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Prof. Asher Laufer
Welcome to Prof. Asher Laufer’s website.
I am a professor in the Department of Hebrew Language in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the director of its phonetics laboratory. My fields of expertise include phonetics and phonology in general, and Hebrew phonetics and phonology, both historical and geographical, in particular. My research projects cover diverse aspects of phonetics and prosody.
- Articulatory, acoustic, and perceptional phonetics;
- Intonation of colloquial Hebrew;
- Synthesis of Hebrew speech;
- Phonology and morphology of Hebrew throughout the various generations;
- Revival of Hebrew speech;
- Teaching Hebrew as a foreign language;
- The use of computers for teaching Hebrew.
Abstract of some of my Research
I have devoted my research especially to the Hebrew Language. In the acoustic domain I discovered acoustic components of the sounds of colloquial Hebrew, and some of my findings are documented in my publications.
I was among the first to conduct research on the intonation of spoken Hebrew; I was privileged to pave new ways in this important field. I also dealt with the linkage between intonation and syntax
My studies of the pharyngeal and emphatic sounds in Hebrew and Arabic were not only a discovery in these languages, but a novelty in general phonetics. A survey of the literature concerning the realization of these sounds indicates that the description of most of the scholars is not based on real experimental evidence. Therefore I collected data based on about 400 minutes of recordings from 18 speakers. The subjects were recorded with a fiberscope positioned in their upper pharynx. The discoveries of the role of the epiglottis in speech shed light and explained various phenomena in Hebrew and Arabic grammars, and are cited by most of the scholars that deal with pharyngeals or pharyngealized sounds.
In my research on the voicing in Hebrew I integrated the three branches of phonetics - articulatory, acoustic, and perceptional phonetics – and in order to prevent being influenced by different distortions I used artificial speech, as it enables accurate control on the inspected components, without the automatic changes in the other components that occur in natural speech. In these studies I discovered how Hebrew speakers differentiate between voiced and voiceless sounds both in pronunciation and in perception, and compared my findings in Hebrew to the findings in 12 other languages.
I expanded my research on Hebrew speech synthesis and as the head of a team we succeeded in transforming unvocalised Hebrew writing in "Word files" into very intelligible Hebrew Speech. To achieve this we adopted my findings in spoken Hebrew into computer programs that were able to produce synthetic speech. The results were very good, and the computer "spoke" intelligible Hebrew (intelligibility tests of Israelis scored 100% of the spoken Hebrew words).
I dealt also with theoretical aspects in linguistics: I defined the phoneme from a new point of view, and discovered "the secret of the structure of communication (speech and writing)". I am also finishing now a paper comparing the grammars of the spoken and the written languages.
Seminars I taught and articles of different researchers led me to deal with the developments of Hebrew and its revival. For example, my paper on the "re-thinking of the Ashkenazi pronunciation" raises many questions on the theory of my predecessors, and I offer an alternative theory that solves all the difficulties raised.
Recently I finished writing my book "Chapters in Phonetics and in Phonetic Transcriptions", which exhibits the bases of phonetics, especially those needed for the research of spoken Hebrew through the generations and of the various accents. The up-to-date novelties of phonetic sciences, mine and those of my colleagues from all over the world, are integrated into the chapters of the book. A CD with demonstrations and recordings of the different subjects mentioned in each chapter accompany the book.
For over 11 years I was the director of the Unit for Teaching Hebrew to Foreign Students in the Overseas School of the Hebrew University, and lately I put my phonetic knowledge to use in a project financed by The Bronfman Foundation for developing and designing a Hebrew courseware named "Sabra Sound: Learning to Pronounce Hebrew". The aim of this project is to improve the Hebrew pronunciation of foreign speakers, and for this we designed a courseware with audio-visual technology controlled by computers, a multimedia courseware which can be used in the internet all over the world, free of charge. One of the novelties of this project is that it enables the student to “see the voices”. The team writing the courseware includes Ms.
Some of my publications are linked to their text, and are marked by a different colour. Pressing on a coloured item will open the text of the paper in a PDF format. If you press here, you will be connected to Laufer's publication list in English. If you press here, you will be connected to Laufer's Curriculum Vitae.
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