Realizing Grammatical Relations and Word Order of Jordanian Arabic


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Jordanian Arabic (JA) is a vernacular spoken variety of Arabic. More than nine million people all over Jordan are speaking it. Colloquial Jordanian Arabic is classified according to phonological differences into three main dialects: Bedouin dialect in the east, Rural dialect in the north, and Urban dialect in the central and big cities (Al-Khatib, 1988).

These three dialects are used in everyday communication, while Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) , a variety based on Classical Arabic (CA) , used in education and formal communication . Both dialects have many differences on phonology, syntax and lexicon levels. The sociolinguistic setting of Arabic indicates a prime case of the linguistic phenomenon of Diaglossia (Ferguson, 1959).

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Realizing Grammatical Relations

Arguments are phrases function to provide full meaning to the predicate. Predicates (Verbs) might take up to three arguments, and they form together one structure. Core arguments can have different syntactic role, such as: subject, direct object, indirect object. Arguments are different from adjuncts. Although arguments are mandatory in the sentence and necessary to give its meaning, the adjuncts are optional; they are not important to complete the sentence. They can simply be deleted from the sentence without producing sentences that are ill formed syntactically or semantically. This proposal will concentrate on the core arguments while it can also be developed to include adjuncts.

Each language must have some way or another of indicating the Grammatical Roles between core NPs and the verbal predicate. For recognizing these core relations (Subjects, Objects), three essential devices are accessible: word order, case Marking, and agreement (Tellerman, 2011). Any language will use of at least one of these choices. The aim of this proposal is to investigate what of these devices, do (JA) use to recognize core relations.

Word Order

Each core NP (subject / Object) should have a particular position within the clause i.e. constituents order indicates the relationship between NPs and verb. In English, both subjects and objects have a fixed position, which is how we determine who kicked the ball and what was kicked the following sentences.

This is the normal word order, and all variants of it are impossible

(1) a. Jack kicked the ball.

b. * Jack the ball kicked.

c. *kicked Jack the ball.

d. *kicked the ball Jack.

e. *The ball kicked Jack.

While only the first pattern (1a) is available in English, the other patterns are common in other languages. However, some patterns are more frequent than others. The three most acceptable word orders in most languages are those of (a), (b) and (c). However, some language tends to be more flexible in the constituent’s order than others. Jordanian Arabic is an example of this type of languages.

Word Order in JA

Jordanian Arabic is reported to have flexible word order (El- Yasin 1985; Al- Sarayreh 2012) as can be seen in (2a), (2b) and (2c)

(2) a. John akal tofaha

John ate an apple

‘ John ate an apple’

b. akal John tofahah

ate John an apple

‘John ate an apple’

c. akl tofahah John

ate an apple John

‘John ate an apple’

This variation in constituent make it impossible to figure out core NPs according to word order. Another example on flexible constituent order languages is Latin, core NPs can occur in different positions; both of these sentences in (3) have the exaxt meaning, although the order of the NPs is different in (3a) and (3b): (Tallerman, 2011, p. 14)

(3) a. Puer-um puella audi-t.

Boy-ACC girl.NOM hear.PRES.3sg

‘The girl hears the boy.’

b. Puella Puer-um audi-t.

girl.NOM Boy-ACC hear.PRES.3sg

‘The girl hears the boy.’

This variation in constituent order is possible because in Latin, the form of the NPs themselves indicates what relationship they have with the verb: this is case marking.

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