(In)definiteness Spread in Semitic Construct State: Does it Really Exist?

Mohammed Q. Shormani


To argue against a long established assumption seems to be not that easy task. In this article, I argue against one of those assumptions, namely (in)definiteness spread in Semitic Construct State (CS). I argue that CSs are of two types: either definite or indefinite. The former refers to those CSs, where the head N is syntactically definite, in the sense of having the definite article al-/ha- (the, Arabic/Hebrew), and the latter to those not having it. Three tenets constitute the crux of this paper: i) the controversy (in)definiteness spread gives rise to among Semitic scholars, ii) there does exist good evidence that the head N of CSs can take the definite article in Arabic and Hebrew, and iii) in Arabic the absence of the indefinite article (marker) -n on the head N has presumably to do with what I call VCR (= the Vowel Contextualization Rule) like several similar other phonological phenomena in the language. As for the specifici-ty/uniqueness denoted by the head N of a CS in some contexts, I propose that such specificity has nothing to do with definiteness spread, but rather it may be linked to a Universal Gram-mar (UG) principle, which correlates specificity/uniqueness with possessivization cross-linguistically, or to a UG parameter in the case of Semitic CSs.



DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13092/lo.80.3568