Fleshing Out the Theorists – Uriel Weinreich

by Craig Evans

In anticipation of one of my third-year module options, Bilingualism and Language Contact, I thought I’d investigate one of the more prominent theorists in the field. Here’s a short portrait of the individual behind the theory…

A time of war: of mass population displacement, of destruction and upheaval, of new beginnings in the midst of chaos. It was also the time of Uriel Weinreich’s formative teenage years. Weinreich was 13 when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. When it happened, the young Weinreich, who came from Wilno in the east of the country, was with his parents in Copenhagen. Weinreich’s father, Max, a renowned linguist specialising in the Yiddish language, was travelling with his family to the International Congress of Linguists in Brussels when they heard the news. Soon after, the Soviet Union advanced into east Poland, and the long-disputed territory of Weinreich’s birthplace, Wilno, was handed over to Lithuania, readopting its old name Vilnius. Europe was in the grip of war, the future seemed bleak and uncertain, and the best option left for the Weinreichs was to seek a new life in America. Continue reading