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Title: Semantic innovation and change in Kuwaiti Arabic : a study of the polysemy of verbs
Author: AlBader, Yousuf B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5346 2110
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis is a socio-historical study of semantic innovation and change of a contemporary dialect spoken in north-eastern Arabia known as Kuwaiti Arabic. I analyse the structure of polysemy of verbs and their uses by native speakers in Kuwait City. I particularly report on qualitative and ethnographic analyses of four motion verbs: dašš ‘enter’, xalla ‘leave’, miša ‘walk’, and rikað̣ ‘run’, with the aim of establishing whether and to what extent linguistic and social factors condition and constrain the emergence and development of new senses. The overarching research question is: How do we account for the patterns of polysemy of verbs in Kuwaiti Arabic? Local social gatherings generate more evidence of semantic innovation and change with respect to the key verbs than other kinds of contexts. The results of the semantic analysis indicate that meaning is both contextually and collocationally bound and that a verb’s meaning is activated in different contexts. In order to uncover the more local social meanings of this change, I also report that the use of innovative or well-attested senses relates to the community of practice of the speakers. The qualitative and ethnographic analyses demonstrate a number of differences between friendship communities of practice and familial communities of practice. The groups of people in these communities of practice can be distinguished in terms of their habits of speech, which are conditioned by the situation of use. The data for this research project are based primarily on field notes and more than twenty hours of audio recordings made between 2012 and 2013 and taken from the speech of thirty-one Kuwaitis representing two sets of social groups based on a particular set of tribal and sectarian allegiances. The overall findings of this research project lead to the conclusion that the factors responsible for semantic innovation and change are reflected in the social structure of a speech community. In summary, this thesis (i) contributes to the theoretical and empirical treatment of the relationship between polysemy and semantic change; (ii) examines the historical semantic treatment of the key verbs within Kuwait; and (iii) proposes that both the semantics and sociolinguistics disciplines can greatly benefit from using each other’s methodologies.
Supervisor: Fitzmaurice, Susan M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available