LAZĂR ȘĂINEANU (April 23, 1859-May 11, 1934)
He was a Romanian philologist, born in Ploiești, Romania. To received citizen’s rights and be able better to do scholarly work, he converted to Christianity and Romanianized his name from Eliezer Schein. Thanks to his first-rate studies of Yiddish, he became one of the foundational figures in Yiddish philology. His main work concerning Yiddish, Studiu dialectologic asupra graiului evreo-german (A dialectological study of Judeo-German speech), was published in 1889 (Bucharest), and it was subsequently expanded and translated from Romanian into French (Paris, 1902). Pieces of this work were published in Chaim Zhitlovsky’s Dos naye leben (The new life) 7-9 (1911). “This work,” wrote Zalmen Reyzen, “is the first effort at a scholarly Yiddish grammar and one of the best and most basic of works in the field of Yiddish linguistics…. Aside from a treatment of Yiddish phonetics, word formation, and the various elements of a Yiddish dictionary, Șăineanu dealt with the history of the Yiddish language, its dialects, [and] the history and bibliography of Yiddish philology.” “He was the first to introduce into Yiddish language research,” noted Khayim Gininger, “important European methods and scope, and thus the first to uncover the fundamental fact that the sources of Yiddish were to be sought in Middle High German, which found organic continuation in a full array of contemporary German dialects. Yiddish linguistic research preserves this very approach in every direction till the present day…. [He can] be called the father of Yiddish linguistics.” He died in Paris.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3 (under “Senean”); Khayim Gininger, in Tshernovitser bleter (Czernowitz) 182 (1934); Moyshe Laks, in Naye prese (Paris) (February 26, 1971).