Max Weinreich (22 April 1894 in Kuldīga, Russian Empire, now Latvia – 29 January 1969 in New York City, USA) was a linguist, specializing in sociolinguistics and the Yiddish language, and the father of the linguist Uriel Weinreich, who edited the Modern Yiddish-English English-Yiddish Dictionary.
Max Weinreich (Russian: Мейер Лазаревич Вейнрейх, Meyer Lazarevich Veynreykh) began his studies in a German school in Kuldiga, transferring to a Russian gymnasium in Libava after four years. He then lived in Dvinsk and Łódź. Between 1909 and 1912 he resided in Saint Petersburg, where he attended I.G. Eizenbet's private Jewish gymnasium for boys. He was raised in a German-speaking family but became fascinated with Yiddish.
In the early 1920s, Weinreich lived in Germany and pursued studies in linguistics at the universities of Berlin and Marburg. In 1923, under the direction of German linguist Ferdinand Wrede in Marburg, he completed his dissertation, entitled “Studien zur Geschichte und dialektischen Gliederung der jiddischen Sprache” (Studies in the history and dialect distribution of the Yiddish language). The dissertation was published in 1993 under the title Geschichte der jiddischen Sprachforschung (History of Yiddish linguistics).
In 1925, Weinreich was the co-founder, along with Nokhum Shtif, Elias Cherikover, and Zalmen Reyzen, of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (originally called the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut — Yiddish Scientific Institute). Although the institute was officially founded during a conference in Berlin, in August 1925, the center of its activities was in Vilna (today Vilnius, Lithuania), which eventually became its official headquarters as well. YIVO's first office in Vilna was in a room in Weinreich's apartment. Remembered as the guiding force of the institute, Weinreich directed its linguistic, or philological section in the period before the Second World War.
Max Weinreich was in Denmark with his wife, Regina Shabad Weinreich (the daughter of a notable doctor and Jewish leader in Vilna Zemach Shabad), and older son, Uriel, when war broke out in 1939. Regina returned to Vilnius, but Max and Uriel stayed abroad, moving to New York City in March 1940. His wife and younger son Gabriel joined them there during the brief period when Vilnius was in independent Lithuania. Weinreich became a professor of Yiddish at City College and re-established YIVO in New York.
Weinreich is often cited as the author of a facetious quip distinguishing between languages and dialects: "A language is a dialect with an army and navy" ("אַ שפראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמײ און פֿלאָט", "a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot"), but he was explicitly quoting an auditor at one of his lectures.
Publications in English:
- History of the Yiddish Language (Volumes 1 and 2) ed. Paul (Hershl) Glasser. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.
- Hitler's professors: the Part of Scholarship in Germany's Crimes Against the Jewish People. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.
- History of the Yiddish language. trans. Shlomo Noble, with the assistance of Joshua A. Fishman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. [Footnotes omitted.]
In Yiddish and German:
- Bilder fun der yidisher literaturgeshikhte fun di onheybn biz Mendele Moykher-Sforim, 1928.
- Das Jiddische Wissenschaftliche Institut ("Jiwo") die wissenschaftliche Zentralstelle des Ostjudentums, 1931.
- Fun beyde zaytn ployt: dos shturemdike lebn fun Uri Kovnern, dem nihilist, 1955
- Geschichte der jiddischen Sprachforschung. herausgegeben von Jerold C. Frakes, 1993
- Di geshikhte fun beyzn beyz, 1937.
- Geshikhte fun der yidisher shprakh: bagrifn, faktn, metodn, 1973.
- Hitlers profesorn : heylek fun der daytsher visnshaft in daytshland farbrekhns kegn yidishn folk. Nyu-York: Yidisher visnshaftlekher institut, Historishe sektsye, 1947.
- Mekhires-Yosef: ... aroysgenumen fun seyfer "Tam ve-yashar" un fun andere sforim ..., 1923.
- Der Onheyb: zamlbukh far literatur un visnshaft, redaktirt fun D. Aynhorn, Sh. Gorelik, M. Vaynraykh, 1922.
- Oysgeklibene shriftn, unter der redaktsye fun Shmuel Rozhanski, 1974.
- Der oytser fun der yidisher shprakh fun Nokhem Stutshkov; unter der redaktsye fun Maks Vaynraykh, c. 1950
- Praktishe gramatik fun der yidisher shprakh F. Haylperin un M. Vaynraykh, 1929.
- Shtaplen fir etyudn tsu der yidisher shprakhvisnshaft un literaturgeshikhte, 1923.
- Shturemvint bilder fun der yidisher geshikhte in zibtsntn yorhundert
- Di shvartse pintelekh. Vilne: Yidisher visnshaftlekher institut, 1939.
- Di Yidishe visnshaft in der heyntiker tsayt. Nyu-York: 1941.
- For Max Weinreich on his seventieth birthday; studies in Jewish languages, literature, and society, 1964.
- J. Benjamins, American sociolinguistics: theorists and theory groups, passim
- Анатолий Хаеш, Генеалогические сведения в документах санкт-петербургской гимназии Эйзенбета
- E. F. K. Koerner, Toward a History of American Linguistics (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 261.
- Paul Glasser, ""Weinreich, Max," The Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, ed. Gershon David Hundert [New York, N.Y.]: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (website based on the print edition published by Yale University Press in 2008).
- Mordkhe Schaechter, and Jean Baumgarten (2nd ed.), "Weinreich, Max," Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007), vol. 20, p. 723-724.
- Victor H. Mair, The Columbia History of Chinese Literature, p. 24 full text: "It has often been facetiously remarked... the falsity of this quip can be demonstrated..."
- Henry Hitchings, The Language Wars: A History of Proper English, p. 20 full text: "There's an old joke that..."
- S. Mchombo, "Nyanja" in Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie, eds., Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world, p. 793 full text: "A recurrent joke in linguistics courses ... is the quip that ..."
- David E. Fishman, The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture, University of Pittsburgh Press (2005), ISBN 0-8229-4272-0.
- Gershon David Hundert, YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, Yale University Press (2008), ISBN 0-300-11903-8.