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A neo-Minimalist Account of Shift In number and gender in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an

Submitted by on April 13, 2013 – 1:34 pmNo Comment

A neo-Minimalist Account of Shift

In number and gender in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an

Dalal Mahmoud El Gemei[1]


               The present papers is a linguistic study of ‘iltifat i.e., shift in number and gender between the fa’il (subject) or mubtada’, (i.e. theme) and the verb in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an. The paper starts with three hypotheses: the first is that shift is only a rhetorical phenomenon; the second is that shift in number and gender is a case of subject-verb “partial agreement”; the third is that minimalist approaches (Chomsky: 1995) can account for these cases of Shift. To test these hypotheses , two different cases of Shift in number and one case of Shift in gender in some Qur’anic ayahs are studied. The examination shows that it is determined by word order or adjacency. It is a type of ‘semantic agreement’ which is determined by semantic factors, i.e. the context, and the semantic properties of the verb. Instead of being a type of ‘partial agreement’, Shift is a type of ‘full agreement’ that takes place between the verb and a semantic referent (SR)-underlying the surface subject (SS). The underlying semantic referent’s (SR) phi-features copied onto the verb are different from those of the surface subject (SS), thus resulting in Shift in number and gender. The study also shows that minimalist accounts of agreement fail to capture such aspects of Shift in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an. Instead a new approach termed the ‘neo-minimalist account’ which is based on minimalism and takes into account the semantic and syntactic aspects of Shift, is set up.


[1]  Associate Professor of Linguistics, Department of Foreign Languages, College of Education, King Faisal University, Al-Hasa KSA.

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