UCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities


60 seconds with... Lily Kahn

3 November 2020

Meet Lily Kahn, Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Languages, UCL Department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies. Lily will be delivering her Inaugural Lecture 'A Journey through the World of Jewish Languages', on Tuesday 10 November 2020. Read on for a sneak preview...

A Journey through the World of Jewish Languages

Tell us a little about your research...

My main research areas are Hebrew in Eastern Europe, Yiddish, other Jewish languages, and endangered and minority languages more generally. Another research interest is translation studies, with a focus on early Hebrew and Yiddish translations of Shakespeare’s plays. I’m currently working on a grammar of nineteenth-century Enlightenment Hebrew, co-running a research project on contemporary Hasidic Yiddish, and co-writing a book on the history of the Hebrew language. I’m also co-editor of two book series for UCL Press, Grammars of World and Minority Languages and Textbooks of World and Minority Languages.

Why is your research important?

I feel passionately about the need for the documentation, maintenance, and protection of minority and endangered languages, and much of my research is geared towards helping with these efforts. I believe that respect for linguistic diversity and for minority language rights are key elements of broader respect for cultural, religious, and societal diversity. I hope that my research will help to raise awareness of some of the world’s minority languages and support people to learn, use, and value them.

What inspires you in your work?

One of the most inspiring aspects of my work is having the opportunity to teach and learn some of the world’s less commonly taught languages. It’s also inspiring to get to spend so much time working with fantastic colleagues who have in many cases become my close friends.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

One of my most memorable career moments so far has been getting to go on a fieldwork trip to Greenland to work on a grammar of West Greenlandic with my colleague Riitta Valijärvi – this had long been a dream of mine, and I couldn’t believe that it came true!

What passions/hobbies do you have outside of work?

Listening to bluegrass music, watching planner and stationery videos on YouTube, playing D&D, and spending time with my dogs.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

The Elements of Hittite by Theo van den Hout

Book your place for Lily's lecture