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Arabic Indefinites, Interrogatives, and NegatorsA Linguistic History of Western Dialects$
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David Wilmsen

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198718123

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718123.001.0001

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Origins of grammatical ši

Origins of grammatical ši

Southern Arabia or the Levant?

(p.119) 6 Origins of grammatical ši
Arabic Indefinites, Interrogatives, and Negators

David Wilmsen

Oxford University Press

Similarities between southern peninsular Arabic dialects and the Modern South Arabian languages support a southern pre-diaspora origin for the Arabic dialects negating and interrogating with reflexes of šī. Most share an existential particle analogous to the Arabic šī found in Yemeni, Omani, and Syrian varieties, at least, and Mehri possesses an indefinite determiner śi that functions exactly like the analogous Arabic šī. Southern Arabic speakers were probably in the Fertile Crescent as early as seven centuries before Islam and maybe twice that many, ample time for a southern Arabic feature to become established in the Levant. Current dialect distributions probably originate in the displacement of the old southern Arab Christian elite by Arabic-speaking Muslims from Central Arabia.

Keywords:   Arabic existential particle, Christian Arab elites in the Fertile Crescent, Modern South Arabian languages, Mehri indefinite determiner, Southern Arab dialects

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