Desirable and undesirable disagreements: Jewish women studying the talmudic texts

Esty Teomim Ben-Menachem, Zohar Livnat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paired study of the Jewish Talmud in havruta is a traditional, well-established and prestigious form of study. Havruta conversation is a confrontational speech event in which disagreements are not only expected but also appreciated. The aim of this study is to explore for the first time disagreement patterns carried out by women studying in havruta pairs. 21 havruta conversations were observed and recorded, and semi-structured in-depth interviews were held individually with the participants. The findings show that women studying in havruta pairs adopt the basic confrontational characteristics of the genre. However, disagreements were found mainly in conversations in which both learners were equally knowledgeable and equally dominant. In a context were disagreements are welcomed, not all of them are equally desirable by the women participants. Desirable disagreements included downgraders, softening expressions and agreement markers and were ended in agreement. When these elements were missing, disagreement led to a threat to the face of the participants, and they expressed dissatisfaction in the interview with how the conversation had gone. An examination of the parts of the conversation that elicited dissatisfaction revealed a high frequency of disagreement markers, ungrounded disagreements, and face-threatening acts such as ironic echoing of the interlocutor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-44
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Confrontational discourse
  • Disagreement
  • Havruta
  • Paired study
  • Talmud
  • Women conversation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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