Subject Verb Agreement in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Saudi Dialect of Arabic (SA): A New Minimalist Account
Khalaf M. J. AlShammiry

Using Chomsky’s theory of syntax, the Minimalist Program (MP) (1993, 1995, 2000), this paper presents a new analysis for the ongoing debatable word order variation in both Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and the Saudi dialect of Arabic (SA). It has been noticed that in SVO order, the subject agrees partially with the verb; whereas in VSO order, the subject fully agrees with the verb. In SA, the subject always fully agrees with the verb in both word orders. Previous studies have debated whether the preverbal subject is a subject or a topic or a focus. I argue that the noun in the MSA and SA is a subject which is either base generated in the case of the MSA or moved from inside the clause in the case of SA; making use of the distinction between al-jumlaalismiyya “ the nominal sentence” and al-jumlaal-fi?liyya “the verbal sentence” in Arabic, Abd Al-bidee (1996) and among others, I ague that there is a Head Phrase (HP) at the left periphery of the clause where the subject surfaces to check the nominal head feature of the HP and to mark the clause nominal. For this argument, I assume that the clitic onto the verb is either an agreement marker or a subject and the number feature is weak in MSA and strong in SA. In addition, before the syntax, the noun is split into an expletive and a noun or a clitic and the TP in SA has two specs. The two supporting pieces of evidence for my argument are the subject of the embedded clauses and the structure of the wh-questions in MSA. The contribution of the paper lies in the fact that it investigates the agreement issue in a dialect that is, to my knowledge, heretofore uninvestigated; and adds to our understanding of the syntax of the agreement asymmetry in MSA and SA.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jflcc.v4n2a8