Creating a popular culture: The linguistic model in the Hebrew folksong

Yael Reshef*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


An examination of language use in the Hebrew folksong revealed that the linguistic choices which shaped its character followed a structured linguistic model. This model encouraged the adherence to inherited usages, primarily those derived from biblical Hebrew, and hindered the employment of linguistic features that reflected the changes that accompanied the transformation of Hebrew into a daily means of communication and were identified with the contemporary language - and primarily with its spoken dimension. Consequently, the folksong was linguistically conservative, and was characterized by a relatively elevated style. This stylistic model operated in the folksong in all linguistic levels, granting it stylistic uniformity. These characteristics of the folksong are discussed and demonstrated by selected phenomena, based on an examination of a large textual corpus. The corpus, which represents the pre-State canonic layer of the Hebrew folksong, consists of songs that were created as part of the nation-building efforts of the Jewish National Movement in the period preceding the establishment of the State of Israel. The discussion highlights the kind of linguistic choices that shaped the unique character of this central component of the popular culture created in the Hebrew-speaking Yishuv in its formative period.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)49-69
Number of pages21
JournalRevue des Etudes Juives
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2004


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