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Jewish Argument Style among Russian Revolutionaries

In: Journal of Jewish Languages
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Jewish speech was heard in Russian revolutionary contexts as characterized by emphatic tones, rhetorical questions, an argumentative stance, and sarcasm, all performative elements of Jewish English (je) as well. I examine depictions of Jewish Russian (jr) in the world of the non-Jewish Socialist Revolutionary (sr) leader Victor Chernov. This article first introduces Chernov, then analyzes his depictions of jr, and finally looks at transcripts of speeches by sr leaders for evidence of Jewish speech style. I use speech length, bold-face, exclamation points, and question marks as proxies for the heightened emotion and argumentative stance associated with jr. My analysis indicates no significant difference between the speech of Jewish and non-Jewish sr leaders as a whole, but shows that Chernov’s own speech contains a significantly higher than average use of these elements. This result complicates the notion of ethnolect and suggests that individuals’ evaluations of other people’s language should be examined in light of their biographies.

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