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Can some one explain this to me?

In a mixed language par excellence, large and monolithic blocks of material are imported wholesale from each of the ancestral languages. Thus, while the verbal system of Michif is entirely Cree, its nominal system is entirely French (see Bakker). Sui generis Israeli Hebrew is markedly different: the impact of Yiddish and Standard Average European3 is apparent in all the components of the language, but usually in patterns rather than in forms (see Zuckermann, “‘Abba’”). Moreover, Israeli Hebrew demonstrates a unique and spectacular split between morphology and phonology. Whereas most Israeli Hebrew morphological forms (e.g., discontinuously conjugated verbs) are Hebrew, the phonetics and phonology of Israeli Hebrew – and of these very forms in particular – are European. One of the reasons for overlooking this split is the axiom that morphology, rather than phonology, is the most important component in genetic classification. In fact, such a morpho-phonological split is not apparent in most languages of the world and is definitely rare in “genetic” languages. Israeli Hebrew’s “non-geneticness” makes it a hybrid language.

-- Ghil'ad Zuckermann in "A New Vision for Israeli Hebrew" (emphasis mine)

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2 Answers 2

I guess I'd have to read the paper to really know what he's getting at, but it seems to me that he's distinguishing between how the language is structured, "morphology," and how it's pronounced, "phonetics and phonology." I guess that what happened when Ben Yehuda was constructing Modern Hebrew was that the morphology was readily available in written Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew, but for pronunciation, he had to rely on the sounds available on the Ashkenazi immigrant's tongue, which were European. If he'd used Hebrew/Semitic phonology, i.e. trying to get modern Israelis to speak the way people in Tanach or in the Mishna did, Modern Hebrew would probably like modern Hebrew words and grammar, spoken with an Arabic or Yemenite accent.

If it's not apparent already, this is all my own uneducated conjecture.

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What he's trying to say is that:

  1. The morphology (root words themselves, affixes, conjugations of verbs, etc.) of modern Hebrew is directly descended from ancient Hebrew.
  2. The phonology, or system of sounds, of modern Hebrew is not.

Unfortunately, though, I wouldn't use this as an abstract of the article, since in the rest of the article he seems to argue that both the morphology and phonology of modern Hebrew is different from the Biblical Hebrew, but does not seem to be able to differentiate what is an organic difference and what is an imported difference, nor does he seem to be able to prove how the phonological differences are inherently "European". I don't think it's sufficient to call modern Hebrew's phonology "European" just because many speakers don't emphasize the pharyngeals. I don't see how not spirantizing away degeishim is European at all. And his assertion that Israeli Hebrew intonation is very Yiddish is not substantiated at all, and we are left with appeals to apply "closer scrutiny" to uncover the connection.

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