In 1894, Jacob Barth proposed that the preformative conjugation in some of the Semitic languages goes back to a - generally bygone - inverse correlation between the thematic vowel of the stem and that of the conjugational prefix. Evidence for such a distribution is well attested in all branches of Central Semitic, yet it remains disputed whether it should be reconstructed for Proto-Semitic as well. This paper makes use of new data from a living Semitic variety, namely the Arabic dialect of á ugariyyah in the south of Yemen, where the pattern observed by Barth is still operative. We examine the interaction of the conjugational prefixes with the dialectal future tense marker š(a)-, and point to cases where the inverse correlation is violated. We outline a sequential development, starting with a phonetically-driven re-distribution of the preformative vowels, and followed by their reanalysis as integral to the prefix. We then propose that comparable developments may have taken place in other Semitic varieties, predominantly Akkadian, and thus view the Akkadian preformative conjugation as a derivative of a former inverse correlation, as reconstructed by Barth.
|Original language||American English|
|Number of pages||21|
|Journal||Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies|
|State||Published - 28 Oct 2022|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The data for the present study were gathered in the framework of the first author's project “A Systematic survey of the varieties of Yemenite Arabic, as preserved by Jews in Israel and abroad”, supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 1009/18). The historical analysis is part of the second author's project “The complexity of simplification processes in language change”, supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 2765/21).
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of SOAS University of London.
- Arabic dialects
- Archaic heterogeneity
- Barth's Law
- Historical linguistics
- Prefix conjugation
- Semitic languages
- Uniformity Principle