Existential possessive modality in the emergence of modern Hebrew

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper documents the evolution of existential possessive modals in a literary corpus of Emergent Modern Hebrew (EMH). Modal uses of the existential element yeš are shown to have changed their form and their meaning during this period. Morphosyntactically, the possessive variant declined, and it became impossible to inflect modal yeš. Semantically, a special meaning of ability that was available in the classical Hebrew variants of the construction was lost, and modal yeš turned into an expression that exclusively conveys impersonal deontic necessity. Language contact, primarily with Russian, is suggested to have shaped the morphosyntax of existential possessive modals in EMH, whereas internally-motivated processes based on the inherited semantics may explain the meaning modal yeš ultimately developed. On this view, the grammar of Modern Hebrew exhibits recombination of features from languages in contact at the time of language revival.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage Contact, Continuity and Change in the Genesis of Modern Hebrew
Place of PublicationAmsterdam : Philadelphia
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages39
ISBN (Print)9789027203274, 997008636374405171
StatePublished - 2019

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Hebrew language, Modern -- Modality
  • Hebrew language, Modern -- Possessives
  • Languages in contact


Dive into the research topics of 'Existential possessive modality in the emergence of modern Hebrew'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this