Verb form switch as a marker of discourse hierarchy in Semitic: a case study on Syrian Arabic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterpeer-review


Surveying Syrian Arabic narrative text, this article explores the use of a switch of verb forms to indicate larger digressions from the main line of a story. The study follows similar analyses of other varieties of Arabic as well as Biblical Hebrew. Isaksson (2007, 2009a) identified specific marking for comments of circumstantial character not only on phrase and clause level but also on text level. Whereas the traditional concept of the circumstantial clause implies a comment to a main clause, Isaksson pointed out that similar clauses and phrases may function on a higher textual level to modify a whole paragraph (cf. Bloch 1965, 74). Furthermore, he detected discourse markers that set them off from the rest of the narrative. In Persson (2009a) I explored circumstantial comments on text level in modern urban Gulf Arabic. Carrying the analysis one step further than Isaksson, I found that, in addition to phrases and clauses, the device for marking an off-line clause was also employed to set apart whole paragraphs as comments to the main narrative. In the present article, I survey older, Syrian Arabic data drawn from the texts collected by Bloch and Grotzfeld (1964). The study includes phrases and clauses but also larger pieces of commentary texts. The results confirm previous findings concerning the role of gram switching as a marker of discourse hierarchy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Tur Abdin to Hadramawt. Semitic studies. Festschrift in Honour of Bo Isaksson on the occasion of his retirement
EditorsTal Davidovich, Ablahad Lahdo, Torkel Lindquist
ISBN (Print)978-3-447-10265-0
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Arabic (015016005)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature


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