Universiteit Leiden

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Dissertation

Alignment in Eastern Neo-Aramaic Languages from a Typological Perspective

On October 31st, Paul Noorlander succesfully defended his doctoral thesis and graduated. The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics congratulates Paul on this great result.

Author
Paul Noorlander
Date
31 October 2018
Links
Leiden University Repository

Abstract

Aramaic was once the principle language of the Middle East over an area reaching from Egypt into Afghanistan. Stretching back 3000 years, Neo-Aramaic, the modern tongue, is still spoken by mainly Jewish and Christian minorities originating in Syria, South East Turkey, Northern Iraq, and Western Iran. Since most have fled the traditional territory in the previous century, their language is highly endangered. The Eastern varieties recently increasingly documented by linguists show exceptional microvariation in alignment. Such grammars rarely treat the clause structure of the language and are not easily accessible to non-specialists. Using typological models in contemporary linguistic theory, I show that a number of alignment types should be analysed differently. Some of them are the only known Semitic languages to evince ergative alignment. Several alignment types in Neo-Aramaic arguably go against functional-typological tendencies. Remarkably, the alignment can differ from dialect to dialect such that one dialect can do exactly the opposite of the other, even though the alignment has been stable in Aramaic for millennia. A common assumption in the literature is that this variation once developed out of a coherently ergative system. My research challenges this view and argues that the historical situation must have been more complex.

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