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Research: Dialectology

In their linguistic research, the TUNICO team have focussed on a few hitherto little explored phenomena.

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


The Diminutive in the Arabic Dialect of Tunis

Stephan Procházka

Abstract: The paper presents a short overview of the formal aspects of diminutive forms used in the dialect of Tunis and discusses whether or not the diminutive can still be regarded a productive morphological category. Based on the approach of comprehensive studies on the topic, such as Dressler & Merlini Barbaresi 1994, Jurafsky 1996, and Badarneh 2007, both the semantic and the pragmatic functions of diminutives are discussed in detail. It was found that the number of diminutives actually used has decreased during the past century. Moreover, it seems that diminutives serve primarily pragmatic functions and less often denote smallness on a purely semantic level. Our data further suggests that in Tunis diminutives are more often associated with positive feelings than with contempt and ridicule. The use of the diminutive is not restricted to the domains of familiarity and intimacy but is also appropriate in more formal settings, such as conversations in shops or restaurants.

Keywords: diminutive, Tunisian Arabic, pragmatics, semantics.

Will be published October 2018 in: Studies on Arabic Dialectology and Sociolinguistics: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference of AIDA held in Marseille from 30th May - 2nd June 2017. Livres de l’IREMAM, Marseille.

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

Karen McNeil

Abstract: The article discusses the preposition and its use as an aspectual marker in Tunisian Arabic. , as a preposition, describes a containment relationship and is roughly equivalent to the English prepositions ‘in’ and ‘into’. In addition to its use as a marker of spatial relationship, has developed an aspectual use in Tunisian Arabic as a marker of the progressive aspect, e.g. nušrub fī al-tāy ‘I’m drinking tea’. This feature has been sparsely attested in other varieties of Arabic (see Woidich 2006), but only in Tunisian has it developed into an integral, obligatory part of the aspectual system. In spite of its importance in the verbal system of Tunisian, however, this feature has often been neglected in the literature: Gibson provides an excellent description in The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (‘Tunis Arabic’, 2006), but Singer ignores or misinterprets it in his 734-page Grammatik der arabischen Mundart der Medina von Tunis (1984). A comprehensive survey of available sources on Tunisian Arabic reveals that the progressive use of fī is not described in the majority of them.

In: V. Ritt-Benmimoun (ed.) Tunisian and Libyan Arabic Dialects: Common trends - Recent developments - Diachronic aspects. Zaragoza: Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza, 2017, 161-190.

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Yes/no questions in Tunis Arabic

Ines, Dallaji, Ines Gabsi, and Stephan Procházka

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Conditional Clauses in the Arabic dialect of Tunis

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 Particle ṛā- in Tunis Arabic

Stephan Procházka and Ines Dallaji

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.

Keywords: Tunisian Arabic, discourse marker, presentatives, particles, syntax

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.

Keywords: Tunisia, Arabic, syntax, agreement patterns

In: Veronika Ritt-Benmimoun (ed.): Tunisian and Libyan Arabic Dialects: Common Trends – Recent Developments – Diachronic Aspects. Zaragoza: Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza, 2017, 239–260.

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