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LINGUIST List 21.4268

Tue Oct 26 2010

Review: General Linguistics: Versteegh et al. (2009)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

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        1.     Nadia Hamrouni , Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (Volumes 1, 2 & 5)

Message 1: Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (Volumes 1, 2 & 5)
Date: 26-Oct-2010
From: Nadia Hamrouni <nadia.hamrounigmail.com>
Subject: Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (Volumes 1, 2 & 5)
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EDITORS: Kees Versteegh, Mushira Eid, Alaa Elgibali, Manfred Woidich, Andrzej
TITLE: Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (Volumes 1, 2 & 5)
YEAR: 2009

Nadia Hamrouni, Second Language Acquisition and Teaching, University of Arizona


The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (hereafter the EALL) is the
outcome of a long process of deliberation, design and compilation that started
as early as the 1990s. Volume 1, initially published in 2006, is the first
installment of the EALL and contains 122 entries arranged alphabetically (A-Ed)
in addition to an introduction. Volume 2 appeared a year later, in 2007, and
contains 134 entries, which picks up where Vol. 1 leaves off (Eg-Lan). In both,
the entries have within a rather consistent length (3 to 4 double-columned
pages). Each entry is supplemented by an extensive bibliography divided, in some
cases, into primary and secondary sources. Vol. 1 was written by 102
contributors from twenty nine countries (across Europe, Africa, USA, Canada, the
Middle East, the Gulf, Japan, etc.). Vol. 2 includes 112 contributors from
twenty seven countries (from Europe, Africa, USA, Canada, the Middle East, the
Gulf, Australia). Each volume contains a list of contributors, their countries
and institutional affiliations.

The EALL encompasses a wide range of topics ''covering all relevant aspects of
the study of Arabic and dealing with all levels of the language (pre-Classical
Arabic, Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, Arabic vernaculars, mixed
varieties of Arabic), both synchronically and diachronically'' (p. vi) across
different linguistic domains like sociolinguistics, applied linguistics,
psycholinguistics, theoretical linguistics, cognitive linguistics, etc. Each of
the entries is written and signed by a specialist in the relevant field. The
titles are straightforward, with a mean number of words per title of only two.


In the preface, the editors draw a distinction among three types of entries in
the EALL. The first is what they regard as 'central articles', entries intended
to act as a general introduction to the field and supply the reader with a
synthesis of the most recent research related to Arabic linguistics. Some
examples of introductory articles are 'diglossia,' 'functional grammar,' 'case
theory,' etc. The second type is what the editors refer to as 'essays', entries
like 'language and culture,' 'language policies and language planning,' etc. The
third type is technical, with entries like 'argument,' 'ellipsis,' etc. I use
the term 'article' throughout this review regardless of this distinction.

The articles provide thorough reference material for an introduction to the
subject matter due to their highly comprehensible writing style, and their
content, which is both clear and reasonably concise. The articles do not include
suggestions for further readings, but throughout the encyclopedia they contain
extensive lists of references, as well as cross-references to related topics
elsewhere in the encyclopedia. Both volumes include pictures, maps, tables and
graphs, all in black and white. In the case of entries that were not allocated
specific articles the reader is directed to cross-reference to other related
entries elsewhere in the Encyclopedia, e.g. Adjunct --> X-bar-Syntax, Arabic
Sign Language --> Sign Languages.

The volumes do not include tables of contents, but the editors have devoted a
whole volume (Vol. 5) to an index. The index starts with a lemma list where
entries are listed alphabetically by chapter. Every entry is supplemented by the
name of the contributor and page numbers. The second part of the index volume is
the actual comprehensive index, also organized alphabetically. In their
introduction, the editors indicate that the topics that were not allocated
special entries in the EALL, mainly due to lack of specialized contributors in
the related fields, were mentioned in more general entries and, accordingly,
included in the index. The index, by itself, extends to 275 pages. The index
volume is undoubtedly a sine qua non tool that makes search for specific
entries, related terms, and/or particular contributors more accessible and more

There is a concentration on the different dialects of Arabic. This concentration
is also evident throughout the content and organization of the EALL. In fact the
encyclopedia not only delves into very nearly all possible dialects of Arabic --
ranging from Afghanistan Arabic (Central Asia Arabic), to Antiochia Arabic
(spoken in the province of Antioch), North African Arabic (spoken in Algeria,
Tunisia, Morocco, etc.), Andalusi Arabic, Bedouin Arabic, just to name a few --
but it also covers other languages and dialects that have been influenced by
Arabic and vice versa. This way, relationships between Arabic and other Semitic
languages as well as languages in the Islamic world are interconnected. To make
this arrangement easy for the reader to grasp and navigate, the editors
introduce the languages that have been influenced by Arabic as single entries,
where the name of the language serves as the title (e.g. Indonesian/Malay,
Persian, Somali). In the case of languages that have influenced Arabic (e.g.
English, Greek, Ivrit, Latin), the term 'loanword' has been used as a ''blanket
term, covering all levels of interference'' (p. vii).

Another interesting feature of the EALL that I personally find very helpful is
that the editors have set a prearranged format for the entries covering the
different dialects of Arabic. The related essays collectively contain a general
introduction and a detailed linguistic description of the dialect's
phonological, morphological and syntactic structure. This feature, as stated by
the editors, should facilitate cross-dialectal comparisons.

One objective of this work is a comprehensive scope. It includes articles
drawing on different theoretical approaches and schools namely traditional,
Functionalists, Minimalists, etc. The editors also specify that 'indigenous
Arabic traditions' have been allocated a significant space in the encyclopedia,
mainly in entries with Arabic titles. In some cases, the same entry has been
included more than once but approached from different linguistic perspectives.
For instance both entries 'construct state' (Vol. 1, pp. 477-482) and 'id̥afa'
(Vol. 2, pp. 294-298) refer to the same syntactic structure. The former has been
framed within the Minimalist approach whereas the latter was formulated within
the Arabic linguistic tradition.

There are two major divisions in the way entries have been presented in the
EALL. Some of them are introduced using English terminology, e.g. 'Apophony',
'Gemination', 'Labiovelarization'. Some other entries are in transcribed Arabic,
e.g. 'ficl' (verb), 'id̥afa' (annexation structure, construct state), 'd̥amir'
(pronoun). As mentioned earlier, this difference in notation is meant to single
out the entries that are treated within the 'Indigenous Arabic linguistic
tradition'. However, this feature may limit access to some readers who are not
familiar with Arabic terminology.

Missing in the EALL are entries related to prominent seminal thinkers who had
significant influence in the field of Arabic linguistics. The editors
acknowledge: ''there is no major reference tool to represent the state of the art
in all aspects of Arabic linguistics''. (p. vi) The EALL is, in this regard, set
up to fill this gap. Entries relating to eminent linguists and their
contributions to the field of Arabic linguistics would be an effective way of
establishing historical connections between the two.

Despite these quibbles, I find the EALL a valuable and authoritative
reference tool that reaches out to a wide range of readership. Its comprehensive
scope, lucid writing style and manageable design and layout make the EALL
useful, initially and foremost, to linguists but also to scholars from various
fields that have connections to Arabic language and linguistics, as well as to
advanced students.


Nadia Hamrouni is a PhD candidate in the Second Language Acquisition and
Teaching (SLAT) program at the University of Arizona. Her research
interests include psycholinguistics, language acquisition, language
processing, language production, speech errors, Semitic morphology, and
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