Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A grammatical sketch of Soqotri: With Special Consideration of Negative Polarity
by Aloufi, Amani, M.A., Northeastern Illinois University, 2016, 100; 10109571
Abstract (Summary)

This study describes the major syntactic features of the Soqotri language, spoken in Socotra Island, Yemen. The Soqotri language belongs to the Modern South Arabian (MSA) languages which with the modern Ethiopian Semitic languages and Central Semitic form the West Semitic sub-branch of the Semitic family (Huehnergard and Rubin, 2011). Based on UNESCO’s classification that shows the levels of language endangerment, Soqotri is considered to be a severely endangered language which is spoken only by grandparents and older generations, and is not spoken to young children any more (Moseley, 2012, p. 4). Since Soqotri is regarded as a severely endangered language, it is of utmost importance that it be described and documented.

The main purpose of undertaking this study is to document the key syntactic features of Soqotri. I present the salient aspects of Soqotri, including basic word order, noun classes, verbs, prepositions, and clausal relations of the Northern Soqotri dialect which is spoken in some villages, such as Qadhub, Hadibo, the Capital City of Socotra, and Hawlef. I also explore the distribution of certain lexical items in Soqotri and their relationship with two linguistic phenomena: negative concord and negative polarity. The study also contributes to typological and historical studies of Semitic languages in the Middle East.

This study was carried out by interviewing a Soqotri native speaker consultant, who also speaks Arabic, and by examining published data gathered by other scholars in past years. Furthermore, I hope this grammatical sketch will act as a springboard for other researchers who are interested in documenting Soqotri. This thesis also might fill the gap and give insights into the distribution of the negative concord and negative polarity phenomena.

The results show that Soqotri shares many grammatical characteristics with other Semitic languages, such as verbal and nominal paradigms. Soqotri active clauses basically follow the VSO order. SVO and VOS are also alternatively used for pragmatic motivations. Each type of modifier including adjectives, demonstratives, and relative pronouns agrees in both number and gender with the head noun. According to Giannakidou’s (2000) classification of negative concord (NC) languages and based on the data found, we can conclude that Soqotri does not show both types of negative concord. Exclusively, it is a strict NC language. That is, Soqotri NC clauses require the co-occurrence of the sentential negative marker and the neg-word in the clause.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gebhardt, Lewis
Commitee: Kaplan-Weinger, Judith, Mahootian, Shahrzad
School: Northeastern Illinois University
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: MAI 55/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics
Keywords: A grammatical sketch, Language documentation, Language endangerment, Negative polarity, Semantics, Syntax
Publication Number: 10109571
ISBN: 978-1-339-72855-1
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