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A comparative study of SV/VS word order in Arabic and Bantu.

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This thesis studies the SV/VS word orders in Bantu languages and Arabic dialects. This word orders alternation is correlated with other grammatical features as well as semantic/pragmatic readings of the constituents. The main grammatical feature associated with the SV/VS word order dichotomy discussed in this thesis is: subject-verb agreement and realization of agreement on the verb. If the subject precedes the verb, the verb bears full agreement with the subject; in person, number and gender in Arabic and in noun class in Bantu. However, when the subject follows the verb, the verb bears partial agreement with the subject; in gender (and sometimes person) in Standard Arabic, and full agreement in the modern dialects of Arabic while it bears a default agreement in Bantu. The position of the subject (post-or pre-verbal) also affects the pragmatic reading of the subject. In the SV word order, in most Bantu languages as well Standard Arabic, the subject is interpreted as topic. However, in some modern Arabic dialects, it can be interpreted as focus. In the VS word order, a focus reading is available for the subject in Bantu (and sometimes obligatory), while in Arabic, the whole sentence is presented as all new-information (presentational focus). The study shows that, although both SV/VS word orders in these two language groups can have a unified analysis for their derivational properties and the syntactic operations responsible for deriving both SV/VS word order (Fassi Fehri 1993, Benmamoun 2000, Soltan 2006, Zeller 2006, 2008, Halpert 2012 and many others), it cannot however provide a unified analysis to capture the formal grammatical features such as agreement, and pragmatic ideas such as topic and focus that are correlated with SV/VS word orders in both Bantu and Arabic dialects.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.