Definiteness in the Arabic dialects




Turner, Michael Lee

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This dissertation proposes a model, based roughly on Dryer's (2014) REFERENCE HIERARCHY, that can systematically account for variation in the morphosyntactic strategies used to mark different degrees of definiteness and indefiniteness in the Arabic dialects. These primarily spoken varieties display a great deal of diversity in this domain, not only in the forms of the articles and affixes and that they use to mark referential status in noun phrases, but also in the semantic notions with which formal marking strategies can be associated. Although there is some information available in individual Arabic dialect grammars, many of which note the existence of any reference-marking strategies perceived as unique or significant, there has been relatively little comparative work on these strategies and only limited progress toward describing them using cross-linguistically applicable models for semantic typology. The present study fills this gap by providing a case study based, textually supported account of key points of grammatical variation and a preliminary typological classification system for dialects' treatment of definiteness. The goal of this approach is to clarify the discrete semantic parameters that govern the use of marking strategies across a diverse set of Arabic varieties, thereby opening the door for a more thorough comparative analysis of the corresponding forms' semantic properties and diachronic origins.


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