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Emergent Constructions: Hebrew Relative Clauses / על התהוותן של תבניות מן השיח: משפחת פסוקיות הזיקה

יעל משלר and Yael Maschler
Lĕšonénu: A Journal for the Study of the Hebrew Language and Cognate Subjects / לשוננו: כתב-עת לחקר הלשון העברית והתחומים הסמוכים לה
Vol. עג‎, No. ב‎ (אדר ב' התשע"א), pp. 167-207
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24328315
Page Count: 41
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Emergent Constructions: Hebrew Relative Clauses / על התהוותן של תבניות מן השיח: משפחת פסוקיות הזיקה
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Abstract

This study explores a particular emergent construction in Hebrew discourse, one that started out as a relative clause construction and has come to function as an adverbial connective. Although the relative clause is a construction much studied by scholars of Hebrew in its various periods, it has not heretofore been studied systematically in spoken Hebrew discourse. According to prescriptive Hebrew grammar, a clause can be defined as a relative clause only if the element coreferential with the head either appears in the clause or could be added. A common phenomenon lamented by prescriptive Hebrew grammarians is the lack of a resumptive pronoun in the case of verbal complements other than the direct object. This phenomenon has been studied both within the generative framework and from the standpoint of accessibility theory. Here we take an Interactional Linguistics approach (Selting & Couper-Kuhlen 2001, Fox & Thompson 2007, Hopper & Thompson 2008), which reveals some problems with previous approaches. We describe the extent of the phenomenon in a corpus of naturally occurring spontaneous spoken Hebrew discourse, exploring the environments in which it is more likely to occur, and we suggest an explanation for the most common such environment. We show that, in this environment, the lack of a resumptive pronoun results in grammaticization involving the emergence of adverbial connectives from relative clause constructions in Hebrew. The concept of emergent construction is thus useful for understanding one aspect of the elusive nature of Hebrew resumptive pronouns. However, it is also useful for rethinking our current syntactic models. As noted in Fox & Thompson 2007, previous grammatical approaches treat NPs containing relative clauses as "constructions" with their main clauses. The findings of this study suggest that it is problematic to view all types of relative clause as a single "construction". This view is better replaced by one of grammatical organization that employs a continuum of often lexically specific formats related to one another family-resemblance style. Along this continuum we find additional emergent constructions, such as the attributive content clause, depending on the semantic properties of the head. From the standpoint of the users of the language, the practices underlying the use of Hebrew relative clauses are organized in the form of a networked family of patterns moving between the two ends of the continuum. This study thus makes a contribution towards exploring this networked family, and therefore towards the study of emergent (Hebrew) constructions.

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