Number and Gender Assignment to loanwords in Arabic: Implications from Varieties

Sami Hamdi


Number and gender are two of the core grammatical categories in Arabic. The assignment of number and gender to foreign words is an area of conflict between MSA and other Arabic varieties. This paper investigates the factors that stand behind the seemingly irregularity of number and gender assignment in Arabic. It appears that speakers follow a form standardized by MSA or enforce another form following their dialects and community conventions. This variation in number and gender assignment to loans gives rise to multiple competing forms that may not be recognized by MSA or some other varieties of Arabic. Yet, the findings demonstrate consistency in assigning number and gender to loans by applying native patterns motivated by frequency of use andthe semantics of the referents.

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