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Abstract

This paper proposes a re-discussion of the question of the number of genders in Arabic. Only varieties of Arabic that display gender distinction in the plural are considered here. In these varieties, it is argued, all nouns fall into one of three distinct agreement classes (or genders), and this in spite of the fact that only two separate genders surface at the morphological level. In other words, a discrepancy exists between the number of target genders and that of controller genders. This situation is not unique to Arabic, and finds parallels in other languages of the world. In addition, the article discusses the role of feminine singular agreement with plural controllers. This type of agreement is not restricted to any particular controller type and always exists in variation with plural agreement. Therefore, it is not to be regarded as a separate agreement category, but rather as an indicator of the referent’s level of individuation. Finally, the last section of the article concentrates on the possible diachronic implications of the analysis proposed above

In: Annali Sezione Orientale
This book offers a comprehensive survey of the agreement phenomena found in written and spoken Arabic. It focuses on both the synchronic description of these agreement systems, and the diachronic question of how they evolved. To answer these questions, large amounts of data have been collected and analysed, ranging from 6th century poetry and Quranic Arabic to the contemporary dialects. The results presented by the authors of this research greatly improve our understanding of Arabic syntax, and challenge some well-established views. Can Arabic be envisioned as possessing more than only two genders? Are some contemporary dialects more similar to the pre-Classical version of the language than MSA is? And is the Standard rule prescribing feminine singular agreement with nonhuman plurals a more recent development than previously thought?