Case and Proto-Arabic
This chapter examines in detail one of the key features which has been assumed to differentiate a putative Old Arabic from Neo-Arabic, the presence vs. absence of a three-valued case system, nominative, accusative genitive. The status of case is first examined in the context of Afro-Asiatic, where a system comparable to Arabic does not exist in sister branches of the phylum, then in the Semitic sub-family, where it is suggested that only Akkadian had a comparable, robust system. Case in Classical Arabic is argued to be innovative relative to proto-Semitic. The crucial arguments are that case is not found in the contemporary dialects, and more importantly, no traces of former case markers are found, inviting the conclusion that a caseless variety is the only ancestor of the dialects. Furthermore, in the early grammar of Sibawaih, the case suffixes are represented as having a great deal of free variation, indicating a system still in the making.
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