Clause Structure and Word Order in Hebrew and Arabic: An Essay in Comparative Semitic Syntax

Clause Structure and Word Order in Hebrew and Arabic: An Essay in Comparative Semitic Syntax

Clause Structure and Word Order in Hebrew and Arabic: An Essay in Comparative Semitic Syntax

Clause Structure and Word Order in Hebrew and Arabic: An Essay in Comparative Semitic Syntax

Synopsis

Shlonsky uses Chomsky's Government and Binding Approach to examine clausal architecture and verb movement in Hebrew and several varieties of Arabic. He establishes a syntactic analysis of Hebrew and then extends that analysis to certain aspects of Arabic clausal syntax. Through this comparative lens of Hebrew, Shlonsky hopes to resolve a number of problems in Arabic syntax. His results generate some novel and important conclusions concerning the patterns of negations, verb movement, the nature of participles, and the gamut of positions available to clausal subjects in both languages.

Excerpt

The Principles and Parameters model of Generative Grammar (Chomsky 1981, 1982, 1986a, 1986b, 1991, 1993) provides both a highly articulate model of Universal Grammar (UG) and a relatively explicit theory of language variation. Research within this framework strives to discover and isolate nontrivial linguistic universals, such as the rules comprising the subtheory of Binding, the Empty Category Principle (ECP), the principles of quantification, and so forth. At the same time, it seeks to spell out the extent, and hence the limits, of possible cross-linguistic variation. Within this framework, a study of a particular grammatical system or of several systems can serve to enhance our understanding of the underlying principles of UG as well as of the range of parametric variation which, when taken together, constitute a particular grammar--for example, my Hebrew, your English, her French.

Being a relatively explicit theory of what grammars are, the Principles and Parameters approach allows one to formulate questions, test predictions, and discover facts and patterns--in short, to go beyond the classification of data. Indeed, it is only against the backdrop of a theory of grammar that one can distill and classify facts and patterns in language.

These convictions underlie the present essay, which studies a number of issues in the syntax of Hebrew and the Arabic languages. By the former, I mean my own Hebrew; by the latter, I refer to Standard or literary Arabic and some of the modern spoken dialects (r). Since I speak no Arabic language, I have relied on descriptions and studies of these languages and on work with native speakers. Virtually no mention is made in this book of the Southern Semitic languages (e.g., the Semitic languages of Ethiopia). This is due both to my ignorance and to the near absence of generativist research into the sort of issues taken up here.

This work can be read both as a study of Hebrew syntax and as a comparative exploration of the syntax of Semitic. There are two reasons for which I have chosen . . .

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