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Intonation and Prosodic Structure

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Academic Paper


Title: On the grammaticization of ke'ilu ‘like’, lit. ‘as if’, in Hebrew talk-in-interaction
Author: Yael Maschler
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://hevra.haifa.ac.il/~comm/en/staff/yael.php
Institution: University of Haifa
Linguistic Field: Syntax
Subject Language: Hebrew
Abstract: This study investigates the employment in modern Hebrew of an element having a lexical source involving comparison (k(e)-, 'like') that has proliferated over the past decade or so in Israel; ke'ilu 'like', lit. 'as if'. The data come from audio recordings of casual conversations of college-educated Israelis with their friends and relatives, totaling approximately 78 minutes of talk among 72 speakers, transcribed in full and segmented into intonation units. A qualitative analysis of talk-in-interaction reveals four nonliteral functions of this expression: hedging, self-rephrasal, focus-marking, and quotation. A quantitative perspective on the distribution of these functions is presented, and these qualitative and quantitative analyses lead to an examination of the functional itinerary of this word in Hebrew discourse. A comparison with two "equivalents" of ke'ilu, English like and French genre leads to a discussion of functional parallelism across languages and yields further support for Hopper's principle of "persistence" in grammaticization. (Hebrew talk-in-interaction, grammaticization, cross-language pragmatics, discourse particles, hedging, self-rephrasal, focus-marking, quotatives.)
In memory of Suzanne Fleischman

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This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 31, Issue 2.

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