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The evolution of the derivational verbal system in Arabic in its Semitic context

Processor: Vera Tsukanova (Dissertation project)

The verbal stem formation in the Semitic languages represents a very extensive topic. Since this is the main derivational category of the Semitic verb, it emerges as an important parameter in the comparative analysis of this group of languages. In Semitological literature one commonly finds types of Arabic stems compared with those in other Semitic languages, but the comparison is usually limited to the system of Classical Arabic. Meanwhile Arabic is a language with a long recorded history, and its contemporary dialects can themselves be fairly described as a language group. Therefore one can trace the historical changes in the verbal stems of the dialects of Arabic in the context of the surrounding languages. As more and more descriptive grammars of different Arabic dialects appear nowadays, the questions of areal typology and historical development within this group are becoming more relevant.

In my dissertation work I endeavour to clarify the definition of a verbal derivational stem for the Arabic language. Relying on the existing literature, I collect and organize the data on verb forms in Classical Arabic and modern Arabic dialects. The systematization comprises observations on regularity of this evolution in terms of morphology and semantics. I propose explanations for these changes in terms of the general and areal typology and attempt to track possible influences of other languages.