The impact of contact languages on the degrammaticalization of the Hebrew definite article

Edit Doron, Irit Meir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Hebrew article ha- is apparently undergoing a process of degrammaticalization within Modern Hebrew. Its distribution has been changing in a particular direction that is unexpected from the point of view of historical linguistics. Whereas in Classical Hebrew it was found with a limited number of lexical items, it now attaches to a variety of phrases. This change is indicative of a change in its morpho-syntactic category: it is becoming more a clitic than an affix. The morpho-syntactic change is accompanied by a semantic change; its function is to mark the definiteness of the phrase it attaches to, rather than being part of the Classical Hebrew state system. We propose that the change has its roots in a language-internal change that affected the periphrastic genitive construction of Mishnaic Hebrew and was enhanced through several phases of language contact such as the contact of Medieval Hebrew with Arabic and the contact of nineteenth-century Hasidic Hebrew with Yiddish.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-299
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Jewish Languages
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2015


  • Construct state
  • Definiteness
  • Degrammaticalization
  • Emphatic state
  • Language contact

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Linguistics and Language


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