Involuntary Syntactic Error of Interlingual Word Order When English Rigid Word Order Momentarily Deforms Arabic Clauses

  •  Saleh Jarallah AlQahtani    


This paper intends to explore the potential momentary influence of English rigid word order on the placement of Arabic preverbal subjects. The idea is that English as a Subject-Verb-Object language has one subject position; thus, it poses no restrictions on the distribution of determiner phrases in this position. By contrast, Standard Arabic (henceforth, Arabic) uses two different word orders (Subject-Verb/Verb-Subject-(Object), SVO/VSO). As a result, indefinite determiner phrases are not freely distributed in the subject position; that is, they can appear in the postverbal subject position -VSO but not in the preverbal subject position -SVO. Because the two languages use different syntactic word orders and different subject positions, two experimental tasks (an Arabic guided writing task and an English-to-Arabic translation written task) were administered to find out whether the English word order momentarily causes Arabic learners of English to violate their language subject distributions. Analysis of the performance of Arabic native participants in the two tasks revealed two important outcomes: a) when participants were asked to reorder scrambled words into full clauses, they significantly preferred VSO order; in contrast, b) when participants were asked to translate full English clauses into Arabic, they strikingly preferred SVO order violating syntactic parametric (distributional) restrictions on the placement of indefinite determiner phrases. In other words, they used indefinite determiner phrases in the preverbal subject position. Based on the results, the study argues that the improper use of indefinite determiner phrases in the preverbal subject position is not due to the implicit knowledge of Arabic grammar; it is due to the momentary influence of English syntactic word order involuntarily exerted by participants.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1923-869X
  • ISSN(Online): 1923-8703
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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