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Review of  Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew

Reviewer: Joseph T. Farquharson
Book Title: Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew
Book Author: Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Hebrew
Issue Number: 16.1399

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Date: Mon, 2 May 2005 06:31:54 +0100 (BST)
From: Joseph Farquharson
Subject: Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew

AUTHOR: Ghil'ad Zuckermann
TITLLE: Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan
YEAR: 2003

Joseph T. Farquharson, Department of Language, Linguistics and
Philosophy, University of the West Indies (Mona)


The 'Introduction' (pp. 1-5) is a brief and lively preface to the entire
work which skilfully mixes socio-historical information and a bit of
theory. Zuckermann brings his point across by using the Israeli word
for "glasses" and possible ways of arriving at its etymology. He
introduces the focus of the book as 'a pervasive form of lexical
borrowing' (3) which he has termed 'multisourced neologization'

Chapter 1 'New Perspectives on Lexical Enrichment' (pp. 6-62) sets
the theoretical framework for the rest of the book. The author
mentions the traditional structuralist approaches to lexical borrowing
and discusses their inadequacy in dealing with cases in which words
have multiple sources. He discusses the shortcomings of Haugen's
(1950) classifications which he classifies under omission and
inappropriate categorization. This chapter, in some fifty-seven pages
lays out a detailed theoretical system for looking at and dealing with
MSN. Zuckermann divides MSN into three categories (i) phonetic
matching (PM); (ii) semanticized phonetic matching (SPM) and (iii)
phono-semantic matching (PSM). For many of the categories he sets
up a distinction between those used by laymen, those used by purists,
and processes which are employed by both groups.

Even though the author states that the book is on Israeli Hebrew, he
has drawn so many illustrations from other languages that the work
moves out of the territory of the ethnic and parochial into the
international sphere. This is due in part though to the nature of Israeli
and the number of languages which have influenced it over the

Popular terms such as folk-etymology, lexical conflation, and calquing
are nuanced and Zuckermann does an impressive task of clearing up
old misconceptions, rejecting "inappropriate categorizations", and
expanding categories with the view of creating/using terminology
which better capture the linguistic realities.

'The Case of Israeli: Multisourced Neologization (MSN) as an Ideal
Technique for Lexical Enrichment' (pp. 63-86) continues and
elaborates the work of the preceding chapter by demonstrating how
the various processes interact. The author provides the socio-
historical background to Israeli and language planning efforts
(especially via lexical expansion). We are informed that approximately
17,000 words in the Israeli lexicon are new items. Zuckermann moves
on to explore the various strategies employed in Israeli to form MSNs:
creating new roots from existing material; blending two independent
roots; recycling obsolete lexemes. Of chief interest in this chapter is
the discussion of whether Israeli is morphologically predisposed to
MSNs based on its socio-historical background and its apophonic

Chapter 3, 'Addition of Sememe versus Introduction of Lexeme' (pp.
87-122), goes further in nuancing the types of MSNs which occur.
Zuckermann distinguishes between those MSNs which introduce a
new lexeme (creational MSN) and those which merely add a new
sememe by semantic loan or shift. Here he introduces incestuous
phono-semantic matching (PSM) which (simply put) takes place where
a language borrows from a language a form which it lent to that
language at an earlier stage. The incestuous PSMs in Israeli are
treated based on whether they have an Indo-European, Semitic, or
Nostratic ur-source.

Chapter 4 'MSN in Various Terminological Areas' (pp. 123-147) in a
sense, signals the end of the theoretical aspect and turns to more
applications. At the very beginning of the chapter we are told
that '[folk-etymological nativization] FEN is widespread in those
terminological areas that suffer most from lexical voids within the
autochthonous inventory' (p. 123). The author spends time looking at
these various terminological areas (zoology, medicine, music, food,
computers, toponyms, and anthroponyms), and the history (both
internal and external) behind the creation of neologisms within each

In chapter 5 'Sociolinguistic Analysis: Attitudes Towards MSN in
Reinvented Languages' (pp. 148-186), we are presented with a
crucial discussion on the attitude of the various stakeholders to
different lexical inventions and to the types of processes used at
enriching Israeli and Republican Turkish.. The chapter ends with a
treatment of six possible explanations for failed MSNs and four for
successful MSNs gaining currency in the speech community.

Chapter 6, 'The Source Languages' (pp. 187-220) shifts the focus a
bit from the target language (TL) to the source languages (SL).
Zuckermann identifies several languages such as English (American
and British), Yiddish, Russian, Polish, German, and French as major
resources for lexical enrichment in Israeli. He also picks out an
important class which he refers to as "Internationalisms". An
internationalism is 'a lexical item which appears -- in various phonetic
adaptations -- in many languages, and is often conceived of as
international (p. 187). His research for this chapter brings together
111 internationalisms which are tabulated to illustrate his argument.

The 'Statistical Analysis' which is given in chapter 7 (pp. 221-245),
presents 186 Israeli MSNs (both successful and failed) in tabulated
form. The chapter begins with a two-page key to the table which itself
covers six and a half pages. The rest of the chapter is taken up by 23
graphs interposed with sparse explanatory text. The graphs give the
reader an idea of the status of MSN in Israeli based on things such as
source language, terminological area, semantic classification,
lexicopoietic classification, successful/failed, etc.

Chapter 8, 'Conclusions and Theoretical implications' (pp. 246-259)
provides a very brief summary of the work and raises several
theoretical issues which could not have been answered within the
scope of the book. The author revisits topics such as popular
etymology and how it is viewed/employed by puristic language
planners, linguistic gender, language typology, writing systems, etc.
The chapter closes with a statement on areas for future research.

The back matter comprises an appendix of 'Transcription,
Transliteration and Translation' conventions (pp. 260-265), a list of
references (pp. 266-286), and the Index which goes up to page 194.


I have spotted a few "typographical" errors in the book which do not
affect the overall quality. On page 188 (line 14), there is an
extra "might" which needs to be deleted. On page 102 (line 28),
insert "of" between "in the case" and "PE", and page 111 (line 26) "a
incestuous" should read "an incestuous". I have not found Wood
(1972) in the list of references.


The book is an outstanding piece of scholarship which undoubtedly
represents a milestone in the field of lexicology. Zuckermann's
attention to details has made the work a mini-encyclopaedia, much in
the tradition of Jewish scholarship. Generally, his etymologies are well
thought out and set a standard for current and future research.
However, his discussion of the etymology of kidon 'handlebars' (p. 89)
is less than convincing.

Given my current work on the (West African) substrate lexical
influence in Jamaican Creole (an English-based Creole language
spoken in the Caribbean), I would have welcomed a lengthier
discussion of lexical conflation in Pidgin and Creole languages which
would ultimately channel into the treatment of internationalisms. The
issue here is that while lexical conflation through the Congruence
Principle can be assumed, we still have not examined whether all or
only some of the potential SL forms had an influence on the TL form.
In addition, it would have been good if Zuckermann had explicitly
informed his readers about the extent to which Wood's claim that 'the
methods of classical etymology [...] are not directly applicable to non-
conventional languages such as creoles' (p. 55), was refuted or
supported by his findings.

Particularly interesting is his presentation of Israeli yovel "anniversary"
which is related to the over-etymologized English "jubilee". It
demonstrates the need at times to employ copious amounts of cultural
and historical information in order to unravel the etymology of one
lexical item.

While he painstakingly records references for his Israeli data, not so
much care is taken in recording the source of his data from other
languages, but this might have added to an already "crowded" text.

In chapter 3, we are introduced to one of the dangers of over-
detailing. The sub-section entitled "PSM by semantic shifting that
includes semantic loan" might serve more to obscure than to clarify
the notions of phono-semantic matching (PSM) and calquing, which
were introduced on page 8 and page 39 respectively. The reader has
already been asked to consider semantic loans as cases where there
is no phonetic similarity between the target language (TL) and the
source language (SL) forms, and the TL borrows the SL meaning. I
strongly believe that Zuckermann should consider ruling out semantic
loan as a part of the explanation after phono-semantic matching has
applied. By doing so, the original distinction he sets up would be
preserved; i.e. where PSM will apply in those cases where there is a
mapping of both form and meaning, and semantic loan will obtain only
in those cases where there is no structural similarity, but the
semantics of TL is clearly borrowed from SL.

Since we have broached the topic of "over-detailing" I must say that
while the theoretical side of the work is much appreciated, the battle to
remember the boundaries between small categories and the
numerous abbreviations at times proved tedious. However, this has
been compensated for by the writer's smooth style and the interesting
way in which he has presented the data. The way he pulls bits and
pieces of social and political history together, the numerous examples
he draws from diverse languages, and the occasional anecdotes all
add to the defining characteristics of the work. It would be foolhardy
for any lexicographer, lexicologist, etymologist, language planner,
morphologist not to have a copy of this book handy. The work is
accessible to a general audience though. Zuckermann set himself an
ambitious task which he has achieved with astounding brilliance.


Haugen, Einar (1950) The Analysis of Linguistic Borrowing, Language
26: 210-231.


Joseph T. Farquharson is a PhD candidate in the Department of
Language, linguistics and philosophy at the University of the West
Indies (Mona). He is about to begin a PhD fellowship at the Max
Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany).
Joseph is founder and co-ordinator of the Jamaican Lexicography
Project (Jamlex).

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