Morphological levels and diachronic change in modern hebrew plural formation

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Modern Hebrew (MH) is undergoing a change in its morphological structure. Unlike earlier periods of the language, in which all nominal suffixation processes resulted in stress shift to the suffix, MH has a few suffixes that exhibit variable behavior. When attached to canonical bases, they pattern with other suffixes in that they attract stress and may cause phonological changes to the base. When attached to non-canonical bases, they do not attract stress and cause no phonological changes to the base. Additionally, stress neutral suffixation is much more regular and productive than stress attracting suf-fixation in its morphology, distribution and semantics. I argue that these two different patterns can be accounted for in terms of morphological levels within the theoretical framework of Stratal Optimality Theory (Kiparsky 2000, 2002, to appear). The different phonological behavior is accounted for in terms of different ranking of two constraints, applying at stem level vs. word level. The morphological and semantic correlates are attributed to the different properties of stem vs. word-level morphology. The diachronic change, namely the activation of word level for nominal suffixation, triggered further changes in MH's morphological system: the development of several default suffixes, and the emergence of two distinct subgrammars, which differ from each other in gender assignment and the correlation between gender and inflectional class (in the sense of Aronoff 1994).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777-806
Number of pages30
JournalStudies in Language
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006


  • Affixation
  • Modern Hebrew
  • Morphological changes
  • Morphological levels
  • Pluralization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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