Functional Structure in Standard Arabic and How It Is Derived

Kamel Jouini


The role played by the interpretability of features in the derivation and representation of sentences is a cornerstone of generative analyses of sentence structure. The most important structural aspect of such interpretability is the role played by the requirement that sentences have some representation of subjecthood in syntactic structure – namely, the EPP (Chomsky 1981) or the requirement that the subject of predication be somehow represented in the functional structure of the sentence. The emphasis on such a requirement in syntactic theory has brought forth a more basic characteristic of the derivation of sentences and their representation at the interface – namely, structural relations whereby elements in the grammar are interpreted have to be strictly local and are based on the licensing of functional features (mainly, categorial). The very Merge and movement processes involved in this feature licensing bring elements (probe and goal) closer to each other. The effect of this ‘Probe-Goal Union’ (Miyagawa 2010, p. 35) is that head-head and Spec-head agreement configurations become the basis of the derivation and representation of the functional structure of a language in terms of functional features for the expression of such discourse properties as topic-comment, interrogation, negation, the expression of focus and relativization. Topic-comment constructions, wh-questions, negative contrastive focus constructions, and relative clauses will form the testing ground for the working of such features in the derivation of functional structure of standard Arabic, in both SVO and VSO word orderings. 

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