Negative Concord in Levantine Arabic (Click here to download PDF)

Abstract: This dissertation is a study of negative concord in Levantine Arabic (Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria), where negative concord is defined as the failure of an n-word to express negative meaning distinctly when in syntagm with another negative expression. A set of n-words is identified, including the "never-words" ʔɛbadan (Arabic أبداً) and bɪlmarra (Arabic بالمرّة) “never, not once, not at all,” the negative minimizers hawa (Arabic هوا) and qɛšal (Arabic قشل) “nothing,” and the negative scalar focus particle wala (Arabic ولا) “not (even) (one), not a (single).” Each can be used to express negation in sentence fragments and other constructions with elliptical interpretations, such as gapping and sub-sentential constituent coordination. Beyond that, the three categories differ syntactically and semantically. I present analyses of these expressions that treat them as having different morphological and semantic properties. The data support an ambiguity analysis for wala-phrases, and a syntactic analysis of it with never-words, indicating that a single, uniform theory of negative concord should be rejected for Levantine Arabic.

The dissertation is the first such work to explicitly identify negative concord in Levantine Arabic, and to provide a detailed survey and analysis of it. The description includes subtle points of variation between regional varieties of Levantine, as well as in depth analysis of the usage of n-words. It also adds a large new data set to the body of data that has been reported on negative concord, and have several implications for theories on the subject. The dissertation also makes a contribution to computational linguistics as applied to Arabic, because the analyses are couched in Combinatory Categorial Grammar, a formalism that is used both for linguistic theorizing as well as for a variety of practical applications, including text parsing and text generaration. The semantic generalizations reported here are also important for practical computational tasks, because they provide a way to correctly calculate the negative or positive polarity of utterances in a negative concord language, which is essential for computational tasks such as machine translation or sentiment analysis.

Bibliographic Info:

Hoyt, Frederick M. (2010). Negative Concord in Levantine Arabic. PhD Dissertation, University of Texas at Austin.

Bibtex: @PHDTHESIS{hoyt:diss:2010, author = {Hoyt, Frederick M}, title = {Negative Concord in Levantine Arabic}, school = {University of Texas at Austin}, year = {2010}, }

Cited by:

al-Qassas, A. (2012). The Morpho-Syntax and Pragmatics of Levantine Arabic Negation: A Synchronic and Diachronic Analysis. PhD thesis, Indiana University. [Citations on pp.80, 93]

al-Sarayreh, A. (2012), The Licensing of Negative Sensitive Items in Jordanian Arabic. PhD thesis, University of Kansas. [Citations on pp. 4, 7, 9, 10-11, 14, 65, 68, 152, 191-192, 245, 247]

Winans, L. (2012), Alternative Disjunctions in Egyptian Arabic. Master’s thesis, University of Southern California. [Citations on pp.43-44]

Zeldes, A. (2012), "Is Modern Hebrew Standard Average European? The View from European," Linguistic Typology 17(3). To appear. [Citation on p.206]

Steedman, M. (2011), Taking Scope, MIT Press. [Citation on p.198]