Inclusive Generic Person in Women's Discourse in Israeli Hebrew and Negev Arabic

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Generic person is particularly interesting in gendered languages such as Hebrew and Arabic, where the coexistence of (unmarked) masculine and (marked) feminine forms posits a choice when both are applicable. Inclusive generics, i.e. impersonal forms whose scope includes ‘I’ and ‘you’, were analyzed in women's discourse in Israeli Hebrew and Negev Arabic. In the Hebrew corpus, consisting of 7 journalistic interviews with women in both interviewer and interviewee roles, F-you (generic P2F.SG) turned out to be the undisputedly unmarked generic form; M-you (generic P2M.SG) is restricted to very specific contexts, such as shifted viewpoint, a man or a mixed gender group in the speaker's mind. A very different pattern emerged in a Traditional Negev Arabic corpus, representing 7 elderly Bedouin women interviewed by female Bedouin students. Here, the highest ranking form was M-one (generic P3M.SG), followed by M-you. This radical difference fits in with findings of research on cultural discourse patterns that has classified Arabic under the polychronic type, reflecting a relatively depersonalized ‘collective self’ and complementary gender relations. Israeli Hebrew, as reflected in our data base, is closer to the monochronic individualistic, equal gender relation type. The gap between these two types is neatly and consistently filled in by data from the Young Negev Arabic corpus, representing 7 female Bedouin students interviewed by female peers. Their medial position points to the transition which the young Arab generation is undergoing from the traditional Arabic culture to the western culture predominating the Israeli public space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-74
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Cultural discourse patterns
  • Inclusive/exclusive generic person
  • Negev Arabic/Israeli Hebrew
  • Polychronic/monochronic societies

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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