Linguistics Colloquium: Uri Horesh

12/05/2020 - 14:00 - 15:30

Uri Horesh, Achva Academic College and Levinsky College of Education

Title: Asymmetric phonological variation in Palestinian Arabic and Modern Hebrew

(ON ZOOM, invite will be sent out closer to the date!)


A good number of studies dealing with contact-related phenomena between Palestinian Arabic and Modern Hebrew have focused on lexical borrowings and code-switching. In my research, I have focused less on lexicon and more on structural changes in these two languages, particularly in phonology, among bilingual speakers. This presentation will include the results of a number of studies conducted in Jaffa, where sociolinguistic interviews in both Arabic and Hebrew are analyzed for potential contact-induced variation and change in pharyngeal and pharyngealized (“emphatic”) consonants. Through multivariate quantitative analysis, as well as the employment of methods couched in historical sociolinguistics and “third-wave” variationist theory, I argue that there are two kinds of asymmetry in the effects of language contact on the phonology of these segments in both languages. While Palestinians in Jaffa who are bilingual in urban Palestinian Arabic and in Modern Hebrew exhibit a gradual and variable loss of pharyngeal(ized) consonants, most notably for the voiced pharyngeal variable (ʕ), in their Hebrew a pharyngeal realization of this variable is actually more likely than that of the voiceless pharyngeal segment (ħ), which is more frequently realized as a velar or uvular fricative [x/χ]. The second kind of asymmetry pertains to Hebrew speakers who are not proficient in Arabic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, for these speakers, there is no apparent effect of Arabic phonology, and even Arabic loanwords are most often pronounced using the (narrower) phonemic inventory of Modern Hebrew.

Parts of this research were conducted in collaboration with Roey J. Gafter (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev).

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