Date of Award

May 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Hamid Ouali

Committee Members

Fred Eckman, Garry Davis, Nicholas Fleisher


This dissertation is a study of negation in Iraqi Arabic. It investigates the syntactic properties of negation in this dialect by presenting some previously unnoticed empirical facts about this phenomenon and by analyzing its theoretical significance for Arabic syntax in particular and Human language in general. Iraqi Arabic is a cluster of subdialects that show an interesting systematic microvariation in the use of negative expressions. The first goal of this dissertation is to present the syntactic properties of negation in all these subdialects through a detailed description and comprehensive survey. Based on this survey and description, these subdialects, are divided into two major groups: ma group and ma-ʃ group. A syntactic analysis is then developed to explain the behavior of negation in each subgroup, challenging some standard and widely accepted analyses in the literature (Benmamoun 2000, 2013, and Soltan 2007, 2014). The second major goal of this dissertation is to examine the interaction between negation and the so-called Negative Sensitive Items (NSIs) namely: Negative Polarity Items (NPIs) and Negative Concord Items (NCIs). NSIs rely on their syntactic distribution and semantic interpretation on negation, and here again, and as expected, the Iraqi dialects show some variation when it comes to what type of NSIs are licensed and how they are licensed. This dissertation is the first such work to study in detail negation in Iraqi Arabic and to provide a detailed survey and analysis of it. It is a contribution to the syntax of negation in general, and the syntax of Iraqi Arabic in particular. The locus of sentential negation is discussed in light of previous theories that are primarily based on the distribution of sentential negation in Arabic dialects. The investigation of the locus of sentential negation indicates that the High-Neg hypothesis, where NegP occupies a position higher than Tense Phrase (TP), cannot provide an explanation for the case when the imperfective verb has the option to merge with the negative marker in both the ma group and the ma-ʃ group; therefore, the High-Neg analysis cannot be extended to Iraqi Arabic. The examination of NSIs licensing in Iraqi Arabic illustrates that previous NSIs licensing analyses proposed in the literature cannot extend to Iraqi Arabic. Alternatively, a novel account through appealing to both syntax and semantics is proposed which is a modification of Zeijlstra’s proposal (2004, 2008). In this study, I argue that NCIs are specified with an uninterpretable [uNeg] feature that needs to be checked against an interpretable [iNeg] feature of a semantic negation that can be either overt or covert in the clause.

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