Variations on the same theme

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The main aim of this paper is to provide both synchronic and diachronic evidence that Standard Arabic and the spoken dialects pattern the same way with regard to the syntactic mechanisms that govern the relationship between lexical categories and functional categories. The focus is on sentential negation and more specifically the so-called negative copula in verbless sentences &#8211; as demonstrated by <i>laysa</i> in Standard Arabic and negative pronouns in the modern dialects. Despite the surface differences between Arabic varieties, the underlying syntax is the same, particularly with regard to clause structure and the interaction between tense, negation and the predicate. This interaction that is governed by the same mechanisms and the options they allow helps explain why the same system keeps getting reproduced over time.


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