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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."



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Dissertation Information


Title: Testing the Abstractness of Phonological Representations in Modern Hebrew Weak Verbs Add Dissertation
Author: Meghan Sumner Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: State University of New York at Stony Brook, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2003
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonology; Psycholinguistics;
Subject Language(s): Hebrew
Director(s): Christina Bethin
Ellen Broselow
Robert Hoberman
Arthur Samuel

Abstract: This dissertation argues for priming as a tool to test the reality of phonological analyses. I examine alternations in two types of weak verbs (verbs that surface without one of their traditional root consonants) in Modern Hebrew. In the cases examined here, consonant loss is phonologically motivated. I show that current analytical standards allow (at least) three psychologically plausible analyses. Each analysis, while having a goal of accurately modeling the phonological component of grammar, makes vastly different predictions about the nature of this grammar.

These predictions are tested in a psycholinguistic priming experiment. The experiment is designed to provide us with direct evidence about the nature of the phonological representations for these weak verbs. The two types of weak verbs are compared to regular verbs, and two subject groups (older and younger adults) are included to control for language change issues in Modern Hebrew.

The results support a view that younger adult speakers have reanalyzed both types of weak verbs as vowel-final stems, consistent with an analysis arguing for concrete representations. For older adults, the results support an analysis proposing concrete representations for one type of weak verb, and abstract representations for the other. The ability of older adults to form abstract representations is attributed to a higher exposure to the transparent alternation than younger adults received, as this alternation has been documented to decrease over time. The results are extended to the nominal paradigm of Modern Hebrew and I argue that we have no evidence of abstract representations for a class of segolate nouns that are traditionally analyzed as being opaque. Therefore, opacity in Modern Hebrew should not be used as motivation for modifications to Optimality Theory. Additional implications for Modern Hebrew phonology are discussed.

For phonology in general, we now have an outlet with which we can test predictions made by competing theories. Additionally, the questions of how speakers identify surface variants as related and what types and amounts of evidence are required to motivate this abstract relationship are raised. This research also has implications for opacity in general, casting doubt on the assumption that speakers really do acquire opaque generalizations.