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5.0 out of 5 stars BUY BUY BUY it
You must buy it to understand grammar as it provides you the foundation of learning into the advance stages by building upon the basics right
Published 13 months ago by Ibrahim

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots to like, but lots to be irritated by too. This is a good grammar, but it could have been better.
There's a lot to like about this grammar. It's well structured, it's concise, and it's written in a way that's accessible to readers who aren't especially experienced in Arabic or linguistic terminology in general. Although the author doesn't use IPA symbols, I like that he uses standard phonetic terminology to describe the sounds of Arabic. Many books aimed at language...
Published 19 months ago by dyneiddiwr


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots to like, but lots to be irritated by too. This is a good grammar, but it could have been better., 10 Jan 2013
This review is from: Modern Standard Arabic Grammar: A Learner's Guide (Blackwell Reference Grammars) (Paperback)
There's a lot to like about this grammar. It's well structured, it's concise, and it's written in a way that's accessible to readers who aren't especially experienced in Arabic or linguistic terminology in general. Although the author doesn't use IPA symbols, I like that he uses standard phonetic terminology to describe the sounds of Arabic. Many books aimed at language learners fail to do this, falling back on ill-conceived impressionistic descriptions. Alhawary avoids this. I also agree with other reviewers who like the connections he makes between Arabic and English in a number of places, helping to demystify the former.

It's disappointing, therefore, that the book is littered with small lapses, which are particularly irritating to readers familiar with linguistic terminology. In the introduction, for example, he confuses the Arabic language with its script, stating (for example) that Arabic is "not a logographic language", but "is a phonetic language". This is a minor thing, but a scholar of language should know better than to use the phrase "phonetic language" at all (let alone "logographic language").

There are more irritations to come. On page 46, for example, he states that "Naturally, there is no dual marking for the first person". (If first-person dual marking is less natural than for other persons, it's news to linguists.) Another example comes from the chapter on sentence structure, in which he describes no fewer than eight Arabic tenses. This really plays fast and loose with the definition of "tense". If the only difference between Tense A and Tense B is the type of accompanying adverbial phrase, then they are not different tenses. Essentially he is listing eight different tense-aspect combinations in English and telling you how to translate them into Arabic. This is fine (and useful), but why doesn't he say that's what he's doing instead of passing them off as Arabic tenses? The way he does it just encourages learners to think of Arabic in terms of English grammar, which is precisely what learners should avoid doing. (By contrast, I feel I should add, the following section on nominal sentences is clear, useful, and well structured.)

Not all the problems are simply irritations for knowledgeable readers. One frustrating problem that reduces the book's usefulness for any reader is a tendency to note different ways of saying the same thing, but not saying if such variation involves different shades of meaning, or differences in register (or any other difference beyond the grammatical form). For example, an adverbial construction is described on page 155 that is very similar to the causative attributive adjective. Alhawary notes the similarity, but says nothing about when you might use one instead of the other. If the two constructions are interchangeable, he should say so. The same problem arises when he notes the different tenses that can be used in conditional sentences, but says nothing on when one might prefer one choice of tense over another.

The text would also have benefited from better proof reading. There are a number of minor typos (more than once the word "precedes" is used where "follows" was obviously intended, for example). A more serious problem is that some sentences are very awkwardly expressed, in a few cases to the extent that they are hard to make head or tail of. On page xix, for instance, he states that "Unlike English it [Arabic] exhibits no intonation reflecting the mood of the speaker in order to emphasise certain words for proper speech perception by the native speaker." I'm surprised this got past the editor.

Finally, I was surprised to see the unqualified claim on page 2 that the Arabic numeral system was originally "based on a geometric conceptual design of the number of angles in each number". Appendix A contains a low-resolution diagram (copied from the "ADC Times") demonstrating this idea. Not only is this speculative nonsense, but it is nonsense that a serious scholar of Arabic should really know better than to reproduce in a book for learners, let alone state baldly as fact.

To sum up, this book has enough faults to seriously irritate a knowledgeable reader, and even to mislead a less knowledgeable one. However, the potential for *seriously* misleading anyone is small, and on the whole this is a concise grammar of Arabic that learners will find useful. But it could have been better, and it's a real shame that it's not.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BUY BUY BUY it, 20 July 2013
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This review is from: Modern Standard Arabic Grammar: A Learner's Guide (Blackwell Reference Grammars) (Paperback)
You must buy it to understand grammar as it provides you the foundation of learning into the advance stages by building upon the basics right
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