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Arabic Language and Linguistics

Arabic Language and Linguistics

Reem Bassiouney
E. Graham Katz
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  • Book Info
    Arabic Language and Linguistics
    Book Description:

    Arabic, one of the official languages of the United Nations, is spoken by more than half a billion people around the world and is of increasing importance in today's political and economic spheres. The study of the Arabic language has a long and rich history: earliest grammatical accounts date from the 8th century and include full syntactic, morphological, and phonological analyses of the vernaculars and of Classical Arabic. In recent years the academic study of Arabic has become increasingly sophisticated and broad.

    This state-of-the-art volume presents the most recent research in Arabic linguistics from a theoretical point of view, including computational linguistics, syntax, semantics, and historical linguistics. It also covers sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, and discourse analysis by looking at issues such as gender, urbanization, and language ideology. Underlying themes include the changing and evolving attitudes of speakers of Arabic and theoretical approaches to linguistic variation in the Middle East.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-891-4
    Subjects: Linguistics, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. viii-ix)
  5. Transliteration Conventions
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    This volume collects fifteen papers that represent the state of the art of research on the Arabic language in its many forms. Part I of the book, the first seven chapters, describes aspects of the Arabic language from a theoretical point of view, including computational linguistics, syntax, semantics, and historical linguistics. Part II, the remaining eight chapters, describes Arabic applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, and discourse analysis. Within each part, the chapters are ordered alphabetically by author.

    Part I starts with a discussion of syntax in chapter 1, in which Nizha Chatar-Moumni addresses negation in Moroccan Arabic, which is marked by the...


    • 1 Negation in Moroccan Arabic: Scope and Focus
      (pp. 3-16)

      STANDARD SENTENTIAL NEGATION in Moroccan Arabic (MA) is marked with both elements ma- and -∫ (or its variant -∫i). According to the contexts, these elements can be split in a discontinuous form or merged in a continuous form. For example, in direct assertions, the discontinuous form surrounds a verbal predicate (1) or a quasi-verbal predicate, (2) whereas the continuous form precedes a nonverbal predicate (3):...

    • 2 On the Syntax and Semantics of Arabic Universal Quantification
      (pp. 17-34)

      THIS CHAPTER INVESTIGATES the syntax and semantics of Arabic universal quantification from three different perspectives. The first one is the transformational approach that considers the Arabic universal quantifier kull and its two different structures, which we call the unmarked “NPadjQ” and the marked “FQ,” as base-generated and that the marked construction is a “floated” quantifier. The second approach considers the marked FQ construction an adjoined adverb and does not posit any transformational link between the marked FQ and the associated DP nominal constructions. Our third lexical-functional approach proposed in this study proves that the two quantified structures are semantically different;...

    • 3 Statistical and Symbolic Paradigms in Arabic Computational Linguistics
      (pp. 35-60)

      WITH THE INCEPTION of the digital age and, in particular, the widespread adoption of the Internet as a communication tool and as a medium for information exchange, the amount of information available to the public has grown exponentially, although the tools for processing and extracting meaning from this enormous body of information have only grown linearly. To address these pressing needs, computational linguists have developed three main approaches to natural language processing (NLP): the statistical approach; the symbolic approach; and the hybrid approach, which combines features of both the statistical and symbolic approaches.

      In this chapter I present the history...

    • 4 Raising in Standard Arabic: Backward, Forward, and None
      (pp. 61-78)

      STANDARD ARABIC (SA) is a verb-initial, verb–subject–object (VSO) language in which preverbal subjects are also allowed, producing subject–verb–object (SVO) structures. As sentences (1) and (2) demonstrate, the verb shows partial agreement in gender (and probably person) in VSO structures (1a, b), but it shows full agreement in person, gender, and number in SVO structures (2a, b). The sentences also show that VSO plus full agreement and SVO plus partial agreement result in ungrammaticality:...

    • 5 Construct State Nominals as Semantic Predicates
      (pp. 79-98)

      THE SEMITIC CONSTRUCT state nominal (idaafa in Arabic¹ or smixoot in Hebrew; henceforth, “the construct”) has received considerable attention in the syntactic literature and has recently regained popularity in the work of, for example, Borer (2008), Choueiri (2008), and Danon (2008), with key contributions in semantic work by Dobrovie-Sorin (2000, 2002, 2005) and Heller (2002). An example of the construct appears in (1). It is a left-headed construction whose head composes with its nonhead and assigns it genitive case (visible in Standard Arabic). The purpose of this chapter is to propose a different semantics of the construct based on novel...

    • 6 On Licensing Wh-Scope: Wh-Questions in Egyptian Arabic Revisited
      (pp. 99-114)

      AN ARGUMENT WH-PHRASE in Egyptian Arabic (EA) questions may surface either in situ in its argument position, as in (1a), or ex situ in a left-peripheral position associated with a resumptive pronoun, as in (1b):¹...

    • 7 The Notion of “Complete” and “Incomplete” Verbs in Early Arabic Grammatical Theory: Kāna and Its Sisters
      (pp. 115-126)

      CONTEMPORARY ARAB GRAMMARIANS are in agreement that verbs known as kāna and its sisters are considered to be الأفعال غير مكتملة ʾafʿāl nāqiṣa “incomplete verbs,” because they do not indicate all elements of الأفعال كاملة ʾafʿāl tamma “complete verbs.” Verbs inherently indicate an action occurring at a specific time, and therefore the lack of one of these elements renders the verb “incomplete.” Kāna and its sisters are verbs that indicate a change in time or state, and thus they lack the notion of “action” that is fundamental in regular verbs. How and when did these concepts emerge? When did the...


    • 8 Women and Politeness on Egyptian Talk Shows
      (pp. 129-136)

      THIS CHAPTER EXAMINES assertiveness techniques, such as interruption and floor controlling, by women on Egyptian talk shows. The data consist of fifteen hours of talk shows. The analysis includes five talk shows. Two are exclusive to one group, males or females, and not another. Note that all the participants are in the same age group, forty-five to fifty-five years. Talk shows specifically are an opportunity for women to compete with men on a professional level and to redefine their identity according to context.

      As an outcome of theories that perceive gender as a binary opposition (Freed 2003, 702), Holmes (1998,...

    • 9 Bonjour, ça va? Labas ʿale-ik? French and Arabic in Casablanca
      (pp. 137-144)

      THIS CHAPTER FOCUSES on the analysis of the forms of address in Morocco, especially with regard to salutations and well-wishing formulas, from a sociolinguistic point of view. Describing the system of forms of address within this theoretical framework means paying attention not only to the traditional linguistic structure but also to the social structure within which the exchanges take place. Thus, the notion of Chomskian linguistic competence is rejected, to embrace instead Hymes’s (1971, 95–121) broader concept of “communicative competence.” In this chapter I draw from Goffman’s theory in which the function of salutations, but also of other aspects...

    • 10 Nominalization in Arabic Discourse: A Genre Analysis Perspective
      (pp. 145-156)

      THIS CHAPTER INVESTIGATES the functions of nominalization in Arabic discourse with a particular focus on legal genres. Nominalization is “the process via which a finite verbal clause . . . is converted into a noun phrase” (Givón 2009, 6). For example, the sentence “She knows mathematics extensively” can be converted into the noun phrase “her extensive knowledge of mathematics.” Genre analysis studies—such those by Swales (1981, 1990), Bhatia (1992, 1993), and Hyland (2000, 2007)—have shown that the achievement of the communicative goals of particular genres requires particular grammatical structures (e.g., past or present tense, passive voice, impersonal constructions)....

    • 11 The Elusiveness of Luġa Wusṭā—or, Attempting to Catch Its “True Nature”
      (pp. 157-168)

      IN THIS CHAPTER I reflect on the status of research on luġa wusṭā—the elusive notion first introduced to Western scholars of Arabic by Charles Ferguson in his seminal article “Diglossia” (1959). Ferguson applied the Arabic term luġa wusṭā to the “intermediate forms of the language” that emerge in diglossic language communities to solve tensions concerning code choice, which arise in situations where the functional distribution of High (H) and Low (L) varieties is confused, as when the formal-versus-informal distinction becomes blurred.¹ In Arabic we find, besides luġa wusṭā, also the terms (luġa) mutawassiṭa, wasīṭa, āliθa, luġat, or ʿāmmīyat al-muθaqqafīn²...

    • 12 Mexicans Speaking in Dârija (Moroccan Arabic): Media, Urbanization, and Language Changes in Morocco
      (pp. 169-188)

      IN MAY 2009 the 2nd channel of Moroccan television, 2M, launched its first TV novela translated into Dârija (Moroccan Arabic): Las dos caras de Ana (2006). This initiative came after the spring and summer of 2008, which witnessed the fantastic success of the Turkish series translated into Syrian Arabic, first broadcasted by Satellite TV (MBC2 in April 2008) and then broadcast by the Moroccan channel 2M (September 2008). During the fall of 2008, the new director of TV2M, Salim Cheikh (coming from the advertising sector) announced his intention to broadcast foreign series in Dârija, something that had never occurred before...

    • 13 Critical languages and Critical thinking: Reframing Academic Arabic Programs
      (pp. 189-200)

      THIS CHAPTER CENTERS ON the concept of critical thinking and its implications for foreign language study, which provides an opportunity to approach an old problem in a slightly different way, arguing for the need for attention to explicit grammar instruction within communicative teaching situations—not simply because it ultimately enhances proficiency at advanced levels, but also because it underpins learners’ cognitive development.

      The range and variation of topics for the study of Arabic language and linguistics has noticeably expanded in recent years, and we are gradually coming to understand the need to express explicit goals for Arabic study and learning...

    • 14 Ideology and the Standardization of Arabic
      (pp. 201-214)

      Considered from the perspective of language standardization, grammar making is a form of codification whose immediate aim, as opposed to its ulterior motive, is to provide a set of rules for a selected variety of the language. In language policy terms, grammar making is an aspect of corpus planning that goes hand in hand with status planning in the standardization of a language (Cooper 1989). Having selected a language variety as a base for cross-dialectal standardization through status-planning activities, corpus planning seeks to provide this standard in the making with a writing system—or an elaboration or modification of an...

    • 15 The Ditransitive Dative Divide in arabic: Grammaticality Assessments and Actuality
      (pp. 215-232)

      A DIALECT BOUNDARY, or isogloss, exists between the eastern and western Arabic vernaculars in their treatment of ditransitive verbs with two pronominal arguments (Brustad 2000, 372–73; Retsö 1987, 225, 227, 242). Just where the line should be drawn may be a matter yet to be determined precisely, but it is convenient to draw it at or near the eastern shore of Egypt. Eastward of that line the spoken vernaculars tend to place the pronominal indirect object (the beneficiary) of a ditransitive verb before the pronominal direct object (the patient). For now, let us call this order verb–indirect object...