Article published in:New Questions for the Next Decade
Edited by Gonia Jarema, Gary Libben and Victor Kuperman
[The Mental Lexicon 11:3] 2016
► pp. 401–428
Hebrew adjective lexicons in developmental perspective
Subjective register and morphology
Objective frequency does not always provide reliable information about lexical distributions across individuals’ development. We propose the subjective ranking by experts of lexical items’ register in the sense of ‘levels of linguistic usage’, which has been independently linked to AoA, as an alternative. This proposal was tested in Hebrew, a language showing marked distinctions between the everyday colloquial style and more formal, historically-related types of expression. A list of over 3,500 Hebrew adjectives in 19 morphological categories was compiled from dictionary sources. All adjectives on the list were ranked on a 1–5 linguistic register scale by 329 language expert judges. A Model Based Latent Class Analysis yielded five high-agreement groups of adjectives with mean register scores from 1.44 to 4.51, taken to represent five developmentally consecutive adjective lexicons. Semantic and morphological analyses indicated a rise in the abstractness and specificity of adjectives in the five lexicons, with concurrent changes in their morphological makeup. Two morphological categories emerged as the major components of the Modern Hebrew adjective lexicon: Resultative patterns, expressing states, and i-suffixed denominals, expressing nominal attributes. The study showed that subjective register classification may constitute a yardstick in development, with implications for other languages where register judgements can apply.
Keywords: adjectives, morphology, register, Hebrew, AoA, subjective ranking
Published online: 31 December 2016
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