LESLAU, WOLF (1906– ), U.S. Semitics scholar and philologist. Born in Krzepice, Poland, Leslau was educated at the University of Vienna and at the Sorbonne in Paris. He taught at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris and the Ecole des Langues Orientales. In 1942 he immigrated to the United States. He taught at several institutions before joining the faculty of the University of California in Los Angeles in 1955, where he continued teaching Hebrew and Semitic languages. He was the founding chairman of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and was instrumental in establishing the Near Eastern Center.
Leslau was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Academy of Jewish Research, and other scholarly societies. He undertook eight trips to Ethiopia to do fieldwork on the various Semitic languages of Ethiopia and on the culture and folklore of the country (1946–76), giving special attention to *Beta Israel. Leslau is regarded as one of the foremost experts on Semitic languages, in particular the ones spoken in Ethiopia.
When he retired from teaching, he was named ucla professor emeritus of Hebrew and Semitic linguistics.
He published more than 40 books that deal with descriptive and comparative problems of Ethiopic as well as Semitic linguistics; they include Falasha Anthology (1951), which he translated and edited; Ethiopic and South Arabic Contribution to the Hebrew Lexicon (1958); An Amharic Conversation Book (1965); Ethiopians Speak (3 vols, 1965–68); Amharic Textbook (1968); Hebrew Cognates in Amharic (1969); Concise Amharic Dictionary (1976); Gurage Folklore (1982); Fifty Years of Research (1988); The Fire on the Mountain and Other Stories (with H. Courlander, 1995); and The Jews of Ethiopia: A Pictorial Journey Back to their Past (with C. Berman, 2001).
G. Hudson (ed.), Essays on Gurage Language and Culture: Dedicated to Wolf Leslau on the Occasion of His 90th birthday, November 14th, 1996 (1997); S. Segert and A.J.E. Bobroligeti (eds.), Ethiopian Studies: Dedicated to Wolf Landau on His 75th Birthday, 1981 (1983).
[Walter Joseph Fischel /
Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]