Professor emeritus recognized with lifetime achievement award

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Aaron Bar-Adon, professor emeritus in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies, received a lifetime achievement award this month for his decades of research on Hebrew linguistics.

The Council for Hebrew Language and Culture in North America, an organization launched by the World Zionist Organization in 2013 to promote Hebrew and Israeli culture, gave Bar-Adon the award on Nov. 3 at its second annual conference.

“The award to Professor Bar-Adon reflects the broad geographic and professional scope of the efforts we are continuing to make,” said Aryeh Kobrin, chairman of the Hebrew Language Council, in a statement.

In 1963, Bar-Adon joined the University and founded the Hebrew language program. He spent the next 50 years researching child acquisition of Hebrew and social linguistics and lecturing on Hebrew linguistics, Arabic language and Islamic and Biblical law. 

As a doctoral candidate at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Bar-Adon began researching child acquisition of Hebrew from the perspective of a linguist. He also examined how children contributed to the development of Hebrew, a revived language that was not spoken widely until the 1920s. 

“What did the kids do?” Bar-Adon said. “Did they contribute to the language? It’s a chicken-and-egg question.” 

Bar-Adon said he has experienced and researched Hebrew linguistics more than most other scholars alive today. Since the revival of the language, Bar-Adon said the Academy of the Hebrew Language has coined 100,000 new words covering a range of topics, including medicine and technology. 

Esther Raizen, associate professor in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies, said Bar-Adon’s years at the University helped develop a learning standard for future generations of Hebrew language learners at UT. 

“He had offered undergraduate and graduate students a rich perspective on the language and its long history that none of the other Hebrew faculty (myself included) could have offered,” Raizen said in an email. “Our approach to the Hebrew classroom is very different from that of Dr. [Bar-Adon’s] generation, but he has laid the foundation for everything we are doing today, including the emphasis on both Biblical and Modern Hebrew.” 

Bar-Adon’s research was previously recognized by the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1980s, and, in 2011, the Academy of the Hebrew Language elected Bar-Adon as a member, which Raizen said was “well deserved.”