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This article aims to account for why verbless sentences in Standard Arabic lack a copular verb. In contrast to previous accounts which attribute the absence of the copula to some defect of present tense, I claim that a verbless sentence does not take a copula because its nominais do not need structural Case. The proposed analysis argues that structural Case is licensed by a “Verbal Case” feature on the relevant Case-checking heads, and assumes the Visibility Condition. The present analysis is based on a unique interaction between tense and word order, and on the observation that verbless sentences are finite clauses composed of a topic and a predicate, as well as on the observation that they do not involve licensing of structural Case.
Canadian Journal of Linguistics/Revue canadienne de linguistique 57(1): 1–30, 2012
Why verbless sentences in Standard Arabic
are verbless
Sultan Qaboos University
This article aims to account for why present-tense topic-predicate sentences in Stan-
dard Arabic (SA), so-called verbless sentences, lack a copular verb, unlike their
non-present-tense counterparts. In contrast to previous analyses which attribute the
absence of the copula to some defect of present tense (Fassi Fehri 1981, Benmamoun
2000, Soltan 2007), I claim that a verbless sentence does not take a copular verb be-
cause its nominals do not need structural Case. The proposed analysis is in line with
a conception of Case where structural Case is not licensed by φ-agreement or tense,
but rather by a “Verbal Case” feature [VC] on the relevant Case-checking heads; thus
structural Case is contingent on verbal licensing (Al-Balushi 2011). The present ac-
count assumes the Visibility Condition, under which structural Case is necessary to
make arguments visible at LF for θ-role assignment (Aoun 1979, Chomsky 1981),
and argues for a unique interaction between tense and word order. It is based on the
proposal that verbless sentences are finite clauses (encoding [T], [φ], and [Mood])
composed of a topic and a predicate, as well as on the observation that they do not
involve licensing of structural Case.
The article is organized as follows. Section 2 provides background to the ana-
lysis. Section 3 presents a review of previous accounts of verbless sentences in SA
and responds to them. Section 4 discusses the interaction between tense and word
order and reveals the crucial patterns for the proposed analysis, which is presented
in section 5. Section 6 presents an apparent counterargument and shows that it does
not constitute a threat to the proposed analysis. Section 7 concludes the article.
This section presents the approach to SA clause structure, the morphosyntactic ana-
lysis of verbless sentences, and the theory of structural Case adopted here.
I would like to thank Diane Massam, Elizabeth Cowper, and two CJL reviewers for valu-
able comments on earlier versions of this article.
cCanadian Journal of Linguistics / Revue canadienne de linguistique 57(1): 1–30, 2012
... Apparently, the order is pre-determined by the canonical word order of the language. Al-Balushi (2012) argues that SA is essentially a VSO language and that it resorts to the SVO order to convey the deictic interpretation with present tense (imperfective form) verbs, as well as for topicalization purposes. Present tense verbs in the VSO order convey generic readings, as the contrast between (79) and (80) shows. ...
This paper addresses case assignment in Standard Arabic (SA). It shows that the current Agree-based accounts of case in SA are problematic, as they face problems accounting for case assignment in complex event nominals. Using Baker’s (2015) dependent case theory, we argue that there are two modalities of structural case assignment in SA, i.e., the dependent case and the Agree-based case, and that the latter is only available when the former fails to apply. It is also argued that case assignment takes place at Spell Out, the point where phase heads are merged into the structure. We provide evidence that vP in SA is a soft phase and we claim that v in SA is incapable of assigning the accusative case to the object, due to v’s deficiency. We also claim that a DP of the complex nominal type in SA is a hard phase. SA PRO is argued to lack a case feature, and it is therefore neither a proper goal for case in the Agree-based case mechanism, nor is it a proper case trigger/competitor in the dependent case mechanism. We believe that the proposed account solves the problems that previous accounts of case in SA face.
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This paper investigates a number of Qurʼānic verses that feature the verb yashāʼ, meaning 'to will' or 'to wish', preceded by the relative pronoun man 'مَنْ', in relation to the concepts of guidance and misguidance. The available interpretations of these verses maintain that Allāh guides whom He wishes and misguides whom He wishes. In other words, these standard interpretations assign Allāh the status of the subject of yashāʼ, and assign the relative pronoun man the status of an object. I claim that these interpretations are not accurate with regard to the subject of yashāʼ. I argue that the relative pronoun man should be analyzed as the subject of yashāʼ, not as an object. Using evidence from the Holy Qurʼān and Sunnah, I show that the subject of yashāʼ may not be Allah Almighty, but rather the human being himself/herself. To show how the new interpretation is derived, I provide a syntactic analysis of the sentence that contains the free relative clause man yashāʼ, according to which man 'مَنْ' moves from a subject position, which means that it should be construed as a subject. The observed structural ambiguity thus results from an interpretation where man moves from an object position. The proposed linguistic analysis supports the view that the human being chooses the path, good or evil, that he/she wants to pursue; that is, Allah does not lead the human being along a predetermined path, which is the position adopted by Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamāʻah. Thus, this paper provides evidence against the Jabriyya doctrine, according to which human beings are compelled to follow a specific path.
This study attempts to offer a single unified account for the syntactic features of the pronominal copula in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), traditionally known as ḍamīr al-faṣl ‘Separation Pronoun/SP’ within the Cardiff Grammar (CG) model of Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG). Such a pronoun is typically used in nominal verbless clauses to separate Subject from its Predicate (Complement) when both are definite. This study argues against the two traditional accounts that analyze it either as a redundant pronoun that has no significant syntactical function or as the second Subject in the nominal embedded clausal Complement of the first Subject. The study also proposes that the modern generative account that considers it a pronominal copula is problematic as the function of this pronoun is not linking, but rather separating, emphasizing, and disambiguating. Therefore, the study proposes to analyze this SP as an Extension of the Subject (SEx) in a tripartite structure.
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This study seeks to identify the syntactic motivation and problems of the associations of the complementizers ʔanna and ʔan with word order and case marking in Modern Standard Arabic (henceforth MSA) with reference to the Minimalist Program (MP), the updated version of MP Phase Theory, and the split CP hypothesis of Rizzi (1997. “The Fine Structure of the Left Periphery.” In Elements of Grammar, edited by Liliane Haegeman, 281–337. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2001. “On the Position ‘Int(Errogative)’ in the Left Periphery of the Clause.” In Current Studies in Italian Syntax, edited by Guglielmo Cinque, and Giampaolo Salvi, 287–296. Amsterdam: Elsevier). The clause following ʔanna must take SVO word order, while ʔan requires VSO word order. This study analyzes not only the syntactic motivation for the word order governed by ʔanna and ʔan but also related syntactic [issues and reasons for ʔanna and ʔan complementizers in both SVO and VSO word order] based on a minimalist approach and Rizzi's approach, especially for the problem of double case marking; a generative approach is needed to solve certain syntactic problems (e.g., assigning accusative case and subjunctive mood). Finally, this study argues that in MSA, ʔan sits in a non-phasal phrase, whereas ʔanna occurs in ʔannaP and FinitenessP (FinP). Furthermore, case marking assignment is based on ECM for ʔanna and on locality for ʔan.
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This paper aims to show that the four-way BE-system of Maltese can best be accommodated in a theory of non-verbal predication that builds on alternative states, without making any reference to the Davidsonian spatio-temporal event variable. The existing theories of non-verbal predicates put the burden of explaining the difference between the ad hoc vs. habitual interpretations either solely on the non-verbal predicate, by postulating an event variable in their lexical layer (see Kratzer 1995; Adger and Ramchand 2003; Magri 2009; Roy 2013), or solely on the copular or non-copular primary predicate, which contains an aspectual operator or an incorporated abstract preposition, responsible for such interpretive differences (Schmitt) discourse-semantic theory of copular sentences with Richardson's (2001, 2007) analysis of non-verbal adjunct predicates in Russian, based on alternative states. Under this combined account, variation between the ad hoc vs. habitual interpretations of non-verbal predicates is derived from the presence or absence of a modal OP alt operator that can bind the temporal variable of non-verbal predicates in accessible worlds, in the sense of Kratzer (1991). In the absence of this operator, the temporal variable is bound by the T0 head in the standard way. The proposal extends to non-verbal predicates in copular sentences as well as to argument and adjunct non-verbal predicates in non-copular sentences.
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Sound plural feminine nouns in Standard Arabic (SA) receive the same case suffix for their genitive and accusative cases. It has been shown (Al-Balushi 2013) that this is because all sound non-singular nouns have no independent accusative case morphology, which results in them ‘borrowing’ the genitive case suffixes of the nouns that bear the same number and gender features. This paper addresses the question of why these nouns (non-singular sound ones) do not have independent case morphology for the accusative case. It argues, in descriptive terms, that the accusative case morphology seems to have joined the Arabic nominal system late (after those of the nominative and genitive paradigms). Consequently, and as a result of language change and the desire for disambiguation (as well as standardization because of the Holy Quran), NPs in Acc-marked positions gained new case morphology. The singular NPs ‘borrowed’ their accusative case suffixes from the subjunctive (verbal) paradigm, and the non-singular ones ‘borrowed’ their accusative case suffixes from the genitive (nominal) paradigm.
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This paper presents an analysis for the ‘believe’-construction in Standard Arabic (SA). The analysis proposed here assumes the Visibility Condition, whereby structural Case is necessary to render arguments visible at LF for θ-role assignment (Aoun 1979, Chomsky 1981). The earlier approaches are untenable because they do not make proper provision for the Case-visibility requirements of the complement clause of ‘believe’. Thus, they are not extendable to SA since they ignore the Case-visibility requirements of the CP complement of ð̣anna ‘believe’, assuming that CPs require Case for visibility (Uriagereka 2006, 2008). These requirements can be satisfied if we assume the distinction between structural Case and lexical case established in Al-Balushi (2011: 126-157) based on SA data, where structural Case is licensed on arguments and lexical case is assigned to non-arguments, nominals merged in A-bar positions. I thus propose that the Acc-marked DP (embedded subject/matrix object) does not receive structural Acc Case from the matrix v*0, but rather lexical Acc case from the matrix predicate ð̣anna, as a lexical element, reserving the structural Acc Case for the CP argument. I also argue that this DP is an A-bar element, co-indexed with an empty category argument pro in the embedded clause.
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This paper investigates (un)marked word orders in embedded clauses in Jordanian Arabic (JA), motivating a mono-clausal analysis of them. It shows that topic in this Arabic dialect is not a unique category nor susceptible to a single analysis, hence providing support for proposals that argue for topics typology (see Frascarelli and Hinterhölzl 2007 and Bianchi and Frascarelli 2010). For instance, topics that express information that is newly introduced, newly changed or newly returned to, i.e. Aboutness Topic, (Givón 1983) are shown not to be licensed in JA embedded clauses. On the other hand, this study argues that topics that convey familiar information, i.e. Familiar Topic (Frascarelli and Hinterhölzl 2007), are more constrained in embedded contexts than previously believed; they are not recursive. Such a state of affairs implies that there are no elements in the left periphery of JA embedded clauses being assigned the same informational/communicative value.
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This thesis proposes a novel theory to account for the structural Case facts in Standard Arabic (SA). It argues that structural Nom and Acc Cases are licensed by Verbal Case (VC). Thus it argues against the proposal that structural Case in SA is licensed as a reflex ofphi-agreement (Schütze 1997 and Chomsky 2001 crosslinguistically, and Soltan 2007 for SA), and also against the view that structural Case is a [uT] feature on the DP (Pesetsky & Torrego 2001, 2004). After arguing against these two approaches, it is shown that verbless sentences, where the verb is not licensed (by VC), do not witness the licensing of structural Case. Thus verbless sentences provide a context where verbs are not licensed, similar to the embedded subject position of control verbs like ‘try’ (where lexical DPs are not licensed). Investigation of the SA verbal system reveals that SA verbs are licensed through Case checking/assignment by verbal particles. Thus, like DPs, verbs receive a form of Case, which I call VC, represented as unvalued [VC] features on I0 and v*0. Since the VC-assigning particles are Comp elements, I propose that [VC] is valued on I0 and v*0 by a valued [VC] feature on Fin0 (via Agree), which enables I0 and v*0 to value the [Case] features on the subject and object as Nom and Acc, respectively. Thus the DP is licensed by the same feature that licenses the verb, which is VC. Given the observation that [T], [phi], and [Mood] do not license Case in SA, I argue for two types of finiteness, Infl-finiteness, related to [T], [Mood], and [phi], and Comp-finiteness, related to [VC]. To account for the Case facts in various SA sentence types, I propose that Fin0 has a [VC] feature iff it selects an XP that has (at least) one I-finiteness feature ([T], [Mood], [phi]) and a categorial [V] feature.
Work on the movement of phrasal categories has been a central element of syntactic theorising almost since the earliest work on generative grammar. However, work on the movement of lexical elements, heads, has flourished only in recent years, stimulated originally by Chomsky's Empty Category Principle, and later by the work of Travis, Baker and Pollock. Parallel to these theoretical concerns, much attention has been focused on the description of verb-second languages and on the movement operations which place the verb in its 'second' position. This volume represents the latest work in an important field, from some of its leading researchers, and puts forward many ideas about relevant principles and parameters of Universal Grammar. It will have a significant impact on its field.
The thesis investigates the syntactic properties of head-movement processes as well as the structures of phrasal categories. The discussions are based mainly, though not exclusively, on data from Berber, in particular the Tarifit dialect spoken in the northern part of Morocco. The theoretical framework adopted is that of Government Binding (GB) as outlined by Chomsky (1981), (1982), (1986a), (1986b) and others. The first chapter introduces the GB theory and its modules. The second chapter discusses sentential structure and the properties of head-movement processes involved in the derivation of the surface forms of sentences. The basic properties of the sentential clause in Berber are investigated in detail on the basis of the distribution of clitics and the order of the verbal affixes with respect to the verb the conclusion is reached that the Infl(ection) node needs to be fleshed out in such a way that each of the elements occupying it (AGR(eement), TENSE(TNS) and NEG(ation)) is attributed a full categorial status in the sense of X-bar theory. It is demonstrated that the clausal structure that results from this revision differs with respect to the order of AGE and TNS according to whether the language In question is SVO or VSO. The structures of infinitival clauses, both inflected and unfinflected, as well as small clauses are also investigated in the light of the conclusion mentioned above. Finally, the structural properties of nominal and copular sentences in Berber and other languages are also subjected to an analysis in terms of the same conclusion. The third chapter investigates the structures of nominal and prepositional phrases, and the head-movement processes involved in their derivation in Berber and other languages. The structure of nominal phrases turns out to be strikingly similar to that of sentential clauses with the slight but significant difference that instead of TNS nominal phrases contain a NOM(inalisation) category. Surface word order variations among languages are discussed In the light of this conclusion. The structure of pre/postpositional phrases is found in some languages to contain an AGR element. The chapter also incorporates an attempt to reclassify the existing categories In terms of a binary division which recognises only two categorial classes, verbal and nominal. The fourth chapter investigates the processes of clitic-movement in Berber and Romance languages, and of preposition-movement in Berber. On the basis of the properties of these movement processes and the conclusion reached in the second chapter with respect to the Infl node a unified analysis of morphological and non-morphological causatives Is suggested. An analsyis of the so-called Restructuring constructions in Italian is also suggested where the process of restructuring is argued to be a movement process of the embedded verbal complex to C. With respect to clitics they are argued to be head categories with an affixal nature, and their movement is argued to be governed by the ECP. The process of preposition movement in Berber, on the other hand, is shown to share significant properties with the process of clitic-movement, a fact that is shown to provide significant support for the treatment of clitics as head categories.
This paper deals with a parallelism between sentences and noun phrases in Classical Arabic. The parallelism in question concerns the distribution of the number feature on the verb in the verb subject (VS) sequence and the (in-)definiteness feature on nouns in the N+NP sequence, the so-called semitic construct state (CS). In both cases, the verb and the head noun do not carry number and (in-)definiteness features respectively. Previous syntactic analyses have treated these two problems as two separate phenomena, thus denying any parallelism between the two constructions. This paper argues that this parallelism is genuine and is due to the verb in the VS sequence being historically a nominal element in a CS relation with the subject.
Preface. 1. Principles, Parameters, and Modules. 2. Word Order, Agreement, and Case. 3. Pronouns, Incorporation, and Feature Specification. 4. Temporal, Aspectual, and Modal Categories. 5. Inflectional Projections in Noun Phrases. Conclusion. Bibliography. Index.