This paper considers the relationship between synchronic variation and language change in the context of the existential and possessive constructions in Modern Hebrew, which exhibit a normative - colloquial alternation. The study examines usage patterns across age groups and time periods, as represented in spoken-language corpora. It shows that the non-normative construction is used extensively in the contemporary speech of adults. Moreover, a comparison of the use of the normative - colloquial alternations by two populations, children and adults, in different time periods, provides evidence to suggest that these constructions are undergoing language change. A cross-linguistic perspective lends additional support: across languages the expression of existence involves non-canonical structures, which are particularly susceptible to language variation and, possibly, language change.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 505/11). I am grateful to Yael Maschler for permission to use her corpus (Maschler 2014).
- Language change
- Modern Hebrew