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  • Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XXVIII: Papers from the Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics, Gainesville, Florida, 2014 ed. by Youssef A. Haddad and Eric Potsdam
  • Uri Horesh (bio)
Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XXVIII: Papers from the Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics, Gainesville, Florida, 2014
Youssef A. Haddad and Eric Potsdam, eds.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2016. xii + 248 pp., index. ISBN: 9789027200327. Hardcover, $188.00.

The Perspectives subseries of the Benjamins series Studies in Arabic Linguistics (this is volume 4 of the Studies series) needs little introduction to scholars of Arabic linguistics. It is a long-standing, quasi-annual publication, of which the current volume is the twenty-seventh, the numbering having begun in the series’ previous iteration, often referred to informally as “the pink series” because of the color of the book cover prior to the Studies era. This particular volume includes ten articles based on presentations at the 2014 annual symposium organized by the Arabic Linguistics Society and held at the University of Florida. These articles are classified within three parts: phonetics and phonology, syntax, and sociolinguistics.

Normally, in a review of an edited volume, one begins with a chapter-by-chapter description of the contents. However, the editors—as editors often do—have done this for us in their concise introduction to the volume (pp. ix–xii). In this introduction, I was happy to read that the volume “draws attention to the micro-variation that exists among” Arabic dialects (ix). Micro-variation as a concept has mostly been applied to the kind of work done by variationist sociolinguists. Yet, while this volume only includes one paper classified as sociolinguistics, the majority of the other papers do indeed use data from one or more varieties of Arabic (and related languages; more on that below) to illustrate variations through the prisms of different theoretical [End Page 107] frameworks—or “perspectives,” as the title prescribes. In the remainder of this review, then, I focus on the contribution of the volume as a whole to the study of Arabic linguistics and the variation found and explained therein, with references to specific papers when warranted.

Unlike some previous volumes of Perspectives, many of which could be considered similar to a journal issue, in which most articles are not related to one another, I felt as if the papers in this volume do in fact form a somewhat cohesive collection of thoughts and ideas. Surely, as the papers are highly professional and include jargon and technical notations (e.g., statistical analysis, syntactic trees, spectrograms), they also present data in a way that is accessible to readers who specialize in subfields of linguistics other than the authors’. Take, for example, the first paper by Janet Watson and Barry Heselwood. This paper is based on Watson’s keynote address at the Florida conference but adds to it fine-grained phonetic analysis while articulately introducing readers not only to a variety of Arabic (San‘ani) but also to neighboring Modern South Arabian languages. While the latter are by no means varieties of Arabic, they form part of the Semitic phylum of which Arabic is a significant member. Moreover, they overlap territorially with Arabic varieties of the southern Arabian Peninsula. For many scholars of Arabic, these general facts are well known, but Watson and Heselwood spell out in detail how varieties of these two branches of Semitic interact.

The volume represents a wide range of Arabic dialects. In Cheng-Wei Lin’s paper alone, there is a survey of twenty varieties (one of them is Modern Standard Arabic) and a novel application of Nick Clements’s Feature Economy framework. Other papers include Palestinian dialects from both the Galilee (Dua’a Abu Elhija Mahajna and Stuart Davis) and Gaza (William Cotter), Jordanian (Zafer Lababidi and Hanyong Park; Ahmad Alqassas), and other dialects such as Moroccan and Egyptian varieties, scattered throughout the volume. It is particularly pleasing to see under-studied dialects prominently represented in the volume. Notably, Faruk Akkuş, in a solo paper and one coauthored with Elabbas Benmamoun, analyzes aspects of the syntax of the Anatolian Sason dialect, and Cotter presents a quantitative sociolinguistic analysis of Gaza City Arabic.

Language contact is dealt with in a...