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The Demonstrative iyyā-: A Little-Considered Aspect of Arabic Deixis

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Abstract The familiar Arabic pronominal object marker iyyā- performs other functions within the language. One of these, the demonstrative, has been recognized in spoken Egyptian Arabic but passes virtually unremarked in written Arabic. Nevertheless, it is so used by writers from the eastern Arabophone world more often than by those from the west. As such, it usually performs four roles in structuring information: expressing contrast, emphatic reflexivity, and two degrees of distal deixis. While modern Arab writers appear to use it demonstratively more often than did those of medieval and classical Arabic, that earlier writers were using it suggests that its demonstrative property is an inherent feature. This is confirmed by comparing object markers in other Semitic languages, which may function as demonstratives in Hebrew and Aramaic, reflexives in Syriac, and in remote deixis in Amharic.

Affiliations: 1: American University of Beirut


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