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Review of The Feature Structure of Functional Categories: A Comparative Study of Arabic Dialects
The main focus of this book is to investigate the relationship between functional categories and lexical and phrasal categories in Standard Arabic and Modern Arabic Dialects. Specifically, the author of the book deals with the interaction between verbs and noun phrases, on one hand, and tense, negation and agreement, on the other. By using data from Standard Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, and Moroccan Arabic, the author of this book proposes that universally functional categories are specified for categorial features which determine their relation with lexical categories. More specifically, he argues that a head that carries a noninherent categorial feature can be paired with that feature on another head. I would recommend this book for graduate students and researchers who are interested in the comparative morphosyntax of Standard Arabic and Modern Arabic Dialects. Below is a chapter by chapter run-down of the contents of this book:
Chapter one introduces the main empirical generalizations concerning tense and negation in Arabic, as well as the main theoretical assumptions that arises from the minimalest framewark of Chomsky (1995).
Chapter two deals with the morphology of the two main verbal paradigms in Arabic: the perfective and imperfective. The main conclusion in this regard is that the perfective verb carries abstract past tense while the bare imperfective is not specified for temporal or aspectual features. Imperfective verbs, on the other hand, exhibit an important asymmetry: positive imperatives, unlike negative imperatives, do not carry person agreement features.
Chapter three, entitled the categorial features of tense, explores the feature structure of the elements that occupy the head of the tense projection. The main conclusion in this respect is that the elements in tense do not have the same catigorial feature specification . Thus, the catigorial features of the elements in tense are not uniform .
Chapter four, is entitled "checking the catigorial features of tense". Here the author proposes that the functional category Tense Phrase (TP) is specified for different catigorial features depending on tense type . Thus, asymmetries characterizing the morphosyntax of verbs in the present and past tense can be accounted for.
Chapter five explores sentential negation in Modern Arabic Dialects. In this regard, two main properties of sentential negations are investigated: its syntactic status and its catigorial feature structure. Specifically, with respect to the syntactic status of negation, the author argues that the two morphemes responsible for the sentential negation constitute a complex head, with one morpheme being a proclitic and the other an enclitic. With respect to the categorial features of negation, the author argues that it is specified for the categorial feature (D), which must be paired with the subject, a nominal head or a head that carries subject agreement features.
Chapter six, entitled negation in Standard Arabic, is concerned with the distribution of the main sentential negation devices in Standard Arabic. Specifically, the author proposes that the inventory of sentential negatives can be reduced to two devices: "laa" and "maa". On the basis of this proposal "lam", "lan", and "laysa" are variants of "laa" that carry either tense (lam and lan) or agreement "laysa". Thus, a part from "maa" and the ability of "laa" to inflect for tense, sentential negation in Standard Arabic patterns with its counterpart in the Modern Arabic Dialects.
Chapter seven investigates the syntax of imperatives in Standard Arabic and Modern Arabic Dialects. In particular, emphasis is placed on the morphological asymmetry that arises in the context of positive and negative imperatives. More specifically, only negative imperatives carry the person feature.
Chapter eight addresses the well-known issue of agreement asymmetry between the verb and the subject in standard Arabic due to word order. Specifically, the author provides an alternative analysis of this phenomenon that attributes the absence of the number suffix when the subject is postverbal to the ability of the verb and the subject to merge and spell^out number agreement. Thus according to this hypothesis, number agreement is not realized by an affix when the postverbal subject position is null.However, merger as a spell-out mechanism is an option that may or may not exist in a particular language. Hence, the author points out that in Moroccan Arabic number agreement between the verb and the subject is always realized by an affix, regardless of word order. As far as I know as a native speaker of Egyptian Arabic this is exactly the case in both Cairene Arabic and Upper Egyptian Arabic.
Chapter nine includes an argument to account for an important asymmetry that arises in the context of the so-called Construct State (CS). The author argues that the absence of the (in)definiteness marker of the head noun of the CS can be accounted for if we assume that the members of the CS sequence merge postsyntactically, which amounts to the spelling^out of the relevant features on the noun.
Benmamoun's book does indeed offer a very valuable contribution to the study of the morphosyntax of Standard Arabic and Modern Arababic Dialects. The book is richly illustrated, not only from Standard Arabic and Modern Arabic Dialects, but also other languages such as English, Hebrew and French. Especially valuable is the application of principles and theoretical assumptions derived from contemporary syntactic theories to Standard Arabic and Modern Arabic Dialects. Thus, the analysis and arguments presented in this book bring new insights to issues related to the syntax of functional categories and comparative syntax of modern Arabic Dialects. I believe that the book is a useful reference and is an asset to any library. However, the following remarks should be taken into account:
First, I think there is a lack of consistency with respect to case markers on nouns that occur at the end of sentences. For example, these case markers are observed on page 98, item 15, whereas on page 103, items 27 and 28 they are missing.
Second, In Egyptian dialects there are two main variants for the pronunciation of the word "Muhammad": maHammad and emHemmad. The former is in the Cairene dialect while the latter is in the Upper Egyptian Dialect. The one used in this book (miHammad) does not exist in any Egyptian Dialect. (See for instance, the Egyptian Arabic constructions on page 84).
Third, on page 127, items 22.a, the fourth consonant in the relative pronoun should be the "interdental voiced fricative" instead of the "alveolor voiced stop". The gloss for "?awlaad" should be "boys" instead of "children". The latter remark applies also to item 37.a on page 132 and item 51.c on page 136.
Fourth, on page 141, item 6.b, the indefinite marker attached to the word "Kitaab-u" should be crossed out, otherwise 6.b would be inconsistent with the argument the author makes in this regard. I think the best solution for the construction in 6.b is to insert a star in front of it and leave it as such. In this case, it will be consistent with the argument since it is marked as ungrammatical.
Fifth, in chapter eight the issue of partial versus full agreement in Standard Arabic depending on word order seems to be somewhat controversial. For instance, the starred constructions in 1.b, 2.b and 7.a on page 121-122 are acceptable according to my informants who are professors of Standard Arabic syntax. The reason for this is that according to certain schools of thought of Standard Arabic syntax these constructions are acceptable. A piece of evidence supporting this claim comes from the Holy Qur'an: "wa asaruu nnajwa llathiina ?aamanuu" (Al-Anbiyaa?, verse3). In this verse, the verb "asarruu" exhibits full agreement even through it precedes the subject. Another piece of evidence comes from Al-NaHw Al-Waafi by Abbaas Hassan,which is one of the references cited by Benmamoun. Elaborating on this issue, Hassan mentioned this well-Known construction: fa lamma aqbaluu DDuyuufu SaafaHtuhum. (Hassan Abbaas 1969:357) "When the guests arrived, I shook hands with them". The verb "?aqbaluu" here is again in full agreement with the subject despite the fact that the verb precedes the subject.
Sixth, on page 162, note 11, the "emphatic interdental voiced fricative" is missing.
The Holy Qur'aan.
Hassan, Abbaas. 1969. Al-NaHw Al-Waafi, Vol.3, third edition, Dar ul-ma'aarif, Cairo.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
About the Reviewer: Abdelgawad T. Mahmoud has obtained his Ph.D. degree in Linguistics from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has worked for ten years as Associate Professor at the Department of European Languages and Translation, King Saud University. Currently, he is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the Faculty of Arts, Assiut University, Egypt, He has published a number of articles on "The Syntax and Semantics of the Middle and Unaccusative Constructions in English and Arabic", "The Syntax and Semantics of the Locative Alternations and psych-Verbs in English and Arabic", "Lexical Incorporation and Resultative Predication in English and Arabic" and "Implicit objects in English and Arabic". His current research interest is the interface between lexical semantics and Syntax with reference to its implications for Arabic/English translation.