[BOLOZKY] Productivity of Word Formation Patterns

Productivity of Word Formation Patterns: Modern Hebrew vs. Earlier Phases of the Language

Shmuel Bolozky

(reviewers: Aviad Albert, Yael Reshef)

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Abstract: In Biblical, Mishnaic and Medieval Hebrew, the degree to which certain miʃkalim (discontinuous word-formation patterns; called binyanim in the verb system), as well as some linear words formation patterns, tended to be associated with some semantic characteristics is far less noticeable than it (often) is in Modern Hebrew. The proposed reason is that when new words were coined, the “revivers” of Modern Hebrew as a spoken language as well as later word-coiners made a conscious effort to neologize words based on what looked like existing historical semantic traits, which caused the sometimes-tenuous form-meaning relationships in the original miʃkalim to become more regular, and consequently more productive, in Modern Hebrew. It is also argued that the innovators preferred miʃkalim including prefixes and suffixes, which tend to be more transparent than affix-less ones. Thus, for instance, less new segholate nouns (without affixes) were introduced in Modern Hebrew than in all periods of Classical Hebrew combined, since segholates are typically not associated with particular semantic traits, whereas realizations in Modern Hebrew of patterns like maCCeC and maCCeCa, which in a noticeable number of cases tend to be associated with instruments/tools, significantly outnumber those introduced in all earlier periods (Biblical, Mishnaic, Medieval) put
together. Independently of that, it has also been shown (Bolozky forthcoming) that forms derived in Modern Hebrew by linear suffixation (of +i, +ut, +on, etc.) overwhelmingly outnumber those
introduced in earlier phases of the language, owing to the greater transparency of the derivation base resulting from linear suffixation – as well as of the suffix, of course.

Bolozky, Shmuel. 2022. “Productivity of Word Formation Patterns: Modern Hebrew vs. Earlier Phases of the Language”. Radical: A Journal of Phonology, 4, 329-356.