the dual objective of the Vilna school of Yiddish scholarship: on the one hand, the Vilna scholars were zealously territorial, advocating autonomous Yiddish scholarship; on the other hand, they sought recognition among established European academics. Landau’s German writings on Yiddish philology, most notably folklore, were chosen to symbolize links between the Western and Yiddish academic worlds. In fact, his articles on folklore and the Slavic component of Yiddish belong to the most significant publications of the series.

Filologishe shriftn established numerous international links with academics in various fields and became a virtual Who’s Who of the young Yiddish academic world. In its pages, the central role among the contributors was played by scholars, often autodidacts, from Yiddishist circles in Europe, America, and Palestine. Solomon Birnbaum (in Hamburg) attempted to formulate a difference between dialects and literary languages, and Evgenii Kagaroff (of Leningrad) discussed peculiarities of Yiddish syntax and the use of cases in Yiddish. Niger published Borokhov’s scheme of the history of Yiddish. Zelig Kalmanovitch analyzed the dialect of Courland. Daniel Leibl, a writer based in Tel Aviv, wrote etymological notes—the perennially popular domain for nonprofessional Yiddish linguists.

In the 1920s, Soviet authorities tolerated cooperation with YIVO; hence, works by authors from the USSR were included in the three volumes. Yisroel Tsinberg (Leningrad), the foremost historian of Jewish literature, wrote on Old Yiddish literature. The leading Soviet Yiddish linguist Ayzik Zaretski, whose university degree was in mathematics, attempted to create a new system of Yiddish grammar based on algebraic symbols and definitions. Shloyme Beilin, a rabbi from Irkutsk, emerged as an improbable advocate of radical spelling reforms in Yiddish. In general, however, Filologishe shriftn did not discuss issues of contemporary language planning, which dominated in the Kiev-based Di yidishe shprakh (The Yiddish Language), edited by Nokhem Shtif. Characteristically, the article Shtif published in Filologishe shriftn was devoted to historical issues. The periodical YIVO-bleter (YIVO Pages), launched in 1931, continued the tradition of Filologishe shriftn.

Suggested Reading

Itzik Nakhmen Gottesman, Defining the Yiddish Nation: The Jewish Folklorists of Poland (Detroit, 2003).