Sociolinguistics: Part 10

Sociolinguistics: Part 10

Language is a powerful tool.
Irene Yi
Irene Yi

Last week, we covered the courageous language revival undertaken by a young boy. We are going to discuss more language revival this week.

The most notable example of a language revival movement is the revival of Hebrew. When the Jewish people first arrived in Israel, Hebrew was the national language. Hebrew thrived for a millennium -- until the Bar Kohba. All too familiar, we find the violence of discrimination and prejudice, as it takes out yet another million-dollar language. Hebrew was confined and forced to be used only in prayer and literature.

For over seventeen hundred years, Hebrew was not a spoken language. It never completely died out, though; it patiently remained dormant, ready to explode with eloquence and grace when the moment was right.

On October 13, 1881, an advocate for Zionism started what would become the greatest language revival movement. A man called Eliezer Ben-Yehuda decided that to unite all Jews across the world, Hebrew must be brought back to life.

Ben-Yehuda was born in Belarus and grew up learning ancient Hebrew since the young age of three. He hoped to become a rabbi, so he became well-read in the Torah, Mishna, and Talmud. He also learned German, French, and Russian; obviously, he saw how powerful language could be. He knew of all the benefits one could reap from being multilingual.

He believed that in order for Israel to be a fully united country, it would need have its citizens speak the same language. He moved to Jerusalem and began his quest.

As it turns out, Hebrew was already spoken as a pidgin in the marketplaces of Israel. For those who do not know, a pidgin is a grammatically simplified “language” developed as a means of communication between two groups of people. Often, the two groups of people are vastly different and speak different languages. In order to live in the proximity that they do, they must be able to communicate somehow. A pidgin usually incorporates features of both parties’ languages and combines them into one. If the pidgin becomes fully developed, and a grammar evolves, the language becomes solidified as a creole.

Many pidgins were found on the border between Native American tribes and white settlers in the early 1700s. A notable creole that has fully developed is Haitian Creole, which took features from both French and the Native Haitians’ African tongues, and turned it into a full-blown grammar system.

Anyway, back to Hebrew.

The merchants and street vendors in Israel needed a middle language in which to carry out commercial procedures. Sephardic Jews spoke Ladino or Arabic, while Ashkenazi Jews spoke Yiddish. What were they to do? They looked to a language that all Jews should be familiar with: Hebrew. It functioned as a makeshift pidgin, and it worked out conveniently in the revival movement.

Ben-Yehuda was adamant in his position to revive Hebrew. He raised his son in only Hebrew and sheltered the child from any other language while growing up. Thus, his son became the first native speaker of Modern Hebrew.

That wasn’t enough for Ben-Yehuda, as he knew that for a language to rise from the dead, it would have to be spoken by many native speakers -- not just one. He and his group of friends swore to only converse in Hebrew from then on. His efforts were monumental, and Hebrew continued to live even after he died. Communities in the First and Second Aliya established Hebrew schools where children could be exposed to the language at a young age.

Finally, Hebrew became more official, more systematic, and more legitimate. It eventually morphed into the national language.

One person commented on Ben-Yehuda’s contribution to the movement, saying that “Before Ben-Yehuda, Jews could speak Hebrew; after him, they did.”

Hope is not lost for many of the endangered languages out there. All it takes is a wish, and a village willing to work for it.

Cover Image Credit: Irene Yi

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I Am A College Student, And I Think Free Tuition Is Unfair To Everyone Who's Already Paid For It

Stop expecting others to pay for you.


I attend Fordham University, a private university in the Bronx.

I commute to school because I can't afford to take out more loans than I already do.

Granted, I've received scholarships because of my grades, but they don't cover my whole tuition. I am nineteen years old and I have already amassed the debt of a 40-year-old. I work part-time and the money I make covers the bills I have to pay. I come from a middle-class family, but my dad can't afford to pay off my college loans.

I'm not complaining because I want my dad to pay my loans off for me; rather I am complaining because while my dad can't pay my loans off (which, believe me, he wants too), he's about to start paying off someone else's.

During the election, Bernie frequently advocated for free college.

Now, if he knew enough about economics he would know it simply isn't feasible. Luckily for him, he is seeing his plan enacted by Cuomo in NY. Cuomo has just announced that in NY, state public college will be free.

Before we go any further, it's important to understand what 'free' means.

Nothing is free; every single government program is paid for by the taxpayers. If you don't make enough to have to pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. If you live off welfare and don't pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. When someone offers someone something free, it's easy to take it, like it, and advocate for it, simply because you are not the one paying for it.

Cuomo's free college plan will cost $163,000,000 in the first year (Did that take your breath away too?). Now, in order to pay for this, NY state will increase their spending on higher education to cover these costs. Putting two and two together, if the state decides to raise their budget, they need money. If they need money they look to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are now forced to foot the bill for this program.

I think education is extremely important and useful.

However, my feelings on the importance of education does not mean that I think it should be free. Is college expensive? Yes -- but more so for private universities. Public universities like SUNY Cortland cost around $6,470 per year for in-state residents. That is still significantly less than one of my loans for one semester.

I've been told that maybe I shouldn't have picked a private university, but like I said, I believe education is important. I want to take advantage of the education this country offers, and so I am going to choose the best university I could, which is how I ended up at Fordham. I am not knocking public universities, they are fine institutions, they are just not for me.

My problems with this new legislation lie in the following: Nowhere are there any provisions that force the student receiving aid to have a part-time job.

I work part-time, my sister works part-time, and plenty of my friends work part-time. Working and going to school is stressful, but I do it because I need money. I need money to pay my loans off and buy my textbooks, among other things. The reason I need money is because my parents can't afford to pay off my loans and textbooks as well as both of my sisters'. There is absolutely no reason why every student who will be receiving aid is not forced to have a part-time job, whether it be working in the school library or waitressing.

We are setting up these young adults up for failure, allowing them to think someone else will always be there to foot their bills. It's ridiculous. What bothers me the most, though, is that my dad has to pay for this. Not only my dad, but plenty of senior citizens who don't even have kids, among everyone else.

The cost of living is only going up, yet paychecks rarely do the same. Further taxation is not a solution. The point of free college is to help young adults join the workforce and better our economy; however, people my parents' age are also needed to help better our economy. How are they supposed to do so when they can't spend their money because they are too busy paying taxes?

Free college is not free, the same way free healthcare isn't free.

There is only so much more the taxpayers can take. So to all the students about to get free college: get a part-time job, take personal responsibility, and take out a loan — just like the rest of us do. The world isn't going to coddle you much longer, so start acting like an adult.

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Writing Saved My Sanity

Write it all down when you can't talk to anyone.


I love writing.

I have since elementary school, and I've dreamed of becoming a published author. I started off writing stupid plays in elementary school, then it grew it almost writing a full-blown novel in middle school. I have no idea where that thing went to. It was all notebook paper and bad writing. In high school, my writing was kinda pushed to the side so I could focus on school. When I entered college, I started writing small poems about my now ex-boyfriend.

I was scared to express myself to him sometimes, the intensity of my feelings for him scared me. So instead of telling him, I wrote them down. When I tried to share them with him, he hated it. He thought writing down feelings was weird and creepy. So I didn't share anything else with him. When we finally broke up for good, everything just poured out of me. What I couldn't express verbally, I wrote or typed out.

I always have ideas flowing through my head. They never cease and I wouldn't want them to. Writing gives me an escape, from stress, work, school, or fights. It gives me a place to vent and to be open with everything. This is a reason I love writing for Odyssey, not only has this place brought me amazing friends but revived my love for writing. I'm never without my notebook anymore, I'd get distracted in class by an idea and have to write I think then and there.

I love sharing my more personal writing with close friends, especially my poems as of late. I found that I have a voice for young women who find themselves in a toxic relationship much like mine was. I want to speak out and show them that you can grow from the bullshit. It may take some time, but you will be better.

Writing saved my sanity. It allows me to express myself without having to use my actual voice. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate public speaking. I tend to psych myself out leading up to it. My current projects include writing for Odyssey every week, I'm in the process of trying to continue my short stories, and I'm excited to announce that I'm currently working on my very first poetry book!

Writing has given me so much, and I'm so looking forward to making a career out of something I love so much.

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