Differential Object Marking in Modern Hebrew: Definiteness and partitivity

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This paper investigates the phenomenon of differential object marking (DOM) currently exhibited in Modern Hebrew. The consensus in the theoretical literature on Hebrew has been that the object marker et is only licensed in the context of definite DPs. We observe, however, that in Modern Hebrew partitive nominals may also be preceded by et. Using a judgment task, we asked 41 native Hebrew-speaking adults to rate sentences with et-marked partitive object DPs on a 5-point acceptability scale. Our results reveal that partitive items received a considerably high acceptance score, with an overall average of 3.6/5. In addition, we found a main effect for object-position and quantifier-type. In particular, acceptability of et-marked partitives increased significantly for preposed DPs and for DPs that contained proportional quantifiers (as opposed to cardinals). The optional acceptability of et-marked partitives ostensibly challenges the generally accepted view, according to which the distribution of et is categorically determined based on the two-way +/-definiteness opposition. We put forth a formal syntactic analysis that reconciles our findings with the definiteness approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


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