Overt subject pronouns in Cairene Arabic: Pragmatic and syntactic functions
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation investigates the use of null and overt subject pronouns in Cairene Arabic. The data for the study are: (1) a corpus of 1944 clauses from a movie; and (2) responses of 6 Egyptian consultants regarding their preference for the use/non-use of subject pronouns in those clauses. In indicative sentences, overt pronouns are used about one-third of the time with both first and second person subjects (31.7% and 29.8%, respectively). The percentage for third person subjects is only 6.4%. The claim, made frequently over the last 20 years, that null subjects can only occur in Arabic with predicates that have person marking is shown to be empirically incorrect. Numerous examples of null anaphora with predicates lacking person marking are presented and I argue that the information processing strategies needed to recover the intended subject with such predicates is not qualitatively different from strategies needed to recover null subjects with predicates that do have subject person marking. Referential ambiguity across predicate types was analyzed in order to determine whether or not this ambiguity was playing a role in motivating more overt pronoun use. I found no evidence that this ambiguity leads to increased overt pronoun use. The traditional explanation of overt pronoun use in terms of expressing "emphasis" and/or "contrast" is not illuminating. These terms are not semantic or pragmatic primitives and do not explain the underlying discourse circumstances that lead to overt pronoun use. I explain the use of overt pronouns as resulting from an extra "layer" of meaning implicit in the utterance with the overt pronoun and argue that the added meaning can frequently not be conveyed without the overt pronoun. Once speaker illocutionary intent is taken into consideration, the use of an overt pronoun frequently becomes pragmatically obligatory. The sources of that added, often indirect, meaning are identified through a careful analysis of examples in the corpus which consultants indicated were pragmatically obligatory. In addition, an information processing function of "predicate signaling" is proposed for overt pronouns occurring with definite NP predicates that could be interpreted as new subjects of predication, in the absence of an overt subject pronoun.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Near Eastern Studies