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The attributive possessive in Moroccan Arabic spoken by young bilinguals in the Netherlands and their peers in Morocco

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 October 2006

Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen


Moroccan Arabic has two competing syntactic constructions for possessive marking: a synthetic one and an analytic one. The distribution of these constructions is investigated in semi-spontaneous narratives (frog stories) from four Moroccan cities and from the diaspora community in the Netherlands. This distribution is found to depend very much on the individual lexical items that head the construction, and on the form of the dependent, pronominal dependents favouring the synthetic form. Regional variation in Morocco is linked to the sociolinguistic history of the regions. The northern town of Tangier, where language contact with Berber (and Late Latin) had the greatest impact on the formation of Arabic dialects, shows the greatest preference for the analytic genitive. The immigrant community in the Netherlands shows an increased preference for the analytic form in comparison with their peers in Morocco. This concerns possessives with NP dependents in particular, which suggests a direct influence of Dutch as the socially dominant language.

Research Article
Cambridge University Press 2006

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A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the 4th AIDA Conference, held in Marrakech in April 2000 (Boumans, 2002a). A more elaborated version was presented at the colloquium ‘Dynamiques du développement de langues’, organised by the University of Osnabrück in June 2000. At both occasions I benefited from the comments of those present. Jonathan Owens's valuable feedback on a draft version of this paper is gratefully acknowledged, as is the feedback of three anonymous reviewers. Part of the research for this article was carried out within the framework of the TCULT project, a multi-disciplinary project financed the Dutch organisation for scientific research NOW, the Meertens Institute, the municipality of Utrecht and the universities of Leiden, Utrecht and Tilburg. I wish to thank all anonymous speakers, who agreed to have their narratives recorded, and Petra Bos and Abder El Aissati for generously sharing their data with me.