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Columbia University Uses Computers to Prepare Ashkenazic ‘language, Cultural Atlas’

Columbia University is employing computers to prepare a “Language and Cultural Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry,” a compendium of the Yiddish language and how it was spoken by Jews of Eastern and Central Europe for a thousand years.

The project is directed by Marvin I. Herzog, associate professor of linguistics and Yiddish studies at Columbia. The atlas will contain hundreds of maps documenting the geographical distribution of variations in use and the meaning of words, pronunciation, idioms and grammatical patterns which existed among Yiddish-speaking Jews until the Nazi era.

Prof. Herzog said, “The concept underlying the Atlas is that language and culture vary in time and space. Our object is to determine the location of the boundaries between variants and to infer from location whatever is possible about the history of the language and its speakers.”