The Historical Linguistics of the Intrusive *-N in Arabic and West Semitic

By Owens, Jonathan | The Journal of the American Oriental Society, April-June 2013 | Go to article overview

The Historical Linguistics of the Intrusive *-N in Arabic and West Semitic


Owens, Jonathan, The Journal of the American Oriental Society


1. INTRODUCTION

I term the -n (realized variously as -in, -an, -inn, -ann, -unn, -anna) that occurs before object suffixes in many Semitic languages and varieties the "intrusive -n," or simply "-n." (1) The origin of this morpheme has been widely discussed among Semiticists in particular, and more recently among Arabicists (Holes 2011). Among Semiticists there are two broad explanations for its appearance. The more widespread approach, represented inter alia by Robert Hetzron (1969), David Testen (1993), and Rebecca Hasselbach (2006), is to interpret the intrusive -n as an inherited proto-Semitic verbal suffix with various, uninterrupted reflexes across the different varieties. An alternative perspective is offered by Jan Retso (1988: 92; also Barth 1907), who sees the -n as originating independently from common "deictic elements," a massive parallel independent development, as it were. The former approach tends to derive the morpheme from common verbal aspect-mode values, two functions of which are the Akkadian ventive (motion towards speaker) and the Classical Arabic so-called energicus (nun al-ta'kid in the Arabic tradition, also termed energetic or energic in the Western tradition). The latter approach, on the other hand, is sceptical of shared proto-functions, instead emphasizing the basically formal property of pronoun object marking.

In this article I will attempt to combine elements of each of the two perspectives. As in the first position, there is a common, shared origin to all occurrences of the -Vn in West Semitic. However, following Retso, the only functional unity that characterizes them is the grammaticalized function of marking a pronoun object suffix. As will be seen, the explanation advocated here basically confirms the analysis of Carlo Landberg (1909: 738). (2)

Partly for strategic reasons, and partly because of the breadth of material that would have to be treated in detail to work out a completely comprehensive development, I will concentrate on the West Semitic languages in general, and on Arabic in particular. To the extent that the West Semitic languages have the intrusive -n, they are remarkably similar to one another in grammar, while Arabic is of particular interest for two reasons. First, the -n is attested in a number of varieties of it, and at different chronological eras; and second, a close look at the general syntax of the -n in a major text of Classical Arabic will allow a detailed evaluation, and refutation, of the idea that the -n derives from a proto-verbal function.

I begin in section 2 with a summary of the situation in Arabic, first the dialects, then a corpus-based summary of the energic -n in Qur'anic Arabic. This will form the basis in sections 2.2 and 2.3 of the first of two reconstructions developed in this paper, namely, a reconstruction of the development of the energic as a grammatical category in Classical Arabic. In section 3 the data from other West Semitic languages are presented, and in section 4 an overall historical development is offered. In section 5 individual interpretive issues related to the proposed solution are addressed.

2. THE INTRUSIVE -N IN ARABIC

2.1. Arabic dialects

The properties of -n are quite uniform among contemporary Arabic dialects. In all Arabic dialects where it occurs--viz., Eastern Arabian dialects of former South Yemen, Oman, the Emirates, and Bahrain; those of eastern Syria, Khorasan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan; and Bagirmi Arabic in northeast Nigeria, Cameroon, and western Chad--an intrusive -n is added onto the active participle only before an object suffix.

In Yemen (specifically, Dathina, in former South Yemen; cf. Landberg 1909: 720ff.) it occurs in all forms of the AP. The -n is geminate except before the -n initial suffixes -ni 'me' and -na 'us'. Gemination nearly always occurs before a vowel, although there are a few examples of -nn-ha (mayaahib-Inne-ha "he has accompanied her," as well as mithaddin-inn-ha "he carried her in the arms"; subjects are provided from context in the following examples):

(1) mehaalif-inn-ak "[he is] your ally" (allied-N-you-M)

muhaalif-iin-in-na "[they are] allied to us" (allied-MPL-N-us)

kaatib-et-inn-eh "[you (F)] have written it (M)"

kaatb-aat-inn-a "[they (F)] have written it (M)"

In Oman -in is added to any stem form (Reinhardt 1972: 139): (3)

(2) daarb-Inn-ek "he has hit you (M)"

daarb-ft-n-hum "she has hit them (M)"

daarb-fin-n-ek "they (M) have hit you (M)"

daarbaat-inn-is "they (F) have hit you (F)"

Here -n is added to the MPL directly, rather than as -in + pronoun suffix, as in Yemen. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Historical Linguistics of the Intrusive *-N in Arabic and West Semitic
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.