[SCHNEIDER & COHEN] Case Syncretism

Case Syncretism – The Case of Arabic Plurals

Roey Schneider & Evan-Gary Cohen

(reviewers: Radwa Fathi, Anna Lubowicz)

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Abstract: In this paper, we provide a comprehensive analysis of several instances of case syncretism in Modern Standard Arabic while comparing them to what can be found in other Semitic languages. The
goal is to present an explanation for syncretism patterns and directionalities in both the external suffixed (sound) plural forms and some of the affixing and internal pattern-changing (broken) plural
forms. We also address various relevant lexical, phonological, and morpho-syntactical issues that may have triggered these phenomena, using both diachronic and synchronic methodologies in addition to a
quantitative analysis of the phenomena. We propose that all these instances of syncretism can be explained as a means of avoiding a merger that would give rise to ambiguity more than the merger that
actually took place. In the sound plurals and duals, the merger between ACC and GEN in the direction of GEN is meant to avoid a merger between ACC and NOM. In the other group of two-way inflecting substantives, the merger of the same cases but in the opposite direction avoids contrast neutralization between GEN and the 1sg possessive pronoun.

Schneider, Roey & Cohen, Evan-Gary. 2022. “Case Syncretism – The Case of Arabic Plurals”. Radical: A Journal of Phonology, 4, 183-210.