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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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Proto-Semitic and Proto-Arabic origins of grammatical ši

Proto-Semitic and Proto-Arabic origins of grammatical ši

(p.148) 7 Proto-Semitic and Proto-Arabic origins of grammatical ši
Arabic Indefinites, Interrogatives, and Negators

David Wilmsen

Oxford University Press

Grammatical šī in Arabic shares more surface similarities and functional affinities with Proto-Semitic 3rd person pronouns and other Semitic function words than it does with the Arabic word for ‘thing’, itself probably deriving later from an indefinite determiner šī. Of the few genuine cases of degrammaticalization, the best-supported is the movement from indefinite determiners to content words. The other functionalities of the existential particle šī arose from a Proto-Semitic demonstrative or presentative, not along a unidirectional cline but through a potentially overlapping series of lateral shifts, changes, neither more nor less grammatical, representing movement on the cline but not up or down it. The development of negative -š in Arabic conforms to Croft’s negative-indefinite cycle, not Jespersen’s.

Keywords:   Croft’s Cycle, degrammaticalization, lateral shifts, Proto-Semitic demonstratives, Proto-Semitic pronouns

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