This paper surveys current research on the sociophonetics of Modern Hebrew, meaning the research of phonetic variation in Hebrew speech that is socially conditioned, or interpreted as socially meaningful. The paper discusses recent methodological and theoretical advances in sociophonetic research on production and perception, and illustrates how these have been implemented in Hebrew and influenced our understanding of Hebrew sociolinguistics. It further highlights a number of key sociolinguistic variables that have received the most attention in quantitative research on segmental variation: the pharyngeal segments (ħ) and (ʕ), the Hebrew rhotic (r), the glottal fricative (h), and the diphthong (ej). The paper concludes with a discussion of future directions and additional variables of interest which have the potential to advance the growing field of Hebrew sociophonetics.
This article examines a borrowing from Arabic into Hebrew, which is a combination of a lexical borrowing and a structural one. The Arabic superlative aħla ‘sweetest, most beautiful,’ pronounced by most Modern Hebrew speakers [axla], has shifted semantically to mean ‘great, awesome.’ Yet, as our corpus-based study illustrates, it was borrowed into Hebrew—for the most part—with a very particular syntactic structure that, in Arabic, denotes the superlative. In Arabic itself, aħla may also denote a comparative adjective, though in different syntactic structures. We discuss the significance of this borrowing and the manner in which it is borrowed both to the specific contact situation between Arabic and Hebrew and to the theory of language contact in general.