Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Application of Government and Binding Theory on Agreement in Modern Standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Application of Government and Binding Theory on Agreement in Modern Standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic

Article excerpt


Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) has two basic patterns that are SVO and VSO. On light of Government and Binding Theory (GB), these word orders are illustrated in relation to the AGR Criterion that accounts for the restrictions on agreement associated with the two word orders in MSA. Examples from MSA and Moroccan Arabic (MA) with reference to the Expletive Hypothesis show some of the problems related to rich or full agreement in SVO structures. Also, the issue of poor agreement or partial agreement in VSO structures is extensively discussed in MSA and MA respectively. The researcher concludes with the evidence that AGR Criterion is responsible to regulate the features between AGRs and the NP-subjects in accordance with their positions in the sentence, whether in SVO or VSO structures.

Keywords: Government Binding Theory (GB), Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), Moroccan Arabic (MA), Agreement

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1. Introduction

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is known of its complex agreement system. Word order affects the asymmetry relation of subject-verb agreement, and it is different from other patterns of agreement in the world's languages. Therefore, it presents a number of challenges to the theories of syntax.

MSA has two basic word orders and exhibits subject agreement morphology on the verb that shows an asymmetry between preverbal and postverbal subjects (Bahloul & Harbert, 1993). On light of Government and Binding Theory (GB), this paper presents the problems that can occur in agreement patterns found in MSA which are sensitive to the relative ordering of the subject and the verb in the sentence. The first section will introduce the two basic word orders of finite clauses in MSA and discuss the restrictions on agreement associated with them. The basic subject-verb agreement patterns in MSA are illustrated in this section. The second section tackles the problem of rich or full agreement in SVO structures. The third section discusses the issue of poor or partial agreement in VSO structures, and the fourth section concludes the paper.

2. Agreement patterns in Standard Arabic MSA

Any case of agreement/disagreement should be able to place three appropriate subcomponents of the agreement/disagreement system. These subcomponents are: the nature of the expressions that are in agreement, the features that are involved in the agreement, and the domain of the agreement which is the syntactic environment in which agreement occurs (Fassi Fehri, 1988, p. 130). In addition, it is important to identify the controller which is the basic element that determines the agreement and the target which is the element whose form is determined by government. Verb agreement is completely controlled by the subject. In the traditional Government and Binding Theory, the NUM marking on the subject dictates GEN features and PERS features whether the verb is singular, plural, or dual (Chomsky, 1981).

Furthermore, there are two main word orders in finite declarative clauses in MSA. These two patterns differ in the degree of the subject agreement with the verb. These are: SVO structure and VSO structure. In some languages, word order constantly affects agreement patterns. However, in other languages the word order infrequently affects the agreement, and it usually depends on certain situations (Corbett, 2006). Arabic is not the only language that exhibits preverbal agreement and postverbal agreement. Other languages with similar asymmetries are Russian, English, French, and Italian (Lorimor, 2007), Dutch (Ackema & Neeleman, 2003), Polish (Citko, 2005), and Fiorentino (Brandi & Cordin, 1989).

McCloskey (1986) claims that case assignment can occur in natural language, such as Arabic, either leftward or rightward. He claims that in SVO structures, the case is assigned leftward under a Spec-Head agreement relation or configuration, or it can be assigned rightward under Government. …

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