Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

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Subject: Language and Linguistics

Edited by: Geoffrey Khan
Associate editors: Shmuel Bolozky, Steven Fassberg, Gary A. Rendsburg, Aaron D. Rubin, Ora R. Schwarzwald, Tamar Zewi

The Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online offers a systematic and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the history and study of the Hebrew language from its earliest attested form to the present day.
The Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online features advanced search options, as well as extensive cross-references and full-text search functionality using the Hebrew character set. With over 850 entries and approximately 400 contributing scholars, the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online is the authoritative reference work for students and researchers in the fields of Hebrew linguistics, general linguistics, Biblical studies, Hebrew and Jewish literature, and related fields.

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Rabbinic Hebrew: Karaite Sources

(2,362 words)

Author(s): Tirosh-Becker, Ofra
The Karaites are members of a Jewish movement that developed in the 9th century C.E. and maintained a mainly literal interpretation of the Bible, opposing the rabbinic Oral Law. Nonetheless, despite the prolonged Karaite-Rabbanite controversy, the Karaite scholars of the Golden Age of Karaism in the 10th–11th centuries were well acquainted with rabbinic literature. This familiarity is reflected in Karaite treatises in which the authors frequently refer to rabbinic notions, often citing from rabb…


(2,277 words)

Author(s): Korchin, Paul
Reanalysis consists of novel speaker assessments of constituent boundaries and values with respect to phonemes, morphemes, lexemes, and/or syntax, resulting in modification of the underlying structures that compose the surface manifestations of a language. Reanalysis is one of the principal catalysts for language change. Although individual instances of reanalysis are not predictable (Timberlake 1977:150), the process itself appears to be motivated by the need for language users to maintain a pr…


(3,304 words)

Author(s): Halevy, Rivka
1. Definition and Scope Studies of reciprocal constructions usually deal with monoclausal reciprocals, which can be divided into lexical and grammatical types. Lexical reciprocals may be regarded as a superordinate term for two types of predicates: (a) lexemes which denote a mutual relation, but are not marked grammatically (morphologically or syntactically) as reciprocals, e.g., verbs of competition, joint action, connecting, dividing, (non-)identity, and relationship; (b) reciprocals that are formed in the lexicon,…

Reduction of Vowels: Biblical Hebrew Reading Traditions

(2,029 words)

Author(s): Khan, Geoffrey
The phonetic reduction of vowels results in various changes in their quality as a result of weakening due to changes in factors such as stress, duration, and position in the word. This typically involves the loss of height and roundness, and a tendency towards centralization. It often results in the merger of the quality of vowel phonemes. The term ‘vowel reduction’ is sometimes used in the literature also to refer to the complete elision of a vowel. The development of vowels into shewa should be regarded as a case of total reduction, since a shewa, whether silent or vocalic, is phonolog…

Reduction of Vowels: Modern Hebrew

(2,398 words)

Author(s): Gonen, Einat
Many spoken languages exhibit elision, reduction, and shortening of vowels, mainly in the case of vowels which do not bear the main stress of the word, in order to reduce the effort required for production or to improve the prosodic configuration. Reduction in language is characteristic of lax and spontaneous speech, but may also express morpho-phonological processes (Ravid and Shlesinger 2001:372). Spontaneous reduction takes place for reasons of economy; it involves the shortening or deletion …


(2,005 words)

Author(s): Neuman, Yishai
1. General In Communication Theory, Redundancy is the over-marking of an element of information (Gibson and Mendleson 1984). Every language has some level of built-in redundancy (Richard et al. 1985), e.g., the English Noun Phrase (henceforth NP) three cats displays number redundancy, as both the quantifier three and the - s plural morpheme mark plurality (cf. Hungarian cicák ‘cats’, but három cica lit. ‘three cat’). This example shows that morphosyntactic agreement can be the origin of morpho- syntactic redundancy and should not be assigned a negative va…


(1,741 words)

Author(s): Bat-El, Outi
Reduplicated words exhibit one or more identical segments in a designated position. Hebrew reduplication involves only consonants (e.g., משורר mešorer ‘poet’, דפדף difdef ‘to turn pages, leaf through a book’), though reduplication in other languages may involve both vowels and consonants (e.g., CVC in Agta: puspusa ‘cats’, kalkaldin ‘goats’). Not every pair of identical consonants in a word is due to reduplication, since the process of reduplication is restricted by position. In Hebrew, a pair (or pairs) of identical consonants that constitu…


(3,345 words)

Author(s): Halevy, Rivka
1. Definitions and Scope A reflexive verb denotes a verb or construction where the subject and the object refer to the same entity or set of entities. These two roles are often referred to as ‘agent’ and ‘patient’, but unlike in prototypical agent-patient relationships a reflexive verb does not necessarily involve a change of state (Agent; Patient), and thus manifests an intermediate degree of transitivity. A reflexive pronoun, likewise, typically denotes a referent that is identical to that of the …

Regularization of Paradigm

(3,203 words)

Author(s): Shatil, Nimrod
1. Introduction: Terminology and Scope The term ‘regularization of paradigms’ refers to a morphological shift from one type of marking, in which inflection is effected through internal changes of the lexical base, to another type of marking, in which inflection is effected through linear means with no change in the lexical base. Sometimes the two processes are combined, i.e., there is both an internal change and linear inflection in the form of a suffix (e.g., ספר sefer ‘book’, ספרים sfar-im ‘books’). In English, most nouns are inflected by adding the suffix - s/-es, e.g., boot-boot-s, b…

Relative Clause: Biblical Hebrew

(4,591 words)

Author(s): Holmstedt, Robert D.
The ‘relative clause’ (RC) is the primary strategy for modifying a nominal constituent (i.e., the relative head) with a clause-level constituent (1). The RC thus contrasts both with non-clause-level nominal modifiers, such as Noun Phrase (NP)-internal prepositional phrases (PP) (2), and with clause-level modifiers of verbs, such as temporal, causal, and complement clauses (3). (1) RC (clausal modifier of a nominal head): אָֽנֹכִי֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֧ר הוֹצֵאתִ֛יךָ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם מִבֵּ֣י֥ת עֲבָדִֽ֑ים ʾå̄nōḵī YHWH ʾε̆lōhεḵå̄ʾå̆šεr hōṣēṯīḵå̄ mē-ʾεrεṣ miṣrayim mi…

Relative Clause: Modern Hebrew

(2,646 words)

Author(s): Zewi, Tamar
A relative clause is an attributive clause that qualifies a nominal or a pronominal head, and includes an overt or covert pronominal element referring to the head. The pronominal element referring to the head serves as a link between the head and the relative clause. Since an attributive relative clause is endocentric, namely, it always contains an overt or covert pronoun, it forms, together with the lexical attributive content, an attributive syntactic relation. When a relative clause is syndet…

Relative Clause: Rabbinic Hebrew

(1,919 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
A relative clause is a subordinate clause that modifies its noun head (also called its ‘antecedent’) in a way similar to that of attributive adjectives. Relatives in Rabbinic Hebrew are always introduced by a relative word (Kutscher 1959:34), which is almost exclusively -ש še- ‘that, which’. Sentences like אין לו מי יתירנו ʾen lo mi yattirennu ‘there is no one to render it permissible’ (Tosefta Menaḥot 6.20) are to be analyzed as containing a subject clause in the form of מי mi (subject) + יתירנו yattirennu (predicate), lit.: ‘there is no one: who will permit it’, and not as a s…

Relative Particles

(766 words)

Author(s): Huehnergard, John
1. זוּ zū and Related Forms The original Semitic relative particle was a declinable bound form of the shape *ðv̄ (in West Semitic: Byblian Phoenician z, Aramaic dī/d(ə), Ugaritic d, Arabic ðū and allaðī, Ethiopic za-) or *θv̄ (in East Semitic: Akkadian ša, earlier *θū, etc.) (Pennacchietti 1968). This ancient relative particle occurs fifteen times in Biblical Hebrew, in the form of the old nominative singular זוּ ; nearly all of the examples are in poetry, as in עַם־ז֣וּ גָּא֑לְָתָּ ʿam-zū gå̄ʾå̄ltå̄ ‘the people whom you redeemed’ (Exod. 15.13). The related demonstrative pronouns זֶה and ז…

Relevance Theory

(2,039 words)

Author(s): Smith, Kevin G.
Relevance Theory, a communication theory developed by Dan Sperber and Deidre Wilson (Sperber and Wilson 1986; 1995), has made a significant impact on the field of pragmatic linguistics. As a theoretical account of the phenomenon of human cognition and communication, Relevance Theory represents a noteworthy advance over the ‘code model’ of communication. Since the code model provides a theoretical foundation for many prevailing theories in the fields of linguistics, translation, and hermeneutics,…


(706 words)

Author(s): Wexler, Paul
Old Semitic Hebrew ceased to be anyone’s native tongue some 1,800 years ago, although as a second language it continued to possess liturgical and literary functions among Jews. In the predominant account of the genesis of Modern Hebrew, unspoken Old Hebrew was ‘revived’ as a spoken language by a small group of mainly Yiddish speakers in the late 19th century. Most scholars believe that language planners assumed that the grammar of Old Hebrew was always available; hence the language planners’ main task was to provide a mode…

Religion and Language

(3,794 words)

Author(s): Glinert, Lewis
Hebrew has been closely bound up with religion, primarily Judaism, and to some degree Christianity, both in terms of beliefs about Hebrew and human language and in terms of verbal and religious praxis. This association has taken a wide variety of forms. Both religions have generally recognized a hierarchy of prophetic, inspired, and religiously oriented Hebrew texts. However, prophetic and inspired texts are commonly re-contextualized in religious and even non-religious activities (e.g., worship…

Repetition: Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew

(1,604 words)

Author(s): Park, Misop
Prepositions (and the accusative marker אֵת ʾēṯ) are usually repeated in series of nouns in Biblical Hebrew (Brockelmann 1913:464–465; Waltke and O’Connor 1990:222; Joüon and Muraoka 1996:484), for example, וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִי֙ בְּצֶ֣דֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּ֔ט וּבְחֶ֖סֶד וּֽבְרַחֲמִֽים wə-ʾēraśtīḵ lī bə-ṣεḏεq u-ḇ-mišpå̄t u-ḇ-ḥεsεḏ u-ḇ-raḥămīm ‘And I will espouse you with righteousness and justice and with goodness and mercy’ (Hos. 2.21). However, there are also cases where prepositions are not repeated, for example, וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֗ל הַחֵ֤פֶץ לַֽיהוָה֙ בְּעֹל֣וֹת וּזְבָחִ֔ים כִּשְׁ…

Repetition: Modern Hebrew

(2,851 words)

Author(s): Malibert-Yatziv, Il-Il
The term ‘repetition’ in linguistics is used to describe a range of phenomena. These may include repetition of whole words or parts of words, and even paraphrases—the reiteration of concepts using different words. Synonymous terms include ‘reduplication’, ‘reiteration’, ‘doubling’, ‘parallelism’, and ‘paraphrase’. In all these cases, the repeated forms may be identical or show only approximate similarity. Repeated forms may be adjacent, appearing immediately after one another, or discontinuous, separated by additional elements in the text or discourse…

Reservation, Expressions of

(2,979 words)

Author(s): Bliboim, Rivka
Reservation involves the rejection, usually partially, of a given message. There are many lexical means of expressing reservation, particularly concerning a message’s certainty. Thus, when the addressee is not certain, or does not want to be perceived as being certain, of a given message’s truth-value, he may use an expression such as -קרוב לוודאי ש qarov le-vaday še- ‘it is almost certain that’, -סביר להניח ש savir lehaniax̱ še- ‘it is reasonable to suppose that’, מן הסתם min ha-stam ‘probably’, -נראה ש nirʾe še- ‘it seems that’, -ייתכן ש yitaxen še- ‘it is possible that’, and so on. In thi…

Resh: Modern Hebrew

(693 words)

Author(s): Bolozky, Shmuel
In Israeli Hebrew the ususal articulation of ר /r/ is close to the voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] (see Bolozky 1978; 1997). Laufer (2008) points out that the rhotic sound group in Israeli Hebrew includes a range of phonetic realizations of ר /r/, of which the uvular approximant is the most common. This is also consistent with the findings of Bolozky and Kreitman (2007), where a wide array of realizations is reported, from a trill—sometimes accompanied by frication—to a full trill or a segment with no trilling at all, as in glides. However, an alveolar realization of ר /r/ also exists in some …
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