Question Affix Analysis in Standard Arabic: A Minimalist Perspective

Abdul-Hafeed Ali Fakih, Abdullah S. Al-Dera
2014 International Journal of English Linguistics  
The study examines question affix analysis in Standard Arabic within the minimalist framework of Chomsky (1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001) and shows how Standard Arabic is different from English in terms of feature strength, feature checking, and I-raising to Q (i.e., raising of the head INFL to the head COMP). The objective is to present a unified treatment of question affix analysis in Standard Arabic and illustrate to what extent possible the Arabic data interacts with Chomsky's minimalist
more » ... omsky's minimalist analysis. It also demonstrates how feature licensing takes place in the right checking domains in the derivation of yes-no questions. It points out that Standard Arabic resorts to 'Merge' because it does not have auxiliary inversion, while English resorts to 'Adjunction' because of auxiliary inversion. Besides, question particles in Standard Arabic are viewed as merely morphological affixes placed sentence-initially to form yes-no questions. Furthermore, we argue that the interrogative particles in Standard Arabic have one function (that of showing interrogativity) since they do not stand for any DP, PP or AP argument. Given this, we propose that the question particles in Standard Arabic are base-generated in the head C position of CP, since they never undergo any morpho-syntactic movement. 3 words). We argue against their treatment by providing a piece of evidence that the "Standard Arabic word" has traditionally been divided structurally into three morpho-syntactic classes: (i) ?ismun 'a noun', (ii) fi ' lun 'a verb', and (iii) ħarfun 'a particle'. Thus, it is apparent that there is nothing called ?adawāt 'devices'. Chomsky's (1957) Analysis Chomsky's (1957) Syntactic Structures is not only regarded as the foundation for generative-transformational grammar, but it is still also in many respects the fundamental basis to the syntactic analysis. Chomsky's departure from the structural paradigm, following the publication of Syntactic Structures in (1957) , marks the turning point of the generative-transformational paradigm. Chomsky (1957) provided a new generative look at the syntactic derivation of yes-no questions. Chomsky's morpho-syntactic analysis of yes-no question formation is exemplified by (3a-b) in which he derives the interrogative sentences (3b-d) from their corresponding declarative sentence (3a) by the application of optional transformations. 3a. John ate an apple. b. Did John eat an apple? c. What did John eat? d. Who ate an apple? According to Chomsky's analysis, sentences in (3) have the same deep structure, and therefore the question-formation rules are meaning-preserving. It is, however, observed that Chomsky's hypothesis, which derives interrogatives in (3) from their corresponding declarative counterparts, leads him to positing a single underlying structure, shown in (4) , for all sentences in (3). John -C -eat + an + apple (NP -C -V...) Chomsky indicates that the dashes in (4) denote that the analysis is imposed by T q (T q is a transformational rule proposed by Chomsky to account for yes-no questions). Furthermore, Chomsky posits two transformational rules (i.e. optional and obligatory rules) in order to derive the interrogatives in (3b-d); (3a) does not undergo such rules. For Chomsky, yes-no questions can be derived "by means of a transformation T q that operates on strings ... and has the effect of interchanging the first and second segments of these strings" (1957:63). On this basis, Chomsky proposes that there should be an ordering of rules for these transformations to apply correctly, i.e., T w must apply first to strings to which T q has already applied. T q accounts for yes-no questions while T w covers all wh-questions. Let us now illustrate with examples how the transformational rules T q and T w apply in the right ordering, where T q has to apply first before T w does. Chomsky applies only an obligatory transformation to (4) to derive (5), using Chomsky's (1957:70) example to illustrate the point. 5. # John # eat + past # an # apple # ( "John ate an apple") Then Chomsky applies (5) and T q to (4) in order to derive (6). 6. past -John -eat + an + apple By introducing the auxiliary do (i.e., as the bearer of past), Chomsky derives the following interrogative yes-no question. This can be demonstrated in (7) . 7. did John eat an apple (Did John eat an apple?) The Q-Morpheme: The Katz-Postal Hypothesis (1964) Katz and Postal (1964) argue against the treatment of questions in Chomsky (1957) which shows that a question and its corresponding declarative have the same sequence of underlying P-marker(s), and yet they differ in meaning. Katz and Postal point out that questions are not genuine counterexamples as they are derived from structures containing Q-morpheme, and go on arguing that "such questions and their corresponding declaratives do not have the same sequence of underlying P-markers" (1964:79). It is thus apparent that the Q-morpheme hypothesis owes its origin to Katz and Postal's (1964) work. In their attempt to resolve some problems in Chomsky's analysis, as well as to differentiate the deep structure of a declarative from that of an interrogative, Katz and Postal (1964) hypothesize the existence of an abstract Q-morpheme in interrogative deep structures, since it triggers subject-auxiliary inversion and the fronting of wh-words. It is this Q-morpheme which is paraphrased as: I request that you answer. Moreover, such a Q-morpheme is shown to have semantic and syntactic functions; the semantic function explicates and accounts for the illocutionary force of direct questions, and the syntactic function triggers subject-auxiliary inversion.
doi:10.5539/ijel.v4n6p1 fatcat:ukjnamvbnbexth5bdf7x43be6q