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Review of A Student Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic
Date: Tue, 06 Sep 2005 13:15:37 -0400 From: Rebecca Molloy Subject: A Student Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic
AUTHOR: Schulz, Eckehard TITLE: A Student Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press YEAR: 2005
Rebecca B. Molloy, unaffiliated scholar
In what follows is a description of the contents of a grammar guide for Modern Standard Arabic. This description, which essentially is a revised table of contents, is a comment on the book's claim that it is accessible, concise, practical and user-friendly. Enumeration was added to the book's table of contents to help clarify the actual structure of the book. Question marks were used to mark questionable classification and are usually followed by a brief comment in brackets.
Part I: Letters, pronunciation, auxiliary signs, writing 1.1 The characters and their pronunciation 1.2 Auxiliary signs (vowels and other signs) 1.3 Alphabet 1.4 Spelling of Hamza 1.5 Stress 1.6 Radical, Root, Pattern
Part II: Verbs 2.1. Sound verbs a. Perfect tense b. Imperfect/indicative c. Moods of the imperfect tense (subjunctive and jussive) d. Imperative e. Passive voice 2.2 Derived forms of the verbs 2.3 Hamza verbs 2.4 Doubled verbs 2.5 Weak verbs 2.6 Assimilated verbs 2.7 Hollow verbs 2.8 Defective verbs a. Quadriliteral Verbs (?) [This group of verbs does not belong under Defectives; rather it is a separate group]
Part III: Nouns 3.1 Primary and Derived Nouns (Deverbatives) 3.2 Infinitives (?) [Better described as verbal nouns, should be discussed under Deverbatives, not under primary nouns and then again separately here p. 58] 3.3 Participles (?) [Better described as agent and patient nouns, should be under Deverbatives; the subsection on Participle as Nominal Predicate pp. 72-74 should be discussed in the fourth part of the book on Syntax] 3.4 Nouns of Intensity (?) [There is no real need to introduce these nouns as a group at this point in the course of study p. 74] 3.5 Nouns of Place and Time (?) [should be under Deverbatives; together with Nouns of Instruments these nouns are discussed again in a section on Adverbial constructs pp. 151-153] 3.6 Nouns of Instruments, Vehicles and Vessels (?) [Should be under Deverbatives] 3.7-3.11 Collective Nouns, Generic Collective Nouns, Collectives Proper, Names of Nationalities and Proper Names (?) [This is a case of over-classification pp 80-81. There is no need to introduce these nouns as separate groups or patterns at this point in the course of study] 3.12 Diminutives 3.13 Adjectives 3.14- 3.17 Relative Adjectives, The Feminine Nisba, Adjectives of Color and Defect (?) [These groups belong under Adjectives p. 83] 3.18- 3.19 Adverbs and Adverbial Constructions, Interrogative Adverbs (?) [Adverbs should be discussed under a different section on Particles and Conjunctions, mainly because of the way Adverbs are constructed in Arabic, the most common are made of prepositions and nouns of place, time, manner, and others. Unfortunately the book introduces prepositions and particles later on beginning on p. 103. Nouns of Time, Place and Purpose that make up the adverb are introduced again in Part IV on Syntax pp. 151-153] 3.20 Pronouns a. Personal Pronouns b. Affixed Pronouns c. Independent Direct Object Pronouns d. Demonstrative Pronouns e. Relative pronouns f. Interrogative Pronouns and Particles 3.21- 3.22 Prepositions and Particles (?) [should not be discussed under Nouns; A separate part in the book should have been devoted to particles, prepositions and conjunctions.] 3.23 Gender and Number [this section includes a discussion on plurals] 3.24 Dual 3.25 Declension and Nunation (?) [was discussed already on p. 4 under Writing] 3.26- 3.28 Diptotes, Indeclinable Nouns and the Five Nouns
Part IV: Syntax 4.1 [no section title- this section introduces several different topics indicating a conflation of formal, functional and grammatical categories] a. The [definite] article b. Construct (?) [better defined as Annexation] and Genitive c. Improper Annexation d. Genitive with /dhuu/ and /dhaat/ (?)[Better discussed in a section on Pronouns] e. Comparison (elative) f. Everybody, All, Whole (?) [Better discussed in a subsection of Annexation] g. Appositions h. Quasi-, Semi-, half-, non- quarter- (?) [Also a subsection of Annexation] i. Accusative i.1 Accusative object i.2 Direct Object i.3 Cognate Accusative i.4 – i.6 Adverbs of Time, Place, and Purpose (?) [already introduced under Nouns] i.7 /Haal/ accusative i.7.1 The /Haal/ clause i.8 Accusative of Specification i.9 Predicate Complement in the Accusative i.10 Subject in the Accusative (?) [the author discusses this again two pages later under Particles followed by the Accusative] i.11-i.21 These topics introduce instances in which a noun is put in the accusative i.22 Doubly Transitive Verbs (?) [at this point in the discussion (p. 158) the author has not yet introduced Transitivity except via the presentation of the direct object p. 151] i.23 The passive voice of the doubly transitive verbs (?) [should be presented as part of the previous section and not as a separate discussion] j. Negation (?) [Probably should be discussed in conjunction with Particles and/or types of sentences] 4.2 Types of sentences (?) [as this section deals with basic concepts and structures of Arabic it would be much better suited in the beginning of the chapter on Syntax] a. Nominal Sentences b. Verbal Sentences c. The Tenses and the use of /kaana/ d. The Sisters of /kaana/ e. The sisters of /kaada/ f. Objective Clauses (?) [this topic is introduced long after presenting the uses of the Accusative, the Direct Object, and Transitivity; it is thus yet another example of the conflation of categories and general chaotic state of the book]. g. Word Order (?) [better suited for the beginning of the chapter on Syntax rather than here p. 185] h.- s. there are 12 more types of sentences, clauses and particles that are introduced and need not be mentioned here. 4.3 – 4.4 Cardinal numbers and Ordinal numbers (?) [perhaps it is better to discuss numbers in a separate chapter devoted to Numerals or in a separate section in the context of nouns].
The book describes itself as an accessible grammar that provides a concise and user-friendly guide to the structure of Modern Standard Arabic. Using familiar terminology and keeping theory to a minimum, the description continues, it is suitable for beginners as well as students at a more advanced level. The hope is expressed that being clearly organized and practical, the book will be a reference resource for all learners and teachers of Modern Standard Arabic.
Unfortunately, however well-intentioned, the author's "keeping theory to a minimum" hampers rather than helps. With the above description of the book in mind, it appears that refusing to introduce "theory" does not simplify the material at all. Instead, it breaks the logic of the matter and makes it impractical and harder to follow especially for a beginner. Furthermore, some of the material is defined and categorized in sections and sub-sections that are not clearly or properly marked for their level in the text. This becomes apparent in the table of contents which is supposed to be a precise skeletal depiction of the material, but alas it betrays the lapses in the book's organization. For starters, it would be a much easier read if chapters, sections and subsections were numbered and itemized in the text and in the table of contents. Currently levels are merely noted in the table of contents with two different font styles and indents. Titles of the four main parts of the book are bold and centered, while the titles of the sections within are bold and aligned left. This format makes the table of contents "user- unfriendly" and no doubt overwhelms the reader.
Symptoms of this major problem of poor ordering of information and insufficient internal references abound. Many of them were noted in the description of the contents above. The survey of nominal declension paradigms appears in the middle of the book, the definite article is introduced rather late in the fourth part on Syntax, and the discussion of nominal morphological categories starts on page 113, long after the discussion on concordance began on page 83. On page 157, there is a subsection on "Subjects in the Accusative" after the particles ['inna], ['anna], etc. It is followed by ten more subsections dealing with other uses of the accusative. Then on page 160, the author revisits the topic and devotes a subsection to "Particles Followed by the Accusative ['akhawaatu 'inna]", the kind of information the reader should have been given while being taught about subjects in the accusative.
In a previous review of this book on LINGUIST (http://linguistlist.org/issues/16/16-2221.html#1), the reviewers O. Smrz and I. Kourilova note that bound or dependent pronouns seem to be confused by the author. the book introduces bound pronouns as "direct object pronouns" (93). Within that context the reader is told [y] is the 1st person singular form for direct object pronouns, which is incorrect. It should be [nii]; unfortunately, this form is missing all together in the discussion of bound pronouns and in fact, as far as this reviewer can tell, it is missing entirely from the book. Rather [y], i.e. [ii] and [ya], are possessive pronouns and the discussion should have been entitled as such. Not only do we find here lack of proper classification which of course hurts the order of the material, but it also results in a fairly big error in the description of the grammar. Separate subsections under Pronouns should have been allotted to unbound (independent, free) pronouns, direct object (dependent) pronouns and possessive (oblique) pronouns.
On page 45 concerning the past tense of defective verbs, the author sidetracks to explain how ['alif maqsuura], found in defective verbs, transforms into ['alif] in nouns followed by dependent pronouns. This explanation is irrelevant to the description of the verbs in these circumstances, and as Smrz and Kourilova mention in their review, the transformation itself is governed by over-arching rules of Arabic phonology and orthography which are not discussed under a separate subsection in the book.
Two last comments. First, it is rather surprising that there is no bibliography referring to the grammars, dictionaries and other sources used by the author during the preparation of the book. Neither is there any reading list of recommended literature for advanced study. Second, the book contains dozens of spelling mistakes and vocalization mistakes in the Arabic script, e.g. /al-fi'lu ghayru al- muta'addiiyu/ instead of /al-muta'addii/, and /bi-.suuratin ghayri rasmiiyin/ instead of /rasmiiyatin/, while there is no transliterated counterpart that might otherwise settle the questionable cases and explain some as inadvertent typographical error. For a student, there is no way of discovering that for instance the patterns of passive participles /mad'uwun/ and /mad'uwatun/ on page 65 are wrong. Both forms should have had shaddas (emphasis marker) on the /w/.
There are some positive aspects that should be noted. The book gives a detailed description of all types of sentences, and numerous tables provide a pretty thorough presentation of verbs and nouns. The most familiar grammatical terms are given in Arabic as well as in English in order to help students identify them, and the index is also presented in both languages for cross referencing. Each pattern or rule described is in fact illustrated with plenty of examples from what is defined in the preface as contemporary Arabic used in newspapers, magazines, business communication and the internet, as well as from Arabic literary texts.
M. G. Carter (1991), Arabic Reference Tables: A manual of the Essential Features of Arabic Grammar, New York University: unpublished.
O. Smrz and I. Kourilova (2005), Review of E. Schulz, A Student Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic. LINGUIST List 16.2221.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Rebecca B. Molloy, Ph.D. is an unaffiliated scholar. Her main research interests are medieval Arabic grammatical theory (particularly, aspects of Transitivity), Islamic legal reasoning, Qur'an, and Arabic semantic theory.