Bivalent Writing: Hebrew and English Alphabets in Jewish English

In: Journal of Jewish Languages
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  • 1 Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles, CA, USA
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Jewish English writing uses multiple combinations of the Hebrew and English alphabets. This paper demonstrates those uses, giving examples from rabbinic literature, Yiddish and Ladino newspapers, handwritten notes, pedagogical materials, organizations’ and restaurants’ logos, and regalia advertising sports teams, universities, and political candidates. The analysis demonstrates that hybrid combinations of Hebrew and English writing serve four functions: 1) Translanguaging: Enabling people who have access to (elements of) English and a traditionally Hebrew-script language (Yiddish, Ladino, Modern Hebrew, Textual Hebrew, Textual Jewish Aramaic) to represent both languages in the same text; 2) Symbolism: Highlighting English-speaking Jews’ Jewish and other identities simultaneously; 3) Code: Communicating coded messages to other Jews; and 4) Pedagogy: Teaching Hebrew decoding to English speakers or teaching English to readers of Yiddish or Ladino. Digraphic texts are bivalent, seen as part of multiple languages simultaneously.

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