Strategies of compensation for "missing" categories in L1 and L2: Between verbs and nouns in narrative and expository texts

Judy Kupersmitt, Lior Laks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The study reported in the present article examined the strategies used by speaker-writers of two Semitic languages, Hebrew and (Modern Standard) Arabic, in order to compensate for the lack of grammaticized categories in comparable written narrative and expository texts. For this purpose, we analyzed film-based texts written in Hebrew by native speakers of Hebrew and Arabic as closely related languages that differ in the linguistic constructions available for expression of predicative content. Both Hebrew and Arabic lack a productive system of non-finite forms. Hebrew gerunds, for instance, are highly marked and rare in usage while Arabic lacks a grammatical category corresponding to the infinitive. Our focus was on such categories, as intermediate between nouns and verbs. Texts were compared by quantitative distributions of target forms and by their functions in narratives and expository compositions. The study revealed no quantitative differences between Hebrew and Arabic speakers with regard to the distribution of non-tensed forms in their writing. The latter did not tend to use nominalizations in the contexts where the grammar of Hebrew requires an infinitive; however, they employed such forms in a greater number of various functions and syntactic contexts. From a cross-generic perspective, non-tensed forms were more frequent in expository texts than in narratives, following modal propositions that typically require infinitival complements. The study thus suggests non-obvious differences between speaker-writers of closely related languages in the expression of predicative content in narratives as compared with expository discourse. By shedding light on strategies adopted by advanced learners of a second language in the course of text construction, the findings of the study indicate important avenues for further corpus-based research in Semitic languages and have implications for language pedagogy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-229
Number of pages21
JournalHebrew Studies
StatePublished - 2015


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