Linear and nonlinear word formation in Hebrew – words which end with -on

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Two major word formation processes exist in Hebrew (in addition to minor compounds, blends and acronyms): (a) nonlinear formation: a combination of consonantal root with template, e.g. higdil ‘increased’ and migdal ‘tower’ are derived from the root gdl using the templates hiCCiC and miCCaC; (b) linear formation: affixation to a stem, for example balšanut ‘linguistics’ from balšan ‘linguist’ + -ut, and xidon ‘quiz’ from xida ‘riddle’ + -on. The ending -on exhibits ambiguous cases of root and template construction as opposed to suffixed word formations. In many cases this ending is built using the nominal templates CiCaCon, CiCCon and CaCCon, the first of which usually create abstract nouns. In other cases -on is attached to various stems carrying the following connotations which are not always mutually exclusive, and sometimes share some of their meanings with words formed by the above templates: diminutive (e.g. suson ‘small horse’); collective (e.g. še'elon ‘questionnaire’); instrumental (e.g. 'ecba'on ‘thimble’); flora and fauna (e.g. zeron ‘harrier (bird)’); periodicals (e.g. šavu'on ‘weekly newspaper’); and division related words (e.g. 'axuzon ‘percentile’). Thus the ending -on creates opacity as part of a template and as a suffix for both derivational processes and meanings. One outcome of the findings is that syllabic structure is the most important factor in determining Hebrew word structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-120
Number of pages12
JournalSKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Slovak Association for the Study of English. All rights reserved.


  • Root
  • Suffix
  • Syllabic structure
  • Template
  • Word formation


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