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Superfluous Negation in Modern Hebrew and Its Origins

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In this article, we survey a variety of constructions in contemporary Modern Hebrew that include seemingly superfluous instances of negation. These include free relatives, exclamative rhetorical questions, clausal complements of ‘until,’ ‘without,’ and ‘before,’ clausal complements of ‘fear’-type verbs, after negated ‘surprise,’ and the complement of ‘almost’ (a construction by now obsolete). We identify possible sources for these constructions in pre-modern varieties of Hebrew. When an earlier source cannot be found, we examine earliest attestations of the constructions in modern-era corpora and consider the role of contact (primarily with Yiddish and Slavic) in their development.

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