PhD candidate Rawan Bonais will defend her dissertation on Monday, March 21, at 9:30 a.m.

Title: "The Role of Transfer/Substrate Influence in the Development of Gulf Pidgin Arabic"

Zoom link:  Passcode: rawan

Co-Chairs: Marlyse Baptista and Acrisio Pires

PhD defenses in the Linguistics Department are open to the public. Anyone is welcome to attend if interested.


This dissertation focused on two goals: First, it examined the role of transfer effects in the

development of Gulf Pidgin Arabic (henceforth, GPA), a recently evolved Arabic-based pidgin

spoken in Saudi Arabia (as well as in the Arab states bordering the Persian/Arab Gulf). GPA

developed as a result of contact between Gulf locals and (South) Asian immigrant workers who

are speakers of many languages. The current study makes use of a transfer diagnostic tool proposed

by Jarvis (2000) that determines whether or not transfer/substrate influence has taken place in a

given language. This dissertation is driven by two research questions: (1) Do GPA speakers who

speak the same substrate language and/or speakers of typologically similar substrate languages

show similar GPA structures in their language production?; (2) Do the morpho-syntactic properties

observed in GPA pattern with the properties present in the substrate languages? Second, adopting

the Selection and Competition (Mufwene, 2001, 2008) and Hybrid Grammars (Aboh, 2015)

contact frameworks, the current study investigates the process of feature selection and

(re)combination in GPA’s grammars. The following questions are addressed in light of these

models: (3) How are the functional features of the source languages (re)combined in GPA, if at

all? Which factors govern the selection of features that emerge in GPA? (4) Do the selected GPA

features show evidence of contact effects of language-internal developments, or a combination of

both contact effects and language-internal development (i.e., multiple causation, Thomason and

Kaufman, 1988)? In order to answer these questions, the current study provides a detailed crosslinguistic

comparison of the semantic and syntactic properties of the demonstrative hada ‘this’ and

the multiple functions of fi, derived from Gulf Arabic’s preposition in, and their counterparts in

the source languages, namely Gulf Arabic (the lexifier language) and selected substrate languages,

Hindi/Urdu, Bengali and Malayalam. The GPA data comes from structured interviews including

several language elicitation tasks with immigrant workers residing in Saudi Arabia. Quantitative

and qualitative analyses offer evidence that the additional functions of the demonstrative hada

(40% as a definite marker, and 21% as a 3rd person pronoun), and fi (50% as an auxiliary verb,

8% copula and 35% existential marker) in GPA show substrate influence. This dissertation is the

first analysis to show transfer effects in the additional functions of hada and fi in GPA. These

findings are also contrary to previous studies (e.g., Bakir, 2014), which argue that other factors

such as language-internal pressures and universal mechanisms are involved in the development of

the new functions of fi in GPA. Moreover, the results indicate the interplay between the source

languages leading to the selection and re/combination of grammatical features in GPA. In the case

of hada it seems that while the morphophonological form and demonstrative function got

transmitted from the lexifier language, GPA has inherited additional syntactic/semantic features

of hada as definite determiner and third personal pronoun from the substrates whose

demonstratives also function as definite determiners and third-person pronouns. This conflation of

syntactic function is absent in the lexifier language. The findings also show that the multiple

functions of fi and its variable placement sentence-medially/-finally in GPA involve pressures

from the substrates, and not just the lexifier language. This is compatible with a multiple causation

approach to language contact (Thomason & Kaufman 1988), and supports Aboh’s (2015) hybrid

grammars model under which GPA’s grammar is viewed as a complex system rather than a

simplified form of the lexifier language as described in many GPA studies.