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Linguistic Inquiry

Fall 2018, Vol. 49, No. 4, Pages 685-721
(doi: 10.1162/ling_a_00287)
© 2018 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Guttural Ghosts in Modern Hebrew
Article PDF (210.63 KB)
Many morphological paradigms in Modern Hebrew exhibit alternations between [a], zero, and a rare [ʔ] in positions where one expects to find a consonant. The letters symbolizing these alternations in the orthography were used to represent the guttural sounds [ʔ, ʕ, h] in stages of the language that had these sounds. Gutturals are largely absent from Modern Hebrew pronunciation, and yet their presence is still felt indirectly, through these alternations. Following Faust (2005), we analyze these “guttural ghosts” as underlying /a/ vowels. The analysis is conducted within the theory of Government Phonology (Kaye, Lowenstamm, and Vergnaud 1990) in its Strict CV offshoot (Lowenstamm 1996, Scheer 2004). Against the conclusions of previous accounts, we show that given standard assumptions in this theory, the phenomenon is strictly phonological. We also discuss a puzzle regarding the interaction of such guttural ghosts with epenthesis and reduplication, and we provide an Obligatory Contour Principle–based account that relies crucially on the vocalic identity of these entities.