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Research: Dialectology

In their linguistic research, the TUNICO team have focussed on some hitherto little explored phenomena such as plural doublets, diminutives, interrogative sentences, conditional clauses and presentatives.

Linguistic Dynamics in the Greater Tunis Area: A first approach to construe the data of the TUNICO project

Stephan Procházka, Ines Gabsi and Ines Dallaji


Overabundance in the Arabic Dialect of Tunis: a Diachronic Study of Plural Formation

Ines Dallaji and Ines Gabsi

Abstract: During fieldwork in Tunis in the framework of the Vienna-based project Linguistic Dynamics in the Greater Tunis Area: A Corpus-based Approach (TUNICO), we conducted research on plural formation in the dialect of Tunisia's capital. The main purpose was to collect data absent in historical sources and in the corpus which we are currently compiling in order to add this data to the dictionary of Tunis Arabic which we are about to create. As the historical sources (e.g. Singer's grammar of the dialect of the Medina of Tunis, the Takroûna glossary by Marçais and Guîga) list some nouns with two or more plural forms, another purpose of our research was to find out which of the listed forms are still used. The research was based on a list of approximately 200 nouns and conducted with the help of almost 30 informants, most of whom were younger than 30. This is due to the fact that the focus of the TUNICO project lies on producing a corpus of spoken youth language and on drawing conclusions about the current linguistic situation in Tunis and its suburbs. This paper is a first approach to study overabundance in the Arabic dialect of the greater Tunis area. It contains all the examples for nouns with more than one possible plural form which we could gather during our fieldwork. The comparison of the collected data with forms listed in historical sources enables diachronic research and allows drawing conclusions about processes of linguistic dynamics

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Forms and Functions of the Diminutive in Tunis Arabic

Stephan Procházka

Abstract: In his monumental grammar of Tunis Arabic H.-R. Singer listed more than 250 diminutives derived from both nouns and adjectives (Singer 1984: 480-496). Singer remarked, however, that many of the forms collected by Stumme (1896: 67-84) more than half a century before, were no longer known in his time. Data from recent fieldwork in Tunis suggests that the number of actually used diminutives has again decreased during the last decades.
Stumme (1896), Cohen (1975), and Singer (1984) for Tunis, but also such new publications as Lahrouchi & Ridouane (2016) for Morocco, deal mainly with the formal aspects of diminutives. As for Tunis Arabic only Maalej (2010) analyses the functions of a few forms in addressing non-acquaintances.
This paper will first discuss the question whether or not the diminutive in Tunis Arabic can still be regarded a productive morphological category. Second, I will try to analyse some of its pragmatic functions beyond smallness and endearment. In this attempt we will follow the approach of comprehensive studies on the topic such as Dressler et al. (1994) and Badarneh (2007).
The material will be presented in a comparative perspective with the Bedouin-type dialects of southern Tunisia presented by Veronika Ritt-Benmimoun. Such a comparison may provide insights into the development and use of diminutives and throw light on the differences and similarities between sedentary and Bedouin dialects within the dialects of one country.


Fī (‘in’) as a Marker of the Progressive Aspect in Tunisian Arabic

Karen McNeil

To be published in: V. Ritt-Benmimoun (ed.) Tunisian and Libyan Arabic Dialects: Common trends - Recent developments - Diachronic aspects. Estudios de Dialectología Árabe 13. Zaragoza

Interrogation in Tunis Arabic (yes/no questions)

Ines Dallaji, Ines Gabsi and Stephan Procházka

Abstract: Our corpus of 94.652 words contains 2137 utterances which can be labelled as yes/no questions in the widest sense. This means they show rising intonation but lack any interrogative pronoun or adverb. Many of the questions in our corpus are syntactically very basic and not infrequently they consist only of a single word, for example, the rhetorical fhimt? ‘Do you understand?’, which alone constitutes almost 10 per cent of all questions.

The aim of this preliminary study is to find out which roles the particle yā-xi ~ ya-xxi and the suffixed morpheme -ši play in interrogative sentences.

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Conditional Clauses in Tunis Arabic

Ines Dallaji, Ines Gabsi and Stephan Procházka

Abstract: When comparing the situation with conditional clauses as described by Singer for the 1960s with the contemporary TUNICO corpus it becomes obvious that there is much less variation. This would be an indication for the koinization process the Arabic of Tunis has undergone during the last decades. Singer 1984:704 observed that in his time there was a tendency that all conjunctions of the conditional are mutually exchangeable. Fifty years later this development has led to a significant reduction of forms resulting in the dominance of kān ‘if’ at the expense of other conjunctions used for introducing conditional clauses.

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A Functional Analysis of the Particles ṛā-, hā-, and mā- in Tunis Arabic

Ines Dallaji and Stephan Procházka

All Maghribinian dialects of Arabic make use of a number of discourse particles. Most common is the particle ṛā- which ultimately derives from the imperative of the Classical Arabic verb ‘to see, to look’. Preceding studies claim that this particle is less frequent in the Arabic of Tunis compared to Algeria and Morocco. However, this assessment proved to be inadequate. Based on the analysis of a corpus that consists mainly of conversations and not of monologues, we found out that this particle is almost twice as frequent as in comparable data from Morocco.

In our study, we present an overview of the most important formal settings which includes its possible environment and positions in an utterance. The introductory section is followed by an in-depth analysis of its functions. There, we discuss the most striking differences between the usage of inflected forms, which bear pronominal suffixes, and the invariable form ṛā-hu. The first are mainly found to set focus on the predicate whereas the latter stands outside of the proposition and sets focus on the whole utterance. We also found out that in the contemporary Arabic of Tunis ṛā- is rarely used as a presentative though this was to be described as very common in a study of the late 19th century. Modal functions, among them assertion, emphasis, contrast, and assumption, by far preponderate. Another frequent function is to introduce the apodosis of conditional clauses. The results of our analysis let us conclude that the particle ṛā- may share many of its functions throughout the different Maghrebinian dialects, but that there are also significant differences in its usage.


Agreement with Plural Heads in Tunisian Arabic: The Urban North

Stephan Procházka and Ines Gabsi

In this article we discuss the mechanisms of agreement with plural head nouns in Tunis Arabic. Our findings are based on the analysis of two corpora, one of which was built by our team within the framework of the Vienna-based project Linguistic Dynamics in the Greater Tunis Area: A Corpus-based Approach (TUNICO). Agreement patterns in Tunis Arabic are to a great extent structured according to an animacy hierarchy. Thus strict agreement is the default case for human, and deflected agreement for abstract, head nouns. Between these two poles there is significant variation in agreement that enables speakers to choose between a particularized or a collective perception of the plural noun. Besides these two main factors, we detected other semantic, syntactical, and morphological features which can affect agreement in Tunis Arabic.

To be published in: V. Ritt-Benmimoun (ed.) Tunisian and Libyan Arabic Dialects: Common trends - Recent developments - Diachronic aspects. Estudios de Dialectología Árabe 13. Zaragoza