UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies


Prof Lily Kahn

snapshot of Lily kahn
Head of Department

Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Languages


Tel: 020 7679 7171


Prof 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 Biblical Hebrew, Rabbinic Hebrew, Ugaritic, and Yiddish in the Department and is Co-Convenor of the interdepartmental BA in Ancient Languages. She supervises dissertations on Hebrew and Semitic linguistics. Her main research area is Hebrew in Eastern Europe. She is also interested in Yiddish, the history of Hebrew, comparative Semitic linguistics, Jewish languages, translation studies, endangered language revitalization, and the development of Hebrew and Yiddish pedagogical materials.


Prof Kahn's research focuses on Hebrew 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. 

Prof 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 (2015-16), 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 project is a Leverhulme Trust-funded reference grammar of Maskilic Hebrew. Other book projects include a comprehensive grammar of Modern Hebrew and an intermediate Modern Hebrew reader (for Routledge). 

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 (with Riitta-Liisa Valijarvi, UCL SSEES) and co-edited Brill's Handbook of Jewish Languages (with Aaron Rubin, Penn State University). She is currently co-writing a grammar of West Greenlandic. 


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

  • Introduction to Biblical Hebrew: a solid grounding in Biblical Hebrew grammar and texts for complete beginners
  • Intermediate Biblical Hebrew: a survey of Biblical Hebrew syntax and intensive study of selected biblical texts
  • 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

She is also convenor of the MA Jewish Studies Core Course and co-teaches a module on language contact in the Danube region with colleagues from UCL's School of Slavonic and East European Studies. 

Visit Prof Lily Kahn's full profile for additional information, publications, and achievements.