2018 Abstracts

(Speakers are listed in order of presentation, as detailed on the conference program.)

Annalise Pforr, Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
Modern Christian Palestinian Identity as Present in Israeli & International Legal Rhetoric

The purpose of this research is to evaluate pre-Biblical terminology as it exists within Knesset legislation, U.N. Security Council resolutions, International Court of Law advisories, and similar sources of law which are applicable to indigenous Christian populations in Israel and the West Bank.  Via textual analysis of the original Hebrew, Arabic, and English terminology of these legislative documents, a trend emerges where Christians experience increasing legal distinguishment over time from other religious minority groups within laws originally in the Hebrew language. This trend is evident in the case study of the 2014 Knesset legal revival of the Aramean identity of antiquity as a modern demographic category.  This research perspective supports the use of linguistic identity within legal frameworks as an alternative form of analysis for pre-Biblical language, which continues to evolve in its modern-era application.

Sarah Mountain, U Arizona
Conceptions of Ashkenazi Identity and the “Other” through the Mizrahi Hebrew Dialect in Israel

One of the most perplexing linguistic issues in modern Israel is the paradox of mainstream attitudes towards the Mizrahi dialect of Hebrew. The Jewish community is ethnically divided between Ashkenazim (from Eastern Europe) and Mizrahim (from Africa and the Middle East). The Mizrahi dialect (characterized by particular phonemes, among other features (Zuckermann 2005), including pharyngeal phonemes, ħ/ and / ʕ/ (Gafter 2014) is prestigious due to its proximity to Biblical Hebrew and official “correctness” (sanctioned by the Hebrew Language Academy). However, mainstream (Ashkenazi) Israeli society also stigmatizes this dialect, out of association with low socioeconomic status and with Arab identity (Lefkowitz 2004). Additionally, Gafter (2014) has found that the Mizrahi dialect has fallen out of use, and both he and Davis (1984) show results predicting this dialect may soon disappear. While others have uncovered the stigmatization/prestige dichotomy defining Mizrahi Hebrew, I propose underlying sociocultural reasons for why mainstream Israeli society has such conflicting feelings towards the dialect. Specifically, I argue that conflicting conceptions of identity in mainstream Israeli society mean that Ashkenazim at once feel more of a connection with Europe and European identity and a symbolic (yet undeniably weaker) connection with the Levant. Meanwhile, and crucially, an Orientalist mindset in Ashkenazim overwhelms any symbolic façade of support for the Mizrahi dialect. These contradictory forces explain the paradoxical attitudes towards the Mizrahi dialect; the European disdains it while the Levantine idolizes it.

Sociologically, we might presuppose that there would be a strong sense of brotherhood and equality between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim due to their common religion and unity in the modern nation of Israel. Tsur (2007) points out that a main tenet of Zionism holds Jewish fraternity (regardless of race) in high esteem. However, these groups are divided socioeconomically, culturally, and linguistically (Bar-Haim & Semyonov 2015; Semyonov & Lerenthal 1991; Gafter 2014). At the founding of their new society, the new inhabitants of Palestine were quickly divided by race, with Ashkenazim in power over their Middle Eastern compatriots instead of working together based on a common religious background (Tsur 2007; Gafter 2014; Shohat 2010). This failure to achieve social unity is in line with the ideas of Israeli author Amos Oz, who says, “Once a dream is fulfilled, it is destined by the finish to be flawed” (Oz & Ludden 2004).

This divergence is showcased by linguistic attitudes in Israel. For example, as stated above, the Mizrahi dialect occupies a unique place in the collective Ashkenazi consciousness, as they are both prestigious and stigmatized. Ultimately, the Mizrahi dialect is in decline (Gafter 2014). The latter conception of the Mizrahi dialect has clearly won out in mainstream Israeli society.

The sociocultural crux of my argument lies in the following. The formal revitalization of Hebrew focused on connecting Palestine’s new inhabitants to their ancestral homeland through more traditionally Semitic linguistic traits and eschewing any symbolic mark of the Diaspora (Morag 1993). This meant choosing the Sephardic dialect over the Ashkenazi dialect. However, Ashkenazim anchored themselves to European ideals and maintained negative attitudes towards the Levant, per the principles and biases laid out in Said’s Orientalism (1978); this is seen in various aspects of Israeli culture, such as the literature of Amos Oz (Oz 2004; Bergman, Mandil, & Portman 2015), and even in the personal beliefs of Ben-Gurion (Shohat 2010). I also briefly explore trauma theory as a force interweaving with Orientalism to reinforce this prejudice (Podeh 2000; Alexander and Dromi 2012). I argue that this prejudice led to disdain of the Mizrahi dialect, and that Orientalism and related forces drive linguistic prejudice in Israel.


Alexander, J. & Dromi, S. M. (2012). Holocaust and trauma: Moral restriction in Israel. In J. C. Alexander (Ed.) Trauma: a social theory (97-117). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bar-Haim, E. & Semyonov, M. (2015). Ethnic Stratification in Israel. In R. Sáenz, D. Embrick & N. P. Rodríguez (Eds.) The International Handbook of the Demography of Race and Ethnicity (323-337). Springer Netherlands.

Bergman, R., Mandil, D. (Producers), & Portman, N. (Director). (2015). A tale of love and darkness [Motion picture]. Israel: Focus World.

Davis, L. (1984). The pharyngeals in Hebrew: Linguistic change in apparent time. Folia Linguistica Historica, 5(1), 25-32.

Gafter, R. J. (2014). “The most beautiful and correct Hebrew”: Authenticity, ethnic identity and linguistic variation in the greater Tel Aviv area. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Stanford University, California.

Lefkowitz, D. (2004). Words and stones: The politics of language and identity in Israel. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press.

Morag, S. (1993). The emergence of Modern Hebrew: Some sociolinguistic perspectives. In L. Glinert (Ed.), Hebrew in Ashkenaz: A language in exile (208-221). New York: Oxford University Press.

Oz, A. (2004). A tale of love and darkness. (N. de Lange, Trans.). New York: Harcourt, Inc. (Original work published 2002)

Oz, A., & Ludden, J. (2004, December 5). A memoir of Amos Oz, and Israel. All Things Considered. Podcast retrieved from https://www.npr.org/programs/all-things-considered/

Podeh, E. (2000). History and Memory in the Israeli Educational System: The Portrayal of the Arab-Israeli Conflict in History Textbooks (1948-2000). History and Memory, 12(1), 65-100. doi:10.2979/his.2000.12.1.65

Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books.

Semyonov, M. & Lerenthal, T. (1991). Country of origin, gender, and the attainment of socioeconomic status: A study of stratification in the Jewish population in Israel. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 10, 325-343.

Shohat, E. (2010). Israeli cinema: East/west and the politics of representation. London: I.B Tauris & Co. Ltd.

Tsur, Y. (2007). Israeli historiography and the ethnic problem. In B. Morris (Ed.), Making Israel (231-277). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press

Zuckermann, G. (2005). “Abba, why was Professor Higgins trying to teach Eliza to speak like our cleaning lady?”: Mizrahim, Ashkenazim, prescriptivism and the real sounds of the Israeli language. Australian Journal of Jewish Studies 19, 210-231.

Courtney Diranieh, UT Austin
Multilingualism and Multi-ethnic Identity in Half-Arab University Students

How is identity shaped in “half-Arab” young adults who grew up in a post 9/11 society which tends to find conflict with “the other?”   Immigrants and refugees from the Middle East living in the United States may experience an internal conflict on how to raise their next generation.  The occurrences of assimilation and appropriation versus the feeling of the Arabic word, al-ghorba, or longing for the homeland, greatly influence parents’ choice of language in communicating to his or her child.  The use of Arabic language in the household has been shown to deepen ones connection to his or her Arab heritage, yet does a lack of Arabic create a distance in this connection?  When immigrants select life partners of differing ethnicities, children from multiethnic marriages may find themselves challenged by their own discovery of self-identification, thus reaching identity affirmation later than mono-ethnic children.

Rhetoric involving migration of ethnic Arabs in the U.S. has increased exponentially over the past decade, thus marking an increased importance to focus on shaping identity in ethnically half-Arab young adults and because language so closely links us to identity, the aim of this presentation seeks to explore how languages and environmental influences affect ethnic identity formation among half-Arab university students.  Languages spoken inside and outside of the home, travel to the Middle East/North Africa region, food and traditions shared within the family, religious practices and color of skin arose as factors affecting identity affirmation and/or rejection in half-Arab university students interviewed.

Shireen Smalley, U Michigan
The Public and the Personal: Reading Autobiography in the Poetry of Mahmoud Darwish

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008) has long been considered the national poet of Palestine, for his poetry that “expresses the spirit of the people”[1] in a simultaneously collective and individual voice. With the international and historic fervor for Darwish’s work comes a desire to know the man behind the verse and to discover the fact within a traditionally fictive genre. Darwish himself has proclaimed his poetry to “stand in the middle, on the border between the public voice and the personal voice.”[2] But how much of Darwish’s poetry is personal, and how much is public? And how is one to read Darwish’s poetry that is more autobiographical in nature?

In this paper, I will analyze the autobiographical nature of Mahmoud Darwish’s selected poetry, including Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone, “an intimate autobiography and a collective memory of the Palestinian people”[3] and Memory for Forgetfulness, “a journey into
personal and collective memory.”[4] This paper will argue that Darwish’s poetry can be read autobiographically, without the pact between reader and author customarily present in the genre of autobiography.[5] This paper will critically analyze Darwish’s autobiographical references to time and space in his poetry set after the 1948 nakba, concluding that the poet’s loss of homeland at age six prompted different literary anchors that underpin his poetic expression of self.

Through this close reading, this paper will also perform a comparative literary analysis of Darwish’s poetry alongside foundational Arabic autobiographies from the era of the nahda and beyond, including Gurgi Zaidan: His Life and Thought, Taha Hussein’s al-Ayyam, Fadwa Tuqan’s A Mountainous Journey: a Poet’s Autobiography, and others. Using these texts, Darwish’s autobiographical poetry will be analyzed for the prevalence and significance of themes common to the Arabic autobiography, including origin, memory, fatherhood, and political awakening.

Lastly, this paper will consider the risks of reading Darwish’s poetry autobiographically, in recognition of Emily Dickinson’s famous adage to “tell all the truth but tell it slant.”[6] Likewise, this paper will consider the dangers of eliding the personal in Darwish’s poetry to collectivize and homogenize the Palestinian experience, as often occurs in the politicization and subsequent erasure of Darwish’s erotic poetry. Ultimately, this paper hopes to redefine conceptions of individuality and collectivism in Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry, making room for a new understanding of poetic confession in the Arab World.


[1][2] Yeshurun, Helit. ““Exile Is So Strong Within Me, I May Bring It to the Land” A Landmark 1996 Interview with Mahmoud Darwish.” Journal of Palestine Studies 42, no. 1 (2012): 46-70.
[3] Darwish, Mahmoud. Why did you leave the horse alone? Archipelago, 2012.
[4] Darwish, Mahmoud. Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982. Univ of California Press, 2013.
[5] Lejeune, Philippe. “The autobiographical pact.” On autobiography (1989).
[6] Dickinson, Emily. “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” The complete poems of Emily Dickinson (1960).

Rawad Wehbe, U Pennsylvania
Were Modernity a Stone: Metaphor in Adūnīs’s Aghānī Mihyar al-Dimashqī

“Were youth a stone,” laments Adūnīs in his Introduction to Arabic Poetry. Recalling the verses of the Jāhiliyah poets, Adūnis echoes their praise for the stone’s impervious nature and its capability to withstand the vicissitudes of time. In Aghānī Mihyār al-Dimashqī, Adūnīs raises the stone as a mirror to reveal the resilience of the poetic tradition as well as an opportunity to pulverize it and—from its broken fragments and shards—create language and poetry anew.

This paper explores the poetic schema of the stone in Adūnīs’s poetry, but also in how it resonates with the poetic tradition of the ʿAbbāsids which extends to the Jāhiliayh. While the stone for Adūnīs is the sedimentation of tradition that contains the potential for a new poetic language, the stone for Abū Tammām constitutes a volatile substance which he could transform into water, a necessary figure of speech to the badīʿ style for which he was known. Thus, the stone is at once a metaphor employed by the ancients and a metaphor for poetic tradition itself. By reading the metaphor of the former through that of latter, I argue that the stone operates upon
a larger metaphorical structure based on the ambiguous nature of its substance between two different states: static/dynamic, solid/liquid, stillness/motion, tradition/modernity. For Adūnīs, this metaphor is both rooted in the tradition and generated by creativity.

While previous scholarship has treated Modernist Arabic poetry and its relationship to the tradition of the ʿAbbasid muḥdathūn, this paper identifies a pattern that draws attention to the study of istiʿārah (metaphor) in the Arabic poetic tradition. Far from becoming obsolete, this paper reorients the significance of metaphor in the development of Modernist Arabic poetry in the 20th century.

Sarah Baker, UT Austin
“Metaphtonymy” in Early Hebrew Poetry: Dimensions of the Ancient Imagination

Darkness (ḥšk) is a rich and fluid image in ancient Hebrew poetry—while it occasionally appears in a positive context as part of the cosmic order, it more typically carries a negative sense, especially in the figurative language of the “complaint psalms.” In these texts, darkness is associated with distress, wickedness, danger, and above all with separation from the divine sight and presence, the most extreme form of which is death. Nowhere in the psalms is the language of darkness, distance, and death more concentrated than in Psalm 88. Through a close examination of darkness imagery in the biblical psalms, informed by the use of similar language elsewhere in Hebrew poetry (e.g., the book of Job), I will demonstrate that “darkness” served in certain cases not simply in a metaphorical sense, but rather as a standard metonym for the underworld known to ancient Northwest Semitic speakers as She’ol. In order to clarify this distinction, my presentation will also explore the cognitive difference between metaphor and metonymy and the ways in which these figures of speech can interact with one another (a process which linguist Louis Goossens has dubbed “metaphtonymy”). By recognizing specific metonymic uses of “darkness” in biblical poetry and setting them alongside other prominent associations of darkness in the figured world of the ancient Hebrew writers, we can arrive at a deeper understanding of texts like Psalm 88 and the impact they were intended to have on those who participated in their performance. Though my presentation is focused on tracing how the particular image of “darkness” functions both metaphorically and metonymically in ancient Hebrew poetry, my hope is that it will also provide helpful insights for others studying the linguistic strategies of metaphor and metonymy in ancient and modern literature.

Juan Pinto, UT Austin
Transitional Semi-Allophonic Spirantization in Tiberian Hebrew

Traditionally, the spirantization of the BGDKPT consonants has been considered an example of allophonic variation. Contrary to this, I present evidence here that Tiberian vocalization reflects a stage of phonologization—or, as Larry Hyman has called it in order to distinguish it from a similar process, phonemicization. In other words, by the time the text of the Hebrew Bible was voweled, these plosive/fricative pairs were undergoing a transition away from being allophones and towards becoming full phonemes in the language. None of the evidence points toward unexpected spirantization at the beginning of words, suggesting that the transition toward phonemic distinction was only taking place in word-medial and word-final contexts.
As expected for a language that reflects recently-active allophony, the majority of the evidence in the limited corpus of the Masoretic text shows BGDKPT plosives/fricatives in complementary distribution (they appear in mutually exclusive contexts). However, cases of unexpected spirantization, together with evidence of a minimal pair showing contrastive distribution, can be best explained through the view that these variations were no longer fully allophonic.

Laura Rose Faircloth, UT Austin
Interaction of Vowel Quality and Coronal, Emphatic, and Pharyngeal Fricatives in Arabic

Formants are acoustic correlates of vowel production. The first formant (F1) correlating with height of the tongue and the second formant (F2) with backness. Emphatic coronals in Arabic are distinguished from plain coronals by a secondary articulation characterized by lower F2 and high F1 in adjacent vowels [1, 4, 6]. The secondary articulation has been described as pharyngealization [5, 7] and uvularization [8]. Arabic also has pharyngeal fricatives, which are associated with higher F1 values [3]. If emphatic consonants are pharyngealized, the effects of emphatic and pharyngeal consonants on adjacent vowels would be similar. A pilot production experiment compared the effects of plain, emphatic, and pharyngeal fricatives on adjacent vowels to illuminate the articulation of emphatics and the duration of these effects.

A speaker of Palestinian Arabic recorded 240 words containing syllables with the voiceless fricatives /s sˤ ħ/ followed by /aː/, /iː/, or /uː/. F1 and F2 were measured at the onset, midpoint, and offset of the vowel to examine the duration of consonantal effects [2]. It was expected that vowels adjacent to pharyngeal and emphatic fricatives would have higher F1 and lower F2 values than vowels adjacent to plain consonants. It was also expected that emphatic consonants would have a larger and longer effect on the low vowel /aː/ than on /iː/ or /uː/ because of their high tongue position. Mixed effect models with the factors of TYPE (plain, emphatic, or pharyngeal) and VOWEL (/aː/, /iː/, or /uː/) were run for F1 and F2 values at each position.

As shown in Figure 1, the effects of F1 were restricted in duration, with an effect of TYPE at the onset (p < 0.0001) and midpoint (p < 0.0001), but not at the offset. There was also an interaction of TYPE and VOWEL at the onset (p = .0002) and midpoint (p = .002), where /aː/ and /uː/ adjacent to pharyngeal consonants had higher F1 values than adjacent to plain and emphatic consonants. For F2, there was an effect of TYPE at all positions (onset p < 0.0001; midpoint p < 0.0001; offset p < 0.0003), but TYPE only interacted with VOWEL at the midpoint (p <0.0001). Lower F2 values in /aː/ occurred with emphatic, but not plain or pharyngeal, consonants. For the vowel /iː/, F2 was lower with emphatic consonants than plain consonants at the onset (p=0.0205) but not at the midpoint or offset. For the vowel /uː/, F2 was lower with emphatic consonants at the offset (p=0.0049), but not the onset or midpoint. The effects of these consonants on F1 was restricted to the parts of the vowel closest to the consonant. The effects on F2 of emphatics on /aː/ extended throughout the vowel, but effects on /iː/ and /uː/ were more variable. The leads to the question of how plain and emphatic consonants are distinguished adjacent to the high vowels, since the center of gravity of /s/ and /sˤ/ were not different either (p = 0.7604).

Figure 1 Formant trajectories of /iː/, /aː/, and /uː/ preceding Plain, Emphatic, and Pharyngeal

1. Al-Masri, Mohammad, and Allard Jongman. Acoustic Correlates of Emphasis in Jordanian Arabic: Preliminary Results. 2004.
2. Bessell, Nicola. “Local and Non-Local Consonant-Vowel Interaction in Interior Salish.” Phonology, vol. 15, 1998, pp. 1–40.
3. Butcher, Andrew, and Kusay Ahmad. “Some Acoustic and Aerodynamic Characteristics of Pharyngeal Consonants in Iraqi Arabic.” Phonetica, vol. 44, 1987, pp. 156–72.
4. Card, Elizabeth. A Phonetic and Phonological Study of Arabic Emphasis. Cornell University, 1983.
5. Davis, Stuart. “Emphasis Spread in Arabic and Grounded Phonology.” Linguistic Inquiry, vol. 26, no. 3, Summer 1995, pp. 465–98.
6. Jongman, Allard, et al. “Acoustics and Perception of Emphasis in Urban Jordanian Arabic.” Journal of Phonetics, vol. 39, no. 1, Jan. 2011, pp. 85–95, doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2010.11.007.
7. Watson, Janet. The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic. Oxford University Press, 2007.
8. Zawaydeh, Bushra Adnan. “An Acoustic Analysis of Uvularization Spread in Ammani-Jordanian Arabic.” Studies in the Linguistic Sciences, vol. 27, no. 1, Spring 1997, pp. 185–200.

Øyvind Bjøru, UT Austin
Transitivity alternations in the derived verbal stems in Arabic

In this paper, I will use recent advances in transitivity theory to show how the Arabic verbal stems can be seen as performing a quite specific function in terms of semantic transitivity. The derived verbal stems in the Semitic languages are commonly explained in one of two ways: 1) in terms of diathesis, with each stem being ascribed a core grammatical voice, to which exceptions are mere variations, or 2) by means of a more or less exhaustive list of otherwise disparate syntactic and semantic functions. Both of these approaches are inadequate in that they either give too much weight to emblematic voice distinctions (passive, reflexive, causative, etc.), or fail to account for what allows varied syntactic and semantic categories to be expressed by the same morphological form. I will show that configurations of three parameters of the Agent and Patient, viz. volition, instigation, and affectedness as it relates to the verbal action can elucidate both oppositions and overlaps within the system. In doing so, I use a comparative Semitic framework to outline general syntactic and semantic tendencies for each stem.

Estefi Valenzuela, UT Austin
The semantic evolution of طلع /ṭalaʕ/ and Salir: From Motion Verbs to Pragmatic Markers?

Motion verbs have been shown to follow stable paths of grammaticalization that can be found cross-linguistically with significant regularity. While the evolution of the verbs ‘to go’ and ‘to come’ has attracted the attention of most research on grammaticalization (Devos & Van der Wal, 2014), other verbs, that similarly encode motion as their original meaning, remain largely overlooked by the literature. This study aims to contribute to the body of knowledge of the grammaticalization framework by analyzing the Arabic motion verb طلع /ṭalaʕ/ and its Spanish counterpart salir, ‘to come out’ (typically glossed in dictionaries as ‘to appear’ or ‘to rise’). Over time, these verbs have experienced a significant semantic development from their original meaning linked to a motion event (1)(4) to more abstract contexts where this concept of motion is metaphorical in nature (2)(5), i.e. ‘to come out’ ‘to leave’, or has been completely lost (3)(6):

طلعت الشمس .1
/ṭalaʕat al-shams/
The sun came out (lit. ‘appeared’).
قلبي طلع من مطرحه .2
/qalbī ṭalaʕ min maṭraḥu/
My heart came out of my chest (lit. ‘its place’).
بنهاية المحكمة هي طلعت بريئة .3
/bi-nihāyat al-maḥkama hiya ṭalaʕat barīʔa /
At the end of the trial, she turned out to be innocent.

4. Salgo de mi casa cada mañana.
I leave my house every morning.
5. Se te van a salir las venas del cuello.
Your veins are bulging out of your neck.
6. ¿Salió bien la boda de tu hija?
Did your daughter’s wedding go well?

Here, I reconstruct the grammaticalization path that these verbs have experienced by classifying their semantic meanings, as found in historical and contemporary data. More specifically, I establish a comparison between the evolution of both verbs and, in doing so, I show that the grammaticalization path that these two verbs followed is remarkably similar. The preliminary results of my study suggest that in their original meanings /ṭalaʕ/ and salir designated the action of ‘moving from an unknown or invisible place to a known or visible place in a rapid manner’. Gradually, the concrete meaning of motion weakened and the verbs developed a pragmatic meaning in a serial construction with speech verbs. Moreover, I argue that the main trigger of the grammaticalization process these verbs underwent is precisely the notion of ‘change of state’, embedded in the original meaning of these verbs.

Finally, I discuss the significance of the analogous semantic expansion that this type of verb has developed in both languages. The intense language contact situation between Arabic and Romance in the Iberian Peninsula takes us irremediably to consider the role of contact as a possible cause for this parallel development. However, the evidence found in my data suggests that both languages were already undergoing a process of grammaticalization at the time when they came in contact. Therefore, the most feasible explanation includes the hypothesis that the path of grammaticalization shown for the verbs طلع /ṭalaʕ/ and salir reveals a cross-linguistic typology of semantic change not documented in the literature until now. The implications of this study are particularly relevant since the grammaticalization process of verbs such as ‘to come out’ has not been previously recorded and it could open the door for future research with similar verbs in other languages.

Matthew Bird, Brigham Young U
Negotiating speaking expectations during study abroad in Jordan

Study abroad is a common pedagogical intervention to accelerate second-language students’ acquisition of both the target language and cultural understanding. While most study abroad research provides positive evidence for its effectiveness, many students continue to struggle with both language and culture while abroad. Our goal was to explore the experiences of students in Amman, Jordan who struggled to engage with the Arabic language and its speakers. Using data from interviews, observations, and weekly language journals, and methods from Charmaz’s (2006) intrepretive grounded theory approach, we developed a theory that frames participant speaking experiences within a process of negotiating personal and program expectations. This grounded framework provides unique insights for language program directors and instructors abroad as they design interventions and encourage participants to immerse themselves in the host language and culture. Learners who engaged in a process of negotiating different personal and program expectations found creative ways to satisfy both, whereas those who chose not to confront this tension found themselves less and less engaged in their speaking efforts. We discuss the implications that better understanding these tensions has on the design and delivery of foreign language study abroad programs.

Eric Young, Brigham Young U
Promoting passion and personalization: Combining projects and practice in proficiency-based teaching

Not every student who comes to a language class fits the description of ‘the ideal language learner’. Some students are intrinsically motivated to want to learn the language no matter what obstacles they face. Some students are experienced in identifying their linguistic strengths and weaknesses and making plans to address them. However, many students are in class simply to find out if they will like their new language, expecting the teacher to show them how to study it. Although the follower attitude serves language learners in the beginning stages of their learning, they eventually find themselves in a situation where they have less structure and teacher support, such as on study abroad.

To deal with these two challenges, I have incorporated elements of project-based learning (PBL) into my second semester Arabic course design. Like task-based language learning (TBLL), PBL is a constructivist learning model that empowers learners to take some control of their own learning and to engage in authentic learning experiences. Thomas (2000) outlined five defining characteristics of PBL projects: (1) they are central to the learning experience, not supplemental; (2) they have a driving question; (3) they involve investigation leading to real learning; (4) they are student-led; and (5) they are realistic (Thomas, 2000, p.3).

A major concern I have in adopting a PBL model in my Arabic curriculum is the effect this would have on my students as they go on to other Arabic classes. As a graduate teaching assistant, I teach no more than one class per semester. Additionally, I do not control the curriculum used in other classes. To some degree it is expected that all students passing from class to class attain a certain core vocabulary and core grammatical knowledge. Thus, while students would benefit from PBL, they might be at an overall disadvantage in subsequent courses, relative to their peers.

Because the archetype PBL model places projects at the very center of the course, I opted to implement an adapted model for my second semester Arabic class. In my course design, I followed a largely task-referenced (Van den Branden, Bygate, & Norris, 2009, p.9) curriculum with a secondary emphasis on project-based learning. The task-referenced curriculum will maintain a focus on developing functional Arabic communication skills while maintaining some focus on form. The addition of peripheral projects will allow students to explore the beauty of Arabic language and culture in a lower-stakes environment.

Projects in this design will take the form of “packaged” projects, according to Thomas’ (2000) description, and not allow students complete freedom of choice. That is, project category and sub-category will be chosen for them (e.g., a ‘Literature Snippets’ task in the Reading Project), but they will choose from several possible tasks related to the project and choose the specific material to work with. That is, in the ‘Literature Snippets’ task, they will choose one book in the Ragol Al Mostaheel series and select a task they would like to focus on with that book. This packaging combines the benefits of increased student freedom with my knowledge of Arabic culture.

Overall, an adapted use of PBL should help me strike a balance between preparing students to work with different instructors in my institution while giving them an opportunity to explore different aspects of Arabic language and culture, and to increase their motivation through increased autonomy.


Thomas, J. W. (2000). A review of research on Project-Based Learning. The Autodesk Foundation, 1–45. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-009-0302-x

Van den Branden, K., Bygate, M., & Norris, J. (2009). Task-based language teaching: Introducing the reader. In Van den Branden, K., Bygate, M., & Norris, J. (Eds.), Task-based language teaching: A reader (pp. 1–13). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishers.

Michael White, Brigham Young U
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Small Corpora in Egyptian Arabic through Findings on mumkɪn ‘possible,’ yɪmkɪn ‘may,’ and laɦsɛn ‘because’

Recent research results derived from large corpora studies cast doubt on the validity and reliability of the small corpus (Biber 2015). This paper seeks to prove for Egyptian Arabic that which Carter and McCarthy (1995) found to be true for English, namely that a small corpus can be used to create clear and accurate grammar descriptions. Even though Egyptian Arabic has been extensively studied, a review of available materials reveals confusion about the grammar, especially concerning mumkɪn ‘possible’, yɪmkɪn ‘may’, and laɦsɛn ‘lest; because.’

Explanations for the proper usage of the words are vague and inconsistent. For mumkɪn ‘possible’ and yɪmkɪn ‘may,’ Badawi’s (2009) description says only that “modals are usually followed by a bare form, but certain modals can be followed by a perfective verb.” Without offering a list of which modals belong to which group, his explanation is incomplete. Wilmsen (2001) contradicts Bedawi’s claim by stating that modals must be followed by a verb in the indicative. Both are refuted by Awny (1999) who maintains that “modals can act with all tenses.” The subject is altogether avoided by Al-Tonsi (2010) who explains that the tense of a clause containing a modal is expressed using a helping verb placed before the modal.

Guidance on the use of laɦsɛn when used to mean ‘because’ is equally as vague. Badawi (2009) explains only how to distinguish the laɦsɛn of ‘lest’ from the laɦsɛn of ‘because.’ There is no mention of how to distinguish the usage for laɦsɛn ‘because’ from ʕaʃæ:n ‘because.’ However, Badawi is not alone in his quick treatment of this complex conjunction.

To resolve this confusion, a two-million-word corpus was created, split evenly between spoken and written Egyptian Arabic. Nearly 5,000 concordance lines were studied using Sinclair’s (1999) method. Examples from the corpus indicate that none of the previous explanations are adequate with respect to how these words operate. The results reveal that the verbs following mumkɪn are restricted to the present tense indicative; however, this is not the case with yɪmkɪn. The concordance lines also expose unmentioned requirements on the type of clauses that can follow laɦsɛn. Badawi (2009) mentions that laɦsɛn becomes ‘because’ when followed by a clause that “expresses a real state of affairs.” However, the corpus shows that the clause following laɦsɛn must also describe an undesirable state of affairs.

These patterns show the usefulness of small Egyptian Arabic corpora in revealing the preferred use of mumkɪn ‘possible,’ yɪmkɪn ‘may,’ and laɦsɛn ‘because’ suggesting that corpora should play a role in future treatments of the dialect.

Arkan Kazal, UT Austin
The Coverage of the Battle for Mosul in Arabic Newspapers: A Multiplicity of Narratives

Stretching over a period of nine months, the battle for Mosul saw the official Iraqi forces recapture the city from ISIS. With its immense significance both nationally and internationally, the battle drew a great deal of attention from the press. The Arabic coverage of the battle lacked uniformity as different newspapers told divergent, sometimes even conflicting, narratives of the battle. But why would such a seemingly uncontroversial battle between the forces of a democratically elected government on the one hand and ISIS on the other generate divergent narratives in the first place?

The divergence in the narratives revolved around the participation of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in the battle. Seen by its opponents as a Shi’ite militia, the PMF faced accusations of terrorizing the Sunni controlled areas they retook from ISIS. For the supporters of the PMF, however, its presence in multiple battles against ISIS ensured short battles with decisive victories and minimal losses. By comparing the coverage of the battle for Mosul in multiple Arabic newspapers, this paper presents a historiographical comparison of the journalistic accounts of a single, yet very important, battle in Iraq’s modern history.

Arvin Maghsoudlou, Southern Methodist University
Re-evaluating the Significance of Islamic Histories in the Study of the Sasanians

Islamic history books have been widely employed as secondary sources to study Sasanian history. However, because these histories were written centuries after the fall of the Sasanians, their contribution for understanding the culture, religion and art of the Sasanians have been often undermined and their significance have been exclusively limited to their historical accuracy.

Two primary sources to study Sasanian history are Sasanian rock reliefs and coins. The reliefs, based on their complex and rich symbolism, have been considered as one of the more important Iranian sources of information on the Sasanians. Although many studies have been conducted on these reliefs, our understanding of the content and the intentions behind making them is still far from complete. This is mostly due to the fact that there is simply no extant contemporary Sasanian textual source to help understand the visual material.

In this study, I compared the events and stories depicted in the reliefs with the relevant narratives in historical texts of the Islamic period (both in New Persian and Arabic). By showing the peculiar analogies between the content of these texts and the reliefs, and by considering that many of these texts were in fact translations of the Sasanian Royal Annals (now lost), I propose that both the histories and reliefs are identical in content, and therefore, they were components of a systematic intellectual endeavor carried out by a body of informed scholars inside the Sasanian court. Subsequently, I argue that some narratives in Islamic histories could be regarded as the lost Sasanian narratives and would therefore help us better understand the content of the Sasanian visual material.

Oda Winsnes, Professional Translator
Translating Violence: Strategies Employed in European Translations of Samar Yazbek’s Bawabat Ard al-Adam

In the vein of Gideon Toury’s Descriptive Translation Studies, I investigate techniques of what Lawrence Venuti has called foreignization and domestication in translating discourse on violence from Arabic into European languages. Specifically, I will look at the translation of Samar Yazbek’s war diary “The Crossing: My journey to the shattered heart of Syria” from 2015 in its English, French, Danish, and Norwegian translations, and through a close comparison with the Arabic original, I will establish a set of corresponding elements—words, phrases, expressions, or tokens—which in turn can be generalized into what underlying strategies are at work in either bringing a flavor of the foreign culture and literary conventions into the target text, i.e., foreignization, or adapting the text to conform more fully with the target language and its immediate cultural context, i.e., domestication. Having shown what tendency characterizes each translation, I look at what participants in the translation process could have forced the strategies involved, e.g., publishers, (perceived or planned) audience, a distribution or promotional strategy, funding, personal styles or preferences of the translators, or the wishes and concessions of the author herself.

Weston Bland, U Pennsylvania
The Spirit of Rebellion: Khalil Gibran and the Protestant Mission

Within the corpus of his works, Lebanese poet Gibran Khalil Gibran regularly employed religion as a central theme. Through the visions of prophets and madmen, or the pantheistic pursuit of God in nature, realization of divine truths frequently appears as a climax in Gibran’s poetry.

Likewise, an important theme in Gibran’s work was criticism of religious practice and institutions. The extent of Gibran’s critical portrayal of religious hierarchies in his writing has led commentators to identify his works as part of a particularly Protestant project. In his biography of Gibran, Khalil Hawi claimed, in regard to one of his early works, that the poet’s goal was the “transformation of Maronites into Protestants.” Critic Shmuel Moreh follows this line in his discussion of the Mahjari school of Arabic poetry, framing Gibran and his colleagues as an extension of the Protestant missionary project in Lebanon, both through the liberating influence of the Protestant ideal on their poetic form and the emphasis on individual interpretation of sacred texts in their content. The result of these analyses is the framing of Gibran as part of a triumphalist narrative of the Protestant mission in Lebanon in which the missionaries’ efforts in evangelism and education are the origin for trends in poetic production, with the poets themselves furthering this mission through the themes employed in their work.

This paper considers two early collections of Gibran that have been singled out for their rebellious themes and role as part of a “Protestant” literary project: Ara’is al-Muruj (1906) and al-Arwah al-Mutamarrida (1908). By focusing on the centrality of the method of critique and the theme of rebellion in their contained works, this paper argues that while these two collections are imbued with a spirit of defiance to religious hierarchies and tradition, linking their narratives to a Protestant project is a tenuous claim at best. Reading Gibran’s works against the history of the Protestant mission, rebellion in these works avoids and even clashes with the moral values prescribed by the Mission. Instead, by focusing on figures at the social and geographic margins—madmen, heretics, adulterers, and thieves—Gibran places the inception of rebellion in the individual, often in response to material strains in their immediate environment. In this way, the narratives in Gibran’s works presents a critique of religious institutions through localized inspirations, rather than an extension of Western influence.

Mohammadreza Mirzaei, U California Santa Barbara
“The Infernal Times of Mr. Ayaz” and the Dialectics of Iconoclasm

Reza Barahani, one of the most influential figures in contemporary Iranian literature, wrote a novel called The Infernal Times of Mr. Ayaz in 1970. Abdulrahim Jafari, the director of Amir Kabir publishing house, agreed to publish it. However, Jafari later changed his mind and decided to destroy all copies of the book, due to what he called immoral content. A copy of this novel emerged on the literary black market in Tehran in the 2000s. This version, some pages shorter than the original, gives us a clearer picture of The Infernal Times of Mr. Ayaz. What Baraheni has done in this book can be defined as an iconoclastic approach to Iranian literature.

In examining the content of Baraheni’s novel, this paper studies the strange relationship between The Infernal Times of Mr. Ayaz and iconoclasm. Terming Jafari’s act a “performance,” the paper deals with Walter Benjamin’s ideas to argue that what Jafari does, gives an aura to the surviving copy of The Infernal Times of Mr. Ayaz. This authenticity is not only about this copy as an object, but considering the relations between Jafari’s performance and content of the book, it is giving authenticity to the story as well. I also approach what Jacques Derrida calls the “Ghost,” a text which exists and does not exist. This book exists, because it was written, it was partially republished, and yet it does not exist, since it cannot – or perhaps must not – be officially published in Iran’s mainstream book market.

Patrick Harned, UT Austin
Das Ding: Arab Spring Object Aesthetics

The Arab Spring in Lebanon was accompanied by a wave of cultural and aesthetic innovation manifest in new literary forms. Comic books, graphic novels, and children’s books documented the collapse not only of traditional political structures, but also the rise of a new literary aesthetic intent on capturing the individual’s alienation from existing political and social structures. The works of authors like Ahmed Naji and Hilal Chouman, representing a new trend in Lebanese literature, broke with the old paradigms of modern Arabic literature.

In this paper I analyze the literary aesthetic of objects in the Arab Spring literature. Using Martin Heidegger’s logical analysis of “The thing”, I argue that the new, revolutionary aesthetics of Lebanese cultural production in Lebanon reflect a collapse of the logic of “The Thing” both as an essential part of the individuals material relationship with his surroundings, and his understanding of works of art. The new aesthetic of Lebanese literature is apparent in the transformation of the object as a signifier of distinct social structure into one that pointed towards, absence, emptiness, disassociation and confusion. As objects emptied of their meaning through war and social upheaval accumulated in the collective spaces of urban landscapes transformed through conflict, Arab Spring cultural production forged innovative intersections between the textual and the visual through the production of new literary mediums and aesthetics documenting which offered a new paradigm for the individual to understand the signification of objects. Lebanese authors south both to draw attention to the transformation of object-signifiers and construct paradigms for “healing” individuals disassociated with the breakdown of the logical system of “The Thing.”

Matthew Chovanec, UT Austin
Treasure! Why The Mountain by Fathy Ghanim is actually an amazing Parable about the Labor Theory of Value

The 1958 novel The Mountain by Fathy Ghanim is often cited as one of the preeminent village novels in Egyptian literature: dramatizing the clash between well-meaning government officials and stubborn villagers. What the simplicity of the plot belies is the way that the novel actually works as a complex allegory revealing insights into the nature of work, the history of exploited labor in Egypt from pharaonic times up until Nasserism, and the conflict between personal survival and collective salvation. What at first seems like a straightforward, even tedious work of socialist realism is actually a fascinating examination of ideology and the evolving understanding of the meaning of labor under state capitalism. This paper will run through a history of labor in the Egyptian countryside, a close look at the development of State Capitalism under labor, and a a Marxist reading of the labor depicted in the novel in order to show that Fathy Ghanim’s first novel is an underappreciated gem of class-conscious literature.