An Agree-based Approach to Structural Case Assignment in Najrani Arabic

Abdul-Hafeed Ali Fakih, Hadeel Ali Al-Sharif


This study aims to examine structural (nominative and accusative) Case assignment in Najrani Arabic (henceforth, NA) and in turn provide a satisfactorily unified account on how structural Case is assigned in Najrani Arabic within Chomsky's (2001, 2005) Agree theory. It attempts to present a straightforward answer to the following questions: (i) how is structural (nominative and accusative) Case assigned in NA, given the recent developments and challenges in Chomsky’s (2001, 2005) Agree theory?, and (ii) how are Case and agreement features valued in NA syntax? A closer examination of structural Case in NA demonstrates that, unlike Standard Arabic, NA has an abstract Case system which is not morphologically realized, a similar phenomenon to that of English. Furthermore, the study examines structural Case assignment in VSO and SVO structures and points out that structural Case in NA is assigned via an Agree relation between a probe and a goal within a c-command domain. That is, in VSO structures in NA, nominative Case is assigned by the C-T complex via an Agree relation established between T and the subject in [Spec-TP] while accusative Case is a reflex of an Agree relation between the light v and the object DP. Besides, preverbal DPs in SVO structures undergoes movement from [Spec-vP] to [Spec-topP] and leaves a resumptive pro(nominal in [Spec-vp] which appears as either an overt number marker cliticized onto the verb or as a covert pro(nominal). However, in SVO structures introduced by the complementiser inn, there are two DPs; a post-verbal DP and a preverbal one. The post-verbal DP is assigned nominative Case by the C-T complex while the preverbal DP is assigned accusative lexical Case in the presence of the over Case assigner inn or default nominative Case in the absence of inn.



Structural Case, Agree relation, probe, goal, phase, abstract Case, C-T complex

Full Text:



Abu Hayyan, M. (1344). Irtishaaf aldhurab min lisaan al-ʕarab. [Analyzing the Arabic language]. Cairo: Al-Khanji Library.

Akkal, A. (1996). How SVO is SVO in Standard Arabic. In A. Fassi-Fehri (ed.) Liguistique comparee et langues au Maroc. Rabat: Universite Mohamed V: Publications de la Faculte des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines. pp.101-27.

Al-Akhfash, S. (830). maʕaani al-Qur?aan. F. Fares (Ed.). Al-Kuwait: Daar Al-Bashiir.

Al-Balushi, R. (2010). The licensing of structural case in Standard Arabic. Toronto: University of Toronto.

Al-Dinori, A. (1146). Themar al-senaaʕah fii ʕuluum al-ʕarabiyah. In M. K. Al-Fadel. Al-Riyadh: Al-Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University Press.

Al-Faresi, A. (987). Al-?iidaah [The explanation]. Beirut: Aalam Al-kutub.

Al-Farra, Y. (822). maʕaani al-Qur?aan. Beirut: Daar Al-Kutub Al-ʕelmyah.

Al-Horais, N. (2006). Arabic verbless sentences: is there a null VP? Pragmalingüística, 14: 101-16.

Al-Horais, N. (2009). A minimalist approach to agreement in Arabic. Newcastle Working Papers in Linguistics, 15: 1-22.

Al-Hujailaan, K. (2000). ittijahatu albahth fi qadiyati al iʕrab ʕnda. allugawiyen alʕrab almuhaddethin [Research attitudes towards case from the perspective of modern Arab linguists]. MA thesis. King Saud University.

Al-Jarjani, A. (1079). Al-jumal [Sentences]. A. Haidar (Ed.). Damascus: Daar Al-Hekmah.

Al-Khalil, A. (786). ?al-jumal fii al-naHw. F. Beirut: Al-Resaalah Publishing.

Al-Kisaei, A. (805). maa talHan fiihi al-ʕaammah. Cairo: Al-Khanji Library.

Al-Rahawi, R. (2007). ?al-jumlah al-?ismyyah ʕenda al-naHawyien ?al-ʕarab Hatta nehayat al-Qarn al-thamen al-hejri: derasah wasfyah taHlilyah. MA dissertation. Aden: Aden University.

Al-Rajehi, A. (1998). al-tadbeeq al-naHawi [Practical syntax]. Alexandria: Daar Al-Maʕrefah.

Al-Tahhan, R. (2006). al-naHw al-Hadeeth [Modern syntax]. Aleppo: Daar Al-Kutub Al-Wataniyah.

Aoun, J., Benmamoun, E.& Sportiche, D. (1994). Agreement, word order, and conjunction in some varieties of Arabic. Linguistic Inquiry, 25(2) 195-220.

As-Saied, M. (2002). nadharyat al-ʕamil fii al-naHw al-ʕarabi wa deraasat al-tarkiib. Damascus: Damascus University Journal, 2( 3) 41-68

Awn, H. (1952). ?al-lugah wa al-naHw: derasaat tarikhyah wa taHlilyah wa muqaarenah. Alexandria: Royal Press.

Bahloul, M. (2008). Structure and function of the Arabic verb. London: Routledge.

Bahluol, M. & Harbert, W. (1992). Agreement asymmetries in Arabic. In proceedings of the eleventh west coast conference on formal linguistics (WCCFL) Stanford, CA, 11, 15-31.

Bardeas, S. (2005). The pronominal forms in questions in Makkan Arabic. MA thesis: University of York.

Benmamoun, E. & Lorimor, H. (2006). Featureless expressions: when morpho-phonological markers are absent. Linguistic Inquiry, 37(1) 1-23.

Bobaljik, J. (1994). In terms of merge: copy and head movement. Harvard/McGill. Retrieved from:

Bolotin, N. (1995). Arabic and parametric VSO agreement. In M. Eid (ed.) Perspectives on Arabic linguistics VII: papers from the seventh annual symposium on Arabic linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 7-27.

Braddal, J. (2011). Lexical vs. structural case: A false dichotomy. Morphology, 21: 619-654.

Chomsky, N. (1977). On wh-movement. In P. Culicover, T. W. and A. Akmajian (ed.) Formal syntax. New York: Academic Press. pp. 71-132.

Chomsky, N. (1981). Lectures on government and binding. Dordrecht-Holland: Foris Publications.

Chomsky, N. (1986a). Barriers. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. (1991). Some notes on the economy of derivation and representation. In R. Freidin (ed.) Principles and parameters in comparative grammar. Cambridge: MIT. pp. 417-54.

Chomsky, N. (1993). A minimalist program for linguistic theory. In K. Hale & S. J. Keyser (eds.) The view from building 20: essays in linguistics in honor of Sylvain Bromberger. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. pp. 1-52.

Chomsky, N. (1995). The minimalist program. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. (2000). Minimalist inquiries: the framework. In H. Lasnik, R. Martin, D. Michaels & J. Uriagereka (eds.) Step by step: Essays on minimalist syntax in honor of Howard Lasnik. Cambridge. Mass: MIT Press. pp. 89-156.

Chomsky, N. (2001). Derivation by phase. In M. Kenstowicz (ed.). Ken Hale: A Life in Language. Cambridge, Mass: MIT. pp. 1-52.

Chomsky, N. (2004). Beyond explanatory adequacy. In A. Belletti (ed.). Structures and beyond: the cartography of syntactic structures (Vol. 3). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 104-31.

Chomsky, N. (2005). On phases. Ms. MIT.

Chomsky, N. and Lasnik, H. (1977). Filters and control. Linguistic inquiry, 8(3) 425-504.

Citko, B. (2011). Symmetry in syntax: merge, move, and labels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Demirdache, H. (1991). Resumptive chains in restrictive relatives, appositives, and dislocation structures. Doctoral dissertation. MIT.

Eisenbeiss, S., Bartke, S. & Clahsen, H. (2006). Structural and lexical case in child German: evidence from language-impaired and typically-developing children. Language acquisition, 13(1) 3-32.

Fakih, A. (2005). Licensing: movement and feature checking in Standard Arabic and minimalism. Journal of king Saud University, 19, 37-54.

Fakih, A. 2006. Case, agreement and wh-Movement in verbless constructions in Standard Arabic: A minimalist perspective. The university researcher journal, University of Ibb, 11, 1-16.

Fakih, A. (2014). Subject wh-movement in Najrani Arabic and minimalism. International journal of linguistics, 6(5) 90-108.

Fakih, A. (2015). Structural Case assignment in Standard Arabic: a feature-based-inheritance perspective. International journal of English linguistics, 5(5) 1-13.

Fakih, A. (2016). Agreement in Standard Arabic VSO and SVO word orders: a feature-based inheritance approach. Theory and practice in language studies, 6(1) 1-16.

Fassi Fehri, A. (1993). Issues in the structure of Arabic clauses and words. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Fassi Fehri, A. (2005). The Arabic case for a CP phase. Ms. Mohammad V University, Rabat.

Fillmore, C. (1968). The case for case. In E. Bach & R. T. Harms. (Eds.). Universals in linguistic theory. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. pp. 1-88.

Fillmore, C. (1971). Some problems for case grammar. In Richard J. O'Brien, S.J. (Ed.). (1971). Report of the twenty-second annual round table meeting on linguistics and language studies. Washington, D.C: Georgetown University Press. pp. 35-56.

Freiden, R., Otero, P.C, & Zubizarreta, M. L (Eds.) (2008). Foundational issues in linguistic theory, essays in honor of Jean-Roger Vergnaud. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Haegeman, L. (1994). Introduction to government and binding theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

Heck, F. & Richards, M. (2007). A probe-goal approach to agreement and incorporation restrictions in southern Tiwa. In J. Trommer & A. Opitz (Eds.). (2007). 1 2 many: One-to-many relations in grammar. Leipzig University, pp. 205-239.

Hornstein, N. (2001). Move! A minimalist theory of construal. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hornstein, N. (2009). A theory of syntax: minimal operations and universal grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ibn Al-Mubarrad, M. (898). ?al-muQtaDab. M. A. ʕaDiimah. Cairo: The Higher Council for Islamic Affairs.

Ibn Al-Sarraj, A. (928). al-?usool fii al-naHw [The foundations in grammar]. Beirut: Al-Resaalah Publishing.

Ibn Hisham, A. (1360). aawdah al-masaalik ila alfiyyat Ibn Malik [The clearest ways to Ibn Malik's a-rime]. Beirut: Daar Al-Nadwah Al-Jadidah.

Ibn-Jinni, O. (1002). allumaʕ fii al-ʕarabiyah. H. Almo?men. Beirut: Al-Nahdah Al-ʕarabiyah Library.

Ibn Malik (1274). Awdah Al-Masaalik. Beirut: Daar Ihiya Al-Turaath Al-arabi.

Kennedy, C. (2000). Topics in minimalist syntax. Linguistic Society of Japan. Retrieved from:

Lyons, J. (1966). Towards a ‘notional’ theory of the ‘parts of speech. Journal of Linguistics, 2, 209-236.

Mohammad, M. (1990). The problem of subject-verb agreement in Arabic: towards a solution. In M. Eid (ed.) Perspectives in Arabic Linguistics I. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Mohammad, M. (2000). Word order, agreement and pronominalization in Standard and Palestinian Arabic. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Musabhein, M. (2008). Case, agreement and movement in Arabic: a minimalist approach. Doctoral dissertation. University of Newcastle.

Mustafa, E. (1992). Ehyaa alnahw. Cairo: Daar Alkitab Al-Islami

Otsuka, Y. (2000). Ergativity in Tongan. Doctoral thesis. Oxford University.

Ouhalla, J. (1994). Introducing transformational grammar from rules to principles and parameters. London: Arnold.

Ouhalla, J. (1997). Remarks on focus in Standard Arabic. In M. Eid &. R. Ratcliffe (eds.) Perspectives on Arabic linguistics X: papers from the tenth annual symposium on Arabic linguistics. Amesterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 9-45.

Parody, C. (1993). Object shift in old Spanish: a minimalist theory approach. In Andersen, H. (1993). Historical Linguistics 1993: selected papers from the 11th international conference on historical linguistics. Amesterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 371-377.

Plunkett, B. (1993). The position of subjects in Modem Standard Arabic. In E. Mushira & C. Holes (eds.). Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics V: Papers from the Fifth Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 231-60.

Pollock, J. (1989). Verb movement, universal grammar, and the structure of IP. Linguistic inquiry, 20, 365-424.

Schütze, C. (2001). On the nature of default case. Syntax, 4, 205-238.

Sibawayh, A. (796). Al-Kitaab [The book]. A. Haroon (Ed.). (1973). Beirut: Daar Al-Jabal Press.

Soltan, U. (2007). On formal feature licensing in minimalism: aspects of Standard Arabic morphosyntax. Doctoral dissertation. University of Maryland.

Sproat, R. (1985). Welsh syntax and VSO structure. Natural language and linguistic theory, 3(2), 173-216.

Trask, R. (1994). A dictionary of grammatical terms in linguistics. London: Routledge.

Vergnaud, J. (1977). Letter to Noam Chomsky and Howard Lasnik on “filters and control”. In R. Freiden, P. Otero, & M. L. Zubizarreta (Eds.), (2008) Foundational issues in linguistic theory, essays in honor of Jean-Roger Vergnaud. Cambridge: MIT Press. pp. 3-15.

Wright, W. (1896). A grammar of the Arabic language. Beirut: Librairie du Liban.

Yaqoot, A. (1994). zaherat al-?eʕraab fii al-naHw ?l-ʕarabi wa tadbiiQuha fii al-Qur?aan al-kariim. Alexandria: Daar Al-Maʕrefah Al-Jameʕyah.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.