Definite and indefinite affixes in Tihami Arabic

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Date
2024-04-09
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The University of Kansas
Abstract
This dissertation explores the semantics of definite and indefinite affixes in Tihami Arabic. The dialect exhibits a four-way distinction in its (in)definiteness paradigm, which makes it a good example to investigate (in)definiteness theories. The dialect exhibits two ways to inflect indefinite nouns: with -in and with the bare form. Additionally, the dialect has two ways of inflecting definite nouns: with -im and al-. I argue that the bare forms of nouns are true indefinites and -in is a “situation-associated” morpheme that quantifies over the topic situation. Moreover, I argue that the two types of definites in Tihami are best captured by appealing to L¨obner’s (1985, 2011) uniqueness distinction which claims that elements are either inherently unique or inherently non-unique. Concerning the indefinite markers, while the bare form of the noun is a true indefinite, the seemingly indefinite marker -in distributes on domains beyond nouns such as predicate domain and on dislocated elements, and it correlates with different interpretations such as specificity, stage-level, and discourse prominence readings. I show that the primary trigger for the -in’s occurrence is the availability of a context. Using situation semantics, I argue that -in’s function is to associate the element it marks or the whole utterance to the topic situation. The implementation of this analysis extends to the realization of the morpheme -in in other Arabic varieties and possibly justifies their distributions. I further argue that the two types of definite markers in Tihami are semantically determined. Their distribution is contingent on whether the uniqueness is inherent or derived from the context. While al- occurs on elements that are inherently unique, im- derives its uniqueness from the context and occurs with elements that are inherently not unique. Following ˇSim´ık (2018), I utilize situation semantics and modal semantics to account for the two types of definite markers; I argue that al- is evaluated with respect to all situations that are similar to the topic situation, whereas the uniqueness of im- is only evaluated relative to the topic situation. I also discuss cases where the uniqueness of inherently unique entities is altered to be derived from the context. The definite and indefinite markers correlate with each other. While the definite im- correlates with -in in that they are both contextually determined, al- correlates with the bare form of the nouns in their ability to express genericity. Besides their possible similar form, I argue that the correlation between im- and -in is due to their quantification over the topic situation; by contrast, the source of correlation between al- and the bare forms is due to their non-situational restriction. The correlation spans from the form to the meaning, implying a partially unified analysis. This dissertation provides a deeper understanding of theories of definiteness and indefiniteness. It also deepens our understanding of the behavior of (in)definiteness of other varieties of Arabic, and possibly other Semitic languages.
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Keywords
Definiteness, Indefiniteness, Definite and indefinite affixes in Tihami Arabic, Arabic definiteness and indefiniteness, Specificity, Uniqueness, Nunation, Tihami Arabic
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