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Document Details :
Title: Imagined Speech Communities
Subtitle: Western Ashkenazi Multilingualism as Reflected in Eighteenth-Century Grammars of Hebrew
Author(s): ZWIEP, I.
Journal: Studia Rosenthaliana
Volume: 36 Date: 2002-2003
Language, Moses Mendelssohn implied, enables us to convey our innermost thoughts to others. Yet despite this highly sophisticated means of communication we are incapable of transmitting the true nature of these Empfindungen, which we are doomed to exchange on a level of words only. Thus however vital it is 'zur Sache selbst zu gelangen' as Leibniz had once put it, it remains impossible to pursue the notion of thruth beyond the language that serves to express it.
This preoccupation with the complex interdependence of language and thought was one of the most pressing topoi of eighteenth-century enlightened linguistic thinking. Being recorded in 1783 by a Jewish author, it acquired an almost ironic quality. For Mendelssohn voiced his epistemological doubts at a time when German Jews no longer seemed to employ 'eben dieselben Worte'. In the following decades, the various German-Jewish communities would grdually relinquish their original Yiddish for the by now largely standardised High German variant. In many genres, Hebrew likewise was to make room for German. This study aims to give an overall picture of the process in terms of comprehensive and reliable statistics of this linguistic shift.