Stance-taking in Hebrew casual conversation via be'emet ('really, actually, indeed', lit. 'in truth')

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In this article, we investigate the functional itinerary followed by Hebrew be'emet ('really, actually, indeed', lit. 'in truth'), through a close exploration of its synchronic uses in the contemporary spoken language. Since this utterance, derived from the noun 'emet ('truth'), is so profoundly tied in with the speaker's beliefs and attitudes towards his or her discourse, we consider issues of metalanguage, modality, evidentiality, and stance. Be'emet is traditionally classified as 'adverb', but in our corpus of naturally occurring Hebrew conversation, only 22 percent of all tokens function in this role. Whereas these tokens function referentially, the great majority of tokens (70%) function in the interpersonal realm of discourse, manifesting properties of discourse markers: 44.5 percent of all tokens function as full-fledged discourse markers (both semantically and structurally, Maschler, 1998) serving mirative (DeLancey, 2001), reprimanding, or negating any doubt roles; 22.5 percent function to ratify a previous stance; and three percent function to latch onto a new topic, requesting its elaboration. An intermediate category (8%) is composed of tokens functioning both referentially and interpersonally, mid-way between an adverb and a discourse marker, in a way that is particularly illuminating for understanding the changes undergone by be'emet as a result of its employment in discourse. The study thus lends support to previous studies of subjectification and intersubjectification in the process of grammaticization of discourse markers (Traugott, 2003; Traugott and Dasher, 2002).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-316
Number of pages34
JournalDiscourse Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • (inter)subjectification
  • Adverbs
  • Evidentiality
  • Grammaticization
  • Hebrew discourse markers
  • Metalanguage
  • Stance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language


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