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Language and Libraries

Panel IX-26, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, November 4 at 3:00 pm

Panel Description
  • Hicham Assaoui
    A hallmark of successful communication is the ability to interpret and constrain the range of possible meanings in language discourse. In doing so, speakers consult a range of resources (e.g., syntactic, semantic, lexical) in order to resolve anaphoric dependencies. One such case where speakers consult prior linguistic knowledge is the interpretation of pronominal subjects. There is a growing body of research showing that languages which show optionality with regards to pronominal subjects (i.e., overtly realized or phonologically null) have intrinsically different interpretation biases (Alexiadou & Anagnostopulou, 1998; Sorace & Filiaci 2006; Sorace & Serratrice 2009; Tsimpli, Sorace, Heycock & Filiaci 2004). Using a self-paced reading paradigm, this study explores the interpretation biases of native Arabic speakers (n=38) for overt and null subjects. The results suggest an asymmetric relationship between the two types of pronouns where their distribution is governed by syntactic and processing constraints. Furthermore, the results of this study indicate that the penalty for violating speakers’ prior linguistic biases is stronger for the null and subject position, suggesting that Arabic speakers are sensitive to both type and locality of the pronoun. The results are discussed in light of a representational account underlying the parametric differences in the pronominal system.
  • During his diplomatic stay in Beijing in 1958, the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani wrote The Journal of an Indifferent Woman in the form of a diary depicting the voice of a frustrated, rebelling Arab woman condemning the suppression of women’s rights in the Arab tradition. Thematically, The Journal embodies Qabbani’s misplaced personal experiences as an outsider in a foreign country. In form, this collection includes poems disguised in the format of life writing. Opening The Journal, we notice four parts in this order: a five-line poem, “The Story of ‘The Journal,’” “A Letter to Some Man,” and “The Journal.” In the five-line poem and “The Story,” Qabbani uses his own voice—a male voice and an author’s voice—to encourage a female “you” to revolt and unfold how he discovered “The Journal.” In “A Letter” and “The Journal,” the narrative shifts to a nameless woman who pleads in her letter and records in her journal the chronicle of her life. Besides this coexistence of male and female narratives, The Journal is also split into two genres and two forms of poetry. In genre, “The Story” belongs to prose, while the other three parts are poetry. In forms of poetry, “A Letter” is epistolary poetry, while “The Journal” is diary poetry. In this paper, I will discuss how Qabbani incorporates life writing techniques into poetry in The Journal and argue that the unique format of The Journal is to aid in Qabbani’s portrayal of a female narrator imprisoned in her house and to make a personal voice political. To do so, I will first rely on intradiegetic analysis to examine the innovative format of this collection. Then I will argue that Qabbani wears a gender mask while writing The Journal, although the text reflects his personal experience and observations. Last, I will review other poems in Qabbani’s oeuvre that adopt a similar format as The Journal to demonstrate how such life-writing poems become autoethnographies.
  • This paper posits archives as a much broader medium to include translator’s notes, where a translator or a group of translators document the interpretive and linguistic decisions they made during the translation process as they introduce the text and the author to its foreign readers. Translator’s notes, a paratextual component often preceding the translation, not only enhances readers’ engagement with the text but also provides context for the decisions made by the translators. The paper reassesses the role of these notes beyond their obvious, practical function by drawing a relation between the work done by the agents of translation, such as translators, editors, publishers etc., and by archivists. The paper takes Turkish author Refik Halid Karay’s Gurbet Hikayeleri (Stories of Exile), translated collaboratively at a workshop and published in 2022 by Translation Attached, a publishing house focusing on Turkish literature in Canada, as its case study. The translator’s notes in this collection is written by the editors, who also contributed to the translation, and appear in the book along with other paratextual components such as acknowledgements, a note on the translators’ collective and another on language use and pronunciation. The translator’s note was later substantiated by a blogpost on the publisher’s website where one of the editors/translators expanded on why the translators chose “exile” to translate the word gurbet. All of these efforts to capture and justify the translators’ decisions in extra-textual, supporting materials reflect archivists’ efforts to (re)order, describe, catalogue and make accessible the material in hand. Drawing on this observation, the paper asks: what does a translator’s notes aspire to preserve for the book’s afterlife in a different cultural and linguistic context, specifically for its English-reading audience? What kind of power, if any, does a translator’s note yield? Could the translator’s note be seen as an ideological intervention in the reception of the book? To answer these questions, the paper focuses on the parts from the translator’s notes in Karay’s book, where the translators/editors contemplate how they tackled Arabic words and sentences that saturate Karay’s work. The paper maintains that the translators’ decision to preserve the linguistic hybridity of the text by keeping Arabic instances without translating them into English yet explaining them in the attached glossary serves to preserve Karay’s exilic memory. The translator’s notes as a repository for preserving linguistic and exilic memory will be expanded on in the context of broadening the scope of archives.
  • This paper argues for the inherent musicality of the Qur’anic voice by examining tonal patterns in form, rhythm, and inherent melody within Sūrat al-Fātiḥa, the first and most frequently recited chapter of the Qur'an. It explores how aural structures alternate through tension and resolution, forming progressions. In addition, it establishes a connection between tonality and semantic tension and resolution, shedding light on the relationship between sound and meaning and the aesthetic experience of the Qur'anic voice. Western Qur’an studies treats the Qur’an as a written scripture, often eclipsing the aesthetic significance and rhetorical affect of its orality. Although contemporary literary scholarship, notably the work of Angelika Neuwirth, emphasizes the orality of the pre-canonical Qur’an, compositional analysis focuses on demarcating the sūra (chapter) structures, treating it as a written text. A few scholars, such as Kristina Nelson and Michael Sells, offer insight into the Qur’anic progression through musical tonality, employing the twin notions of tension and resolution. Despite absence of theorization and systematic application, this intrinsic musical foundation holds potential for an oral approach to Qur'anic discourse. Tonal music theories operate through tension and resolution. Inextricable from tonal motion, conventional rhetoric, such as in European, Arabic, and Indian tonal music, is to end with a return to the root tone of the scale for resolution. Beginnings are often associated with indeterminacy as the listener transitions into a new temporality with limited formal expectations. Middles convey relative tension and resolution through contrasts, variations, and climaxes. Accordingly, this study proposes to hear the sūra structure in musical space-time. It examines the verse-by-verse alternations of aural-cum-semantic tension and resolution and the synchronous emergence of introductory, developmental, and cadential structures. The discussion centers on the progression of Sūrat al-Fātiḥa in sound and meaning through semantic and aural elements of tension and resolution. The analysis suggests that the Qur’anic discourse moves from tension to resolution in sound and meaning, marking a distinct compositionality in the sūra as a unit.