The semantic and pragmatic role of case marking in formal spoken Arabic

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2009-05

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Abstract

This thesis explores the phenomenon of variable use of case marking in spoken formal Arabic in search of extra-syntactic meanings. The thesis rejects the views that case marking is constrained primarily by speakers' ability in Standard Arabic, or that case marking is implicated solely in code-switching. Instead, the study takes a holistic approaches and attempts to determine whether the use and non-use of case marking operates as a meaningful linguistic system. This thesis consists of two chapters: in the first, a subset of the data is analyzed quantitatively, while the second treats the data qualitatively. The data for the study was taken from publicly broadcast Arabic language television programs.

The primary finding is that the choice between use and non-use of case marking operates as a linguistic system, and that case marking is used primarily to mark highly salient nouns in the discourse. This thesis also finds that this system extends to pragmatics, including register variation and maintainance, as well as politeness strategies. Finally, the study discusses the role that case marking plays in the construction of a speaker's linguistic style. These findings support the theory that syntactically optional elements of speech are often conditioned and meaningful beyond the level of syntax.

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