Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

New from Cambridge University Press!


Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.

Summary Details

Query:   Wh-questions in Arabic
Author:  O L Zavitnevich
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Syntax

Language Family:   Arabic

Summary:   For Query: Linguist 12.1699

Earlier this month I posted a question about the formation of wh-questions
in Arabic and Arabic dialects. I am very grateful to all who
replied to my queiry. Here is the summary of the information that I got:

In Modern Standard Arabic the question word appears sentence initially
(to the right of the sentence):
"qara?a al-waladu kitaaban" (The boy read a book)

mann (who) qara?a kitaaban?
limaaDa (why) qara?a al-waladu kitaaban?
maaDa (what) qara?a al-waladu?
?ayna (where) qara?a al-waladu kitaaban?

However, constructions of the following type is possible
qara?a kitaaban mann (who)?
qara?a al-waladu maaDa (what)?,

"qara?a al-waladu maaDa (what)"? may be used in scholastic settings to
elicit answers from pupils.

In Tunisian Arabic, the sub-dialect of Sfax, the examples from MSA become
as follows

(i) shkun (who) qara ktaab? (who read a book?)
(ii) ?alash (why) qara iT-Tfil ktaab? (why did the boy read a book?)
(iii) ?ish (what) qara iT-Tfil? (what did the boy read?)
(iv) wiin/fiin qara iT-Tfil l-ktaab? (where did the boy read the book?)

The position of a wh-phrase affects the meaning of a sentence, thus:
iT-Tfil qara ktaab shkun (who) ? (whose book did the boy read?)

the meaning changes into asking about the genetive.

In North African Arabic (Algerian dialect) wh-question-phrases
always have to be topicalized, and thus appear sentence-initially.

Moroccan Arabic is similar English. Wh in-situ is possible only in Echo

Egyptian Arabic mainly uses wh-in-situ strategy, clause-initial
position is not very common only in idiomatic expression like "eh da"
`what is this supposed to be?' (angrily) instead of normal "da eh" `what
is this?'

Other sourses:

Shalom Lappin and David Johnson, Local Constraints vs Economy, CSLI
Monographs in Linguistics Series, CSLI, Stanford, CA, 1999, contains an
extensive discussion of wh-questions in Iraqi Arabic.

Modes of Intorregation, by Lina Choueiri and Joseph Aoun in the
semitic archives hosted by the ling dept at USC on Lebanese Arabic


Olga Zavitnevich
Cambridge University

LL Issue: 12.1825
Date Posted: 16-Jul-2001
Original Query: Read original query


Sums main page