Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Watson, Janet C. E. (2002) The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic. Oxford University Press, The Phonology of the World's Languages.
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-3262.html
Hayim Y. Sheynin, Gratz College, Melrose Park, PA, USA
One may admire linguistic works of great cabinet scholars whose labors dominated Arabic linguistics almost up to the middle of the 20th century; however these works were based mostly on written texts and reflected structure of a particular variety of classical or literary Arabic with some admixture of dialectisms. The works which described spoken (according to negative definition, vulgar) Arabic dialects were rare, many of them were written from the positions of native traditional philology or of pre-Saussurian linguistics, moreover their value was diminished because of inadequate recording of the text, including inappropriate phonetic transcription. In addition, most of the past works dealt with research of partial details of phonology or lexica in one or two dialects, to the complete disregard of the rest of Arabic dialects.
Until very this day there were few general surveys of Arabic dialectology, unlike the situation in research of major Indo-European languages, such as German, English, Spanish, Italian or Russian.
Comprehensive description of all Arabic dialects is still reserved for future. The work under review here advances this goal by systematic study of two well researched Eastern Arabic dialects in the aspects of generative grammar.
In the last 30 to 40 years the linguists increasingly use Chomskian or post-Chomskian generative grammar as a tool or as underlying methodology of research. This kind of investigation concerns itself not so much with full description of the language, but with the system of mechanisms and processes which create the structure of the language This is the case with the work under review.
This big and solid work based on multiple travels to Arab speaking countries (particularly to Egypt and Yemen) and extensive field work. The author thoroughly studied Cairene and San'ani Arabic and worked out extensive literature on the rest of Arabic dialects which was written during last 40 years (see 'References' on pp. 287-298). The bibliography supplied in the book is both long and relevant to the subject.
Watson divides her book into ten chapters, as follows: 1. Introduction; 2. The phoneme system of Arabic; 3. Phonological features; 4. Syllable structure and syllabification; 5. Word stress; 6. Morphology; 7. Morphology 2; 8. Lexical phonology; 9. Post-lexical phonology; 10. Emphasis
In the Introduction the author gives some data on genealogical classification of the Semitic language family and on the place of Arabic in this classification. She cites the reasons why the traditional school of Semitic philology claimed that Arabic belongs to the South-Semitic or South-West Semitic branch, then she brings some criteria of modern researchers who group Arabic within Central Semitic branch (in this respect she cites opinions expressed in recent works (Hetzron 1972, 1992; Faber 1997; Versteegh 1997). In my opinion, the question of genealogical classification in Semitic linguistics was by no means solved, and the opinions of the modern linguists are as good as opinions of the classical school of the end of the 19th century and of first third of the 20th century. The Introduction continues with short sub-chapters on history of Arabic which depict the spread of Arabic, development of the language, going back to the old dialects of Central and North Arabia.
Following Holes 1995, Watson states that Arabic is the native language of about 200 million people and it is the sole or official language in twenty countries (according to other counts, in twenty two or even twenty five countries). Watson defines such varieties of Arabic as Standard Arabic, Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic and describes connections of Classical Arabic with the dialect of the western Hijazi tribe of Quraysh. During the long period, a large number of regional and social dialects developed, which became the native colloquial varieties of Arabic. They have diverse each from other to the degree of being mutually unintelligible.
Watson uses traditional division of Arabic dialects to two major groups, Eastern and Western one with the dividing line running from Salum (more precisely as-Sallum, the city on the northern tip of the Egyptian-Libyan border) to roughly the Sudan-Chad border in the south. She mentions also a division into Bedouin and urban dialects. She correctly notes the two main features which distinguish the western dialect group from the eastern, the typical reduction of the triple (in her terminology 'triangular') system of short vowels [a, i, u], in the eastern group to a double system [e,u] (Fischer and Jastrow 1980); and the shift of word stress from a trochaic in the eastern group to a iambic in the western group, although some anomalies pertaining to the word stress in the limited numbers of the contemporaneous eastern dialects are noted. In the introduction, Watson mentions major differences in phonology, word stress and morphology of the two dialects (Cairene and San'ani Arabic).
Chapter 2. The phoneme system of Arabic
Here Watson describes the development of the phoneme system in Arabic from the Classical Arabic (following Sibawayh's account) to the present-day San'ani and Cairene. After presentation of the system of the consonants fixed in the eighth century C.E. in the table (28 consonants in nine places of articulation), she mentions how different groups of consonants are reflected in modern Arabic dialects. Noticing some deviations from Classical Arabic, Watson sometimes mentions parallel phenomena in other languages (she states only facts, rarely considers the reasons of these deviations, usually by reference to linguistic literature). Sometimes this leads to an uncomfortable feeling of the reader familiar with the language in question. Thus on p. 15 we find that in a few dialects of Yemeni Arabic spoken around the northern town of Sa'dah , the reflex of the dental-alveolar emphatic s [subscribed dot under] is an affricate /ts/. To this statement the footnote is ''in Modern Hebrew, the reflex of the same sound is /ts/ according to Hetzron 1992:413.'' Both statements are true, but the provenance of the Hebrew sound /ts/ is not a natural development of emphatic /S/, but rather a replacement of Semitic emphatic /S/ by a Germanic affricate /ts/ which happened in the period when medieval Hebrew was only written language in south-western German diaspora. In modern Hebrew this is a reflex of German z /ts/ and identical Yiddish tsadeh/tsadi /ts/ in the position where the Semitic emphatic /S/ in Biblical and post-biblical Hebrew was denoted by letter Sadeh (cp. Arabic Sadiq and Hebrew Sadiq). On the same page little bit above the cited statement, there is another one, ''only 5 percent of the world's languages today have [a voiceless palatal fricative] /ç/ in their phoneme inventory'' (Ladefoged and Maddieson 1996:165).
Such general statements are hardly matter for a particular language that includes such phoneme (unless if one represents it as an archaic feature) in its phoneme system. Similarly discussion of development of the proto-Semitic /g/ to Arabic jim and its reflexes in different modern Arabic dialects is not sufficient, and especially unclear that sudden coincidence of proto-Semitic and Cairene-Yemeni /g/ looks as a survival of a proto-Semitic sound rather than a late diachronic development. (Moscati 1969:38)
On the other side, when there are known correspondences between different Semitic languages (e.g. uvular stop q and a glottal stop ', cp. Hebrew qahal/Arab. 'ahl and Aramaic 'ara'/'ar 'a / Heb. 'arS /Arab. 'arD/, they are not mentioned.
Chapter 3. Phonological features.
In this chapter Watson deals with the most general principals of modern linguistics in the field of phonology from Bloomfield 1933 on. In choosing her models, Watson navigates through an array of propositions mostly following McCarthy (1988) and Halle (1992, 1995), arranging sequences of phonological features in the two layered model root features and place features. She notices disagreements between different phonologists as to exact placing of [lateral] and [coronal]. So her placing of the [lateral] features with the root group and the [coronal] with the place group is based on an argument ''that the specification of [lateral] as a dependent of [coronal] is unnecessary and undesirable'' and ''that [lateral], in common with [strident], [continuant], and [nasal], is not bound to any one particular articulator.''
Representing place (articulator) features, Watson adopts Selkirk's 1993 [Labial]-Only Theory. For each one of phonetic groups Watson formulates sets of rules which are founded on empiric rationalization of results of previous researchers in phonology of various languages. The number of these sets in phonology section is 81, some of them are presented in tables, others in diagrams. Statistical method based on material from the phoneme inventories of the 317 languages of the UPSID database is employed through use of Maddieson 1984.
Chapter 4. Syllable structure and syllabification.
Here Watson presents arguments in favor of moraic theory. Among syllable-related processes she considers epenthesis, glottal stop prosthesis, closed syllable shortening, and syncope. Long sets of rules are resulted usually in bi-moraic structure of the syllable. The author differentiates the main domain of syllabification in the two dialects as the phonological phrase in Cairene and the phonological word in San'ani. In the discussion of syncope, Watson opposes Broselow's assumption (Broselow 1992) ''that syncope applies blindly in Arabic dialects to destroy vulnerable monomoraic syllables cannot fully account for dialects like San'ani in which syncope applies optionally at the beginning but not at the end of the phonological word, is partially lexical, and deletes vowels in bimoraic as well in monomoraic syllables.''
Chapter 5. Word stress.
In this chapter Watson discusses the world-stress systems of Cairene and San'ani, Section 5.1.1 is about the basic stress rules for each dialect. Section 5.2.1 describes the theoretical model assumed to analyze stress in the dialects, section 5.3.1 and 5.4.1 an analysis of word-stress assignment in Cairene and San'ani correspondingly. Other issues of prosodic features in the two dialects are treated also.
The next two chapters are devoted to morphology on two different levels even both of these levels are clearly phonological.
Chapter 6. Morphology.
Here Watson describes the cases when in the two dialects treated the coronal plosives in intervocalic or word initial position turn to voiced sounds while geminate voiced nonsonorant stops are devoiced in San'ani.
Juxtaposing the assimilation of final consonant /l/ of the article to a coronal obstruent in both dialects (and optionally to a velar plosive in Cairene) and absence of similar assimilation when two of the consonants (/l/ + a contiguous coronal obstruent [or velar plosive in Cairene]) belong to the same morpheme, or where they occur on the boundaries of two neighbouring morphemes. Noting importance of morphologic factor within the phonology of Arabic, Watson attempts to briefly describe morphology of the language, Using samples of the second formation of regular verbs (fa??al / yu|fa??al) from roots d-r-s and r-k-b she shows a principal word morphology. Then she states according to Moore 1990, that the traditional theories of Arabic morphology are unable to account the discontinuous morphemes and follows McCarthy 1981 considering association of melody elements with elements of the skeletal template. Then she repeats principles of Universal Association (Section 4.1 in Watson's book based on Goldsmith 1976; McCarthy 1982; Archangeli 1984a; Pulleyblank 1986; Watson 1989), demonstrating them on root w-j-d and some of its verbal forms. In continuation, she explains that morphemes with the repeating phonemes are not original. Thus San'ani /hagg/ [h with the subscribed dot] 'right, possession' is a result of filling a template from left to right (like katab), the process which underlies the gemination. The consonant structure is absolutely dependable on template, while the vocalic melody is only partially independent of the template and the consonantal melody. There are many cases when the vocalic melody is lexically stipulated (as vowels a/i/u in models qatl, qitl, qutl [t with the subscribed dot]. One can apply this theory to similar cases in other Semitic languages (e.g. Hebrew).
Watson deals with prosodic morphology (following Selkirk 1980; McCarthy and Prince (1986, 1988, 1990a, 1990b). The elements of phonological word (W), foot (F), syllable (s) and mora are described and basic stems are exemplified in their relation to prosodic elements. Then following Ratcliffe 1990, Watson accepts the view, that Arabic has two morphological levels. Level one, which affects the stem of the word (predominantly non-concatenative or infixal morphology) and level two, which does affect the stem of the word, works predominantly by adding affixes to the beginning and end of the word base (mostly concatenative or affixal morphology).
Here Watson uses the word 'stem' which is a mistaken usage, in my opinion. I would use term 'base' or 'base-form' instead. Then lengthy sections follow considering level-one verbal morphology, level-one nominal morphology. Concluding the chapter, Watson notes that some of level one morphological processes involve at least a limited degree of concatenation. She also admits that because of richness of Arabic non- concatenative morphology and restrictions of space she limited the coverage of this chapter. Although I understand her restrictions and complexity of the task, I would prefer that she had cover only a part of her topic, but would do it in greater detail.
Chapter 7. Morphology 2.
Here Watson describes level-two morphology, concatenative affixal formations. But even here there are exceptions which she mentions: 1. the discontinuous morpheme ma ... -sh [s-hacek] in Cairene and in San'ani, 2. imperfect subject markers. Accounting for much richer arsenal of the Cairene affixes, Watson includes an interesting historical note about significant change of population in Cairo following a severe plague in 1835 (Woidich 1997). This demographical change brought influences of other languages and dialects. The main foreign separable morphemes come from Turkish. The schemes of level-two verbal morphology follow with short explanations dealing mostly with conformity with the templates, syllabic and moraic structure. Affixation of further morphemes in Cairene usually causes lengthening of the short vowel preceding the suffix or shortening long syllable preceding the suffix. The rich suffixal morphemes especially in Cairene are exemplified at length with mentioning of their functions and phonological processes at junctures.
Chapters 8-10 deal with general phonological processes. Watson divides these processes to those sensitive to lexical information and morphological structure, and those which do not exhibit such sensitivity
Chapter 8. Lexical phonology.
In this chapter are discussed phonological processes which require access to morphological information. Among them: pre-suffix lengthening, glide formation, n-strengthening, diphthong reduction, h- dissociation, and melodic processes which involve different cases of assimilation. Watson's observations demonstrate that assimilation in Cairene is more pervasive than in San'ani. The most important idea in this chapter that the majority of prosodic lexical processes apply prior to Tier Conflation (TC), although the melodic processes apply after TC (comp. Bat-El 1988).
Chapter 9. Post-lexical phonology.
Here considered unstressed long vowel shortening (in CA), resolution of V-V sequences by vowel deletion, glide formation or glottal stop epenthesis. Gemination of clitic-final sonorant (in SA) is explained as the requirement for the phonological word to adhere to the prosodic requirements of the syllable. Melodic processes dictate the usual assimilation of /n/, /l/, /r/ to the following consonant; assimilation of adjacent sibilants, anticipatory voicing (in CA), etc.
Following Jakobson 1957, Garbell 1958 and others who expend the notion of emphasis to include the pharyngeals, uvulars and the traditional coronal emphatics, Watson high lightens a large number of phonologic problems, demonstrating them mostly on the Cairene emphatics.
Here Watson cites phonological analysis Laufer and Baer 1988 based on ''300 minutes of video recording from nine Hebrew and Arabic speakers.'' I am unfamiliar with this video recording, however knowing specifics of modern Hebrew, it is safe to assume that modern Hebrew phonology is not applicable to this aspect of Semitic phonology.
Already describing the previous opinions on the nature of emphasis, Watson clarifies that that emphasis does not involve a single articulatory feature. In a number of Arabic dialects pharyngealization is enhanced by labialization and lateral spreading. In some dialects this realized by replacing stemmatic /i/ by /a/ or /u/ (from Lebanese to some Yemeni dialects), moreover in some dialects the labialization is not restricted to the emphatic phoneme or to the vowels in verb stem , but spreads throughout the phonological word. However in Cairene the labialization is restricted to the emphatic phoneme itself (Harrell 1957).'' Description of acoustic processes relevant to emphasis is a very complex task. Watson demonstrates only a small part of them, those which most relevant to Cairene and San'ani. This chapter might be a base for much larger monograph on details of phonological processes of pharyngealization and labialization.
As a shortcoming of the book we can find that the author nowhere in the work states clearly what corpus of texts she used, how and by whom it was recorded and transcribed. Even Watson wrote a theoretical linguistic comparative analysis of two different dialects one would expect to be sure in the authenticity of the texts which form a basis of her research. One can surmise upon reading her preface (p. VII), ''Acknowledgments'' (p. VIII), and the list of her publications in the ''References''(pp. 296-297) that everything she cites as examples are the utterances she recorded and transcribed herself during her journeys to Yemen and Egypt. However for the linguists and especially for young researchers who prepare themselves to the field work in dialectology it would be interesting to know about the methods and devices used for recording of oral speech and for phonetic transcription.
In conclusion we can state that Watson made a significant contribution into synchronic linguistic description of two Arabic dialects, using modern linguistic theories and navigating through the sea of opposing views. Her advantage is an active knowledge of San'ani and Cairene and perusal of existing linguistic literature. This work sheds light on other Arabic dialects as well. Among other achievements of this study, one may notice a consistent application of principles of generative linguistics to the phonological processes of Arabic language. Her phonological treatment of morphology of Arabic sets an example.
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Hayim Y. Sheynin holds Ph.D. in medieval Hebrew literature from the University of Pennsylvania (1987). He studied Classical philology, Semitic, Slavic and Romance languages, and General linguistics. In the last period his interests are mostly in research of Jewish languages, particularly Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) and Judeo-Arabic. He also researched manuscripts of the Cairo Genizah, Hebrew paleography, Jewish booklore, Greek and Latin manuscripts, history of text, history of printing and libraries. Since 1968 this reviewer contributed a numerous articles and reviews to academic and popular periodicals in Russia, Hungary, Israel, Spain, Austria, and USA. He taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in Leningrad/St. Peterburg (Russia), Haifa (Israel), Dropsie University (Philadelphia, PA., USA), and Gratz College (Philadelphia and Melrose, PA, USA) and lectured for academic and popular audiences. He is interested in Sociolinguistics, Historical linguistics, History of linguistics, Linguistic theories, and Lexicography. Recently he reviewed a number of books on Arabic dialectology.