Date of Award

December 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Hamid Ouali

Committee Members

Fred Eckman, Nicholas Fleisher, Tue Trinh


Agreement, Arabic, Case, Copula, Copular Clauses, Syntax


Copular clauses in several languages have received much attention in recent years, however in Arabic they have been largely overlooked. In general, copular clauses have been classified into four types: the predicational clause, the specificational clause, the identificational clause, and the identity clause. This thesis aims to characterize and analyze the various copular clause types in Arabic, and goes further to discuss the taxonomic status of the copular clause with a postcopular definite description and the nature of the pronominal element (PE) in Arabic copular clauses. The thesis then explores the predicational clause type in more depth, focusing specifically on the copula KWN, the subject NP, and agreement and case in this type of copular clause. I provide an analysis of Arabic copular clauses that condenses the four types of copular clauses into just two types: the predicational clause and the identity clause, which differ in the small clause they contain. The specificational clause, the identificational clause, and the clause with a postcopular definite description can all be considered subtypes of the identity clause. I claim that the PE, which appears in all Arabic copular clauses except the predicational clause, is a realization of the F head in the structure of the identity clause, and cannot be used in a predicational clause due to the presence of predicative expressions in this type of clause. I also claim that Arabic has a single copula KWN, which originates in the vP, however in the structure of the Arabic verbless sentence this vP does not project. Next, I suggest that the definiteness constraint on the subject of Arabic predicational clauses follows from the referentiality and topicality requirements on the subject of a predicational clause. Finally, I provide an analysis for case and agreement in the predicational copular clause which suggests that the nominative case on subjects and their predicates in verbless sentences is obtained via Multiple Agree with T, whereas the accusative case on subjects and their predicates in clauses involving the copular verb results from Multiple Agree with v. However, the case on subjects may change in the course of a derivation by other mechanisms, such as presence of the complementizer ʔinna or by cyclic agreement.

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