Language Contact between Palestinian Arabic and Israeli Hebrew 〜based upon cognitive dominance theory and acquisitionists’ approach〜

Author: Kazuhiko Nakae (Kansai Gaidai University, Japan)
Speaker: Kazuhiko Nakae
Topic: Language Contact and Change
COMELA 2020 General Session


This paper deals with the language contact situation of Arabic and Hebrew produced by Arabic-dominant speakers in Israel. This is asymmetrical bilingualism. There are very limited cases where Arabic is acquired by Hebrew-dominant speakers, whereas Arabic-dominant speakers in Israel are mostly bilingual.

While my research is descriptive based upon data from my fieldwork in Israel, the main theoretical framework for my data-analysis here is the integrated approach based upon Van Coetsem’s (2000) congnitive theory of linguistic dominance and the aquisitionists’ approach as well.

The topics raised for my analysis are (1) morpho-syntactic phenomena, mainly gender / number agreement and (2) loan translation on L2 higher proficiency. (L2 is Hebrew.)

The discussing points for each topic are (1) whether the newly-established simplified agreement pattern, which is grammatical neither in L1 nor in L2, can be considered ‘restructuring’ through the ‘process of reduction in complexity’ or ‘minimizing grammatical processing costs’ (Lucas 2012, 2014), pursuing the new default form in language contact situation and (2) whether ‘backward transfer’ (Winford 2014) from L2 to L1 occurs through the attrition of speakers’ L1. This latter discussion challenges whether syntactic skeleton can be borrowed even on RL agentivity against the stability gradient theory.

Rosenhouse and Brand (2016) first noticed the phenomenon (1) but without any discussion of ‘how’ and ‘why’. Henkin (2011) points to the phenomenon (2) as ‘loan translation’, ‘calquing’ or ‘semantic borrowing’ without any discussion of its mechanism.

This research is part of a larger study that aims to elucidate the mechanism of language contact through cross-linguistic phenomena, especially involving Arabic, and through these outcomes to elaborate on Van Coetsem’s unified theoretical framework for the analysis of language contact and contact-induced language change alongside with the acquisitionists’ approach perspective.


Henkin-Roitfaib, Roni. 2011. “Hebrew and Arabic in asymmetric contact in Israel.” Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 7.1, 61-100.
Lucas, Christopher. 2012. “Contact-induced grammatical change : towards an explicit account” Diachronica 29 :3, 275-300.
_______. 2014. “Contact-induced language change” The Routledge Handbook of Historical Linguistics, 519-536. London : Routledge.
Rosenhouse, Judith and Sara Brand. 2016. “Arabic-Hebrew code-switching in the spontaneous speech of Israeli Arab students.” Arabic Varieties : Far and Wide. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference of AIDA Bucharest 2015eds. by George Grigore and Gabriel Bituna, 467-474. Bucharest : The University of Bucharest.
Van Coetsem, Frans. 2000. A general and Unified Theory of the Transmission Process in Language Contact. Heidelberg : Winter.

Keywords: Arabic, Hebrew, Israel, language contact, contact-induced language change, bilingualism, agreement (gender, number), backward transfer, cognitive dominance, attrition, acquisitionists’ approach