Verb Agreement Features in Standard Arabic (SA): A Minimalist Approach

By Mohamed, Mostapha Thabit | Asian Social Science, May 2013 | Go to article overview

Verb Agreement Features in Standard Arabic (SA): A Minimalist Approach


Mohamed, Mostapha Thabit, Asian Social Science


Abstract

The present study investigates the features of the verb agreement in Standard Arabic (SA).The investigation is conducted within the framework of the principles of Chomsky's Minimalism. The main objective of the study is to survey the applicability of the Minimalist principles on the derivation of SV order and VO order in SA. The study shows that the principles of Minimalism cannot account for the feature of agreement asymmetry either in SV order or VS order. The study concludes that principles of Minimalism needs to be modified to justify the asymmetry in agreement features of the verb in both SV and VS orders in SA.

Keywords: agreement, minimalism, minimalist program, Arabic word-order

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction

The purpose of the present study is to discuss the feature of the verb-subject agreement in Standard Arabic (SA) within the framework of Chomsky's Minimalist Program. SA reflects two different word orders: Subject - Verb (SV) order and Verb - Subject (VS) order. In both cases, the verb shows different agreement features with its subject. In VS order, the verb agrees with its subject only in gender, whereas in SV order, the verb agrees with its subject in number, person and gender. The following study seeks to provide an account for this feature of agreement asymmetry between the verb and its subject within the framework of the minimalist program as outlined by Chomsky (1995, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2008). The main purpose is to investigate the applicability of the principles of Chomsky's program on both word orders in SA to account for the agreement in SA. The study discusses how far the principles of Minimalist program can provide an explanation for the agreement asymmetry of the two word-orders in SA.

2. Problem of the Study

There are two different word-orders in SA,: SV order and VS order. When the subject is preverbal, the verb agrees with its subject in number, gender and person. However, when the subject is postverbal, the verb agrees with it in gender only. The study discusses the problem of agreement asymmetry in these two different word-orders within the framework of Minimalism as suggested by Chomsky (1995) and developed in his subsequent works (1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2008). The study aims to prove whether the principles of minimalism are valid or invalid in providing a principled explanation for the feature of agreement in SA.

The investigation of the feature of agreement in this study is limited to a variety of Arabic, which is known as standard Arabic. This variety of Arabic is usually used in formal speeches, letters, writing newspapers articles and books.

The investigation conducted in this study focuses on examining the applicability of Minimalist principles on the feature of agreement asymmetry in SA. The main objective of the study is to examine the universality of these principles and how far they can provide a justifiable account for the asymmetry of agreement in the word-order in SA.

The discussion set in this study aims to provide answers for the following questions:

1) Do the Minimalist principles provide a systematic analysis for the agreement features of verb-subject in SV word order in SA?

2) Do the Minimalist principles provide a systematic analysis for the agreement features of verb-subject in VS word order in SA?

3) Can the Minimalist principles be considered as a model that provides systematic explanations for the asymmetrical agreement in the two word orders in SA?

3. Minimalist Program

Agreement, as defined by Wickens (1980: 46) is a term used "commonly to cover the relationship between verbs, nouns ... pronouns and adjectives". In earlier work in the minimalist program, agreement was seen as involving a relationship between a Specifier and a head (Chomsky, 1995; Radford, 1997a, 1997b, 2004).

The present study, as referred to, is conducted within the framework of the Minimalism Program. …

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