Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 5

HEBREW AND TYPOLOGY Linguistic typology is usually associated to morphology (seminal contributions: Humboldt 1836, Sapir 1921) and

more recently to syntax, with the groundbreaking work of Joseph Greenberg (1963, 1978); however grammar and indeed language encompass other domains as well, which can be explored from a typological viewpoint. Morphology: Hebrew is an inflecting language. Moreover, morphology is probably its most robust structure, bearing an unequivocal Semitic stamp. A typological difference that distinguishes Contemporary Hebrew (CH) from Biblical Hebrew (BH) and Mishnaic Hebrew (MH) relates to composition and prefixation. BH exhibits practically no example of composition - all nouns are construed by derivation and can be expanded by means of the construct state. CH, on the other hand, has a number of compound nouns and a score of nominal prefixes, mostly spatio-temporal and quantitative (Kirtchuk 1995). Neither stage has verbal composition, as opposed to IE, for example, in which pre-verbs of prepositional and ultimately nominal origin are common. BH being a synthetic and an accusative language, all finite verbs take a subject affix, but the bi- or tri-valent verb (Tesnire 1959) can take, in addition, a direct object suffix, if the object is determined. Thus, /riti/ see, past-1sg.subj means I saw, and /ritih/ see, past-1sg.subj.3sg.f.obj. means I saw her. CH, on the other hand, has no object markers on the verb in the colloquial register but does display them in a literary style or in a high register. Syntax: Hebrew conforms to Greenbergs Universals (op. cit.); thus, the attribute (including adjectives, subordinate clauses and genitives) follows the noun and the preposition precedes it. BH has the verbal predicate in initial position, with the subject marker affixed to it, then a possible explicit and autonomous nominal or deictic subject in second position and, finally, the other verbal complements. This order 1 is preserved in MH and Medieval Hebrew (MdH), whereas in CH the order of the first two components is reversed under the influence of word order in the European languages
In the terms popularized by Greenberg it would be VSO. They are inadequate, however, insofar as they (1) mix a part of speech (Verb) with parts of the sentence (Subject; Object) and (2) imply the existence of the Verb category in language as such, which is wrong on dynamic synchronic, diachronic, ontogenetic, phylogenetic, creolistic and diaglottic grounds and on grammatical as well as pragmatic evidence (Bopp 1807, Cohen 1984, Barner & Bale 2000, Testen 2004, Parish & al. 2006, Kirtchuk 2007). 1
1

spoken by those who reactivated H at the turn of the 20th century: first comes the nominal or deictic subject, then the verbal or nominal predicate. If the clause is subordinate or if it begins with a circumstantial complement, however, BH order may prevail. The object takes the third position, save if it is topical or focal (see below). In BH, there is no copula as such; if a non-person deictic (commonly called 3rd person pronoun, but see Kirtchuk 2007) does occur, it is only for purposes of focalization of the immediately preceding element. CH, on the other hand, again under influence of European tongues, may use such a device to separate the subject from the predicate in nominal sentences, with no pragmatic effect whatsoever. In BH possession is synthetically expressed, by a mark of the possessor suffixed to the possessum. In late BH (e.g. Song of Songs) the particle /l/ emerges, which results of the coalescence of the relative particle /-/ and the dative /l-/; a specific construction devoted to determined possessors is used which combines /l/ and a possessive suffix on the possessum which agrees in number and gender with the possessor. In CH these suffixes are still appended, but to the particle /l/ itself, except in literary style and in words denoting close kinship (see below). Phonology: BH had a phoneme called sin and traditionally transcribed as which actually was an unvoiced lateral fricative (Steiner 1977), post-velars (gutturals), pharyngalized (emphatic) and stops with fricative allophones in inter-vocalic position. It had several vocalic colors, beyond the three cardinal vowels. Quite early the former merged with /s/, and later the pharyngalized merged with their unmarked vis--vis and the post-velars ceased to be phonetically distinct. On the other hand, a tone opposition seems to have emerged in CH which confirms Hombert (1975) as far as these particular supra-segmental phonemes cross-linguistically emerge in order to make up for the loss of a segmental opposition. In CH, it compensates the neutralization of the oppositions between and , between and , between and , as well as between e and and between and . Whenever those neutralizations affect one and the same minimal pair, a confusion would be inevitable, which is prevented by the emergence of a tonal distinction, such as to distinguish /tan/ (middle tone) jackal from /tan/ (descending tone) declare, past, 3sg.m = he declared. 2
Rabin (1973) describes this opposition in terms of vowel length, which he illustrates with only one example (!), but describing it in terms of tones is more accurate inasmuch as it (a) conforms to phonetic and phonological reality, (b) corresponds to the typology of tonogeny, and (c) reflects in a long series of minimal pairs (Kirtchuk forthcoming). 2
2

Pragmatics: Definiteness is a pragmatic function, which may be expressed by grammatical means (Kirtchuk 2004). BH makes a clear-cut distinction between definite and indefinite nouns, correlating mostly with presence or absence of the definite article (of deictic origin) /#ha-/ prefixed to the noun. In MH, there is a drastic diminution in the use of this device, the distinction being neutralized in most contexts and expressed, when necessary, by other devices, mostly a deictic demonstrative or a possessive suffix. This attrition of the classical definiteness device results from Aramaic influence. This language lost the determination opposition altogether due to the coalescence of the definite article /-#/ suffixed to the noun (Greenberg 1978). Early CH, which in this regard followed BH syntax, exhibits at present a trend similar to the one attested in MH as far as determination is concerned, once again as a result of foreign influence - this time not Aramaic but English. As for Utterance Internal Hierarchy (Kirtchuk i.p.) 3 , topic-first and focusonly utterances abound at all stages of H and do not result from so-called dislocation but obey a cognitive, functionally motivated cross-linguistic pattern (ibid., cf. also Givn 1976). BH topicalizes a verbal nexus by a socalled tautological infinitive (Goldenberg 1971) that at the pragmatic level is not tautological but highly functional. As for focus, in BH the usual device is a non-person deictic (sometimes misinterpreted as a copula) that follows the element, which is thus focalized. In CH, focalization obtains mostly by intonation (corroborating Bolinger 1985), by the absence of other elements (Givn 1985) and / or by cleaving (e.g. , litt. It is not I, the man [whose return you are awaiting], from A. Penns homonymous poem). Conclusion: A question arising from the rapid drift of CH is whether it can still be considered a Semitic language from a typological viewpoint. The question in itself is ill posed since Semitic, Indo-European and the like are, by definition, genealogical terms, and therefore no specific typological interpretation should be attached to them. Still, Semitic languages do have a common typological core, and one can reformulate the question in appropriate terms provided adequate criteria are selected and defined, and a broad variety of languages from the families under analysis is examined.
3

The term Information Structure is inadequate: Topic & Focus are pragmatic functions, while Subject & Predicate are grammatical ones. The former does not conform to structures determined by synchronically arbitrary, diachronically changing, crosslinguistically different, ontogenetically acquired and phylogenetically recently emerged rules, but obey a pre-grammatical hierarchy founded on cognitive biological factors. Moreover it is not objective and context-independent information that the utterance conveys, but a subjective, context-dependent response to a given stimulus (Kirtchuk i.p.). 3

Failing to do so properly may lead to the mistaken conclusion that CH belongs to a supposed Indo-European type, the Standard Average European (S.A.E.) imagined by B. L. Whorf. Nay: a look at some other Semitic vernaculars shows that CH remains remarkably faithful to its Semitic origin. North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA), under the influence of Kurdish, became a split-ergative language (Estival & Myhill 1988, Khan 2004, Kirtchuk i.p.), while in Amharic, under the influence of Cushitic languages, the determining element precedes the determined one, so that adjective precedes noun, relative precedes principal and the like (Cohen [1930] 1974). Nothing of the sort happens in CH: Goldenberg (1996) and Kapeliuk (1996) are therefore right when they claim that CH continues to be a Semitic language not only on a genealogical basis but on typological grounds too. Bibliography
Barner, D & A. Bale. 2002. No nouns, no verbs: psycholinguistic arguments in favor of lexical underspecification. Lingua 112 771-791. Bohas, G. 2000. Matrices, racines, etymons. Lausanne: Editions du Zbre. Bolinger, D. 1985. The Inherent Iconicity of Intonation, Iconicity in Syntax: 73-96. John Benjamins, Amsterdam / Philadelphia. Bopp, F. 1816. ber das Conjugationsystem der Sanskritsprache in Vergleichung mit jenem der griechischen, lateinischen, persischen und germanischen Sprache. Frankfurt. Estival D. & J. Myhill. 1988. Formal and functional aspects of the development from passive to ergative systems. Passive and Voice (M. Shibatani ed.). Typological Studies in Language 16. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 441-524. Givn, T. 1976. Topic, Pronoun and Grammatical Agreement. Subject and Topic, ed. Ch. Li New York: Academic. Givn, T. 1985. Iconicity, Isomorphism and Non-arbitrary Coding in Syntax. Iconicity in Syntax, ed. J. Haiman 187-220. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Goldenberg, G. 1971. Tautological Infinitive. Israel Oriental Studies I, 36-85. Goldenberg, G. 1996. Hebrew as a Living Semitic Languagein: halaon haibrit behitpatxutah ubehitxadutah (The Hebrew Language in its development and renewal, in Hebrew). Jerusalem, Academy of the Hebrew Language 149-90. Greenberg, J. (ed.). 1963. Universals of Languages. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Greenberg, J. (ed.). 1978. Universals of Human Language. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Greenberg, J. 1983. Some Iconic Relationships Among Place, Time and Discourse Deixis, Iconicity in Syntax, ed. J. Haiman 271-288. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins Humboldt, W. von. 1836. ber die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaus und seinen Einfluss auf die geistige Entwicklung des Menschengeschlechts. Bonn: Duemmler

Kapeliuk, O. 1996. Is Modern Hebrew the only Indo-Europeanized Semitic Language? And what about Neo-Aramaic ?. Studies in Modern Semitic Languages. Izre'el, Sh. & Sh. Raz (eds.): 59-70. Leiden: Brill. Khan, G. 2007. Ergativity in the North Eastern Neo-Aramaic Dialects, Studies in Semitic and General Linguistics in Honor of G. Goldenberg, 147-157. Mnster: Ugarit. Kirtchuk, P. 1995. Renouvellement grammatical, renouvellement lexical et renouvellement conceptuel en Smitique. Autour de la dnomination. Presses Universitaires de Lyon (Cl. Boisson & Ph. Thoiron, dirs.), 175-213. Kirtchuk, P. 2007. LUIT: Language - a Unified and Integrative Theory. Combat pour les langues du monde Fighting for the Worlds Languages: Hommage Claude Hagge, M.-M. Jocelyne Fernandez-Vest (dir.) pp. 271-282. Paris, LHarmattan. Kirtchuk, P. Forthcoming. Pragmatic vs. Grammatical mode - Utterance Internal Hierarchy (UHI) in Hebrew and Beyond: Dynamical Considerations. Proceedings of the LSA Meeting Workshop Information Structure & Typology. Boulder, CO. 2011. Kirtchuk, P. Preprint. Principia Linguistica. http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal00545240_v3/. Parish, J. & al. 2006. What Does It Take To Learn A Verb? A Verb Acquisition MetaAnalysis. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the XVth Biennial International Conference on Infant Studies, Westin Miyako, Kyoto. Posner, R. 1986. Iconicity in Syntax: The Natural Order of Attributes, Bouissac P., M. Herzfeld & R. Posner (eds.), Iconicity: Essays on the Nature of Culture. Festschrift for Thomas A. Sebeok on His 65th Birthday. Tbingen: Stauffenburg, p. 305-337. Rabin, Ch. 1973. A Short History of the Hebrew Language . Jerusalem: Jewish Agency. Sapir, E. 1921. Language. New York: Harvest Books. Steiner, R. C. 1977. The case for fricative-laterals in Proto-Semitic. American Oriental Society. New Haven, Connecticut. Tesnire, L.1959. Elments de Syntaxe Structrurale. Paris: Klincksieck. Testen, D. 2004. West Semitic Subject-Clitics. Proceedings of the 32nd North American Conference on Afroasiatic Linguistics. San Diego (CD ROM). Pablo Kirtchuk