Nokhem Shtif (pseudonym Bal-Dimyen) was a Yiddish linguist, literary historian, author, and political leader. Born in Rovno, Volhynia, Shtif early became active in Jewish affairs: as a Zionist, member of the Jewish self-defense organization Zelbshuts during the pogroms in 1903, founder of a transitional Jewish socialist group (Vozrozhdenie, “Renaissance”), founder of the Sejmist Party (1906, part of the Socialist Territorialist movement), and founder of the revived Folkspartey (Jewish Democratic Party) in 1917. He became immersed in the study of older Yiddish literature as well as literary criticism. After settling in Berlin (1922), he was the main initiator and (together with M. Weinreich, Z. Rejzen, E. Tcherikover, and others) a founder in 1925 of the Yiddish Scientific Institute, YIVO, and published the first booklet on the aims of YIVO, Vegn a Yidishn Akademishn Institut (“On a Yiddish Academic Institute,” 1924).
From 1926, after returning to Kiev where he had studied at the Polytechnic University (1899–1903), Shtif directed the linguistic section of the Institute for Yiddish Proletarian Culture and edited its periodical Di Yidishe Shprakh (“The Yiddish Language”), where his article “Di sotsyale diferentsiatsye in yidish” (“The Social Differentiation of Yiddish,” 1929) appeared. He argued that many words and forms derived from Hebrew and Aramaic had become redundant in the Soviet environment and should therefore be discarded and, to the extent possible, excluded from the process of lexical innovation.
Among the numerous books and studies which he authored on Yiddish stylistic, orthographical, grammatical, dialectal, historical, and literary topics, are his pioneering Yidishe Stilistik (“Yiddish Stylistics,” 1930) and his Yiddish translations of works by Dubnow and Guedemann. His autobiography appeared in YIVO Bleter (5 (1933), 195–225).
J. Anilowicz, in: YIVO Bleter, 5 (1933), 226–46, bibl.; D. Nusinov, in: Oyfn Shprakhfront, Zamlung, 2 (1934), 91–96, bibl.; Rejzen, Leksikon, 1 (1926), 331–9; M. Weinreich, in: Tsukunft (June 1933), 358. ADD BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Estraikh, Soviet Yiddish: Language Planning and Linguistic Development (1999); I.N. Gottesman, Defining the Yiddish Nation: The Jewish Folklorists of Poland (2003); D. Shneer, Yiddish and the Creation of Soviet Jewish Culture (2004).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.