Abu-Mansour, Dr. Anas Hasan
Umm Al-Qura University
Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Dr. Anas Hasan Abu-Mansour
Umm Al-Qura University
P.O. Box 1245

Strand: Lexicogrammar other


The aim of this study is to provide a systemic-functional description of the clause in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). It is generally argued that the clause in MSA is composed of a number of systems. These systems are the transitivity, mood, and theme systems (Halliday 1967, 1985). It is shown that the functions of constituents in the clause are determined by options in these systems. These options in the three systems co-determine the structure of the clause in MSA. Users of MSA have three types of options in structuring clauses: experiential, interpersonal, and intra-textual.

It is argued that constituents in a clause are assigned functions in accordance with relations exhibited in the three aforementioned systems. Relations between elements in each system determine a different set of functions. Semantic functions, such as agent, patient, and goal, are determined by relations in the transitivity system. Syntactic functions, such as subject and predicate, are determined by relations in the mood system. Pragmatic functions, such as theme, topic, and focus, are determined by relations in the theme system.

It is demonstrated that a constituent in MSA can be simultaneously assigned a number of functions in a sentence. Accordingly, a constituent may be assigned the functions of agent, subject, theme, and topic at the same time. It is argued that, unlike semantic and syntactic functions, pragmatic function assignment is determined by contextual factors (both linguistic and situational. )

The interaction between thematization and transitivity is examined. It is shown that passivization in MSA establishes a mapping between thematic roles (theme and rheme), semantic relations (actor and goal), and grammatical relations (subject and predicate). It is argued that thematization governs passivization in MSA. It is further argued that thematization governs focus assignment in MSA. It is demonstrated that focus tends to fall on "new" information and that what is " given" is to be thematized.

A number of conclusions can be drawn from this study. The surface order of constituents in MSA is a manifestation of the theme/rheme functional dichotomy. The clause in MSA is self- sufficient with reference to these two pragmatic functions. Once these two functions have been established, the communicative message is understood and communication is possible. Users of MSA manipulate the order of constituents in a sentence so as to achieve intended communicative purposes. Therefore, syntactic and semantic processes cannot be viewed in isolation from the communicative (pragmatic) function of constituents.

Contextual factors play a significant role in determining the order of constituents in MSA. Both thematic variation and the information structure of the clause in MSA are governed by contextual factors.

The theme system prevails in Arabic syntax. Relations in this system determine function assignment in the other two systems, i.e. the transitivity and mood systems.