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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Arabic Noun Phrase: A Minimalist approach Add Dissertation
Author: Joost Kremers Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Department of Arabic and Islam
Completed in: 2003
Linguistic Subfield(s): Syntax;
Subject Language(s): Arabic, Standard
Director(s): Ad Foolen
Kees Versteegh
Eric Reuland

Abstract: The aim of this study is to develop a model of the Arabic noun phrase from a minimalist perspective. It provides an analysis of many phenomena in the Arabic noun phrase, such as the construct state, adjectival agreement, definiteness inheritance, the formation of deverbal nouns and participles, etc.

Next to this discussion, the study also focuses on a more theoretical aspect of syntax: linearisation. The Minimalist Program as developed by Chomsky (1995) and subsequent work provides the basis for a syntactic theory that uses as few primitive notions as possible. However, because the Minimalist Program is not a fully worked out theory, some aspects of it remain to be developed, and linearisation is one of them: Chomsky remarks that a tree structure is in principle not linearly ordered. Given this assumption, it is necessary to develop a way do derive the linear order of any given tree structure.

This study argues that linearisation is an important part of syntax, in that it is responsible for certain word order variation. This idea challenges the notions developed by Kayne (1994), who argues that human language has a universal underlying word order, and that word order variation is the result of movement.

Contrary to Kayne's model, the linearisation procedure developed in this study is minimalist in nature. It starts out with the basic observation that any procedure that linearises a hierarchical tree structure needs to search the tree in order to find the terminal elements that are to be spelled out. By specifying how this search takes place, it becomes clear that we do not need to resort to additional mechanisms to account for word order. Instead, the linearisation procedure uses two paraeters that guide the order in which branches of the tree are searched, which determines the order in which the terminal elements are found and spelled out.

With this model, it becomes possible to account for the word order difference in a (sub)domain of the English and Arabic noun phrases without having to posit radically different tree structures for the two languages. English for example has orders such as adjective-noun and (adjective)-possessor-(adjective)-noun. In contrast, Arabic has the orders noun-adjective, and noun-possessor-(adjective)-(adjective). Although these word orders are very different, it is shown that the underlying tree structures are in fact highly similar. Arabic and English merely differ in the settings of two specific parameters, which have the result that the trees are linearised in a different order.