The Articulation of Two Groups of Medical Terms in Israeli Hebrew


  • Shmuel Bolozky
  • Nimrod Shatil


word endings, medical terms, Hebrew language


When examining all words with the +ija suffix in Israeli Hebrew, one finds that most of them carry final stress; only some place names and a few borrowings are stressed penultimately, i.e., +íja. The placement of stress in borrowed words usually maintains its location in the source language; important roles were played by the major substratum languages of the “revivers” of spoken Modern Hebrew: Polish, Russian and Yiddish. Two of these, Polish and Yiddish, are typically stressed penultimately. Generally, when an Israeli Hebrew speaker articulates borrowed words ending with the +ja suffix without vowel marks (which is the normal way s/he encounters them), s/he follows the Polish stress pattern: demokrátja, geográfja, psixológja, etc. Nevertheless, the medical term ‘colonoscopy’ is articulated by most speakers not as kolonoskópja, but as kolonoskopíja, i.e., following the Greek original (possibly through the intermediacy of Russian). The same stress pattern can be found in other items ending with -skop(i)ja and with -tom(i)ja, but essentially only in the medical community or with people associated with this community, as well as with members of the public with whom they are in contact. The term for colonoscopy is commonly used today, and thus its articulation by doctors, nurses etc. has expanded fairly widely, but all other related items are normally articulated the Polish (and Yiddish) way, with the preceding i elided and stress falling on the preceding stem vowel, as in the well-known Polish conversion: maríya ‘Mary’ > márya… The likelihood of “Greek style” articulation is a function of how frequent the item is, and only ‘colonoscopy’ is sufficiently frequent. The test we conducted confirms that in spite of the influence of the medical community, the “Polish” stress style is still the default one, even for most of these medical terms.