Case Endings in Spoken Standard Arabic

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Morphologically marked case is a salient Standard Arabic feature without parallel in Arabic dialects. As such it is a grammatical system learned by native speakers of Arabic through formal education. Case endings are traditionally regarded as an essential feature of Standard Arabic, but morphological case endings are used only sporadically in extemporaneous speech in formal situations where Standard Arabic is the expected variety. This study investigates how case endings that are used in speech are distributed in relation to morphosyntactic parameters with the aim of finding covert linguistic norms governing where case is and is not marked in speech. This is done by a quantitative analysis of a corpus consisting of 17 televised interviews of highly educated native speakers of Arabic. Only speech by the interviewees was analyzed, totaling 35 000 words or 5 h and 22 min. Nouns and adjectives in the corpus are annotated for morphosyntactic features, including if and how the case ending is produced. The data show that the rate of case marking differs widely between speakers, but also that there are patterns, consistent between speakers, of how case endings are proportionally distributed in various morphosyntactic contexts. It was found that case endings are very rarely used in words with the definite article al-, in adjectival attributes, and on words at the end of utterances. Case marking is strongly favored on words where it would be orthographically represented in writing and on words with an enclitic pronoun. It was also found that these patterns are not the result of speakers relying on a set of fixed phrases to include case endings in their speech. The findings presented in this study have important implications for Arabic curriculum development, both in first and second language teaching, and also shed light on the role of the use of case endings in Arabic diglossia.


  • Andreas Hallberg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Specific Languages


  • Modern Standard Arabic, corpus linguistics, spoken language
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2016 Apr 23
  • Lund University, Faculties of Humanities and Theology
Print ISBNs978-91-87833-69-4
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2016-04-23 Time: 10:15 Place: Sal C126, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Van Mol, Mark Title: Professor Affiliation: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgien ---

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