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Prof Lily Kahn
329 Foster Court
Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies
UCL, Gower Street
Tel: 020 7679 7171
Prof Lily Kahn profile picture
  • Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Languages
  • Dept of Hebrew & Jewish Studies
  • Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Dr Kahn completed her BA (2003), MA (2004), and PhD (2008) in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at UCL, specialising in Hebrew and Yiddish philology. She teaches courses on Hebrew, Yiddish, and historical linguistics in the Department and is Co-Convenor of the interdepartmental BA in Ancient Languages. She supervises dissertations on Hebrew, Yiddish, translation studies, and Semitic linguistics. Her main research areas are Hebrew in Eastern Europe, Hasidic Yiddish, Jewish languages, and endangered language revitalisation.

Research Themes
Research Summary

Dr Kahn's research focuses on Hebrew, Yiddish, and other Jewish languages, translation studies, and minority and endangered languages.

Her first monograph constituted a study of the verbal system in Late Maskilic Hebrew prose fiction, which investigated issues such as unprecedented morphological features and the tense/aspect system in comparison with earlier canonical varieties of the language as well as with Israeli Hebrew.

Her second monograph was a British Academy-funded reference grammar of the Hebrew tales composed in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Eastern Europe by followers of the Hasidic Jewish spiritual movement. These tales are extremely significant linguistically because they comprise the only extensive records of narrative Hebrew produced in traditional Eastern European Jewish society just before the early twentieth-century revernacularisation of the language in Palestine. The findings indicate that Hasidic Hebrew reflects a complex mix of elements from earlier forms of the language, influence from the authors' native Yiddish, and innovative features; moreover, it exhibits a high degree of overlap with contemporaneous Maskilic Hebrew fiction, suggesting that both literatures are components of a distinctly Eastern European variety of Hebrew.

Dr Kahn's most recent monograph is an annotated bilingual edition of the earliest Hebrew translations of Shakespeare's plays, Itiel (Othello, 1874)and Ram veYa'el (Romeo and Juliet, 1878). The volume, which is the product of an AHRC Leadership Fellowship (2015-17), includes the full text of the two Hebrew plays alongside a complete English back-translation with a commentary examining the rich array of Hebrew sources and Jewish allusions that Salkinson incorporates into his work. The edition is complemented by an introduction to the history of Jewish Shakespeare reception in Central and Eastern Europe; a survey of Salkinson’s biography including discussion of his unusual status as a Jewish convert to Christianity; and an overview of his translation strategies.

Her current major research projects are a Leverhulme Trust-funded reference grammar of Maskilic Hebrew and an AHRC-funded research project on contemporary Hasidic Yiddish worldwide, in conjunction with Kriszta Eszter Szendroi (UCL Linguistics). She is also currently working with UCL colleague Sonya Yampolskaya on contemporary Ashkenazic Hebrew as used in Hasidic communities outside Israel. She is also co-editor with Riitta-Liisa Valijarvi (UCL SSEES) of two UCL Press book series, Grammars of World and Minority Languages and Textbooks of World and Minority Languages.

She is also engaged in research on other Jewish languages and on languages of the wider world. She recently co-wrote a grammar of the North Sami language and a grammar of West Greenlandic with UCL colleague Riitta-Liisa Valijarvi (Routledge, 2017 and 2021 respectively), co-edited Brill's Handbook of Jewish Languages with Aaron Rubin (2017), and has recently co-authored (with Aaron Rubin)a book on Jewish languages called Jewish Languages from A to Z (Routledge, 2020). 

Teaching Summary

Dr Kahn currently teaches the following courses in the Department (selection varies by year):

  • Advanced Biblical Hebrew: an advanced-level survey of Biblical Hebrew linguistic issues
  • Introduction to Rabbinic Hebrew: an overview of Rabbinic Hebrew orthography, morphology, syntax, and texts
  • Introduction to Ugaritic: a survey of Ugaritic grammar and study of documentary and literary texts
  • History of the Hebrew Language: an overview of the 3,000-year history of Hebrew from its beginnings to the 21st century 

She also co-teaches a module on language contact in the Danube region with colleagues from UCL SELCS and SSEES.

Academic Background
2008   Doctor of Philosophy University College London
2004   Master of Arts University College London
2003   Bachelor of Arts University College London
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