Language ideology in American Jewish thought

Omri Asscher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article establishes the existence of an American Jewish tradition of metalinguistic thought that stretches from the mid-twentieth century to our time. It demonstrates how American Jewish thinkers’ reflections on language implied a response to the claims made on their Jewish identity by their symbolic homeland, Israel. In particular, thinkers rejected the questioning approach of Israeli intellectuals towards English as a medium for Jewish cultivation, and Israel’s fundamentally secular conception of Hebrew as a language and culture. The earlier, postwar thinkers challenged Israeli Hebraist assumptions by framing language as a ‘communicative tool’ that conveys (rather than embodies) religious identity. More recent thinkers took a different approach by suggesting that English is at present already a Jewish language, as it incorporates features based on Hebrew or Yiddish. Earlier and later metalinguistic thought implies continuity, but also a shift of emphasis, in how Jewish particularism could and should be expressed in America.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-408
Number of pages25
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • American Judaism
  • Israeli Hebraism
  • Jewish English
  • homeland-diaspora relations
  • language ideology
  • metalinguistic thought

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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