Grammaticalization of the Arabic Demonstrative Iyyā- as a Pronominal Object Marker in Ditransitive Verbs: An Answer to Bravmann

Wilmsen, David
April 2013
Journal of Semitic Studies;Apr2013, Vol. 58 Issue 1, p149
Academic Journal
Among its many functions, the synsemantic Arabic word iyyā- usually marks one of two pronominal objects of a ditransitive verb. Although its salience as such may give the impression that object marking has always been its primary function, it is likely that its origins lie elsewhere, specifically in its demonstrative function, which, while it occurs less often in that capacity, it nevertheless appears quite frequently as such in writing and in some speech. Indeed, all of its functions, including object marking, possess a demonstrative quality. Its earliest documented use outside of the Qur’an, wherein it always marks a pronominal object, comes in Sibawayhi’s al-Kitāb, where, in addition to marking an object, it appears as a ‘presentative’ (Arabic arf al-tanbī), used in focusing joint attention. Sharing similarity with and probably ultimately deriving from the vocative particle yā, it thence came to serve in disambiguating pronominal direct objects from pronominal indirect objects.


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