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Infixed -nn- in Northern Emirati Arabic

Wilmsen, David
Al Muhairi, Fatimah
Book chapter
Published version
An infixed -nn- between active participles having verbal force and their suffixed pronominal objects has been noted for the Arabic dialects of the southern Arabian Peninsula, including those of eastern Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, and the Yemen. It has also been observed in the UAE, but it has not been investigated fully there. This study reports on ongoing work in documenting features of northern Emirati Arabic, derived from analysis of oral histories related by pre-nineteen-sixty residents of the old town of Sharjah, the recordings and transcriptions of which are housed in the Collection of Oral Heritage and Stories of the Sharjah Museums Authority. These are augmented by observations of spontaneous conversations amongst speakers of northern Emirati Arabic and, for comparative purposes, a television serial set in Abu Dhabi. Through this, a systematic view of the features of infixed -nn- in northern Emirati Arabic emerges: As opposed to the dialects of Abu Dhabi, where an infixed -nn- is optional, in northern Emirati varieties, it is obligatory when the dative pronoun intervenes, -nn- assimilates to -ll-; and -nn- may rarely appear between verbs and their object pronouns. These observations augment existing work on the peninsular and the few datable extra-peninsular dialects that infix -nn- between the participle and its object pronoun. The infixed -nn- is one of a small bundle of phonological and morpho-syntactic features that have been observed only in southern peninsular dialects of Arabic. Its presence in those dialects as well as the operation of infixed -nn- in Arabic dialects separated by wide distances and time periods indicates a prediasporic southern Arabian origin. To this bundle may be added a rare lexical item, hintēn (< itnayn/tintayn ‘two’), it, too, shared only amongst Arabic dialects of the southern Arabian Peninsula, including those of the northern Emirates.
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