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Type: Journal article
Title: "Realistic prescriptivism" : the Academy of the Hebrew language, its campaign of "good grammar" and Lexpionage, and native Israeli speakers
Author: Zuckermann, G.
Citation: Israel Studies in Language and Society, 2008; 1(1):135-154
Publisher: Israeli Association for the Study of Language and Society
Issue Date: 2008
ISSN: 1565-9682
Statement of
Ghil‘ad Zuckermann
Abstract: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 'Who will guard the guardians themselves?' (Iuvenalis, Satirae, vi, 347-8). Over the past century, Israeli – a.k.a. "Modern Hebrew" – has become the primary mode of communication in all domains of public and private life in Israel. Linguistic issues are so sensitive in Israel that politicians are often involved. For example, in an article in Ha'aretz (June 21, 2004), politician Yossi Sarid attacked the (most widespread) "common language of éser shekel" as inarticulate and monstrous, and urged citizens to take up arms, fight it and protect "Hebrew". However, most Israelis say éser shékel 'ten shekels' rather than asar-á shkal-ím, the latter literally meaning 'ten (feminine) shekels (masculine plural)', and thus having a "polarity-of-gender agreement" - with a feminine numeral and a masculine plural noun. Brought into being by legislation in 1953 as the supreme institute for Hebrew, the Academy of the Hebrew Language prescribes standards for Israeli grammar, lexis, orthography, transcription and vocalization (vowel marking) "based upon the study of Hebrew's historical development". This paper provides a critical analysis of the Academy's mission, as intriguingly defined in its constitution: "to direct the development of Hebrew in light of its nature". It sheds light on the dynamics of the committees' meetings, and exposes some Uturn decisions recently made by the Academy. I suggest that the Academy has begun submitting to the "real world", accommodating its decrees to the parole of native Israelispeakers, long regarded as "reckless" and "lazy".
Keywords: prescriptivism/normativism; language planning; sociolinguistics; Israeli vs Hebrew; hybridity; Turkish; polyglossia; Arabic
Rights: Copyright © Israeli Association for the Study of Language and Society
RMID: 0020106768
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Appears in Collections:Linguistics publications

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