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Personal indices in the verbal system of the Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialect of Zakho

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The Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Zakho is a highly endangered dialect of North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic which was spoken by the Jews of Zakho (northern-Iraq) up to the 1950s, when virtually all of them left Iraq for Israel. Thanks to documentation efforts which started in the ’40s at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as the interest of native speakers, we possess a rich textual documentation of this dialect today (Cohen, 2012; Y. Sabar, 2002; Avinery, 1988). These resources, together with recently conducted fieldwork, are used in order to analyze the linguistic status of the verbal personal indices in this dialect, following the concepts presented by Bresnan & Mchombo (1987) as well as Corbett (2003). For each person marker, its status as a pronominal affix or as an agreement marker is established. The synchronic situation is compared with the known historic situation in older strata of Aramaic, such as Classical Syriac. The resulting analysis shows that the same apparent person marker may behave differently in different syntactic environments. Another conclusion is that there is no clear-cut dichotomy between pronominal affixes and agreement markers, as transitional cases exist.

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Keywords: Iraq; Jewish languages; North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic; Zakho; agreement; endangered languages; incorporated pronouns; pronominal affix; verbal system

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2019

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