In Memoriam: Bernard Dov Spolsky (1932-2022)






With deep pain and sorrow we mourn the passing of our mentor, colleague, and friend Bernard Dov Spolsky ז"ל, Professor of Linguistics at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, who passed away on Shabbat afternoon, August 20, 2022 at his home in Jerusalem.

Bernard Dov Spolsky was born in New Zealand on February 11, 1932 and began his teaching career in New Zealand, where he taught grammar school and high school in the 1950s. Arriving in Israel in 1958, he was a language teacher at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1958-61) and served as a junior staff officer in the Israel Defense Forces (1959-60). He earned his Bachelor's degree (1951) and Master’s degree with Honours in English (1953) from the University of New Zealand and completed a Ph.D. in Linguistics at Université de Montréal (1966).  In 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Victoria University of Wellington.

Spolsky taught at McGill University (1961-1964), Indiana University (1964-1968), and the University of New Mexico, where he was Professor of Linguistics, Anthropology, and Elementary Education as well as Dean of the Graduate School (1968-1980). In 1980, he joined the Bar-Ilan faculty until retiring as Professor Emeritus in the year 2000. At Bar-Ilan he was a founding pillar of the Linguistics division of the English Department and helped build Linguistics from two academic positions to ten. He served as Department Chair and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities as well as founder and director of the Language Policy Research Center.

Professor Spolsky conducted and published research in language testing, second language learning, applied linguistics, sociolinguistics and language policy. He served as president of TESOL, held a Guggenheim fellowship and a Mellon fellowship, and was a Senior Research Fellow at the National Foreign Language Center in Washington. He authored some 250 articles and chapters and wrote and edited 30 books covering a range of subfields in Applied Linguistics, including Educational Linguistics (Newbury House, 1978), Conditions for Second Language Learning (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1989), The Languages of Jerusalem (with Robert L. Cooper, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1991), Measured Words: The Development of Objective Language Testing (OUP, 1995), Sociolinguistics (OUP, 1998), The Languages of Israel: Policy, Ideology and Practice (with Elana Shohamy, Multilingual Matters, 1999), Language Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2004), Language Management (CUP, 2009) and The Languages of the Jews: A Sociolinguistic History (CUP, 2013). In addition to his own scholarly works, he was also the founding editor of two major journals: Applied Linguistics (Oxford University Press) and Language Policy (Springer).

Spolsky was always at the cutting edge of scholarly innovation and the name Bernard Spolsky is today synonymous with the fields of Educational Linguistics, Bilingual Education, Language Testing, and Language Policy. A quiet, modest man, Spolsky was particularly proud of his Navajo Reading Study and his work on Israeli Language Policy.
Spolsky leaves behind his wife, Professor Emerita Ellen Spolsky, his son Joel and daughter Ruthie Amaru and family, and Dr. Abram Sterne and family.

יהי זכרו ברוך
May his memory be blessed

Please share your memories 



1943-1948                Wellington College

1951                          B.A University of New Zealand

1953                          M.A. (Honours in English) University of New Zealand

1953                          New Zealand Trained Teacher’s Certificate

1966                          Ph.D. (linguistics) Université de Montréal

2008                          Hon.D. Litt Victoria University of Wellington


Academic ranks

1961-1964                Assistant Professor of Education, McGill University

1964-1968                Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Indian University

1968-1973                Associate Professor of Anthropology and Elementary Education, University of New mexico

1973-1980                Professor of Linguistics, Anthropology, and Elementary Education, University of New Mexico

1980-2000                Professor of English, Bar-Ilan University

2000-                        Professor Emeritus of English, Bar-Ilan University



1954-5                      Assistant Master,         Gisborne High School

1956                          Assistant Master, Caulfield Grammar School

1957-8                      Assistant Master, The Royal Russell School

1958-61                    Language teacher, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

1959-60                    Junior staff officer, Israel Defense Forces

1964-8                      Asst Professor and Director  EFL Program, Indiana University

1968-73                    Assoc Prof, Prof, Chair of Linguistics, Dean of the Graduate School, Director of the Navajo Reading Study, University of New Mexico

1980-2000                Professor, Chair of English, Dean of Humanities, Director of the Language Policy Research Center, Bar-Ilan University


Professional roles

1972-5                      Chair, Scientific commission on Language Tests AILA

1977-80                    Secretary Treasurer, American Association of Applied Linguistics

2003-                        Publications Executive Director, Journal Editor-in Chief, Asia TEFL

1986-2000                Member, Council on the Teaching of Hebrew

1982-90                    Co-Chair, Israel Academic Committee on Language Testing

1982-6                      Executive committee, Israel Association of Applied Linguistics

1988-97                    President, Israel Association of Applied Linguistics

1978-9                      President, International TESOL

1994-5                      President, International Association of Language Testers

2005-8                      Convenor, AILA Research Network on Language Policy

1990-2003                Chair, English Advisory Committee, Israeli Ministry of Education

1979-86                    Editor, Applied Linguistics

2002-7                      Editor, Language Policy


Research Grants

Ford Foundation, $5,000 for a study of attitudinal factors in second language learning 1967-8; $78,000 for the Navajo Reading Study 1971-5; through the Israel Foundations Trustees, $23,000 for a study with Robert Cooper of language choice and language spread in the Old City of Jerusalem 1983-5; through the Israel Foundations Trustees, $25,000 for a study with Robert Cooper and Muhammad Amara of sociolinguistic reflexes of attitudinal differences in a divided village in Israel, 1992-4.

German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research, DM 270,000, with Norbert Dittmar (Free University of Berlin) for a study of acquisition of Hebrew and German by immigrants from the former Soviet Union, 1998-2000.

John Nuveen & Co., $4,000, for a study of Navajo language maintenance, 1971.

Israel Ministry of Education, $320,000, with Elana Shohamy, for language policy studies, 1994-7; $120,000, with Elana Shohamy and Tamar Levin, for study of academic achievement of immigrant pupils.

National Institute of Education, $147,000, for a study with Guillermina Englebrecht and Leroy Ortiz of the sociolinguistics of literacy, 1979-82.

Netherlands Israel Research Program, $150,000, with Muhammad Amara, Kees de Bot and Hannah Tushyeh, for studies of Palestinian multilingualism & language policy, 1995-8.

University of New Mexico Research Allocations Committee, $2,000, for a study of Navajo dialects 1970-1.

U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, $104,401, for a study of the potential and effect of teaching Navajo children to read in their own language first, 1969-74.


Selected Publications 

Books authored

1.      Spolsky, Bernard. (1978). Educational linguistics: an introduction. Rowley, MA., Newbury House Publishers.

2.      Spolsky, Bernard. (1981). Educational linguistics: an introduction. Hiroshima., Bunka Hyoron Publishing Company. (Japanese translation by T. Makino).

3.      Spolsky, Bernard. (1989). Conditions for second language learning: introduction to a general theory. Oxford, Oxford University Press. (Awarded 1989 Kenneth W. Mildenberger Prize by the Modern Language Association of America and the 1990 Book Prize by the British Association for Applied Linguistics). URL:

4.      Spolsky, Bernard and R. L. Cooper (1991). The languages of Jerusalem. Oxford, Clarendon Press.

5.      Spolsky, Bernard. (1995). Measured words: The development of objective language testing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.*

6.      Spolsky, Bernard. (1998). Sociolinguistics. Edited by H. G. Widdowson, Oxford Introductions to Language Study. Oxford: Oxford University Press. *

7.      Spolsky, Bernard, and Elana Shohamy. (1999). The languages of Israel: policy, ideology and practice. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.*

8.      Spolsky, Bernard.  (2004). Language policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chinese translation by Zhiguo Zhang, published by Commercial Press, Beijing 2011.*

9.      Spolsky, Bernard. (2009). Language Management, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Valodas Pārvaldiba, Latvian translation by Ina Druviete, published by Zinatne Publishers, Riga 2012.*

10.    Spolsky, Bernard. (2013). The Languages of the Jews: a sociolinguistic history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Books edited

11     Garvin, Paul and Bernard Spolsky, Ed. (1966). Computation in linguistics: a case book. Bloomington, Indiana Univ. Press.

12     Holm, A., P. Murphy, & Bernard Spolsky. (1970). Analytical bibliography of Navajo reading materials. Washington DC, United States Bureau of Indian Affairs.

13     Spolsky, Bernard, (ed.) (1972). The language education of minority children: selected readings. Rowley, MA., Newbury House Publishers.

14     Spolsky, Bernard, (ed.) (1974). The American Southwest. International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Issue no. 2.

15     Sebeok, Thomas A., Arthur S. Abramson, Bernard Spolsky, et al., (eds.) (1974). Current trends in linguistics: linguistics and adjacent arts and sciences. The Hague, Mouton.

16     Jones, Randall and Bernard Spolsky, Ed. (1975). Testing language proficiency. Washington, D.C., Center for Applied Linguistics.

17,     Palmer, Leslie and Bernard Spolsky, Ed. (1975). Papers in language testing 1967-74. Washington D.C., TESOL.

18     Spolsky, Bernard and Robert L. Cooper, eds. (1977). Frontiers of bilingual education. Rowley, MA., Newbury House.

19     Spolsky, Bernard and R. L. Cooper, ed. (1978). Case studies in bilingual education. Rowley, MA. Newbury House.

20    Spolsky, Bernard, ed. (1978). Advances in language testing 2. Papers in Applied Linguistics. Washington, D.C., Center for Applied Linguistics.

21     Spolsky, Bernard, ed. (1979). Advances in language testing 1. Papers in Applied Linguistics. Washington, D.C., Center for Applied Linguistics.

22     Spolsky, Bernard, Ed. (1986). Language and education in multilingual settings. Clevedon, Multilingual Matters Ltd.

23     Cooper, R. L. and Bernard Spolsky, Ed. (1991). The influence of language on society and thought: essays in honor of the 65th birthday of Joshua A. Fishman. Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter.

24     Spolsky, Bernard, ed. 1999. Concise Encyclopedia of Educational Linguistics. Oxford: Pergamon.*

25     Cooper, Robert L., Shohamy, Elana, & Walters, Joel (Eds.). (2000). New perspectives in educational language policy: In honour of Bernard Dov Spolsky. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

26     Spolsky, Bernard & Francis M. Hult (Eds). (2008). Handbook of Educational Linguistics. Malden & Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

27     Choi, Yeon Hee, Spolsky, Bernard, & The Asia TEFL Editorial Committee (Eds.). (2007). English education in Asia: History and policies. Seoul, Korea: The Asian Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (Asia TEFL).

28.     Choi, Yeon Hee, & Spolsky, Bernard (Eds.). (2008). ELT Curriculum innovation and implementation in Asia. Seoul, Korea: The Asian Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (Asia TEFL).

29     Spolsky, Bernard (Guest editor). (2009). Annual Review of Applied Linguistics. Volume 29, Language testing and language policy. Cambridge,: Cambridge University Press.

30     Choi, Yeon Hee, & Spolsky, Bernard (Eds.). (2009). English language teacher education in Asia. Seoul, Korea: The Asian Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (Asia TEFL).

31     Moon, Young-in, & Spolsky, Bernard (Eds.). (2010). Language assessment in Asia: Local, regional or Global? Seoul: Asian Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language.

32     Spolsky, Berard & Moon, Young-In (Eds.) (2012). Primary school English-education in Asia. New York: Routledge.

33     Spolsky, Bernard (Ed.). (2012). The Cambridge Handbook of Language Policy. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.