Monthly Archives: February 2018

LingLang Lunch (2/28/2018): Roey Gafter (Ben Gurion University)

Roey Gafter’s main research focuses on sociolinguistic variation in Modern Hebrew, and its wider implications for sociolinguistic theory. For more information, his website is here.

Pharyngeals and beyond: phonetic differences and phonemic mergers in Hebrew

In the speech of most current Hebrew speakers, the phonemic distinction between pharyngeal and non-pharyngeal consonants has been neutralized towards a non-pharyngeal realization. Although this phonemic merger is a well-studied phenomenon, little attention has been given so far to the possibility of phonetic variation beyond a binary distinction between pharyngeal and non-pharyngeal forms. In this talk, I focus on the voiceless pharyngeal fricative [ħ], and demonstrate that the non-pharyngeal realization varies between a fricative and a trill. A phonetic analysis of data from sociolinguistic interviews conducted in two field sites in Israel reveals that the rate of trilling varies among speakers, and is sensitive to both social and linguistic factors. Speakers who do not produce pharyngeals are found to use the trill variant more frequently, but only in one of the two communities studied, in which the overall loss of the pharyngeals is considerably more advanced. I discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the mechanisms underlying the ongoing phonemic merger between pharyngeals and non-pharyngeals.

Spring 2018 Speaker Schedule

Date Speaker Title
2/14/2018 LLL(Lite)
2/28/2018 Roey Gafter (Ben Gurion University) Pharyngeals and beyond: phonetic differences and phonemic mergers in Hebrew ([ ])
3/7/2018 Kasia Hitczenko(University of Maryland) How to use context to disambiguate overlapping categories: The test case of Japanese vowel length
3/14/2018 Susan Kalt (Roxbury Community College) Changes in Bolivian Quechua evidentiality
3/21/2018 Gale Goodwin Gomez (RIC) CANCELLED
4/4/2017 Meghan Armstrong-Abrami (UMass) Children’s detection of epistemic strength distinctions through prosody and the lexicon ([ ])
4/11/2018 Angela Carpenter (Wellesley College) Dialect change in immigrant speakers of Jamaican Creole
4/18/2018 Yiming Gu (Brown University) Tone sandhi in Ganyu Mandarin
4/25/2018 Haoru Zhang (Brown University) Phonetic Convergence in Mandarin
5/2/2018 Sandra Waxman (Northwestern University) Colloquium – Becoming human: How (and how early) do infants link language and cognition?

Talk (2/27/2018): Roey Gafter (Ben Gurion University)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 12:00pm
Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center, Petteruti Lounge (Rm 201),
    75 Waterman Street, Providence RI

Roey Gafter from Ben Gurion University will give a talk on ethnicity and language in Israel among Hebrew speakers. This is a wide-audience talk, which will be followed by a more linguistic-y talk in LLL (separate notice and abstract will be sent that week). Details of his talk are as follows:

Ethnic identity in Israel and variation in Modern Hebrew: A linguist’s perspective

Among Israelis, Jewish ethnicity is often organized around a binary distinction between Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of European descent) and Mizrahi Jews (Jews of Middle Eastern descent). In this talk, I explore how Hebrew is spoken by Israelis of different ethnicities, and show that framing ethnicity as an Ashkenazi-Mizrahi binary hides many meaningful distinctions, both linguistically and socially. I discuss the aspects of Hebrew accents most strongly associated with Mizrahi identity and show that their history and the social dynamic in Israel have imbued them with a rich social meaning that goes far beyond a simple ethnic marker. I then discuss Hebrew features that are not stereotypically associated with ethnicity and show how they can be used in the construction of specific ethnic personae.

More information about the speaker can be found here.