Arabic copula

Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Mon Feb 4 11:12:02 UTC 2002

4.2.2002 10:34:46, Jan Terje Faarlund <j.t.faarlund at INL.UIO.NO> wrote:

I'm not quite sure whether _énne_ in Peter's example _li xmi:r énne kba:r_ (long vowels, I
guess) should be related to the Arabic topic/focus marker _'inna_. The word order would
be rather amazing (as far as I know, reflexes of _'inna_ alwas take the first position in the
sentence also in Arabic 'dialects'). Peter's assumption seems to be good, if we remember
that we have _he/nne_ (schwa) for 3pl m. and f. in Damaskus and _hinni_ (3pl. m./f.)
other cities [Syrian Arabic is the most likely source for Cypriot Arabic, I think). Also note
Baalbek _hunni_ etc. Only some rural dialects of the Syro-Palestinian region have
retained the m/f-distinction. The _h-_ should be dropped under Greek influence (no h-

Also note that the singular pronoun _huw(w)a_ ('he') has been completely
grammaticalized as a copula, e.g. Egyptian

ana huwwa il-mudi:r
I cop art-director		[Brustad 2000_:158]
'I am the director'

If ever _'inna_ would be the source, we shoudl expect something like

*(?) li xmi:r énna: (< 'inna-a(:)' // énnahun (< 'inna-hum) kba:r

[doubled focus: 'The donkeys, as for THEM, [they are] big (ones]']

And: All I learnt for _'inna_ is that it is most often lost in modern Arabic dialects. Hence, if
we ever try to relate it to Peter's _énne_ (disregarding positional problems), it should
reflect a rather old Arabic layer in Cyprus. Do we have evidence for this?


>Are you sure, by the way, that the construction in Cypriot Arabic is a
>Greek influence. I am not a semiticist, so I don't know about similar
>phenomena in other Arabic vernaculars, but there is something similar in
>standard Arabic:
>         haadhaa huwa al-Taalibu
>         this he the-student = 'This is the student'
>And I can't help noticing the similarity between énne in Peter's example
>and the Arabic particle 'inna which may be used to introduce nominal sentences:
>         'inna MuHammadan rajulun ghaniiyun
>                 Muhammad man rich = 'Muhammad is (indeed) a rich man'
>Professor Jan Terje Faarlund
>Universitetet i Oslo
>Institutt for nordistikk og litteraturvitskap
>Postboks 1013 Blindern
>N-0315 Oslo (Norway)
>Tel. (+47) 22 85 69 49 (office)
>(+47) 22 12 39 66 (home)
>Fax (+47) 22 85 71 00
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze
Institute for General Linguistics and Language Typology
[Institut fuer Allgemeine und Typologische Sprachwissenschaft]
Departement II (Kommunikation und Sprachen [communication and languages] F 13/14
Universitaet München - Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1 - D-80539 München
Tel.: ++49-(0)89-2180 2486 (Secretary) // ++49-(0)89-2180 5343 (Office)
Fax:  ++49-(0)89-2180 5345
Email: 	W.Schulze at

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