LINGUIST List 15.2567

Wed Sep 15 2004

Diss: Socioling: Benor: 'Second Style...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. sbenor, Second Style Acquisition: The Linguistic Socialization of Newly Orthodox Jews

Message 1: Second Style Acquisition: The Linguistic Socialization of Newly Orthodox Jews

Date: Tue, 14 Sep 2004 15:03:53 -0400 (EDT)
From: sbenor <>
Subject: Second Style Acquisition: The Linguistic Socialization of Newly Orthodox Jews

Institution: Stanford University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Sarah Bunin Benor

Dissertation Title: Second Style Acquisition: The Linguistic
Socialization of Newly Orthodox Jews

Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics 

Subject Language: English (code: ENG), Hebrew (code: HBR), 
Yiddish, Eastern (code: YDD)

Dissertation Director 1: Penny Eckert
Dissertation Director 2: Eve Clark
Dissertation Director 3: John Rickford
Dissertation Director 4: Arnold Eisen

Dissertation Abstract:

When people join a new community, change is central to their
integration process. Newcomers may change how they dress, how they
spend their leisure time, or how they talk. How do they learn and
adopt the styles of their new community? This dissertation explores
the social processes surrounding second style acquisition, focusing on
linguistic style.

The analysis is based on a year of ethnographic and sociolinguistic
fieldwork in a strictly Orthodox community in Philadelphia. Jews who
choose to become Orthodox are called ba'alei teshuva (BTs), as opposed
to those who are "frum 'religious' from birth" (FFBs). Through
observations, interviews, analysis of recorded and observed speech,
and a speech perception experiment, I show how the acquisition of
language and other symbolic practices helps BTs to integrate into the
Orthodox community.

Orthodox Jewish identity is constructed and maintained partly through
distinctive aspects of dress, home decoration, food, music, and
language. Speakers use English with thousands of loanwords from
Hebrew and Yiddish. They exhibit syntactic and semantic transfer from
Yiddish, as in "He wanted that everybody should be there" and "She was
by me ('at my house') for Shabbos ('Sabbath')." And they use many
other distinctive features, including final devoicing (e.g., going =>
goingk), a click discourse marker, and distinctive rise-fall
intonation contours.

All BTs acquire at least some of these features, and some change the
way they speak so much that they can, at times, pass as FFB. I
discuss the factors that affect which features are more likely
acquired and which speakers are more likely to acquire them: salience
(based on community discourses, imitations, and a matched guise test),
individual ability, language ideology, and social alignment and
distinction. Using Lave and Wenger's (1991) model of learning as
legitimate peripheral participation, I show how BTs go through stages
of social and cultural integration, gradually gaining increased access
to roles and styles within the Orthodox community. They are assisted
in their integration by interactions of linguistic socialization. And
they express their liminality - between their former non-Orthodox
selves and the FFB status that they can never attain - through
distinctive combinations of symbolic practices.
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