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  • Author or Editor: Yishai Neuman x

Yishai Neuman

Modern Hebrew usage of the preposition עִם ʿim ‘with’ displays syntactic and semantic features which are either non-existent or extremely rare in Classical Hebrew, among which are the instrumental and the possessive. These new features correspond to universal tendencies in language evolution and seem to have prevailed in several substrate languages of Modern Hebrew, including Yiddish and Judeo-Spanish. Until recently, they had characterized mostly colloquial Hebrew, whereas written Hebrew had conformed to Classical Hebrew. In recent years, however, social change has brought about the integration of colloquial Hebrew and written Hebrew, which has led to a decrease in the latter’s resemblance to Classical Hebrew. Normative linguists have been speaking out against the phenomenon of “misplaced ʿim.” This article is a brief account of some Hebrew ‘with’ structures, considered typologically through diachronic analysis and synchronic description of the socially-stirred interplay between colloquial and standard written Hebrew.

Yishai Neuman


Oral transmission of the Tannaitic Hebrew double genitive vocative ribbono šella‘olam ‘Master of the Universe’ maintains the definite article in the Hebrew component of two ancient Jewish vernaculars: Jewish Neo-Aramaic and Judeo-Arabic in Djerba. The textual transmission of the phrase, changed it graphemically from the Tannaitic original רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁלָּעוֹלָם into medieval רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם. The new spelling was the source of its final formation in Yiddish and Judeo-Spanish, without the definite article. The decategorialization of this double genitive phrase from a theocentric vocative to a semantically bleached interjection in these Jewish languages, especially Yiddish, was the point of departure for its meaning and pragmatic function in nascent spoken Modern Hebrew, as evidence from Mendele’s bilingual oeuvre indicates. It may be tentatively proposed that further grammaticalization and broadening of this substrate component structure-function pairing may have led to the emergence of a new category of analogically constructed discourse markers in Modern Hebrew.