Dr. Margherita Pallottino, Univ. of Geneva / OFAI
Fii uses across Arabic varieties


OFAI is proud to present "Fii uses across Arabic varieties", a talk by Margherita Pallottino of University of Geneva / OFAI. The talk is part of OFAI's 2024 Spring Lecture Series.

Members of the public are cordially invited to attend the talk online via Zoom on Wednesday, 05 June 2024 at 18:30 CEST (UTC+2):

URL: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84282442460?pwd=NHVhQnJXOVdZTWtNcWNRQllaQWFnQT09
Meeting ID: 842 8244 2460
Passcode: 678868

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Talk abstract: The particle fii (etymologically the preposition ‘in’, with allomorph bi-) is universally attested across Arabic varieties. Alternative uses of this element have been identified in single dialects. For instance in the Levantine dialects fii is used in existential constructions (Jarad, 2015) or as a modal (Cowell, 1964), whereas in the North African region fii is an ingredient of progressive constructions (Brahim, 2007). The existing literature gives us a picture of the multifunctionality of fii in Arabic but it does not provide any indication about the geographical distribution of these usages, nor about the possible correlations among them. The research described in this talk fills this gap surveying 11 different uses of fii previously described in the literature, across 11 different Arabic varieties extending from Morocco to Iraq. The resulting picture shows a leopard-spot distribution of certain functions of fii suggesting that other forces drive the emergence of fii usages across varieties beside the influence of geographically proximity. The main question tackled by this talk is, therefore, which factors can explain the distribution of fii functions. The validity of the competing hypotheses, historical accident or grammar driven, are evaluated with mathematical methods run on the data gathered in the study.

Bibliography: Brahim, A. (2007). Le marquage locatif de l’objet et aspect progressif en arabe et en berbère tunisien. In Morphosyntaxe et sémantique du verbe. Relations actiancielles, voix, aspect et statut grammatical en français et en arabe (p. 94‑105). CRISCO. Cowell, M. W. (1964). A reference grammar of Syrian Arabic (Based on the dialect of Damascus). Georgetown University Press. Jarad, N. I. (2015). From locative to existential: The grammaticalization of fii in the spoken Arabic of Aleppo. Romano-Arabica, XV, 235‑254.

Speaker biography: Margherita Pallottino holds a PhD in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of Geneva. Her 2020 thesis, written under the direction of Prof. Tabea Ihsane and Prof. Luigi Rizzi, investigates the case marking function of the preposition fii in Tunisian Arabic. Margherita's research focuses on interdialectal variation among Arabic Varieties. She is particularly interested in the distribution of locative prepositions and of their use in a crosslinguistic perspective. In July 2022, Margherita joined the OFAI (Österreichisches Forschungsinstitut für Artificial Intelligence - Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence) as post-doc fellow. Her fellowship is sponsored by the FNS Mobility Grant P500PH_211169/1. At the OFAI Margherita is working at the creation of a browsable linguistic atlas describing the polyfunctionality of the prepositions bi and fii across twelve Arabic Dialects, spanning from Moroccan Arabic in the west to Iraqi Arabic in the east. The aim of the research project is the identification of patterns of grammaticalization which allow single prepositional elements to perform a wealth of syntactic functions in closely related languages.

Margherita Pallottino