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Dr Wagner is a Research Associate at the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, working Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah. She 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, which turned into a book, published by Brill.

Together with Laura Wright and Bettina Beinhoff, she organises the Sociolinguistics Seminar Series (2011–ongoing) at the University of Cambridge. In April 2011, she held an interdisciplinary conference ‘Scribes as agents of language change’, which focused on the role of individuals and scribal schools in the spread of language change in society. The themed conference volume was published in the Studies in Language Change series by Mouton de Gruyter. 

Her main research interests include Judaeo-Arabic, Yiddish, the diachronic language change of Arabic, Arabic dialectology and language typology of Jewish languages.


Dr Wagner is currently involved with a number of historical and linguistic research projects. Together with Dotan Arad from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, she is writing a monograph on the activities of 15th-century Alexandrian traders, providing editions of previously unpublished letters from the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and describing the life of the Jewish elite in Egypt and neighbouring countries as reflected in the sources, complete with a linguistic analysis of the Judaeo-Arabic and Hebrew language varieties used. Her other current research projects are concerned with an edition of 18th–19th century merchants’ correspondence from Egypt and North Africa, together with Geoffrey Khan, and a sociolinguistic investigation into general traders’ languages around the Mediterranean.

Principal publications

2013 ‘Genizah Letters in Crude Hands: Substandard of a Substandard Variety?’ In: Maria Angeles Gallego and Juan Pedro Monferrer (eds), The Semitic Languages of Jewish Intellectual Languages. Proceedings of the Memorial Conference for Dr Friedrich Niessen (forthcoming). Leiden: Brill.

2013 with Ben Outhwaite: ‘ These Two Lines …’. Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic Letter-writing in the Classical Genizah Period. In: Jennifer Cromwell and Eitan Grossman (eds.), Proceedings of Beyond Free Variation, Oxford 14–16 September 2009 (in press), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

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

2012 ‘Hebrew loanwords in Germanic Languages (German and Dutch)’. In: Geoffrey Khan (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Hebrew Language and Linguistics (in press).

2012 with Henrike Kuehnert: ‘The shift in positioning of the finite verb in older Yiddish’. In: Marion Aptroot and Björn Hansen (eds.), Yiddish Language Structures. Empirical Approaches to Language Typology, 125–142. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.

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

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, Leiden, pp. 343–355.

2009 ‘The Genizah and Arabic and Islam’. In: Stefan Reif (ed.), Charles Taylor and the Genizah Collection. Cambridge 2009, pp. 60–66.

2009 ‘Arabic script material in the Cairo Geniza’. In: Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, Leiden 2009, pp. 574–576.

2005 English version of: Susanne Zeilfelder, Hittite Exercise book, Wiesbaden.

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. Hamburg 2004, pp. 261–299.

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

2001 with N. Nebes: Walter W. Mueller, Suedarabien im Altertum. Kommentierte Bibliographie der Jahre 1973–1996. (EFAH 2). Rahden.

1997 ‘Christlich-Arabisch’ (Christian Arabic), with N. Nebes and J. Assfalg. In: Orientalische Buchkunst in Gotha. Ausstellung zum 350 jaehrigen Jubilaeum der Forschungs- und Landesbibliothek Gotha. Gotha 1997.