«CASE IN STANDARD ARABIC: THE UNTRAVELED PATHS by Rashid Ali Al-Balushi A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of ...»
CASE IN STANDARD ARABIC: THE UNTRAVELED
Rashid Ali Al-Balushi
A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Graduate Department of Linguistics
University of Toronto
© Copyright by Rashid Ali Al-Balushi 2011
Case in Standard Arabic: The Untraveled Paths
Rashid Ali Al-Balushi
Doctor of Philosophy 2011
Department of Linguistics
University of Toronto
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 φ-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], [φ], and [Mood] do not license Case in SA, I argue for two types of finiteness, Infl-finiteness, related to [T], [Mood], and [φ], 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], [φ]) and a categorial [V] feature.
ii Acknowledgments Before I started my Ph.D., I thought that the acknowledgments section would be the easiest to write. After finishing my dissertation, I have discovered that this section is the most difficult one to write, perhaps because it is now time to give credit to the people who taught me linguistics, inspired me, nurtured my powers of observation and reasoning, and tolerated my false starts and lack of knowledge and answers. Many of the ideas in this dissertation would not have seen light were it not for my desire to earn the respect of my committee members after having received so much support and encouragement from them. Regardless of whether or not they totally endorse my proposals, their feedback has always had a great impact on my intellect and therefore on my reasoning. From Diane Massam, Elizabeth Cowper, and Alana Johns, as well as from a 1997undergraduate assignment on the role of intuition in scientific research, I learnt that “[i]n the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary” (Chomsky 2001:2), one can argue for what one believes, hence the arguably controversial claims in this dissertation. Interaction with the members of my committee transformed me from a student to a researcher. In the following lines, I will try to give credit to the people who were behind this achievement, warning from the outset that words will not depict the reality of their influence on my academic life.
I would like to start by expressing my most sincere gratitude to my advisor, Diane Massam, who tolerantly and patiently supervised the development of every idea in this dissertation. Interaction with Diane was the most intellectually stimulating aspect of my living experience. Meetings with her were productive, even hours after the meeting. Some of the ideas were born during the discussion, others on my way to the meetings, and others on my way home, and yet others when I recalled her words and comments on my work. It was a pleasure to work with someone as supportive and genuinely interested in Case theory as Diane. Discussion with Diane gave me confidence and made me feel that I can contribute to syntactic theory in my own way. On so many occasions when I had no clue on where to head with my proposal, Diane provided direction and advice on how to proceed. Whatever insight this thesis might provide must be attributed to Diane’s high standards, ever-lasting support, and 30 years long experience with Case theory. I owe much of this achievement to her direction.
iii It is my pleasure to thank one of my favorite mentors ever, Elizabeth Cowper. Not only did Elizabeth supervise my thesis, but also my other Ph.D. research. Whenever I was thinking of an aspect or a topic in this dissertation or analyzing a given construction, I was anticipating her reaction, which always resulted in providing better evidence and stronger arguments for my claims. I am much obliged to her for introducing me to Minimalist syntax, both in the classroom setting and through research supervision. One of the special moments that I experienced at the University of Toronto campus was the thrill of discovering that my work is in agreement with her expertise and up to her standards. I benefited from Elizabeth’s guidance based on her research on Case, which proved to be similar to my proposal. I owe a special debt to Elizabeth for doing whatever it took to make sure that my work was going from good to better. As well as her dedication to her students and advisees, I admire Elizabeth’s sweet company, gentle character, and always positive presence. It has really been a privilege to work with someone who has witnessed many of the developments that linguistic theory has seen. To Elizabeth goes my utmost appreciation.
I would also like to thank Alana Johns who was the first of my Ph.D. mentors to call me ‘a syntactician’. She played a major role in transforming me from a student to a scholar by encouraging me and giving me the impression that she could learn from my knowledge and reasoning. Alana has repeatedly told me that we can learn a lot from the work of scholars working in other traditions and frameworks, and so deserves the credit for my seeking explanations and answers in the tradition of medieval Arabic grammar. Alana played the coach that would let me sail and then would make something beneficial out of my last destination; at the very least, she would tell me that what I observed in Standard Arabic has also been observed in one of the languages she knows, and that my reasoning is not as crazy as I might think.
I am also grateful to Elan Dresher for serving on my defense committee. Expecting Elan at the defense strengthened my self-critiquing powers. Not being a phonologist, I took only one course with Elan (Intro. to Analysis and Argumentation), and have always wished I could take it again.
Being in Elan’s class is like being at a Mozart concert; you just do not want time to pass.
Gratitude is also due to Howard Lasnik for agreeing to be my external examiner. It was a privilege and a life-long honor to have Howard contribute to my thesis. I am indebted to him for iv his input and interest in my work. I should perhaps not spend much time praising Howard and expressing my admiration of his work since this will definitely not make him shine any brighter;
if anything, it will just reveal the fact that I am a big fan of him. I have been telling friends and family that my external examiner is the world’s second biggest syntactician, especially when it comes to Case theory.
In addition to my committee members, I had the honor of working long-distance with some brilliant linguists during the last twenty months. The first one for me to contact was Usama Soltan. The topic of this thesis started as a response to Soltan’s (2007) thesis, and later turned into a full endorsement of his thesis and a response to the ‘Case’ aspect of it, namely his claim that Case in Standard Arabic is licensed by φ-agreement. I think it is fair to say that the main idea in this thesis was inspired by Soltan’s thesis. I am very grateful to him for his prompt replies to my questions about his work and issues related to it, as well as to other questions about Standard Arabic morphosyntax. His replies were much clearer then textbooks could be and more instructive than interactive classes could be. It is difficult to state how nice, helpful, and patient Usama has been since my first days with this topic.
The second for me to contact was Gary Miller. In some long and instructive emails, Gary explained to me many of the issues and problems surrounding the different proposals about Case.
He pointed out the crosslinguistic challenges each one of these proposals has to deal with, and introduced me to the position that Case is licensed by mood. His thought-provoking discussion, which reveals profound knowledge, convinced me that none of the available proposals is troublefree, which led me to the new discovery and the controversial claims in this thesis. My only regret is that I did not get to work with Gary as a student at the University of Florida, where I did my M.A.
I am also indebted to Tom Roeper and Ian Roberts for providing me with details and insights related to their work on proposals similar to mine. Through some prompt and instructive replies to my emails, both scholars showed genuine interest in my inquiries.
v Many people agree that the first teacher can make the students either like or hate the subject. I strongly agree with this statement. Whatever passion for human language syntax this thesis might reveal on my behalf must be attributed to Eric Potsdam’s course teaching and scholarly work. Eric introduced me to syntactic theory through two courses during my University of Florida 2001-2003 M.A. in linguistics. With Eric’s teaching style, I learnt syntax by doing syntax, a method that creates researchers out of students. His classes were some of the rare moments in my life where I did not feel the passage of time. During my M.A., Eric was my professor, mentor, and a great source of inspiration. During my Ph.D., Eric informally and patiently supervised my ‘Control in Omani Arabic’ paper. His ‘say hello to Rashid’, said to my University of Toronto professors and colleagues that he met at conferences and workshops made me feel that he cares about my work and is ready to provide support and guidance.
It is also my pleasure to thank Peter Hallman. I met Peter in Toronto in 2006-2007, and took one class with him. Aside from that, Peter takes credit for introducing me to the medieval tradition of Arabic grammar, the so-called Basran and Kufan schools. Ever since, Peter has been a friend and a mentor. Though I could have myself read the traditional Arabic grammar literature, Peter showed me that many of the ideas that the Basran and Kufan grammarians were working with are actually not different from our generative age thought and inquiry. It is perhaps inappropriate to say that in 2006-2007, Peter’s office was like home to me; I would go to him without appointments and just say what I thought about any issue, and he would be ready with carefully considered input and guidance.
I also had the privilege of getting to know and benefit from the expertise of Youssef Haddad who was always a great help. Being a ‘Control theory’ person, Youssef provided some good comments on my first Generals paper, and was there when I needed assistance with the control issues in my thesis. Thanks are also due to Carson Schütze, and Maher Bahloul for their wellthought replies and patience with my constant questions.
In addition to these scholars, there are other people whose being around made my task easier. I am thankful to Azita Taleghani for allowing me to audit her Farsi course, to Paul Arsenault and vi Susana Bejar for their patience with me on feature geometries, and to Chiara Frigeni, Michael Barkey, and Smiljka Tasic for their friendship and support. I owe special thanks to Daniel Hall for his patience and continued support. Daniel is one hell of a fine linguist who can do all linguistics and do it right. For a lot of moral support, I am indebted to University Professor Keren Rice and Royal Society of Canada member Jack Chambers, as well as to Alexei Kochetov. I am also grateful to Ariel Cohen for a lot of help with indefinite noun phrases. Ariel’s assistance and guidance showed real interest in the topic of my second Generals paper. He was always there when I was doing the analysis and writing the paper, and also after that with general comments on it. In this regard, thanks are also due to Jan Schroten for going out of his way to send me the manuscript of an article of his which I needed.
It is also my distinct pleasure to thank my M.A. professor and mentor Helena Halmary for always being there and also for her friendship which I cherish. Helena is a very insightful scholar and a very special person. Working with her made me like linguistics and also work harder to gain her admiration. Thanks are also due to M. J. Hardman, Theresa Antes, Ratree Wayland, Jeffery Farrar, and Ann Wehmeyer for a lot of encouragement and support. The presence of my M.A. professors in my life had a great impact on my intellectual life.
I am immeasurably indebted to Nafla Al-Kharusi for her unconditional support and confidence in me from 1999 to 2005. In 1999, when I finished my undergraduate degree, Nafla was one of very few people who thought that I could make it to this stage. It is impossible for words to convey how much Nafla helped, supported, and fought for me at different stages in my professional life.
She has been a professor, a colleague, a boss, and a friend. Thanks are also due to Khamis AlBusaidi and Amal Salman for supporting and encouraging me.
I would also like to thank my Ph.D. colleagues; thanks are due to Julia Su, Milica Radisic, Monica Irimia, Sara Clarke, Kenji Oda, Cathleen Waters, Ewan Dunbar, Maria Kyriakaki, Nattaya Piriyawiboon, Elham Rahbar, Jim Smith, Richard Compton, Kyumin Kim, Pavle Levkovic, as well as to Osama Omari (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Yuri Zabbal (UMass), and Tamim Yusufzay for their positive influence on my academic life. Also, for their vii positive presence and influence on my social life, I would like to thank the Omani community in Toronto for making life possible and making Toronto ‘home’.