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Structural Aspects of Bilingual Speech

A Case Study of Language Use in the Russian Immigrant Community in Israel


Elena Gasser

The goal of the present study was to identify, describe and account for bilingual (Russian-Hebrew) varieties spoken in the Russian immigrant community in Israel. In order to achieve this complex goal, an interdisciplinary approach was chosen based on a combination of linguistic, psychological and sociological disciplines. The analysis of bilingual data has shown that there were three main types of bilingual varieties in use. The varieties were distinguished on the basis of the dominant patterns of language mixing (showing the evidence of a general shift from insertional to alternational CS) as well as of the directionality of CS. The three main speech styles were partly related to their speakers’ generational memberships. However, the differences in speech styles were not so much the function of generational affiliations, as of the actual linguistic behavior in the immigrants’ social lives. The variations within generational cohorts were better accounted for in terms of these speakers’ identities, attitudes and habitual language choices.
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Restricted access Convergence/Attrition


(190) illustrates convergence to Hebrew at the level of abstract lexical structure.

In her proposal to go buy beads at the week-end market, Lena first uses the Hebrew word taxshitim ‘jewellery’ and then tries to specify what sort of jewellery she has in mind. The word she employs does not exactly correspond to what she actually intends to convey using businki ‘pearls’ in a context where biser ‘beads’ would have been the right choice. In Russian, businka denotes a single pearl. The meaning of several pearls (i.e. busink-i) can be rendered in Hebrew by xaruzim ‘beads’. However, Russian distinguishes between the plural number (more than one) of single pearls and an unspecified quantity of very little bead seeds, which are usually used in bead embroidery work. The Russian term for this sort of pearls is biser . It is important to note that biser ‘beads’ is a singular noun in Russian as opposed to the plural Hebrew word xaruzim ‘beads’. Using businki instead of the target word biser Lena neutralizes the subtle distinctions made in Russian between businki ‘pearls’ and biser ‘beads’ thus indicating a change in the semantic/pragmatic structure of the Russian term under the influence of the corresponding structure of the Hebrew word xaruzim.

(190) nu ne TAXSHITIM, a businki ?.

well, not jewelry but pearls.

In (191), convergence involves the substitution of the locative case for the expected (directional) accusative case (possibly) due to the effects of attrition on the ← 147...

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