Saturday, 14 May 2016


MORTKHE VAYNGER (September 9, 1890-February 4, 1929)
            He was born in Poltava, Ukraine.  In the late 1890s, his father and family moved to Warsaw.  He graduated high school in 1911 and entered the faculty of philology of Warsaw University with the explicit goal of devoting himself thereafter to studies of Yiddish philology; already in his student years, he published a series of works on Yiddish orthography and dialectology.  In 1913 he brought out two pamphlets concerning the reform of Yiddish script and Yiddish spelling.  In 1914 he graduated from university, but due to the outbreak of WWI, he discontinued his linguistic activities for about ten years, and turned to working as a private tutor—initially in Kharkov and later in Moscow—and he was then mobilized and sent to the front in the Vilna region.  In November 1916 he was dispatched to Tsaritsyn with the student training battalion for military officers.  After the Revolution, he was sent to Tashkent to officer school and was a Russian war commander in Persia.  In December 1917 he was demobilized and became a teacher in the Jewish school in Tashkent.  For a short time he belonged to the local group of the Bund.  From March 1919, he was a member of the Russian Communist Party.  He fought on the front against Dutov’s Cossacks.  Over the years 1919-1921 he was secretary of the party and of a string of other high-level state agencies in Turkestan.  He traveled around collecting taxes from the Cossacks in the steppes.  He was secretary, 1922-1923, of the Central Asian Communist University in Tashkent.  He later moved to Minsk where he became the manager of the Jewish division of the pedagogical faculty and lecturer in Yiddish dialectology and Germanics in Byelorussian State University.  He published articles and pamphlets concerned with changing Yiddish orthography and collecting dialectological data.  He was one of the most active members of the All-Soviet Orthographic Conference in Kharkov (April 1928).  He later became chairman of the language commission in the Yiddish section and substitute director of the Byelorussian State University, and the initiator and manager toward an academic dictionary and language atlas.  He was one of the creators of Soviet Yiddish linguistics.  He committed suicide.
            A complete bibliography of his work may be found in a special issue of Yidishe shprakh (Yiddish language) dedicated to his memory.  A portion of his books and major articles would include: “Vegn der shprakh un oysleygung fun Seyfer fun reb anshl” (On the language and spelling in Seyfer fun reb anshl [Volume of R. Anshl],” Lebn un visnshaft (Life and scholarship) (1912); “Dyalektologishe bamerkungen” (Dialectological remarks), in Zamelbikher far yidishn folklor, filologye un kultur-geshikhte (Anthologies on Jewish folklore, philology, and cultural history), ed. Noyekh Prilucki, vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1912), pp. 126-34; “Yidish anthalt fremde verter, iz yidish a shprakh?” (Yiddish contains foreign words, is Yiddish a language?), Unzer zhurnal (Our journal), ed. Aleksandr Farba, 1 (1913), pp. 15-19 (Warsaw); “Yidish anthalt fremde verter, iz yidish a shprakh?” Unzer zhurnal 2 (1913), pp. 19-22; “Hebreyishe klangen in der yidisher shprakh” (Hebrew sounds in the Yiddish language), Der pinkes (The records), ed. Shmuel Niger (Vilna, 1913), pp. 79-84; Yidisher sintaksis (Yiddish syntax) (Warsaw, 1913), 88 pp.; Mayn oysleyg (My spelling [plan]) (Warsaw, 1913), 21 pp.; Mayn alef-beys (My alphabet) (Warsaw, 1913), 22 pp.; Vos, vi azoy un ba vemen klaybn un farshraybn (What, how, and with whom to select and to record) (Minsk, 1925), 13 pp.; Forshn yidishe dyalektn (Researching Yiddish dialects) (Minsk: Institute of Byelorussian Culture, 1926), 15 pp.;  “Instruktsye farn verter-aroysshayber funem yidishn akademishn verterbukh” (Instructions for the explicator of words in a Yiddish academic dictionary), Tsaytshrift (Periodical), vol. 1 (Minsk, 1926), pp. 269-72; “Vegn der yidishn shprakhatlas” (On the Yiddish language atlas), Di yidishe shprakh (The Yiddish language) 1 (1927), p. 45 (Kiev); “Vegn dem yidishn alef-beys un oysleyg” (On the Yiddish alphabet and spelling), Yidishe ortografye (Yiddish orthography) 1 (Kiev, 1928), pp. 34-56; “Lingvistishe kartografye un der yidisher shprakhatlas” (Linguistic cartography and the Yiddish language atlas), Tsaytshrift, vol. 2-3 (Minsk, 1927-1928), pp. 869-72; “Shprakhvisnshaft un oysleyg” (Language scholarship and spelling), Yidishe ortografye 1 (Kiev, 1928), pp. 27-34; “Yidishe etimologyes” (Yiddish etymologies), Shriftn far vaysrusishn melukhe-universitet (Writings of Byelorussian State University), vol. 1 (Minsk, 1929), pp. 61-67; “Lingvistishe kveles fun mendeles shprakh” (Linguistic sources of Mendele’s language), Shriftn far vaysrusishn melukhe-universitet, vol. 1 (Minsk, 1929), pp. 68-76; Yidish dyalektologye (Yiddish dialectology) (Minsk, 1929), 156 pp.  There is also: L. Vilenkin, Yidisher shprakhatlas fun sovetfarband (Yiddish language atlas of the Soviet Union), based on materials collected by Mortkhe Vaynger (Minsk, 1931), 87 pp., with 75 geographical charts.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; A. Zaretski, “Di biblyografye fun kh. m. vayngers arbetn” (Bibliography of Kh. M. Vaynger’s works); “Vaynger, der lingvist” (Vayner, the linguist); N. Shtif, in Yidishe shprakh (Kiev) (January-February 1929); A. Gurshteyn, “A nayer vendpunkt in der mendele-forshung” (A new landmark in research on Mendele), Visnshaftlekhe yorbikher (Moscow) 1 (1929); L. Vilenkin, in Shtern (Minsk) 3 (1929), pp. 63-67; “Nekrolog” (Obituary), Pinkes amerikaner opteyl fun yivo (Records of the American section of YIVO), 2.1 (New York, 1929); Max Weinreich, reviews in Yivo-bleter 1 (1931), pp. 81-84; Kh[atskl] Nodel, “Oyflebn dos biblyografye-vezn” (Reviving the institution of bibliography), Eynikeyt (Moscow) (July 5, 1947); Y. Mark, “In farteydikung fun shtimen alef” (In defense of the silent alef), Yidishe shprakh (April 1959).
Alexander Pomerants

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 238.]

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