Fishman, Joshua Aaron

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FISHMAN, JOSHUA AARON (1926– ), U.S. educator, social psychologist, and sociolinguist. Born in Philadelphia, Fishman received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Columbia University in 1953. He was professor of social sciences at Yeshiva University (New York) from 1966. Fishman served as dean of the Ferkauf Graduate School of Humanities from 1960 to 1966 and as Yeshiva University's vice president of academic affairs from 1973 to 1975. He then served as the distinguished university research professor emeritus of social sciences of Yeshiva University.

An international leader in his field, Foreman did pioneering research in sociolinguistics, which explores the social concomitants of language behavior and behavior toward language. Within this field, he specialized in national language planning and in determining the circumstances of language maintenance and shift, and established techniques for measuring and describing patterns of societal bilingualism. He was also an internationally recognized authority on language policy in developing countries. Fishman's book Language Loyalty in the United States (1966) is a monumental work on the language maintenance efforts of non-English-speaking immigrants. His Yiddish in America (1965) is a significant study describing the efforts of American Jews of Eastern European origin to maintain their vernacular. In 1973 Fishman founded and became the ongoing general editor of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language. He also served as the editor of yivo-Bleter from 1975 to 1977. He was appointed a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in 1975.

Among other books published by Fishman, the following have some Jewish content: Language and Nationalism (1972); Language in Sociocultural Change (1972); Bilingual Education (1976); Language Planning Processes (1977); Advances in the Study of Societal Multilingualism (1978); and Advances in the Creation and Revision of Writing Systems (1979), while Studies on Polish Jewry: 1919–1939 (1973) and Never Say Die: A Thousand Years of Yiddish in Jewish Life and Letters (of which he was editor, 1980) are entirely of Jewish content. Subsequent books by Fishman include Ethnicity in Action (with M. and R. Gertner, 1985), Readings in the Sociology of Jewish Languages (1985), Ideology, Society & Language: The Odyssey of Nathan Birnbaum (1987), The Influence of Language on Culture and Thought (1991), In Praise of the Beloved Language (1996), Can Threatened Languages Be Saved? (2001), and Reversing Language Shift (2001).

Fishman was active in Yiddish cultural efforts. As a founding member and first chairman of the Research Planning Committee of the *yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York, he helped to develop a program for training new scholars in the social sciences and humanities as they relate to the Jewish field.


Who's Who in America, 34 (1966–67), 684; lnyl, 7 (1968), 393–4. add. bibliography: S. Herman, The Study of Jewish Identity Issues and Approaches (1971).

[Leybl Kahn /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]