Constructing a genre: Hebrew ('ani) lo yode'a/lo yoda'at '(I) don't know' on Israeli political radio phone-ins

Yael Maschler, Gonen Dori-Hacohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explore employment of the Hebrew construction ('ani) lo yode'a/lo yoda'at (lit '[I] not m/f-sg.know'), roughly equivalent to English 'I don't know', by callers and hosts in 80 interactions on Israeli political radio phone-in programs, as compared with its functions in casual conversation. Five uses were attested in the corpus of radio phone-ins and correlated with the syntactic form of complementation (if available) for each token of the construction: (i) expressing literal lack of knowledge; (ii) expressing epistemic stance of uncertainty/hedging; (iii) gaining cognitive processing time in the midst of self-repair; (iv) expressing affective stance of contempt or criticism; and (v) avoidance strategies. While most of these uses are common to both genres, some are unattested in casual conversation. By exploring the functions of the ('ani) lo yode'a/lo yoda'at construction and their distribution according to institutional role, the study (i) sheds further light on the use of the construction and its evolvement through use; and (ii) shows how hosts and callers exploit this specific construction in ways that establish the Israeli political radio phone-in institutional genre.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-604
Number of pages30
JournalText and Talk
Issue number5
StatePublished - 28 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements: Yael Maschler would like to acknowledge Grant no. 887/12 from the Israel Science Foundation and a Visiting Professorship at the Finnish Center of Excellence in Research on Intersubjectivity in Interaction at the Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian, and Scandinavian Studies, University of Helsinki during January and February 2016, which have both enabled completion of this study. The paper was presented at the International Conference on Conversation Analysis (ICCA 2014) at UCLA.

Funding Information:
Gonen Dori-Hacohen would like to thank the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University and the Lady Davis Fellowship for the visiting professor fellowship during his sabbatical from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst during 2018.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.


  • Hebrew interactional linguistics
  • Mental verb constructions
  • affective and epistemic stance
  • avoidance strategies
  • hedging
  • self-repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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