LINGUIST List 14.88

Fri Jan 10 2003

Review: Linguistic Theories: Parkinson & Benmamoun

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  1. Hayim Sheynin, Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XIII-XIV

Message 1: Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XIII-XIV

Date: Thu, 09 Jan 2003 18:45:26 +0000
From: Hayim Sheynin <>
Subject: Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XIII-XIV

Dilworth B. Parkinson and Elabbas Benmamoun (2002), Perspectives on
Arabic Linguistics XIII-XIV: Papers from the Thirteenth and Fourteenth
Annual Symposia on Arabic Linguistics. John Benjamins Publishing
Company, c2002 hardback ISBN 90 272 4738 2 (Eur.) Price: EUR 102.00 /
1 58811 272 1 (US), xiv+250pp. USD 92.00 Amsterdam Studies in the
Theory and History of Linguistic Science. Series IV, Current issues in
Linguistic Theory, ISSN 0304-0763; v. 230.

Book Announcement on Linguist:

Hayim Y. Sheynin, Gratz College, Melrose Park, PA.

This is an edited collection of selected papers by different
authors. 9 papers were selected from the nearly 50 papers presented at
the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Annual Symposia on Arabic Linguistics,
held at Stanford University in March of 1999 and at the University of
California at Berkeley in March of 2000. In addition to the title's
statement, here are also included two papers from the Fifteenth Annual
Symposium, held at The University of Utah in March of 2001. The Arabic
Linguistics Society and the respective university sponsored each of
these symposia. The papers presented at the symposia were selected on
the basis of an anonymous review of abstracts submitted to the Program
Committee. The papers included in the volume were further reviewed by
the editors before final acceptance for publication [it should be
noted that the editors do not reveal their criteria for papers'
selection-HYS] In the Introduction, one of the editors, Dilworth
B. Parkinson, notes the wide diversity of the papers both in their
approach and aspects/subjects of research. Then he introduces every
paper by giving its topic and highlights.

Three papers deal with language acquisition (Ghada Khattab, Mohammad
Alhawary, Naomi Bolotin) and one with language processing applied to
problems of language acquisition (Adel Abu Radwan), two with
morphology (Adamantios Gafos, Robert Ratcliffe), two with syntax
(Frederick Hoyt, Fatima Sadiqi), one with phonology (Bushra Zawaydeh
et al.), one with discourse analysis (Ahmed Fakhri), and finally one
with 'secret language' Misf (al-Misfalawiyyah) in Mecca (Muhammad
Bakalla). The linguistic material researched is as diverse as the
aspects of research, from Classical Arabic (Adamantios Gafos) to
Modern Standard Arabic (Ghada Khattab, Bushra Zawaydeh et al., Adel
Abu Radwan) to local Arabic vernaculars: Moroccan Arabic (Robert
Ratcliffe, Fatima Sadiqi) to Lebanese dialect in England (Ghada
Khattab), Palestinian Arabic (Frederick Hoyt), to Ammani-Jordanian
Arabic (B. Zawaydeh et al.) to a Saudi Arabian (Meccan) dialect
(Muhammad Bakalla), Najdi dialect (Naomi Bolotin). Both the oral
patterns and the written texts are used. Most of the papers present
results of the field research, in some cases experiments, versus
existing linguistic theories. An index of subjects is appended to the

Seven authors of papers are affiliated with USA institutions of higher
learning (Adamantios Gafos, New York University; Bushra Adnan Zawaydeh
et al., Indiana University; Adel Abu Radwan, Georgetown University;
Mohammad Alhawary, American University, Washington, D.C.; Frederick
Hoyt, University of Texas at Austin; Ahmed Fakhri, West Virginia
University; Naomi Bolotin, University of Kansas), one is affiliated
with UK institution (Ghada Khattab, University of Leeds), two are with
Japan institutions (Robert Ratcliffe, Tokyo University of Foreign
Studies and Keiichi Tajima, Kyoto, Japan), one with Morocco
institution (Fatima Sadiqi, Université Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah,
Fes), one with Saudi Arabia institution (Muhammad Hasan Bakalla, King
Saud University, Riyadh), two with private companies (Zawaydeh,
Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products), Tajima (ATR International, Kyoto,
Japan)All the authors have Ph.D. degree in linguistics which they
acquired in the 1990s, some of them have experience of university
teaching, most of them published papers and articles on the topics of
their dissertations. Two of the authors, Ms. Fatima Sadiqi (author of
6 books and numerous articles in General linguistics, Arabic and
Berber linguistics and in Women Studies) and Mr. Muhammad Hasan
Bakalla (author of an important monograph on phonology and morphology
of verb in Meccan dialect as well as the editor of Proceedings of the
First International Symposium in Teaching Arabic to non-Arabic
Speakers, University of Riyad, 1980) are veteran researchers.


Article #1. Ghada Khattab. 'VOT Production in English and Arabic
Bilingual and Monolingual Children' (pp. [1]-37)

Ghada Khattab is dealing with the most common binary opposition, that
between VOICED and VOICELESS (VOT) stops. According to Lisker &
Abramson 1964, VOT is 'the time interval between the burst that marks
release of the stop closure and the onset of quasi-periodicity that
reflects laryngeal vibration.' Another definition from a later study
of Cho & Ladefeld 1999 is adopted in this paper, namely 'the time
between the initiation of the articulatory gesture responsible for the
release of a closure and the initiation of the laryngeal gesture
responsible for vocal fold vibration.' Khattab describes difference
of VOT in English and Arabic presenting a general and simplified view
of the places of English and Arabic stops b d g / p t k. Then she
discuss how these difference plays role in language acquisition.
First she brings an empirical evidence, then she describes an
experiment with a number of children, resulting in graphs and
tables. The children are divided by age groups and by groups of
monolingual and bilingual subjects. The change of VOT production is
measured for each age group and for each category (bilingual and
monolingual subjects) The experiment produces certain results. This
paper is admirably clear and logical in exposition.

Article #2. Bushra Adnan Zawaydeh, Keiichi Tajima and Mafuyu
Kitahara. 'Discovering Arabic Rhythm through a Speech Cycling Task'
(pp. [39]-58)

This team of researchers studies speech rhythm in Arabic. First they
explore modern linguistic studies concerned with speech rhythm of
various languages which divide the languages to three groups:
1. 'stress-timed', 2. 'syllable-timed', and 3. 'mora-timed'. Previous
experimental studies of Arabic rhythm failed to find strict isochrony.
Tajima 1998 experimented with speech cycling in English and Japanese
and found that English stressed syllables more closely approximate
isochrony than do Japanese accented syllables. Basing on success of
this method the team experiments with two speakers of Ammani-Jordanian
Arabic. The apparatus, procedure and materials of experiment are
described. Short cycling phrases consisting of three words are
measured and clustered in 6 samples, denoting all stressed and
unstressed syllables. Each phrase was repeated eight times,
measurement was taken from five repetitions. Then additional concepts
of internal and external phase are introduced and the same phrases are
measured using these concepts. The final result indicates that Arabic
is similar to English in that it is the stressed syllables that a
prominent in the phrase, and that English is more strongly
stress-timed than is Arabic. Another conclusion is that languages do
not fall into discrete rhythmic categories, but rather show gradient
variation in rhythmic tendencies. Although the paper does not give
clear cut answers (who is to say that they exist), it is very positive
endeavor to use precise measurements and apply acoustic methods to
study of language patterns.

Article #3. Adamantios I. Gafos. 'An Argument for a Stem-Based View of
Arabic Morphology : Double Verbs Revisited' (pp. [59]-86)
The author analyses doubled verbs (verba mediae geminatae) and notices
an alternation of two forms: a reduced form /madd/ and an extended
form /madad/. At this point, it is a subjective definition (because we
do not know which form was a basic one and which was derived from the
basic form). The traditional view not only in Arabic linguistics, but
in entire Semitic linguistics, says that the fuller form /madad/ is
the basic one, because the root of verba mediae geminatae is a species
of the three-consonant root (where in the formula C1C2C3, C2=C3; so
the formula of doubled verbs' root is C1C2C2). Gafos observes that
the alternation of these two forms is positionally conditioned: the
fuller form is realized before consonant-initial suffixes /madadtu/,
the shorter form before vowel-initial suffixes. The linguists who
wrote on the doubled verbs (Gafos cites seven studies between 1970 and
2000) accepted the traditional view, i.e. derived the form /madd/ from
It should be noted a mistake on p. 60 in translation of /madd-a/ as
'stretch'; it should be 'he stretched' or 'he has stretched' After
presenting the previous accounts of doubled verbs' research, Gafos
brings two-sided analyses: 1. Phonotactics-based analysis of the
doubled verb alternation; 2. Analysis departing from the position of
basicness of C(V)CVC and stem-based morphology.
There is no real proof for any one of two assumptions, but acceptance
of the traditional view leads to a number of morphological
stipulations. However the acceptance of the opposite view (i.e. that
the basic form of the doubled verb is C1vC2C2 /madd/) allows to
explain the entire system of alternations by independently necessary
constraints. This idea is backed also by the recent studies in
different areas of Arabic morphology, particularly in nominal forms of
broken plurals, and in fresh explorations of stem-based view of verbal
morphology. Gafos mentions a possibility that the doubled verbs are
derived from a biliteral root C1C2 /md/) mapped to the template
C1vC2vC3 /madad/ (McCarthy 1981), but states that for his purpose he
doesn't need to accept the mentioned possibility. Modern Arabic
vernacular dialects avoid the alternation in the form of the stem.
The described research remains in the stage of a proposal which has
implication for longstanding traditions in Semitic
linguistics. Whatever view is true, this is still a long way to
consistently prove the case of doubled verbs as extension of a
bilateral root and to determine, what is the prime stem of the doubled
verbs /madad/ or /madd/.
It should be worth mentioning that as far as we know there is no clear
cut proof of priority of a phonotactic principle over a
morphosyntactic one both in word formation and in word change even in
the case that phonotactic analysis allows a simpler explanation. It is
not the case that present reviewer in any measure objects the ways of
Gafos's analysis, but it is the case when more work needed to be done
to prove that Arabic morphology is stem-based. When such proof will
be achieved, it will bring a revolution in Semitic linguistics.
In my opinion, the analysis based on attribution of a biliteral root
to the double verbs and mapping the derived morphological forms to a
trilateral template, as McCarthy 1981 suggests, would be more
plausible and less objectionable. Also it would accommodate some
opinions of early grammarians in the history of Arab and Semitic

Article #4. Robert R. Ratcliffe. 'The Broken Plural System of Moroccan
Arabic : Diachronic and Cognitive Perspectives' (pp. [87]-109)

Robert R. Ratcliffe, the author of a number of works dealing with the
broken plural in Arabic and Afroasiatic languages, in this paper
treats the broken plural system of Moroccan Arabic. The research paper
is introduced very well, describing the aim of the project, mentioning
some insufficient attempts of traditional Semitic linguistics. The
author describes both his corpus (broken plurals brought in Lane's
dictionary and statistical distribution of plurals to singulars
provided by Murtonen 1964, as well as Ratcliffe's own count of plurals
in Penrice's dictionary of the Qur'an. Then he cites six principles
which, according to him, emerge from the juggling with a database. The
reader does not have any opportunity to check this conclusion. The
'juggling' remains outside of the paper (it was published in Ratcliffe
1998). What is presented in the paper, those are statistical tables of
Singular/Plural distribution, where all the types of Singulars and
broken Plurals are denoted by formulas, using C for any consonant, v
for any vowel and particular vowels. To follow these tables a reader
should be himself a researcher of broken plural. After the
statistical tables Ratcliffe brings more formulaic tables. Then he
does the same with Moroccan Arabic material (statistical distribution
table), based on Harrel/Sobelman (1966) dictionary of Maroccan
Arabic. The section analyzing Maroccan Arabic (section 3) is easier to
follow, because here a number of real examples are brought in two
columns: the left one giving Singular and broken Plural forms of
Maroccan Arabic, while in the right column are corresponding pairs in
Classical Arabic. These examples are divided in a number of groups
(nos. 5-12), after which an analysis class by class follows.
Comparing dialectal developments to established forms in Classical
Arabic, Ratcliffe finds some expected forms, others completely
unexpected. Basing on his published dissertation, he states that some
modern Semitic languages (all of them belong to Southern Semitic
sub-family) have undergone similar types of change. As examples he
brings one example from Tigre and one example from Harsusi ('a new
quinquimoraic iambic sSS Plural allomorph for group 1 nouns').
Ratcliffe may well be right his conclusions. The way how he presents
material, however, does not give any possibility to check his
conclusions. His laboratory is described insufficiently. One should
repeat all his work in order to get the conclusions and compare them
to Ratcliffe's ones. Thus we find that this paper lacks clarity, even
it is evident that the author is very well familiar with existing
theories and endeavored extensive work. One would wish that only a
portion of the material would be presented, but in more detailed and
less technical form.

Article #5. Frederick Hoyt. 'Impersonal Agreement as a Specificity Effect in
Rural Palestinian Arabic' (pp. [111]-141)

F. Hoyt discusses agreement of a nominal predicate (NP) with
impersonal verb (formulated in 3rd person singular or plural),
noticing semantic duplicity of the prepositional predicate 'ind-e 'at
him' (sometimes expresses 'inalienable' possession, while in other
cases means 'in his company' or chez lui. Use of verb in plural form
resolves the semantic ambiguity in favor of the second meaning. In
significant number of examples Hoyt shows that this agreement is
conditioned by semantics. Then he presents very similar phenomenon in
Standard Western Armenian (reported in Sigler 1996), the language not
only different genetically, but having very different syntax. Thus
this phenomenon shows that the degree of (semantic) modification of an
NP can affect the form of a morphosyntactic process.
Then Hoyt works out specifics of agreement variation in existential
clauses. He finds theoretical underpinnings in Bowers 1993, Chomsky
1995, and Collins 1997. To illustrate the structure of the possible
constructions he uses numerous schemes. F. Hoyt builds a strong
argument for semantic determination of the degree of the syntactic
agreement in Rural Palestinian Arabic existential constructions. Some
other Arabic dialects (Nablusian, p. 123, Syrian, p. 124 and
Tunisian, p. 125), as well as Armenian (p.115-116) and Catalan
(p. 125) languages are used for comparative purposes to exemplify
'strong' and 'weak' definiteness restriction.
The article is composed in very logical and clear sequences. The
linguistic principles have strong theoretical basis. It would be worth
to check how Hoyt's conclusions relate to other Arabic dialects and
possibly to other Semitic languages.

Article #6. Fatima Sadiqi. 'The Syntax of Small Clauses in Moroccan
Arabic' (pp. [143]-153)

Fatima Sadiqi describes the structure of small clauses in Moroccan
Arabic dialect. First she cites the definition of such constructions
in five studies published from 1981 to 1995. The main differences of
small clauses from non-small clauses are: 1) the absence of tense and
2) their constrained syntactic distribution. In her analyses, Sadiqi
finds necessary to deal with the major properties of adjectival small
clauses. One series of this properties concerns adjectival agreement,
adverb insertion, selection and thematic restrictions, and case;
another concerns word order in adjectival small clauses, pointing to
the strict Subject-Adjective order in these clauses and to the
exclusion of Adjective-Subject order.
Sadiqi checks her findings against Chomsky's Minimalist theory. The
exposition of article is clear and logical until formulation of the
conclusion which seems to be suffering from a circulus vituosus. This
conclusion takes only seven lines, and each of its statements seems to
be given in preceding text rather than it provides accounts of proofs
or achieved results.

Article #7. Ahmed Fakhri. 'Borrowing Discourse Patterns: French
Rhetoric in Arabic Legal Texts' (pp. [155]-170)

In recent studies of relations of two or more languages used in the
same speech community as it relates to Arabic and other languages (6
studies cited from the period 1983-1996) researchers have dealt with
lexical borrowing, code-switching and code-mixing. Most studies have
been limited to lexical and syntactic interlingual influences.
The present paper discusses the borrowing of French discourse patterns
into Arabic, utilizing the judgments of Moroccan secular courts which
adopted a discourse organization based on the French model.
Fakhri operates on comparison of three types of court judgments: 1)
rendered by a traditional Islamic judge (123 judgments); 2) rendered
by French Court which were published in two books; 3) rendered by
modern Moroccan courts based on secular laws and published in a law
review of the Moroccan Ministry of Justice.
First the general differences are noticed: traditional Arabic
judgments follow a narrative-like structure, while modern courts'
judgments exhibit an argumentative structure; then the details of
discourse structure enumerated and analysed.
In following discussion, Fakhri supplies the circumstances and acting
factors facilitating adoption of French patterns by the modern Moroccan
Having proved his arguments, the author brings in three appendices the
samples of three types of court judgments both in corresponding
original language and in English Translation.
Ahmed Fakhri should be commended for clearly presented arguments,
thorough and thoughtful discourse analysis. We consider this paper a
model presentation of discourse analysis. Also the selection of legal
texts for linguistic research is obviously beneficial both for
linguistics and for law.
Fakhri already dealt with similar issues, analyzing discourse patterns
of Arabic narrative texts [Perspectives on Arabic linguistics VII
(1995) : 141-155] and some journalistic texts [ibid.XI (1998) :
167-182] One can only wish that other types of discourse, possibly
business correspondence or Gallophone literature written in Maroccan
Arabic would be analysed. Are additional genres of speech display
similar clear cut patterns of borrowing?

Article #8. Muhammad Hasan Bakalla. 'What Is a Secret Language' (pp.

Bakalla presents a short study of a 'secret language' Misf, as a
particular sub-dialect of Meccan parler of a Saudi Arabian
dialect. Misf was in general vogue especially during the 1950s and
1960s within the district of Al-Misfalah. The author mentions that
this was not only 'secret language' in Mecca, other districts used to
have their own secret languages. Bacalla cites existing definitions of
a 'secret language.' In Burling 1970, Crystal 1987 and Bright
1992. Judging against these definitions he ascribe Misf to the secret
languages category.
Bacalla operates on the corpus elicited from five Meccan informants,
he also mentions that he himself used Misf until the age of 25.
In the paper, the table of 40 samples is given, each item consist of a
word in Meccan dialect, in English translation and in Misf form. In
general Misf uses the same phonological rules and the same corpus of
the phonemic inventory. As for its particular structure, Misf has the
regular addition of the long vowel and the two consonants,|r| and |b|.
The presented paper is the first attempt of the description of this
In the opinion of the present reviewer, this subdialect is rather game
language. The structural changes are so minimal and so superficial
that this variety of speech does not deserve to be called language or
dialect. Moreover, speakers of other languages are familiar with
similar varieties of game languages (for example, the secret language
of St. Petersburg cadets of Russian military academies before 1917 or
the secret languages of young aristocrats in the 19th century France,
or thieves language 'blatnaya musyka,' in Odessa, Russia. All of these
game languages based on one particular language with very slight
changes. Some of them add a syllable or two syllables formed by
particular consonants, to regular words, exactly like in the case of
Misf, described in the paper under review.

Article #9. Adel Abu Radwan. 'Sentence Processing Strategies: An
Application of the Competition Model to Arabic' (pp. [185-209)

Looking into previous research of second language acquisition, Abu
Radwan finds that the research has mainly focused on production skills
(speaking and writing) to the exclusion of comprehension. Recent
research on sentence processing started filling this gap. It focuses
on the receptive skills (reading an listening). In the late 1980s the
Competition Model was suggested as a psycholinguistic and a
functionalist model of language processing and acquisition (Bates &
MacWhinney 1987, 1989)
Abu Radwan describes the theoretical background of the Competition
Model and applies it to the following goals: 1) to fill a gap in the
literature by investigating the strategies used by native and
non-native speakers of Arabic in sentence interpretation; 2) to
compare the strategies used by English-speaking learners of Arabic.

Then follow descriptions of English and Arabic as it concerns typical
word order, existence of case inflection and verb agreement. Three
hypotheses are formulated, basing on these descriptions of syntactic
structure of simple sentences in both languages.
The formulated hypotheses are checked by an experiment conducted on
two groups of English native speakers, the university students of
Arabic, the first group included nine students in their fist semester,
the second group consisted of nine students in their second year of
Arabic The experiment was carefully planned and described.
The results of the experiments are presented in statistical tables
with the explanations related to each table. The experiment does not
produce clear cut proofs. Abu Radwan tries to explain his results and
compare them to the previous experiments (e.g. Taman 1993) This is
only the second attempt to study Arabic sentence processing
strategies. The results of this pioneering study are preliminary.
Let's hope that subsequent studies will bring more accurate and more
evident results.

Article #10. Naomi Bolotin. 'Acquisition of Binding in L1 Arabic' (pp.

N. Bolotin describes an experiment that tested Arabic-speaking
children how Chomskian Binding principles A and B (from the three
principles discussed in Chomsky 1981) that govern the interpretation
of noun phrases. Bolotin brings previous accounts of testing
acquisition of binding (all of them are results of experiments
conducted in the early 1990s) which have revealed a principal A/B
asymmetry: while knowledge of principle A is acquired early on,
knowledge of principle B takes much longer. Also the previous
interpretations of the reasons of this disparity are mentioned. To
make this review more understandable we will cite the Binding
principles under discussion. Principle A states that an anaphor must
be bound in its governing category, where 'anaphors' refers to
reflexives and reciprocals, and binding means coindexed and
c-commanded; principle B says that a pronoun must be free in its
governing category. The experiment was conducted on twelve Saudi
children ages five through thirteen. The test consisted of fifteen
sentences-five testing principle A, five testing principle B, and five
ambiguous sentences with pronouns. The results of the test show a
sharp A/B asymmetry. To use Bolotin's statistics and graphs, to the
mean age of the subjects (the mean age was nine) the knowledge of
principle A was 92%, while the knowledge of principle B at the same
age was 35%. In following discussion of the reasons for the results,
Bolotin rules out previous explanations.

Article #11. Mohammad T. Alhawary. 'Role of L1 Transfer in L2
Acquisition of Inflectional Morphology' (pp. 219-248)

Acquisition of inflectional morphology is definitely one of the
central tasks in second language (L2) acquisition. Alhawary as many
linguists before him attributes the problems of difficulties in this
respect to differences of language types between L1 and L2. Discussing
such differences, Alhawary reduces them to the following cases: 'the
null-subject phenomenon,' 'verb to I raising,' 'root infinitives.' In
the second section he treats noun-adjective and subject-verb
agreement. First Alhawary gives some theoretical background, bringing
significant number of research opinions , then he describes his own
data from tape-recorded interviews [for full account of data see
Alhawary 1999]. Then statistical data of the experiments are presented
first in tables, then in diagrams.
The finding of this study contribute further to this area of ongoing
investigation. The author's contention discriminate patterns of early
acquisition of subject-verb agreement as opposed to late
noun-adjective agreement. The results, as in the most of cases of
experimental studies, are preliminary, and the author, as well as
present reviewer, anticipates additional acquisition research
conducted with different tupological constellations [i.e. with
different pairs of languages], such as French-Arabic, Spanish-Arabic,
Creole-Arabic, and Chinese-Arabic.

Evaluating entire collection, I ought to say that it includes valuable
linguistic research in Arabic linguistics, most of authors raise
significant questions, show deep knowledge of both the theoretical
linguistics and the language under investigation.
On the whole, most of the participants are using principles of the
Chomskian linguistics as their guiding lights.
The topics and aspects of research, as I already mentioned above, are
very diverse. One would wish that discussions would be less
technical. Editors of similar collections in future can be advised in
addition to index of subjects, to include also glossary of terms, or
at least of acronyms used. This can assist less advanced linguists to
use the book without looking at introductory or reference works.
I heartily recommend this book both for the linguists and for the
libraries of the academic institutions which have in their curriculum
one or more from the following fields: 1. Linguistics; 2. Arabic
language; 3. Afroasiatic linguistics; 4. Semitic
philology. 5. Language acquisition in Education.


Hayim Y. Sheynin studied General and comparative linguistics,
Classical, Semitic, Romance, Germanic and Slavic philology and has
interest in Semitic, Jewish and Iberian Romance languages, Language
description, Sociolingustics, Morphology, Etymology, and
Lexicology. In addition, he is an expert in Hebrew, Greek and Latin
paleography and history of booklore.
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