The dialect of North Hail, a variety of Najdi Arabic, has a set of sentence-initial particles marking topics of various kinds that correspond to those argued by Frascarelli and Hinterhölzl (2007) to be characteristic of Italian and German: Shift-Topic, Contrastive Topic, and Familiar Topic. In their work, as in much other work in the cartographic tradition, a hierarchy of abstract topic heads is postulated in the C-domain, which host the topical phrases as specifiers. In North Hail Arabic, the topic heads are overt, realized as particles. Some of the topic heads mark topics by attraction to the C-domain; other particles mark topics by ϕ-feature agreement. The particles in the C-domain agree in ϕ-features with a TP-internal DP, subject or object. Analyzed in terms of Agree (Chomsky 2001, 2008), arguments and adverbials are assigned particular topic values either by agreement or by movement. The particles thus provide evidence that topicality can be a syntactic feature, inherent in lexical items (the particles) and assigned to constituents by operations familiar from standard syntactic relations like subject agreement and case. The theory articulated observes the Inclusiveness Condition, known to be a problem for the cartographic theory of topic and focus.

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