Medial deictic demonstratives in Arabic: Fact or fallacy

Samir Omar Jarbou

Abstract

This paper investigates two different views concerning the number of deictic degrees of demonstratives in Classical Arabic (CA) and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). The first view claims that CA has a medial category of demonstratives in addition to proximals and distals; the second view postulates that there are only proximals and distals in CA. The study examines the dialectal origin of singular and dual CA demonstratives based on writings of ancient grammarians in addition to investigating the Semitic origin of these demonstratives. It is argued that the demonstrative system in CA is the result of a combination of two dialectal demonstrative systems: one of these had been used in Old ?ijaazi, while the other had been used in Old Tamiimi Arabic. Each of these dialects had only proximals and distals but no medials. Demonstratives in these dialects had dissimilar forms for distals. ?ijaazi distals had two suffixes attached to the proximal base, while Tamiimi ones had one suffix only. The presence of these different forms led grammarians representing the first view to the fallacy that demonstratives with one suffix are medials, while those with two suffixes are distals. However, the supposed medials are in fact the distals that were used in Old Tamiimi; their distance value is the same as that of Old Hijaazi distals.

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