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Ahlan Wa Sahlan: Functional Modern Standard Arabic for Beginners. (Brief Reviews of Books).

Ahlan Wa Sahlan: Functional Modern Standard Arabic for Beginners. By MAHDI ALOSH. New Haven: YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2000. Pp. xxv + 585.

This Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) textbook of thirty lessons differs considerably from those using a traditional grammar-translation approach in that it is "functional" in orientation. As Alosh explains in the introduction, "the focus, therefore, is on performing language functions using the language forms learned, not on analyzing them grammatically" (p. xviii). The book does not assume a linguistically sophisticated student but there are places in which the learner must wrestle with non-functional subject matter; e.g., when the articulatory phonetics of MSA is presented, including a midsagittal view of the speech tract (pp. 26-27), and the further diagrams showing the opposition of pharyngealized /s/ vs. /s/, and /d/ vs. /d/ (p. 42). Although on the whole accurate and not excessively intricate, one may quibble with some technical details: e.g., the consonant jim is not "usually pronounced just like the s in pleasure" (p. 27), but rather is most often realized throughout the Arab world as a voiced alveo-pala tal affricate. A word of caution to instructors: many a student's grammatical background might be inadequate for such concepts as [fa.sup.[subset]]il 'agent' and [na.sup.[subset]]ib [fa.sup.[subset]]il 'deputy agent' (p. 316).

One of the book's strengths is the presentation of culturally germane subject matter. For example, two pictures of traditional Arab male headgear are offered with a discussion of the kufiyya or yutra 'headeloth' and the [iqal.sup.[subset]] 'circular black band'. Students will also appreciate the material dealing with the modern Middle East, such as the story about an Arab girl from Qatar (pp. 230-32). Far less effective pedagogically are the numerous texts dealing with American themes.

Let me now turn to the tome's vocabulary. Unfortunately, Alosh has occasionally chosen rare items and forms: e.g., 'the woman' (twice on p. 121) is [al.sup.[contains]][imra.sup.[contains]]a (the first glottal stop is, in any case, erroneous since that hamzat ulwasl elidest (1)), when, in fact, [almar.sup.[contains]]a is far more frequent. We encounter maqsaf 'cafeteria' (pp. 204, 213, et passim), which is not given in N. S. Doniach's Oxford English-Arabic Dictionary of Current Usage (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1972). Although given in Hans Wehr's Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, ed. J Milton Cowan (1974, p. 769) as 'refreshment room', it is not common. One word used seems to be erroneous: 'tape recorder' is musajjila (pp. 57, 75, 117, 374, et passim). I only know musajjil, confirmed by Wehr (1974, p. 398). Upon checking with several native speakers, they accepted musajjil, but not musajjila. 'Tomato' is given as banadora (e.g., p. 407), hot Wehr (1974), p. 77) states that this is Syrian. I think that tam atim or tamata would be regarded as MSA much more so than banadora, although Doniach (p. 1277) lists all three. 'Laboratory' is given as maxbar (p. 191 et passim), whereas muxtabar is surely much more common.

Let me next take up some puzzling misvocalizations. MSA 'identity (card)' is huwiyya (Wehr 1974, p. 1037), yet it is vocalized (pp. 133, 543, et passim) hawiyya, which, in fact, is a colloquial pronunciation. 'Identity card' is given as muthaf (pp. 411, 536, et passim). Wehr (1974), p. 92) gives only mathaf. My informants rejected the /u/, which they thought dialectal. 'Petroleum, crude oil' is given as nift (pp. 452, 542, et passim), whereas Wehr (1974, p. 987) gives naft. My informants believed the /i/ occurred, but that it was incorrect for MSA. Munir [Ba.sup.[subset]]albaki's Al-Mawrid (Bairut: Dar EI-Ilm Lilmalayen, 1972, p. 679, gives the word only with kasra, however). Al-Munjid (Beirut: Catholic Press, 1956, p. 827) agrees with Wehr.

In conclusion, this is a good textbook. It certainly contains valuable material; however, many instructors will prefer other tomes, particularly since the MSA utilized is vocalized throughout. In my view, vocalized MSA is fine for the beginning lessons, but students must be released from the crutches of the diacritics (so too for Modern Hebrew) as soon as they possibly can, since "the real McCoy" is without them.

(1.) Another error occurs in writing the hamza of 'Monday' as [al.sup.[contains]]i[theta]nayn (pp. 271, 389, 5a8, et passim): this hamza should not be written, since it, too, is a hamzat ulwasi.
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Author:Kaye, Alan S.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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