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After graduating, he studied Yiddish with Max Weinreich during the summer of 1948. During that time, he received a prize from the YIVO (Institute for Yiddish Research) for a monograph on bilingualism. In 1951-52 he held a position as a research assistant for the Jewish Education Committee of New York. In December 1951, he married Gella Schweid, with whom he shared a lifelong commitment to Yiddish. In 1953, he completed his Ph.D. in social psychology at Columbia University with a dissertation entitled Negative Stereotypes Concerning Americans among American-born Children Receiving Various Types of Minority-group Education.
Shikl was approached by his hometown Phillies asking him to join the radio booth and announce one batter's plate appearance in Yiddish in a part of the Phillies Jewish week. Shikl turned down the offer for fear it would "make a mockery of Yiddish."
Fishman devised the influential Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (GIDS), used for determining whether languages are endangered, in his book Reversing Language Shift. The Enhanced GIDS was based on this and is used by Ethnologue.
According to Ghil'ad Zuckermann, "The founder and general editor of the leading refereed publication International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Fishman created an intellectual platform that has greatly facilitated the introduction and dissemination of novel models and revolutionary theories that have led to numerous academic debates, syntheses and cross-fertilizations. He has often acted as an epistemological bridge between, and antidote for, parallel discourses.":149-152
And "One ought to assess the breadth and depth of Fishman's work through a combined Jewish-sociolinguistic lens.":149-152
Zuckermann has argued that "Fishman's research embodies the integration of Jewish scholarship with general linguistics. [...] Jewish linguistics, the exploration of Jewish languages such as Yiddish, has shaped general sociolinguistics. Throughout history Jews have been multilingual immigrants, resulting in Jewish languages embodying intricate and intriguing mechanisms of language contact and identity. These languages were thus fertile ground for the establishment and evolution of the sociology of language in general. Given the importance in Judaism not only of mentshlikhkayt (cf. humaneness) but also of education and 'on the other hand' dialectics, it is not surprising to find the self-propelled institute Fishman trailblazing simultaneously both in Yiddish scholarship in particular and in the sociology of language in general.":149-152
In 1991, Fishman was honored by two Festschriften, publications to celebrate his 65th birthday, each filled with articles by colleagues that followed his interests. One was a three volume collection of articles concerned with his interests, edited by Garcia, Dow, and Marshall, the other a single volume edited by Cooper and Spolsky.
On September 10, 2006, Fishman was honored by a one-day symposium at the University of Pennsylvania, commemorating his 80th birthday. He died in the Bronx, New York, on March 1, 2015, at the age of 88.
In 1994 the Stanford University Libraries established the 'Joshua A. Fishman and Gella Schweid Fishman Family Archives' within their Special Collections Section. The archive contains drafts of subsequently published books and articles, course outlines, lectures given, professional correspondence, family correspondence, photographs, audio-tapes, video-tapes, and other materials pertaining to Fishman's work.
1964. Language Maintenance and Language Shift as a field of inquiry. A definition of the field and suggestions for its further development. Linguistics Vol 2, Issue 9.
1965. Yiddish in America: socio-linguistic description and analysis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press; The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton
1966. Language loyalty in the United States; the maintenance and perpetuation of non-English mother tongues by American ethnic and religious groups. The Hague: Mouton
Baker, Colin; Jones, Sylvia P. (eds.) (1998). Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. "Joshua A. Fishman", p. 189. ISBN978-1-85359-362-8.
Chassie, Karen et al. (eds.) (2006). Who's Who in the East. New Providence, NJ: Marquis Who's Who. "Fishman, Joshua Aaron"[page needed]
Cooper, Robert L.; Spolsky, Bernard (eds.) (1991). The Influence of Language on Culture and Thought: Essays in Honor of Joshua A. Fishman's Sixty-Fifth Birthday. Berlin: Mouton. Editors' introduction, pp. 1-5.
Fishman, Gella Schweid; Njau, Charity (2012). "Joshua A. Fishman bibliography (1949-2011)". International Journal of the Sociology of Language 213: 153-248.
García, Ofelia; Dow, James R.; Marshall, David F. (eds.) (1991). Essays in honor of Joshua A. Fishman: Volume 1: Focus on Bilingual Education; Volume 2: Focus on Language and Ethnicity; Volume 3: Focus on Language Planning. 3 Volumes (set). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. In vol. 1: Ofelia García, "A Gathering of Voices, a 'Legion of Scholarly Decency' and Bilingual Education: Fishman's Biographemes as Introduction", pp. 3-19; in vol. 2: Editor's introduction, pp. 1-7; in vol. 3: David F. Marshall, "Introduction: To Honor a Man and His Calling", pp. 1-6, and Karen L. Adams and Daniel T. Brink, "Joshua A. Fishman on Language Planning: 'Brotherhood' Does Not Mean Uniformity", pp. 7-27.
García, Ofelia; Peltz, Rakhmiel; Schiffman, Harold F.; with Gella Schweid Fishman (July 10, 2006). Language Loyalty, Continuity and Change: Joshua A. Fishman's Contributions to International Sociolinguistics. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. ISBN978-1-85359-902-6.
Spolsky, Bernard (1999). "Fishman, Joshua A. (1926- )". In Spolsky (ed.), Concise Encyclopedia of Educational Linguistics. Amsterdam: Elsevier. p. 758-759. ISBN978-0-08043-163-5.
^Pritchard, Rosalind M. O. (April 1994). Review of The Influence of Language on Culture and Thought. ELT Journal, vol. 48, issue 2, pp. 179-181; here p. 179. doi:10.1093/elt/48.2.179. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 29 February 2020.