From lack of understanding to heightened engagement: A multimodal study of Hebrew ′aTA LO MEVIN 'You don't understand'

Hilla Polak-Yitzhaki, Yael Maschler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores the Hebrew ′ATA LO MEVIN ('you don't understand') construction in a corpus of casual conversation. Employing the methodology of Interactional Linguistics and Multimodal Conversation Analysis, we show that deployment of this construction is fixed and formulaic and only rarely denotes the recipient's lack of understanding. Based on a mostly synchronic analysis, we suggest a grammaticization path followed by this construction from a negative epistemic subject-predicate construction denoting literal lack of understanding to a discourse marker signaling the opening of a new narrative, while seeking recipient alignment with the speaker's intensified affective stance. The path described reveals that embodied conduct, as well as prosodic, morphophonological, and syntactic features of the construction correlate with the weakening of its literal meaning. This sheds light on the uses speakers make of the construction, on how heightened engagement may be achieved in discourse, and on the dialogic nature of interaction and grammar.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)521-555
Number of pages35
JournalIntercultural Pragmatics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2023


  • discourse markers
  • embodied conduct
  • engagement
  • grammaticization
  • stance
  • verb constructions

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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