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  Nueva publicación: Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XIII-XIV  
  Se ha enviado recientemente a la lista de distribución americana Arabic-L la siguiente reseña, de Hayim Y. Sheynin, relativa a la publicación de “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 volume.


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 /madad/.

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 linguistics.

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 courts.

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. 171-183)

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 subdialect.

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. [211]-218)

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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