The on-line emergence of Hebrew insubordinate she- (‘that/which/who’) clauses: A usage-based perspective on so-called ‘subordination’

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This study examines the on-line emergence of insubordinate clauses in Hebrew conversation as constrained by local interactional contingencies, questioning traditional notions of grammatical ‘subordination’ and contributing to conceptions of grammar as a locally sensitive, temporally unfolding resource for social interaction. The clauses examined are syntactically unintegrated (unembedded in any matrix clause), or loosely-integrated (cannot be viewed unambiguously as constituting a relative, complement, or adverbial clause), yet they all begin with she- – the general ‘subordinating conjunction’ in traditional Modern Hebrew grammar. All 102 insubordinate she- clauses found throughout a 5.5 hour audio-recorded corpus were classified according to their discourse function: Modal, elaborative, or evaluative/epistemic. Leaving aside the modal type, the remaining insubordinate she- clauses (N = 70, 69%) are shown to emerge on-line while speakers are busy performing a variety of tasks and responding to local interactional contingencies. In all of these cases she- functions as a generic ‘wildcard’ tying back to immediately prior discourse and projecting an elaboration/evaluation of it, in either same- or other-speaker talk. The findings concerning insubordinate clauses suggest a usage-based perspective also on canonical subordinate clauses, positioning canonical and syntactically unintegrated clauses at two ends of a continuum.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)669-707
Number of pages39
JournalStudies in Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2018


  • Cosubordination
  • Elaboration
  • Emergent on-line syntax
  • Evaluation
  • Insubordination
  • Interactional linguistics
  • Projection
  • Spoken Hebrew syntax
  • Subordination

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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