National Identity and the New Hebrew Language: with Miryam Segal

FEB 10, 2014 | 6:30 PM TO 8:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




February 10, 2014: 6:30 PM-8:00 PM





MEMEAC and co-sponsor: Center for Jewish Studies


Common wisdom on revival of Hebrew as language of everyday living is that Eliezer Ben-Yehuda instituted the New Hebrew in the Land of Israel in a “Sephardic” pronunciation of the “Eastern Jews” at the end of the nineteenth century. In fact, the sound of the New Hebrew—in both poetry and speech—was controversial, and debated by teachers, linguists and poets (sometimes in their poems!). There were several different proposals for the sounds that would enliven Hebrew as a spoken language at the turn of the twentieth century, including one that hoped to both revive aspects of ancient Hebrew and integrate sound samples of languages from around the world.

Miryam Segal is associate professor in the department of Classical, Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures, and Director of the Religious Studies program at Queens College. Her book on the controversial shift from Ashkenazic dialects to the new accent in poetry and speech, A New Sound in Hebrew Poetry: Poetics, Politics, Accent, is the first book-length work on the topic in any language. Prior to joining the faculty at Queens College, Professor Segal was assistant professor in the Comparative Literature Department at Indiana University, and visiting assistant professor at the Harvard Divinity School.

Discussant: Prof. Ammiel Alcalay (PhD Program English at The Graduate Center, and Department of Classical, Middle Eastern  and Asian Languages and Cultures at Queens College, CUNY).