Review of Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XIII-XIV
Date: Thu, 9 Jan 2003 16:24:16 -0500
From: Hayim Sheynin
Subject: Review of Parkinson and Benmamoun (2002)
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.
Announced at LINGUIST LIST 13.2803 Thu Oct 31 2002 at
Reviewed by 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.
SCOPE OF THE COLLECTION
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 volume.
AUTHORS OF THE PAPERS
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, Fès), 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.
DESCRIPTION AND CRITICAL EVALUATION OF EACH PAPER
Article #1. Ghada Khattab. 'VOT Production in English and Arabic Bilingual
and Monolingual Children' (pp. -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. -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
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. -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 /madad/.
It should be noted a mistake on p. 60 in translation of /madd-a/ as ^ÑÍ
stretch^Ò; 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
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 linguistics.
Article #4. Robert R. Ratcliffe. 'The Broken Plural System of Moroccan
Arabic : Diachronic and Cognitive Perspectives' (pp. -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
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
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. -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
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
Article #6. Fatima Sadiqi. 'The Syntax of Small Clauses in Moroccan Arabic'
Fatima Sadiqi describes the structure of small clauses in Moroccan Arabic
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. -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
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
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
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
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
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.
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
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..