Repository logo

A Diachronic and Areal Perspective on Subordination in Syriac and North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic

Thumbnail Image



Change log


Lundberg, Johan Martin Viktor 


This thesis provides a diachronic and areal perspective on subordination in Syriac and North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA), tracing its development from Late Antiquity to the present. The first two chapters outline the aim and scope of the thesis and also provide an introduction to the development of Syriac and NENA verbal forms; the use of punctuation dots and intonation group boundaries; and the development of grammatical markers. Chapters three to seven contain a series of case studies of five closely related subordinate constructions: complement clauses, causative constructions, purpose clauses, serial-like constructions, and relative clauses. These phenomena are closely related in many of the worlds languages as well as in Syriac and NENA. The eighth chapter provides a synthesis of the main findings.

I argue that that certain syntactic structures remain relatively stable even though many other aspects of the language have changed. For example, new verbal forms have developed similar functions as the older ones they have replaced, exhibiting a similar distribution in subordinate constructions. Moreover, prosodic patterns appear to be relatively stable because the distribution of Syriac punctuation marks – equivalent to a full stop or a comma – match the distribution of phonetic pauses in NENA dialects. Consequently, it is possible to argue that the structures of many subordinate constructions remain stable event though the component parts have changed.

Lastly, the surveys of West Asian languages show that Syriac and NENA have many features in common with neighbouring languages. Three areal phenomena are worth mentioning: the development of relative markers in place of relative pronouns; the preference for finite verbs instead of infinitives in complement clauses and purpose clauses; as well as the use of serial-like constructions with certain complement-taking verbs and in purpose clauses after motion verbs. These similarities are not unique to the modern languages but appear to have long diachronic roots.





Khan, Geoffrey


Aramaic Historical linguistics, Semitic languages, Subordination


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
AHRC (1791636)