Modeling Acceptability of Variation in Modern Hebrew


  • Michal Temkin Martinez Boise State University


Modern Hebrew spirantization (MHS) is a variable process with many exceptions. This paper reports on an experiment testing the acceptability of variation in alternating and exceptional segments in MHS. The results show that variation is acceptable in both alternating and exceptional segments, but is significantly more acceptable in alternating segments than exceptional ones. This suggests that, despite the ubiquity of variation, speakers still distinguish between alternating and exceptional segments categorically. Consequently, an Optimality Theoretic (OT) analysis, combining stochastic constraint ranking (Hayes & MacEachern 1998, Boersma 1998, Zuraw 2000, Boersma & Hayes 2001) and set-based indexation (Pater 2000), is used to model the results. The combined model presented here accounts for the experimental data, allowing for both variation and exceptionality within a single phenomenon across all participants. Preliminary analysis of within-speaker variation demonstrates that the combined model can also account for individuals’ grammars across word position and segment type.