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The grammaticalization of prospective aspect in a group of Neo-Aramaic dialects

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This paper examines the development of a future (more precisely ‘prospective’) auxiliary from a motion verb in a small group of Neo-Aramaic dialects spoken in Iraq. The long written record of Aramaic allows us to follow the grammaticalization process in some detail, and recent documentation of dialects has shown that various stages co-exist synchronically. The Neo-Aramaic case challenges the theory that future auxiliaries from a verb ‘to go’ should derive from an imperfective in languages which have one. The development of the auxiliary also involves the reanalysis of a present perfect as an immediate future: this apparently surprising development is explained and possible parallels to it in other languages given. The prospective construction exists alongside another future tense and the differences in form and function can be seen to reflect the different origins and ages of the two constructions. There are strong indications that the prospective construction has developed as a result of contact with a similar vernacular Arabic construction. The distribution and level of maturity of the construction in the different dialects can be explained by an origin in a village close to the Arabic-speaking area, and thence diffusion to the neighbouring villages.
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Keywords: Neo-Aramaic; contact; dialectology; future; grammaticalization; prospective; tense and aspect

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-11-01

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