The Emergence of a Progressive Aspect in Najdi Arabic

Mashael Alaloula

Advisor: Douglas J Wulf, PhD, Department of English

Committee Members: Steven Weinberger, Sylvia Schreiner

December 02, 2019, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM


This dissertation provides an insight into how progressivity is expressed in NA via the active participle [qaʕid] ‘sitting’. Crosslinguistically, progressive constructions are known to originate from locative constructions that tend to grammaticalize into aspectual markers of progressivity. Research on the use of [qaʕid] in NA to express the progressive aspect is very limited and inconclusive. This dissertation aims to empirically examine native speakers’ acceptability of the use of [qaʕid] as a progressive marker with different predicates (activity, accomplishment, achievement, and state) in NA.

The studies in this dissertation are the first to empirically examine grammatical judgments of the active participle [qaʕid] in NA with native speakers. The studies focused on native speaker judgments of the use of [qaʕid] in NA as a progressive aspectual marker. The participation of native speakers of NA in grammaticality judgment tasks was used to investigate whether and how predicate type (activities, accomplishments, achievements, and states) affects the acceptably of the active participle [qaʕid] as a progressive marker in NA. In addition, the grammaticality judgment task allowed the assessment of the process of grammaticalization. In addition, it allows for the inclusion and analysis of a large group of native speakers of NA of different age groups and an investigation of potential age-related differences on the use of [qaʕid] in NA.

Results from the studies presented in this dissertation suggest the following: First, activity, accomplishment, and achievement predicates incorporating [qaʕid] were rated as acceptable in NA. State predicates, both attested and unattested, were not rated as acceptable for NA speakers, but notably were also not rated as unacceptable. That is, they were essentially judged to fall into a region in between. This finding challenges the notion that state predicates are not compatible with the progressive.

This dissertation showed a negative relationship between age and acceptability of [qaʕid] as a progressive marker in NA. The results indicate that age predicted the overall acceptability ratings, with younger participants rating the progressive marker as more acceptable than older participants across all predicate types. Finally, the function of [qaʕid] ‘sitting’ as a progressive marker in NA appears to be undergoing a grammaticalization process. The results indicate that the use of [qaʕid] in NA to express the progressive aspect is at the desemanticization stage of grammaticalization, whereby the original locative meaning is bleached out. Furthermore, the results suggest that [qaʕid] in NA is more strongly grammaticalized for younger native speakers compared to older native speakers providing further support for the gradual process of grammaticalization across generations of native speakers.