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Review of A Short Reference Grammar of Moroccan Arabic
Date: Thu, 28 Apr 2005 17:25:04 +0400 From: Fatima Badry Subject: A Short Reference Grammar of Moroccan Arabic, with Audio CD
AUTHOR: Harrell, Richard S. TITLE: A Short Reference Grammar of Moroccan Arabic SUBTITLE: with Audio CD SERIES: Georgetown Classics in Arabic Language and Linguistics PUBLISHER: Georgetown University Press YEAR: 2004
Fatima Badry, American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, UAE
This book was reprinted in 2004 as part of the Georgetown classics in Arabic language and linguistics series. First published in 1962, it was one of the first books written in English -- about Moroccan Arabic (MA) grammar -- that filled a gap in the study of an Arabic dialect for English speakers. The author's stated aim was to provide a practical reference grammar for an audience who has some knowledge of MA.
The book is divided into 3 major parts (phonology, morphology and syntax) plus an appendix of 42 texts in urban Moroccan Arabic and a CD with audio of words in the phonology section.
Part I, Phonology, contains two chapters. In chapter 1: the individual sounds; the author provides information about the consonants of MA in three sub sections which he labels individual consonants, emphatic sounds and labialization of consonants. The consonants are presented according to place of articulation (e.g. labials, apicals, and fricatives) but the presentation seems to be based on a description in terms of similarities and differences with corresponding English sounds. In few cases sounds are illustrated in initial, medial and final positions in words. The Arabic sounds not found in English are pointed out and their place and manner of articulation is described in relation to neighboring English sounds and or ease or difficulty for an English speaker to produce the target sound. The emphatic consonants manner of articulation is described in terms of pitch and configuration of the vocal cavity with suggestions for the English speaker as to how to produce these sounds. Assimilatory processes of emphatization of neighboring consonants and vowels within the word are pointed out without being identified as assimilation. Finally, the environment in which labialization of some consonants occurs is also described and illustrated. The next section deals with vowels and diphthongs. The author classifies Moroccan Arabic vowels as stable (i- a-u) which tend to be longer than the variable (e-a-o) ones and illustrates some variations depending on neighboring consonants. Again the frame of reference is English vowels with some comparisons to French. In chapter 2: The interchange of sounds within words, the author discusses variations of consonants, semi vowels and vowels which includes, free and conditioned allophonic variation, elision, inversion and base alteration. He illustrates each process with examples
Part II consists of seven chapters. Chapter 1 provides a brief sketch of MA's derivational system. MA's root and pattern word structure and the classification of the consonantal roots into trilateral and quadrilateral roots (3 and 4 consonants respectively) and the patterns into simple and complex patterns is introduced. The author then offers the traditional ways of symbolizing the root pattern combination by using the three letter sequence from the verb f-'-l (do) where f stands for C1, 'for C2 and l for C3 with vowels inserted where appropriate. An alternative representation is to use C to represent consonants and V for vowels. Chapters 2 and 3 are devoted to verb derivation and inflection. In chapter 3, the author introduces the "ten measures of the trilateral verb." The term measure is a direct translation of the Arabic term 'wazn' which is used in Arab grammar to refer to what is generally refereed to as patterns in Semitic morphology today. The measures are numbered as follows: I, Ia, II, IIa, III, IIIa, VII, VIII, IX and X. in a break with traditional descriptions which usually label Moroccan patterns (as well as other colloquial Arabic patterns) with the numbers corresponding to those used to denote patterns in Classical Arabic. Each measure is described in terms of how it combines with different types of root. Underlying triconsonantal roots, both sound (regular) roots (kteb 'write') and irregular roots which are roots with doubled C2 (medd ' hand over'), and roots with a semi vowel in C2 or C3 (xaf 'be afraid' or bra 'be cured') are illustrated in terms how they combine with elements of different patterns in terms of consonantal root doubling, infixation and prefixation. The surface shape of each derived form is given in both the perfective and imperfective. In addition, morphophonological processes are illustrated for each measure and root type.
In chapter 3: The verb-Inflection, the author offers general characteristics of verb inflections and verb forms. He divides the verb in Moroccan Arabic into two finite (perfect and imperfect) and two non finite forms (active and passive participles). The MA verb is inflected for tense, person, number and gender by combining verb stems with affixes (prefixes, infixes and suffixes). The verb stem which usually translates the English infinitive form corresponds to the third person perfect form of the verb since MA has no infinitive form. Verbs are categorized into four verb classes on the basis of their stem ending (- eC, -aC, eCC, and a) for the perfective while a fifth class, the invariable stem is added to imperfective verb forms which are classified based on root type. The imperative is used only with the second person and is inflected for number and gender. Stem and affix combinations also vary according to the five stem categories recognized for the imperfective. Several irregular forms are provided along with several examples of imperative forms in each class.
Chapter 4: Noun and adjective derivation, begins with the participles which are adjectives derived from verbs. Participles are inflected for number and gender. Those derived from transitive forms have both active and passive forms while those derived from Measure I intransitive verbs have only a corresponding active participle. The author points out that not all measures (verb patterns) have corresponding derived participial forms. For example, verb measures which express semantic roles of inchoativeness and passivity have no corresponding passive participles. Frequent forms whose participles are irregular because they are derived from weak roots are given. The author goes on to give other adjectival forms and verbal nouns categorized based on the verb measure and the root type (trilateral and quadrilateral) they are derived from and the general semantic role associated with them (e.g. nouns that denote action, profession, personal characteristic, instance, place, relation, etc.). The chapter also provides several examples of regular and irregular forms of collective nouns, diminutives, comparatives, abstract nouns and numerals.
Chapter 5: Noun and Adjective inflection describes gender and number inflections. Both adjectives and nouns are marked for masculine or feminine and singular or plural, although some are also used in dual forms. Morphophonological processes of elision and vowel insertion and inversion are illustrated in the lists of examples provided. The major part of this chapter is devoted to the plural. In MA, as in other varieties of Arabic, nouns and adjectives have either sound (regular) or broken (irregular) plural forms. Sound plurals are formed by an addition of a suffix [-in], [-a] for masculine and [-at] for feminine. Tables illustrate plural formation based on type of noun or adjective, phonological shape of the stem and phonological processes resulting from the addition of the plural suffix. There are about forty different broken plural patterns and one cannot predict which singular forms takes which broken plural pattern. In some cases one singular noun can be derived in more than one broken plural pattern sometimes with the same meaning and sometimes with different ones.
Chapter 6: Pronouns are divided into four categories, personal, demonstrative, interrogative and indefinite pronouns. Personal pronouns can be either unbound or bound. Bound pronouns are suffixed to nouns for possession, verbs and prepositions (object complements), or even some particles (e.g. the presentational particle ra 'here is' takes the pronominal suffix -k as in rak, 'there you are'). Allomorphic variations of both stems and suffixes and the conditions for their applications are illustrated with several examples. Reflexive pronouns do not combine with other suffixed pronouns and are expressed with the reflexive ras 'self' and the suffixed bound personal pronoun, e.g. dreb-ni 'he hit me' vs. drebt rasi 'I hit myself.'
Chapter 7: The articles. MA has both definite and indefinite articles. Definite articles are prefixed to nouns and undergo assimilation to initial alveolars and liquids. Two quantifiers serve as indefinite articles. The demonstratives are also classified as articles and their distribution is sketched out.
Part III: Syntax is divided into two sections: Each section is further subdivided into chapters. The first section, devoted to the sentence, includes three chapters: General procedures, the simple sentence and the complex sentence. Section two, the parts of speech includes five chapters which deal with the verb, the noun, the adjective, numerals and particles.
Chapter 1 of the first section, titled 'general procedures', discusses interrogative and negative sentences by providing examples and comparisons to the corresponding English constructions. Negation is illustrated with different sentence types. Examples of gender and number agreement within the noun phrase as well as at the sentence level are provided.
Chapter 2 deals with the simple sentence which refers to equational sentences. These are sentences in Arabic that have a subject and a predicate with no linking verb and generally correspond to English construction with linking verbs 'be' and 'have.'
Chapter 3 presents the complex sentence and discusses different types of subordination in MA including different complementation and relativization structures.
In the second section in part three each chapter is devoted to a word class. Chapter 1 "the verb," classifies MA 'simple verbs' into four types which seem to cut across tense (perfect- imperfect), mood (imperative) and aspect (durative). These verb forms are presented in terms of syntactic context of occurrence. The second section deals with the verb phrase and focuses on verb combinations where the first verb functions as an auxiliary denoting time, manner, motion, habit, progressive activity, duration, etc.
Chapter 2, "the noun," begins with identifying the functions of nouns in MA and illustrates how they are modified. Nouns are modified with bound affixes for definiteness, possession and used with adjectives and numerals in different types of noun phrases. Description and restrictions of the construct state, an Arabic noun phrase where two nouns, an adjective and a noun or a noun and a pronoun are combined, are detailed with many examples.
Chapter 3, "the adjective," includes different functions of the adjective serving as a noun or noun modifier. Adjectives and comparatives are used as attributive or predicative modifiers Chapters 4 and 5 deal with numerals and particles. Ordinal and cardinal numbers function as nouns and adjectives and are marked for gender. The term particle is used to refer to function words that correspond to prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, adverbs and adverbs as well as presentational and vocative particles.
The editors of the series in the preface point out, that "some of the material is dated in terms of theoretical approaches, [but] the content and methodology of the books considered for the reprint series is still valid and, in some cases unsurpassed."
In the original preface written by the author, the aim of the book is clearly stated as "a practical reference grammar for the student who already had an introductory course in Moroccan Arabic." The book achieves the author's stated goal of a practical reference grammar by providing a wealth of examples to illustrate different uses of grammatical points in MA. Using a descriptive approach, the author makes important observations about MA grammar (cf. Brustad, 2000) supported by speech samples from native speakers. The stories in the appendices and the audio CD are a valuable resource offering a wealth of language data and all the examples used in the phonology part are included in the CD and pronounced by a native speaker of MA. The book is particularly helpful to native speakers of English as it draws the reader's attention to similarities and differences between MA and English specifically in terms of phonetics and syntax. Others familiar with Eastern dialects of Arabic can also benefit from descriptions of certain properties that are unique to MA such as labialization of consonants and vocalic elisions and the resultant consonant clusters not permissible in other Arabic varieties. Reflecting the importance of morphology in MA, more than half of the book (122 pages out of 215) is devoted to its detailed description.
However, for the reader who already knows Arabic, the description of MA roots and patterns in an approach that breaks away from the common method of using Standard Arabic (SA) as a reference baseline to show where MA follows or departs from it ends up being disconcerting. This departure is particularly disturbing in the description of derivational morphology where, instead of using the prevalent numbering of verbal patterns in Arabic, the author creates a new numbering system which tries to show certain correspondences between patterns but ends up confusing the reader. Where MA patterns seem to depart from Standard Arabic, patterns can better be understood if phonological processes that are proper to MA are explained. As most learners of the dialects have some knowledge of Standard Arabic, lack of reference to equivalencies to the Standard form is a major weakness in the exposition of MA grammar. The dated theoretical approach is apparent in the lack of explanation of various linguistic properties of MA. There is little recourse to semantics to explain linguistic patterns. This is troubling in the case of word derivation because each pattern is generally associated with a semantic function (e.g. Pattern II expresses causation and pattern V (Harrell's measure IIa) is associated with reflexive in both MA and SA). Moreover, the lack of semantic explanation masks some of reasons for the existence of some gaps in the derivational patterns in that not all roots are derivable in all patterns.
To describe verb inflections, verbs are categorized as falling under four classes based on their ending. Some of these classes are based on stems others on roots. This approach misses many generalizations and masks some explanations by not presenting verb inflections affixes in terms of the type of roots (strong and weak) they are attached to rather than verb stem endings. Much has been written about these root types in grammars dealing with Standard Arabic and a reference to these sources would have been very helpful. The author describes verbs as falling under "four simple verb types The perfect tense, the imperfect tense, and the imperfect tense....The fourth simple verb type, the durative, is characterized by prefixing ka- to the imperfect." (Harrell, p. 173, bold in original). The author then goes on to establish equivalencies between these tenses with corresponding English verb tenses. There has been much debate about whether time reference in Arabic verbs is temporal or aspectual and whether temporal reference can be determined at the level of the verb or at the level of the clause or even discourse (Brustad 2000: 203). Even keeping in mind the time of original publication of this work, the description of temporal references misses the complexity of the issue by trying to fit Moroccan Arabic temporal reference into an English mold.
In many instances, the author provides several variations of forms but does not explain that these are regionally or socially conditioned. Data from the memorized folk stories used in some of the examples are specific to folk tales genres that make heavy use of idioms and do not always represent the natural spoken varieties in modern MA.
Finally, despite the dated theoretical perspective and the purely descriptive nature of the book, which at times masks certain generalizations, the wealth of the data and the details provided are invaluable, particularly to those familiar with Arabic grammar in general and MA in particular.
Brustad, K. E. (2000).The syntax of spoken Arabic: A comparative study of Moroccan, Egyptian, Syrian, and Kuwaiti dialects. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Fatima Badry received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1983. She is currently professor of English and linguistics at the American University of Sharjah in the UAE. Her research interests include first and second language acquisition, Arabic morphology and sociolinguistic issues in the Arab world.