On the Grammatization and functions of Ke’ilu & Kaze in Hebrew.

Yael Maschler

University of Haifa, Israel

WS146: New Perspectives on New (and old) Quotatives

In a comparative study of the English discourse marker like and its French equivalent genre, Fleischman and Yaguello (2004) address the question posed by Traugott of ‘whether there are cross-language generalizations to be made about the development of discourse particles in terms of both their likely semantic sources and their semantic-pragmatic paths’ (Traugott 1995a: 4). In particular, Fleischman and Yaguello address this question in relation to the phenomenon of different languages independently grammaticizing markers with the same range of functions, and having similar lexical sources in their corresponding languages. In the case of English like and French genre, this lexical source involves some comparative meaning ‘whereby an item is considered in relation to a norm or paradigm’ (2004: 139).

The present contribution further extends this study to the case of Hebrew talk-in-interaction and investigates the use of two more elements involving comparative meaning, kaze and ke'ilu, both ‘equivalents’ of English like in some contexts. Over the past decade and a half, new uses have emerged for these two utterances, different from their literal meanings of ‘like this’ and ‘as if, as though’, respectively. This study is concerned with the emergence of these new meanings. I focus here particularly on kaze and compare it to ke'ilu, which was investigated at length in Maschler 2002, in press.

The data come from audio-recordings of 50 casual conversations of college educated Israelis with their friends and relatives over the years 1994-2002, totaling approximately 150 minutes of talk among 124 different speakers, transcribed in full and segmented into intonation units (Chafe 1994).

A qualitative analysis reveals four non-literal functions of ke'ilu -- hedging, self-rephrasal, focus-marking, and quotation; and three functions for kaze -- comparative demonstrative, hedge and quotative. Quantitative analysis highlights the distribution of these functions throughout the database. A combination of these approaches - qualitative as well as quantitative - allows an examination of the functional itinerary of these new quotatives in Hebrew.

Finally, I argue that the recent proliferation of kaze and ke'ilu in Israeli Hebrew discourse is tied to the change from a culture in which dugri speech (directness, ‘straight talk’) is central (Katriel, 1986), to one in which this speaking style is in decline (Katriel, 2004).

Session: Workshop (part 1)
New Perspectives on New (and old) Quotatives
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 02