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Arabic Historical DialectologyLinguistic and Sociolinguistic Approaches$
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Clive Holes

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198701378

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198701378.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 21 September 2021

Dialects (speech communities), the apparent past, and grammaticalization

Dialects (speech communities), the apparent past, and grammaticalization

Towards an understanding of the history of Arabic

(p.206) 8 Dialects (speech communities), the apparent past, and grammaticalization
Arabic Historical Dialectology

Jonathan Owens

Oxford University Press

Over a long-term time frame in a language with several discrete dialects, how far does grammaticalization theory elucidate the history of individual morphemes? This issue is addressed using the tense/mode prefix b-, found in Gulf/Najdi, Yemeni, Uzbekistan, Nigerian, and Egyptian/Levantine Arabic. It is argued that while standard grammaticalization theory correctly predicts its assumed origin, from a variant of the verb ‘want’ (yibġa, yiba, yibbi > *b-), it does little to predict its further development. This paper first examines the functions of the prefix *b-. Once integrated as a prefix, *b- takes odd twists and turns, sometimes a tense marker, sometimes a marker of deontic modality, sometimes a generalized modal/indicative marker. Grammaticalization theory says nothing about why *b- should have developed in one way in one dialect and in another way in another. As a step towards answering these questions, the idea of dialects as speech communities is introduced.

Keywords:   Arabic, historical linguistics, grammaticalization theory, variation and change, speech community, language reconstruction, tense-mode marker, b-prefix

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