This paper traces the emergence of spoken native Hebrew as a legitimate language in the years following the establishment of the state of Israel. It discusses the relationship between the revival of Hebrew, the establishment of the state, and the ideology that shaped the spoken language of this period and that distinguished it from the Hebrew of the previous, nonnative, pioneer generation (the “halutsim” of the third and fourth waves of immigration to Palestine). In order to tap into speakers’ attitudes both toward spoken native Hebrew and toward the nonnative Hebrew of the previous generation, the paper focuses on a particular motif in the first four programs of Ha-Gashash Ha-hiver trio (1964–1969). Register elevation is a recurring motif in the trio’s skits, and—as the term suggests—it involves the use of a register that is higher than what the discourse circumstances actually call for. Jokes based on register elevation are particularly revealing of the linguistic attitudes of the time because of the complex sociolinguistic knowledge that jokes in this category presuppose. Through exaggeration and ridicule, such jokes exemplify the detachment of the formal Hebrew of the public sphere from the spoken language of its native speakers. The attitude toward formal Hebrew expressed in the skits is part of a broader ideological stance toward the contemporary Hebrew that dominated the Ashkenazi-Sabre culture of the time, including both the stilted and often ceremonious nonnative Hebrew of the previous generation as well as the emerging native spoken variety. The relationship between these varieties was redefined during the 1950s and early 1960s, as part of broader generational, class, and ethnic shifts and as their direct reflection. At least until the late 1940s, native Hebrew had been considered inadequate, a child language that with time and correction might come to resemble the “proper” Hebrew designed by language planners in the spirit of the classical texts. It is only in the course of the 1950s and 1960s that the Hebrew of native speakers began to gain acceptance as a legitimate language, appropriate for the public sphere. Our project offers a preliminary step in the construction of an archive of the history of Hebrew speech. A fuller study of the history of speech styles and varieties will fill a gap in the study of the Hebrew revival, and it will contribute to our understanding of the significance of Hebrew speech in the context of nation building and the establishment of the state. Spoken language and the ideologies that shape it play a significant role in the creation of embodied subjectivities and shared identities. From this perspective, the relation between Hebrew and the state of Israel is exemplary, and the chronological proximity of language revival and the creation of the state make Hebrew and Israel particularly revealing of these processes.
|Journal||כרמלים: לחקר הלשון העברית ולשונות סמוכות|
|State||Published - 2015|