"The chosen people" or "as all nations": The secularization shift from a semantic perspective

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The paper investigates the notion of "secularization shift," used by Hebrew semanticists, from a semantic perspective. After clarifying the terms "secularization" and "secularization shift" as used in Hebrew, it discusses a number of words that are described as representative of this process (characterized as social and extra-lingual, reflecting changes in Israeli reality). Using general semantic apparatuses (those not unique to any specific language), the concepts in question are examined in terms of relationships between the referent and the signifier. It is shown that the transition of Hebrew words from a sacred to a secular usage is explainable as part of the known semantic shifts (metaphor, metonymy, folk etymology, and ellipsis) and does not reflect one particular process. The theoretical and practical ramifications of the study are not limited to the specifics ways in which the meaning of one word or another changes from sacred to secular, and even to theoretical linguistic-semantic issues; rather, they touch upon the pivotal question of the relationship between the religious and the mundane, including their linguistic manifestations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-298
Number of pages42
JournalHebrew Studies
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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