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Back Formation

(470 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
Back formation is the derivation of a new lexeme from an existing word by the treatment of an affix not according to the normative ‘historically-correct’ rules. Back formation is motivated by the natural tendency for simplification that results from word leveling (Bloomfield 1933:412–416). In most cases Hebrew back formations are created on the basis of inflected forms by the omission of the inflectional morpheme. Thus, for example, the Modern Hebrew word עיירה ʿayara ‘small town’ is derived from Rabbinical Hebrew עיירות ʿayarot ‘cities’, which replaced Biblical Hebrew עָרִים ʿå̄rī…

Lexicon: Modern Hebrew

(4,865 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
The lexicon of Modern Hebrew is composed of native Hebrew words from all language periods and of loanwords. In the first part of this entry the lexical components of Hebrew will be described. This is followed by a discussion of the linguistic principles used in the most recent Modern Hebrew lexicons. 1. The Hebrew Component The Hebrew words listed in Even-Shoshan’s Modern Hebrew dictionary show the following distribution with respect to their initial appearance in the language: 22% of the words are first attested in Biblical Hebrew, 21% in Rabbinica…

Number: Modern Hebrew

(3,197 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
Number refers here to the morphological and syntactic features of words in the language which semantically relate to quantity (Corbett 2000:9–53). The most essential expression of number appears in nouns, because they determine the syntactic agreement in the sentence. As will be demonstrated below, number is realized morphologically in other parts of speech in addition to nouns. Modern Hebrew number inflection and derivation are based on those of Classical Hebrew, though with some developments. Each of the following categories has number marking. In most cases the mar…


(2,373 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
1. Introduction Mishqal (משקל mišqal; pl. משקלים mišqalim) is the Hebrew name for the nominal derivation patterns, as opposed to בניין binyan (pl. בניינים binyanim), the name for verbal derivation patterns (Binyanim: Modern Hebrew). A mishqal consists of specific vowels between the root consonants (radicals); some also include prefixes and/or suffixes. For representing the mishqalim the consonantal roots קט״ל q-ṭ-l and (less frequently) פע״ל p-ʿ-l are used. For instance, the root גד״ל g-d-l, with meanings related to ‘growing’, occurs in several nominal patterns: qṭula = C1C2uC3a…

Judeo-Spanish Influence on Hebrew

(2,125 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
Judeo-Spanish (JS), also known as Ladino, Djudezmo, or Español, is the language spoken since the 16th century by the Jews expelled from Spain who settled in the Ottoman Empire in the eastern Mediterranean and in North Africa. Its basic grammatical structure and vocabulary follow medieval Spanish, with massive influence from Hebrew and local languages, such as Greek, Turkish, Arabic, French, and Italian. The first paragraphs of this entry describe JS from a number of perspectives, and and then the influence of JS on Modern Hebrew will be discussed. 1. Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish Hebrew and…

Secret Languages, Hebrew in: Judeo-Spanish

(547 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
The tendency to use foreign words for secret expressions is well known in many languages. As in other Jewish languages, Hebrew has been the diglossic language of Judeo-Spanish in the Sephardic communities. The Hebrew component in Judeo-Spanish is quite large and its application for secret expressions is only part of its general use (Bunis 1993). Hebrew words and phrases have been used as secretive expressions for two purposes: (1) to avoid taboo terms in Judeo-Spanish; (2) to conceal special meanings from outsiders (Schwarzwald 1982; 1983). Hebrew words are used to refer to tabo…

Defective Verbs

(3,824 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
Defective (or weak) verbs are verbs that contain a radical which does not show up in part or all of the inflection. Strong roots, with their three permanent radicals, constitute the norm against which the defective features of weak roots are compared. Hebrew roots are divided into strong and weak inflectional classes called גזרות gzarot ‘root classes’ in Hebrew. The Semitic classification of weak versus strong verbs should not be confused with the Indo-European system, in which strong verbs are those in which tense is marked by vowel change in the stem, as in English sing-sang-sung, bring…

Diphthongs: Modern Hebrew

(644 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
A diphthong is a sequence of two vowels in one syllable. One of the vowels constitutes the syllable peak and the other, a semi-vowel, marks its edge and in most cases becomes a glide. In a rising diphthong the vocalic peak is at its end (e.g., ya [ i̯a] , we [ u̯e]), whereas in a falling diphthong the syllable starts with the peak vowel and ends with the semi-vowel (e.g., ay [ ai̯], ew [ eu̯]). The Modern Hebrew semi-vowels are the glides y, and rarely w and ă. Phonetic rising diphthongs exist in examples like יד yad ‘hand’, יום yom ‘day’, ציור ṣiyur ‘painting’, ילד yéled ‘boy’. Examples for falling …

Judeo-Spanish Loanwords

(1,340 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
Many loanwords in Modern Hebrew are register-dependent. Words borrowed from prestigious foreign languages are often adopted into a higher register, whereas words from less prestigious foreign languages enter the lower registers of the language. Judeo-Spanish (JS), Yiddish, and Arabic, for instance, are low-prestige languages among speakers of Modern Hebrew, and therefore most of the loanwords from these languages are used in slang or non-standard speech. Some European languages are highly valued…

Consonant Clusters: Modern Hebrew

(4,618 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
A consonant cluster is a sequence of two consonants or more in a word, without an intervening vowel. The rules governing consonant clusters reflect aspects of the phonotactic structure of a given language, in our case Modern Hebrew. There are phonetic restrictions on the combination of consonants and their location in words and they are influenced by linguistic as well as sociolinguistic factors. The discussion will concentrate on various aspects of restrictions on clusters in Hebrew and show th…


(4,224 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
Inflection is a change of form a lexical unit undergoes to make various grammatical distinctions. It is different from derivation in that it does not create new lexical entries, it is predictable, and the number of inflectional devices is limited (Dressler 1989; Derivation). For example, the words walk-walks-walked-(be)walking are inflected forms of the verb walk. Other terms used for inflection are conjugation, especially for verbs, and declension for nouns. The inflectional categories of Hebrew are gender, number, construct state and possession in nouns, gender…

Dual: Modern Hebrew

(565 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
As in previous periods, the dual marker in Modern Hebrew is the ending יים- -áyim, which indicates the component ‘two’. It occurs in newly formed common nouns like מספריים misparayim ‘scissors’, מכנסיים mix̱nasayim ‘trousers’, משקפיים mišqafayim ‘(eye) glasses’, אופניים ʾofanayim ‘bicycle’. Many of these newly formed nouns are pluralia tantum, some of which are formed in miCCaCayim pattern. A few place names are also formed in the same way, e.g., גבעתיים givʿatayim ‘(having) two hills’, בארותיים beʾerotayim ‘(having) two wells’, as in the past (Schwarzwald 1996). The ending יים- - ay…


(2,731 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
Derivation in morphology refers to the process through which a new word is created by means of an alteration in form or structure. It differs from inflection, in which a word may be changed but no new lexical entry is formed (Dressler 1989). For instance, movement is derived from move by the addition of - ment and both words are listed in the lexicon, whereas the addition of -s to move or to movement (i.e., moves, movements, respectively) does not involve the creation of new words (Inflection). Derivation differs from inflection in a number of ways, a few of which will be mentione…

Modern Hebrew: Language Varieties

(10,228 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
Like any other living language, Modern Hebrew (MH) has many varieties depending on numerous sociological, geographical, textual, temporal, and personal factors. They are determined by the classical question: who uses (speaks, writes) what variety of what language to whom, when, where, and concerning what (based on Fishman 1972:2). In this entry the use of text refers to any variety of language usage, in conventional writing, in speech, in media usages, on the internet, etc. The survey will conce…


(3,360 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
Gender is a category which classifies nouns into masculine, feminine, neuter, and other classes, and these, in turn, may determine grammatical agreement of other words in a sentence (Hockett 1958:231; Corbett 1991:7–32). Hebrew has two genders, masculine (m) and feminine (f), and they are assigned to each noun; thus, for instance, דלת délet ‘door’ is feminine and שער šáʿar ‘gate’ is masculine, כובע kovaʿ ‘hat’ is masculine and מגבעת migbáʿat ‘brimmed hat’ is feminine, אבן ʾéven ‘stone’ is feminine and סלע séla ‘rock’ is masculine. They determine the inflection of other membe…

Morphology: Modern Hebrew

(3,578 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
Modern Hebrew morphology is based on classical, mainly Biblical Hebrew, albeit with many changes, some related to word structure (the lexicon), others due to morphophonemic and morphosyntactic factors. Hence the discussion here will concentrate on derivational and inflectional processes that are specific to Modern Hebrew morphology (Schwarzwald 2009a). 1. Derivational Morphology Except for acronyms, all the word formation devices in Modern Hebrew are based on the classical sources and are already found in Biblical Hebrew. They include root-and-p…

Galilean Dialect

(675 words)

Author(s): Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
The Galilean dialect was a unique, esoteric variety of Hebrew spoken during the early years of the language’s revival in Israel. As spoken linguistic norms had not yet been established, there were many varieties of the spoken language represented throughout the country. The Galilean dialect was created in the late 1890s and died out in the 1920s (Bar-Adon 1975). The leading teacher responsible for the creation of the dialect was Yitzḥak Epstein, who in turn was succeeded by Simḥa Ḥayyim Wilkomitz and supported by teachers in the Upper Galilee. In order to represent classical feature…


(338 words)

Author(s): Rendsburg, Gary A. | Schwarzwald, Ora (Rodrigue)
For regional dialects of ancient Hebrew, with a focus on the division between Judahite Hebrew (in the south) and Israelian Hebrew (in the north), Biblical Hebrew: Dialects and Linguistic Variation. For Hebrew as a dialect of ancient Canaanite (with Phoenician, Moabite, Ammonite, and Edomite as the other main dialects), Canaanite and Hebrew; Phoenician/Punic and Hebrew; Amarna Canaanite and Hebrew; Ammonite and Hebrew; Edomite and Hebrew; Moabite and Hebrew. For written and spoken registers of ancient Hebrew during both the biblical and rabbinic periods, Diglossia. For other var…