Nimrod Madrer

Title: Existential phrases in Semitic languages

University: Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Supervisors: Nathan Wasserman, Steve Fassberg

Abstract: Existential phrases constitute a broad, yet elusive, part of all Semitic languages. Linguistics point at two general functions for such phrases: 1. A copulative function, i.e., “semantically empty” verbs that mark the tense, mood and aspect of the sentence, or that carry negation or description (namely, a=b, a is part of, or can describe b). 2. A “proper” existential function – “there is” – pointing at objects or states of an actual existence and that can be further described. Such verbs often accompany locative (there is an elephant in the room) or by possessive markers (I have a book).
The literature dealing with such phrases is restricted and incomplete and many questions of this matter are left unattended. In my thesis I intend to regard existential phrases in Semitic languages (and in specific in Akkadian) with regard to three levels – morphology (collecting and describing the words, prepositions and radicals that constitute the “Proto-Semitic” existentials and the ones that are innovations of specific languages), syntax (tenses, modii and, generally, the grammar of each of existentials), and context (e.g., which existentials serve predominantly as copulae and which as “proper existential”, context dependencies of the uses of the various existentials and differences in context and uses between “Proto-Semitic” existentials to language-specific ones, inter and intra lingually). Altogether, I hope to shed light on the roles and function of existential phrases in Semitic languages and to compose a concise and comprehensible collection and description of them.

Keywords: Semitic languages, philology, grammar, existential, Akkadian