The rise of new copulas in Arabic

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Arabic is widely known for the lack of copulas in nominal sentences in the present tense. Arabic employs a copula ‘kana’ in the past and future tenses. However,

Arabic is widely known for the lack of copulas in nominal sentences in the present tense. Arabic employs a copula ‘kana’ in the past and future tenses. However, in some constructions the presence of a third person pronoun is necessary for the purpose of emphasis or ambiguity reduction. The data investigated in this thesis was from Classical Arabic, Standard Arabic, and the Western Saudi ‘Hijazi’ dialect. The thesis briefly discussed the grammaticalization of a transitive verb to a non-present tense copula in Classical Arabic. In addition, the thesis discussed the process of copularization that was a result of grammaticalization of the demonstrative third person pronoun ‘huwa’ to a present tense copula in Standard Arabic. It was shown that the pronoun went through a process of reanalysis from the specifier to the head position of PredP driven by Feature Economy and the Head Preference Principle. The result was the loss of the person feature. The new copula developed and attached to the negative particle ‘ma’ in the Hijazi dialect losing all its phi-features. These phenomena are known as the copula and negative cycles, respectively. The analysis was based on the Generative Grammar framework and the Minimalist program. This study attempted to shed light on Arabic copulas and contribute to more understanding of the use of these copulas in question and negative constructions. It may also help in typological studies, which may lead to a better understanding of the linguistic theory and the language faculty.