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Dr Esther-Miriam Wagner


Dr Wagner graduated in 2001 with a first class Magistra Artium degree in Semitic Philology, Islamic Studies and Indo-European Studies from the Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena/Germany. During her studies, she spent a year as a Visiting Student at the Victoria University of Manchester, and was involved in the editing and publication of the JBVO and EFAH series.

After completing her Master's degree, she worked on a joint project with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (funded by the German-Israeli Foundation) on Yiddish syntax before completing a PhD in 2007 at the University of Cambridge about the language of mediaeval Judaeo-Arabic letters under the supervision of Prof Geoffrey Khan. After six years as a Research Associate at the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, she is now a Senior Research Fellow at the Woolf Institute while continuing her work in the Genizah Research Unit on a part-time basis.

Subject groups/Research projects

Hebrew & Semitic Studies:

Research Interests

Most of my research is centred around the manuscripts of the Cairo Genizah, with a strong focus on historical linguistics and sociolinguistics of Arabic, in particular of Judaeo-Arabic. I am also very interested in scribal culture and education, and in language registers, in particular those written by merchants. I organised conferences on these topics entitled 'Scribes as agents of language change', which has resulted in themed volume, and 'Merchants of innovation. The languages of traders'.

I am currently working on various books. The first concerns 'Late Judaeo-Arabic correspondence of Ottoman traders', and is written together with Prof Geoffrey Khan. With my colleague Dotan Arad (Bar Ilan University), a historian specialising in the Mamluk period, I am currently preparing an edition of mercantile letters from 15th-century Alexandria, which are part of the manuscript collections in the Bodleian. The title of this work will be 'Wisdom and greatness in one place: the 15th-c. Alexandrian trader Moses Ben Judah and his circle'. My third project involves research on Muslim-Jewish relations in Medieval Spain, and will result in the publication of a number of Genizah fragments relating to Spain, in addition to a collection of articles based talks given during a lecture cycle in Madrid in 2012. This volume is edited together with Maria Angeles Gallego (CSIC Madrid), and explores the life of Jews in Spain under Muslim rule as reflected in Genizah sources. My fourth publication is a themed volume, following a conference I organised on traders' languages. This book will seek to place trade languages within a wider sociolinguistic context and examine in depth their effect on standard varieties of a large number of different languages.

Key Publications


2013 Scribes as Agents of Language Change (with Ben Outhwaite and Bettina Beinhoff [eds.]). Berlin: de Gruyter-Mouton.

2010 Linguistic Variety of Judaeo-Arabic in Letters from the Cairo Genizah. Leiden: Brill.

2001 Walter W. Mueller, Suedarabien im Altertum. Kommentierte Bibliographie der Jahre 1973-1996 (with Norbert Nebes [eds.]). EFAH 2. Rahden: VML.


2013 'The shift in positioning of the finite verb in older Yiddish' (with Henrike Kuehnert). In: Marion Aptroot and Björn Hansen (eds.), Yiddish Language Structures. Empirical Approaches to Language Typology, 125-142. Berlin: de Gruyter-Mouton.

2013 'Scribes and Language Change' (with Ben Outhwaite and Bettina Beinhoff). In: Esther-Miriam Wagner, Ben Outhwaite and Bettina Beinhoff (eds.), Scribes as Agents of Language Change, 3-18. Berlin: de Gruyter-Mouton.

2013 'Challenges of Multiglossia: the emergence of substandard Judaeo-Arabic registers'. In: Esther-Miriam Wagner, Ben Outhwaite and Bettina Beinhoff (eds.), Scribes as Agents of Language Change, 259-273. Berlin: de Gruyter-Mouton.

2010 'The weakening of the bourgeoisie: Social changes mirrored in the language of the Genizah letters'. In: Ben Outhwaite and Siam Bhayro (eds.), Cambridge Genizah Studies I: proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Genizah Studies, Westminster College, Cambridge 2007, 343-355. Leiden: Brill.

2009 'The Genizah and Arabic and Islam'. In: Stefan Reif (ed.), Charles Taylor and the Genizah Collection , 60-66. Cambridge.

2004 'Konnektive in der diachronen Entwicklung des Jiddischen' (The diachronic development of connectives in Yiddish), with Henrike Kuehnert. In: Indogermanistik, Germanistik, Linguistik - Proceedings of the 1st congress for Indoeuropean studies, German studies and Linguistics Jena 2002, 261-299. Hamburg: Kovacs.

2002 'Zahl und Gezaehltes im Sabaeischen' (Number and counted in Sabaic). In: Norbert Nebes (Hg.), Neue Beitraege zur Semitistik (JBVO 5), 259-279. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.


2014 Fragment of the month May 2014: Go to the house of the English: 19th-c. Genizah merchants

2013 Fragment of the month January 2013: The preacher who speaks like a parrot

2012 Fragment of the month March 2012: Goitein and girlish prose

2011 Fragment of the month May 2011 (T-S 10J7.4): Only death remains for him

2010 Fragment of the month December 2010: Geographical texts in the Collection

2009 Fragment of the month October 2009: Vis, liber zun, ikh hob dir vil brif geshribn: Yiddish letters in the Genizah

2008 Fragment of the month April 2008 (T-S AS 157.50): A twitch divination in the hand of Halfon b. Manasseh

2007 Fragment of the month October 2007 (T-S AS 152.86): A newly-discovered fragment of a letter written by Maimonides

2007 Fragment of the month July 2007 (Mosseri Ia.29): Halfon's wife