Pseudo-cleft-like structures in Hebrew and French conversation: The syntax-lexicon-body interface

Yael Maschler, Simona Pekarek Doehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, we set out to shed light on cross-linguistic consistencies in the grammaticization of projecting constructions and on the interface of embodied conduct and complex syntax. We present a multimodal interactional linguistic analysis of Hebrew clauses opening with ma she- ‘what that’ and French clauses opening with ce que ‘it that’ in what has been traditionally considered to be part of pseudo-cleft structures. Based on recordings of naturally occurring conversations, and in line with recent research on social interaction, we argue that, rather than being part of a bi-clausal structure, the Heb. ma she- / Fr. ce que clause functions as a projecting construction, often occurring in conversation without any syntactic link to subsequent talk. We combine quantitative and qualitative analysis to show that these projecting constructions are characterized by lexico-semantic, syntactic, and prosodic consistencies and have become sedimented for specific interactional purposes in a similar fashion across the two languages: they project further talk by the same speaker and frame it either (1) as reporting an action, event, or paraphrasing prior talk, or (2) as displaying the speaker's stance. We further document that the embodied conduct of speakers employing these projecting constructions manifests some convergence across the two languages as a function of the particular sequential contexts in which they occur, thereby uncovering cross-linguistic consistencies in how syntax, lexicon, and the body interface in social interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103397
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Emergent complex syntax
  • Interactional linguistics
  • Multimodality
  • Projecting constructions
  • Pseudo-clefts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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