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Case Theory

(3,850 words)

Author(s): Mark S. LeTourneau
The medieval grammarians posited that each case is assigned under government; nominative and accusative cases in (1) are assigned by the verb kataba, and genitive case by the preposition ( ʿamal ). Each case is associated with a set of syntactic and semantic (participant) roles that a noun phrase (NP) may bear. In general, nominative case is assigned to subjects of root clauses (Abdul-Raof 2001:109–110), accusative case to objects (direct and indirect) of verbs, and genitive case to objects of prepositions (Gaballa 1986:54–56). It should b…

Theta Roles

(4,025 words)

Author(s): Mark S. LeTourneau
The study of θ-roles in generative grammar begins with the work of Fillmore (1968) and Gruber (1976, based on his 1965 Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation). Gruber identified roles that still form the core of thematic role inventories: Theme (T – object in motion or at a location), Location (L), Source (S), Goal (G), and Agent (A – volitional performer of an action). These relations were termed ‘thematic’ because of the centrality of the Theme role to the system (Gruber 2003:257). The role Patient (P – undergoer of action), no…

X-Bar Syntax

(5,405 words)

Author(s): Mark S. LeTourneau
1. Introduction: The X-bar schema Early generative grammar, from the late 1950s to the late 1960s, factored grammatical descriptions into two main components: the base component, consisting of (the lexicon and) phrase-structure rules, and the transformational component. X-bar syntax is the designation for a theory of phrase structure that originated in the context of an intramural debate within the generativist camp in the late 1960s concerning the proper way to characterize relationships among expressions like (1a,b,c). (1) a. John proved the theorem b. John's proving of the …


(3,697 words)

Author(s): Mark S. LeTourneau
(1) kataba d-dars-a wrote-3ms the-lesson-Acc in l-bayt-i l-walad-u the-house-Gen the-boy-Nom ‘The boy wrote the lesson in the house’ The verb kataba ‘he wrote’ governs both the subject NP al-waladu and the direct object ad-darsa, while the preposition governs its object al-bayti. The tradition assumes a VSO word order as basic, with government of subject and object proceeding on the basis of left-to-right linear order. The latter assumption is necessary in the presumed absence of a verb phrase (VP) constituent, as is found in the English gloss [wrote [the lesson][in the house]]. T…


(4,202 words)

Author(s): Mark S. LeTourneau
As nominal constituents, complement clauses bear the full range of grammatical functions assigned to noun phrases (Abdul-Ghany 1981: 20–21; Badawi a.o. 2004:604–608): subject (with inversion of complement clause), as in (1); predicate (in an equational sentence), as in (2); direct object (of a transitive verb), as in (3); and object of a preposition (that is required by the matrix verb), as in (4). (1) ṣaḥīḥun ʾanna l-ʾujrat-a munxafiḍatun true that the-rate-Acc low ‘It is true that the rate was low’ (2) al-muškilatu hiya ʾanna-ka the-problem she taʾtī mubakkiran not 2f…