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Croft’s cycle in Arabic: The negative existential cycle in a single language

Wilmsen, David
The negative existential cycle has been shown to be operative in several language families. Here it is shown that it also operates within a single language. It happens that the existential fī that has been adduced as an example of a type A in the Arabic of Damascus, Syria, negated with the standard spoken Arabic verbal negator mā, does not participate in a negative cycle, but another Arabic existential particle does. Reflexes of the existential particle šay(y)/šē/šī/ši of southern peninsular Arabic dialects enter into a type A > B configuration as a univerbation between mā and the existential particle ši in reflexes of maši. It also enters that configuration in others as a univerbation between mā, the 3rd-person pronouns hū or hī, and the existential particle šī in reflexes of mahūš/mahīš. At that point, the existential particle šī loses its identity as such to be reanalyzed as a negator, with reflexes of mahūš/mahīš negating all manner of non-verbal predications except existentials. As such, negators formed of reflexes of šī skip a stage B, but they re-enter the cycle at stage B > C, when reflexes of mahūš/mahīš begin negating some verbs. The consecutive C stage is encountered only in northern Egyptian and southern Yemeni dialects. An inchoate stage C > A appears only in dialects of Lower Egypt.