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Ghiath el-Marzouk


1. Introduction


Objective necessity has, at this critical time, called upon a series of comparative argumentations about what may be called Congruencies in Linguistic Theorization, whose sole purpose, from this angle at the very least, is to draw the readers attention to the considerable extent to which Arabic linguistic theories (in the past) and American/European linguistic theories (at present) coincide with each other. Thus, with particular emphasis on what appears to be the most effective aspects of such theories, the need for serious research into the Congruencies in question becomes even more urgent at this crucial time, to reiterate, especially when the unwanted tension between so-designated East and West is, alas, reaching its apogee. It should be noted here, however, that Congruencies such these are not to be viewed as if they were forms of romantic association falling into the clutches of yearning or nostalgic reminiscences of a beautiful past. The intended Congruencies are serious attempts to demonstrate with concrete evidence that there is a remarkable harmony between given extraordinary minds (wherever they were born) on human language, an harmony that may well be reconstructed as a set of worthy arguments against all kinds of religiously fanatic groups or politically rank institutions whose harmonious survival, so it seems, cannot but be contingent upon that deliberate and premeditated discrimination between such fantastic constructs as East and West. And if there has to be a beginning, in this respect, the first of these comparative argumentations will seek to deal with some of the congruent issues of linguistic theorization according to both ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) and Chomsky (b. 1928).

Within the last part of his encyclopedic work [Prolegomena] (also transliterated in Latin as Al-Muqaddimah), ibn Khaldun authored a number of chapters on the nature of speech and its problems, which may now be entitled A Prolegomenon to Language, and may therefore be considered a specialized scientific treatise in its own right. Although it does raise questions that are germane to contemporary thinking about language in general, the treatise does not seem to have received sufficient and serious attention in any of the sub-fields of comparative linguistics in particular. For this reason, an attempt will be made in the present study to fill in the consequential gap by drawing on some of the guiding conceptual threads of current linguistic theory, as will be seen in the upcoming sections. The twentieth-century historian Arnold Toynbee once described ibn Khalduns Prolegomena as the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place (see Toynbee 1935: 322), a description which even those unlike-minded historians who launched severe attacks against Toynbees spiritualist approach to the rise and fall of civilizations (contrary to Marxs materialist approach) would undoubtedly agree to endorse. The description is, thence, referring to the person of ibn Khaldun as being, first and foremost, an original philosopher of history and a brilliant sociologist and political economist to mention a few in the modern senses of these designations. And, in this respect, the paramount influence that he exerted on such European intellectual figures as Vico (1668-1744), Montesquieu (1689-1655), Herder (1744-1803), etc. can neither be denied nor even contested (see, for example, Schimmel 1951; Gates 1967). Despite the fact that ibn Khaldun was not primarily a unique linguist, as was the case with many of his medieval contemporaries and predecessors, the profound insight which he shows into a variety of enduringly significant linguistic aspects does indeed warrant the worthiness of considering his own (albeit not easily tractable) statements, especially in the light of what seems to be the most influential and authoritative linguistic theory at present (viz. universal grammar). The purpose of this study is, therefore, to highlight some of the facets of ibn Khalduns quite obscure theorization on language, facets which appear to be well comparable with their conceptual counterparts within the framework of Chomskys theorization on the same phenomenon. Given the historical interlude which separates ibn Khalduns society from Chomskys society (over six centuries), the remarkable intellectual similitude that is discernible from this comparison manifests itself as one indication of the fact that no barrier can impede the confluence of ideas, be they as they may, regardless of any actual or potential difference between such imaginary fabrications as East and West.

The present study falls into three main sections, each concerned with a pivotal construct for comparative analysis: the first section (section 2) discusses the construct of what may be called language dichotomization in order to specify which of Chomskys postulated dichotomies (e.g. competence vs. performance, I-language vs. E-language, etc.) that may conceptually coincide with ibn Khalduns proposed distinction between language and a language, a coincidence which will be viewed from a (purely) structural perspective. The second section (section 3) explains the construct of what may be named language internalization, thereby characterizing human language as a psychological/mental phenomenon according to both Chomsky and ibn Khaldun (as opposed to de Saussure), a characterization that brings to light the conceptual analogy between Chomskys idea of  linguistic competence and ibn Khalduns notion of linguistic faculty. This characterization also entails a comparative exposition of several ancillary issues, such as, the concept of idealization/perfection, the nature of linguistic knowledge (lurking behind competence/faculty), and the sort of mechanism (or mechanisms) underlying this knowledge. The third and final section (section 4) considers the construct of what may be termed language externalization, therewith identifying the nature of linguistic knowledge with its reification in the structures of actual discourse, an identification which sheds new light on the further conceptual analogy between Chomskys idea of  linguistic performance and ibn Khalduns notion of linguistic behaviour. This identification also involves a comparative explication of particular subsidiary topics, such as, the logical priority of syntax, the concept of deviancy/non-deviancy, and the concrete instantiation of this concept. All technical details will be eliminated for the purposes of simplicity and clarity.

2. Language dichotomization

Before the rise of modern linguistics at the turn of the twentieth century, most of what used to be called philologists appear to have endorsed the speculative theory (or theories) which attempted to explain the origin of language, as a human phenomenon, in terms of the systematically onomatopoeic relationship between both the entity of the signifier (or signifiant) and the entity of the signified (or signifi), to use de Saussures terminology. In refutation of all these conjectural theories, therefore, de Saussure did underline the arbitrarily non-onomatopoeic nature of the relationship between the two entities, in general, since there is nothing, in the least, that can be discerned as piggish or swinish from the actual words pig or swine, for instance (see de Saussure 1916: 66f.). In short, such a refutation had led de Saussure to characterize natural (i.e. human) language as a differential system of sheer signs, where each sign incarnates a fortuitous bond between its concrete or sensible constituent (i.e. the signifier) and its abstract or perceptible constituent (i.e. the signified).  Accordingly, de Saussure put forward his famous dichotomy langue-parole (roughly, language-speech) in order to emphasize the two distinctive dimensions of natural language as such. At the one extreme, the non-physical representation of langue comprises, in its abstract totality, all of the possible linguistic habits that have survived in a given society or (speech) community. At the other extreme, the physical realization of parole includes, in its concrete partiality, any observable set of linguistic acts that are produced by the individual in the same society or (speech) community (see de Saussure 1916: 77).[2] In consequence, what de Saussure seeks to explore, within his structural-linguistic method, is in fact the collective unconscious level of human language as well as its naturally determined potentiality in the social or societal domain (see, also, el-Marzouk 2009a, 2009b).

Within his generative-linguistic method, Chomsky in turn identifies natural language as a creative system of finite rules (cf. the differential system of signs in de Saussure), a latent or covert system which enables the native speaker to perceive, and thence to produce, an infinite number of sentences that follow the finite rules themselves, even if some of these sentences have not been heard or uttered in reality (see Chomsky 1957: 13). For him, the fundamental objective is to highlight the psychological or individual domain of language to the detriment of its social or collective domain (in de Saussures sense) by means of an introspective notion of the derivational system which operates in an intermediary sphere that is located well below the level of consciousness. It appears, therefore, that this derivational system, insofar as it functions as such,  manifests itself as an internalized ordinance, so to speak, an ordinance whose mental reality is explained a priori in terms of what is known as universal grammar (UG). What Chomsky intends by this explanation is to adduce the very significant hypothesis that all human languages converge in the application of a set of general principles that are dictated by the unseen core of UG, with the seen periphery, moreover, being accounted for in terms of particular parameters, which are no more than (empirical) instantiations of historical coincidences. Thus, within the first major model of UG up to the 1970s (viz. the transformational-generative-grammar model), the standard conception of the derivational system entailed the incorporation of two discrete levels of structural representation (viz. the derivational history): firstly, the surface-structure level which produces the output of the syntactic component, thus disclosing the input to the phonological component; and secondly, the deep-structure level that yields the output of the lexical component, thus manifesting the input to the semantic component (see Chomsky 1965: 16). Since their initial incorporation into the derivational system, these two levels of structural representation have, in fact, been the subject-matter of acrimonious polemics amongst linguists, philosophers and psychologists alike, a matter that is not to be addressed in the present study.[3]

What is relevant in this context, however, is the import of the well known dichotomy competence-performance which Chomsky did introduce, among other dichotomies, as being one theoretic prerequisite for the standard analysis of the derivational system. This Chomskyan dichotomy does not appear to conceptually deviate from de Saussures dichotomy langue-parole at bottom, except that the mental aspect of natural language is more emphasized than its non-mental aspect, as discussed above (see, also, Chomsky 1965: 4f.; 1972: 115f.). On the one hand, the idealized representation of competence refers to the speakers tacit knowledge of his/her native language, where the afore-said creative system of limited rules permits him/her unlimited access to general grammatical sentences (cf. the idea of linguistic habits in de Saussure). On the other hand, the materialized realization of performance points to the same speakers actual (albeit partial) implementation of that tacit knowledge, an implementation which is observable in the concrete ranges of his/her specific pragmatic utterances (cf. the notion of linguistic acts in de Saussure). In fact, the theoretical basis of Chomskys dichotomy competence-performance still has its effect on the analogical distinction that he later made between what he terms I-language and E-language, respectively, within the second major model of UG in the 1980s (viz. the principles-and-parameters model). It is, therefore, this latter intended distinction which seems to define the ultimate objective of UG: whereas I-language denotes an internally represented continuum in any individual and is presumed to be a property of the human mind/brain, E-language indicates an externally realized continuum in a given society or (speech) community and is assumed to be quite independent of the human mind/brain (see Chomsky 1986: 19f.). As a result, the ultimate objective of UG is to shed new light on the nature of language acquisition itself, thereby specifying the set of core principles that are minimally applied as well as the number of cognitive orders that are maximally utilized.

Given the ultimate goal of the UG system, there seem to exist at least two levels of theoretic adequacy which any adequate linguistic theory must fully satisfy: firstly, descriptive adequacy that adequately or correctly describes how ramified human languages are acquired and used (whatever the degree of difficulty); and secondly, explanatory adequacy which adequately or accurately explains why such diversified human languages have the common properties they do. Notwithstanding the fact that these two levels of theoretic adequacy are still under (current) consideration within the third major model of UG, which was enunciated in the 1990s, viz. the minimalist-program model (see Chomsky 1995; 2002). This means, in other words, that the ultimate aim of the UG system is to address adequately the theoretical description of a particular human language (e.g. Arabic, Danish, French, etc.), at the one end, and to undertake adequately the theoretical explanation of the UG system as a whole (i.e. the convergent super-system which is an inherent quality of all human languages), at the other end. Accordingly, the implicit distinction that Chomsky hints at, here, between a language and language is well comparable to the explicit distinction that Lacan makes between langue (in the particular sense) and langage (in the general sense), respectively, within his post-structural psychoanalytic method, as mentioned earlier (see note 2). It is, therefore, this clearly analogous distinction which resonates with a quite unnoticed distinction that ibn Khaldun put forward between a language and language, correspondingly, in his A Prolegomenon to Language. For ease of exposition, Lacans two terms langue and langage, which are discernible from Chomskys implicit distinction, will be employed as two direct renderings of ibn Khalduns two terms and , respectively. Consider, in this context, how the latter makes explicit the distinction between the two terms in question in his own words (henceforward, all the relevant statements that are quoted from ibn Khalduns [Prolegomena] will be referred to by the book title followed by the page number):

          Know that all langues [.] are faculties of langage for expressing meanings. The adequacy or inadequacy of these [expressions] is contingent upon the perfection or imperfection of the faculty. This is not to be considered from the viewpoint of lexis, but from the viewpoint of structures. (Prolegomena: 554)[4]

From this outstanding distinction which is made explicitly between langue and langage (explicitly in the sense of particularly pluralizing the former term and generally singularizing the latter term), it can be evidently seen how ibn Khaldun adduces the fact that human language does, in and of itself, reflect certain intrinsic characteristics of the human mind. That is to say, the quality of linguistic expressions is conditioned by the quality of the language faculty (the faculty which, in turn, reveals itself as a mentally determined predisposition): if the expressions in question are adequate or inadequate, then the faculty that generates them would be perfect or imperfect, respectively. Thus, the principal concern of the linguist, according to ibn Khaldun, is to attempt to extrapolate possible generalizable statements about specific mental or intellectual attributes from serious insights into human language, just as Chomsky himself is primarily intrigued by the possibility of learning something, from the study of [human] language, that will bring to light inherent properties of the human mind (see Chomsky 1972: 103). And contrary to de Saussure who is essentially concerned with the social or collective domain of human language, as seen above, both ibn Khaldun and Chomsky appear to be in agreement upon stressing the psychological or individual domain of this intricate continuum at the expense of its social or collective domain. What is more, since the ultimate objective of UG is to identify the nature of language acquisition itself, through the significant distinction that is made between I-language and E-language, Chomskys concept of what he terms linguistic competence seems to also be quite comparable to ibn Khalduns concept of what he terms linguistic faculty, the term which is particularly pluralized and generally singularized, too, as will be seen in the next section (cf. section 3).

From the same outstanding distinction between langue and langage in the afore-quoted statement, it can also be evidently seen how ibn Khaldun subscribes to the further fact that langue, which is nothing else than an empirical sample of langage, is to be looked upon as a (potentially unlimited) set of linguistic expressions rather than an (actually limited) set of lexical items. This means, in other words, that the quality of linguistic expressions, which is conditioned by the quality of the linguistic faculty (as seen), should be measured with reference to the structural representations of these expressions, and not with reference to their lexical exemplifications. Hence, the further principal concern of the linguist, according to ibn Khaldun, is to focus attention upon the merely structural properties of linguistic expressions (cf. his own words but from the viewpoint of structures), just as the essential task of the linguist, according to Chomsky, is to attempt to work out a certain generative-grammatical device, a system of rules that in some explicit and well-defined way assigns [purely] structural descriptions to sentences [i.e. linguistic expressions] (see Chomsky 1965: 8). And unlike de Saussure who considers human language a differential system of sheer linguistic signs, as mentioned above, both ibn Khaldun and Chomsky seem to be in conformity upon regarding human language as a creative system of finite means which permits one (the native speaker) inexhaustible access to infinite use, to use Humboldts analogy (quoted in Chomsky 1965: 8). Furthermore, since this creative system of finite means is, in itself, an ordinance that is internalized in the native speakers mind in the form of linguistic competence (or linguistic faculty), as discussed, Chomskys notion of what he terms linguistic performance also appears to be well analogous with ibn Khalduns notion of what he terms linguistic behaviour, the term which is derived from the latters use of the verbal to behave/act, as will be seen in the final section (cf. section 4).

3. Language internalization

As discussed in the previous section, the essential concern of the linguist, for both ibn Khaldun and Chomsky, is to underline the mental or psychological aspect of human language contrary to de Saussures accentuation of the social or collective aspect. Internalization of language signifies, therefore, that this intricate continuum does exist in the native speakers mind as an underlying system of what is referred to as linguistic competence in Chomskys terminology or linguistic faculty in ibn Khalduns terminology (as seen). Thus, the latters particular pluralization of the term, as in faculties, and his general singularization of it, as in faculty (see the afore-quoted statement), would clearly indicate that the normal native speaker internally possesses a deep-seated capacity for the perception and production of his/her native language, at the one extreme, and that this deep-seated capacity is also internally possessed by any other normal native speaker (whatever his/her native language may be), at the other extreme. Similarly, Chomsky tends to speak of competences (or I-languages) in the plural in the language-specific sense, on the one hand, and of competence (or I-language) in the singular in the language-universal sense, on the other hand. Furthermore, even in his recent publications, Chomsky is now more inclined to refer to competence (or I-language) in the latter sense as the faculty of language (abbreviated to FL), thereby corresponding far more closely to ibn Khalduns term linguistic faculty (see Chomsky 2002: 47f., 64, 89f., etc.). Following the Cartesian approach to rationalist psychology, Chomsky subscribes to the view that this faculty is firmly fixed in advance as a predisposition of a latent mental structure (see, also, el-Marzouk 1998: 5f.). Chomsky is, therefore, in opposition to all thinkers (especially the rank empiricists) who do not believe resolutely in the existence of pre-social structures, just as ibn Khaldun endorses the idea that the faculty in question is, in and of itself, a deep-rooted quality of the mind (or the psyche).[5] Ibn Khaldun avers:

Faculties may only set in through the repetition of actions, for the action occurs first and bestows upon the self a [given] quality. This quality is repeated and then becomes a condition [per se], a condition which means that the quality is not a deep-rooted one. Only after further repetition, does the quality become a faculty, that is, a deep-rooted quality [of the mind]. (Prolegomena: 554)[6]

Given the deep-rooted nature of the linguistic faculty (or FL), it appears to be of considerable necessity to postulate the theoretic elevation of this not-easily-tractable faculty, it is true, for the investigation of possible linguistic worlds, an objective necessity which is quite familiar in the various fields of the natural sciences. Such a theoretic elevation of the faculty would logically entail the theoretic exaltation of its possessor (i.e. the speaker-listener), who would, in turn, logically entail the theoretic sublimation of the society or (speech) community which he/she lives in. For this reason, Chomsky has been unyieldingly reiterating these objective necessities since he first set out to construct the standard version of the transformational-generative-grammar model in the early 1960s (or even before). Accordingly, Chomsky underlines here three objective necessities so far as theoretic idealization is concerned, necessities which may be restated from his oft-quoted words as follows. Firstly, the faculty itself would be ideal in the sense that it reflects [perfect] knowledge of the language [and its application] in actual performance. Secondly, the speaker-listener himself/herself would be ideal, too, in the sense that he/she is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations, distractions, etc. Thirdly, the society in which he/she lives would be ideal, as well, in the sense that it theoretically exemplifies, in this case, a completely homogeneous speech-community (see Chomsky 1965: 3). It is extremely astonishing to see that these three objective necessities of theoretic idealization are readily perceivable from ibn Khalduns own writing on the same phenomena. Thus, he talks explicitly about the perfection of the faculty (cf. perfect faculty), and he also speaks frankly of the unimpairedness the speaker-hearer who requires soundness of disposition (see, also, note 5), though he (ibn Khaldun) refers implicitly to the ideal harmony of the language society or the theoretic non-deviancy of the speech-community (i.e. the Arabic community, in this case). Ibn Khaldun writes:

If the perfect faculty is acquired, the faculty for constructing lexical items to express the intended meanings, and (for) controlling the combination which applies speech to the exigency of the situation (i.e. context), then the speaker attains (to) the goal of conveying his intention to the hearer. [.] In addition, he requires a sound disposition to, and a good understanding of, the Arabs [non-deviant] manner of constructing structures and of controlling the application of these (structures). (Prolegomena: 454-9)[7]

Under the banner of this idealized conception of the perfect faculty in itself, the faculty which does mirror [perfect] knowledge of the language [and its application] in actual performance, all forms of undesirable discrimination between language societies or between speech communities or even between social classes would naturally disappear. It appears, therefore, that the realm of linguistic knowledge being talked about has nothing to do with the communal status of the speaker-hearer, whether he/she is an erudite tycoon or an ignorant pauper, one may say incontestably. In psychological (or mental) reality, however, the kind of linguistic knowledge in question would refer to the sort of intuitive knowledge which exists at an introspective level well beyond the level of consciousness, be it actual or potential. Thus, the further essential task of the linguist is to attempt, in Chomskys own words, to specify what the speaker-[hearer] actually knows, not what he may report about his [linguistic] knowledge (see Chomsky 1965: 8, emphasis added). This actual linguistic knowledge, in other words, would point to an underlying representation of it as a tacit continuum (or Sprachgefhl), a continuum that is unconsciously acquired in natural or informal settings (typically, the family) rather than consciously learned in non-natural or formal settings (such as the school), with this conscious language learning being outside the sphere of the language faculty (FL). By the same token, ibn Khaldun goes on to stress the idea that the deliberate learning of what he calls, grammatical rules (literally, scientific laws), the grammatical rules which are normally learned after the process of natural language acquisition has been accomplished, would also, in this case, exist outside the sphere of the linguistic faculty, and would subsequently have nothing to do with its qualitative or quantitative measurement. In ibn Khalduns words:

This [linguistic] faculty is not acquired from knowing the grammatical rules (lit., the scientific laws) which were deduced by the linguists. Such rules (lit., laws) do increase [conscious] knowledge of langage but do not actually ameliorate the acquisition of the faculty per se. (Prolegomena: 562)[8]

According to both Chomsky and ibn Khaldun, one prominent characteristic of the language faculty, which is now to be understood as a predisposition internalizing a form of unconscious rather than conscious linguistic knowledge, is that it has the potential for (intuitive) creativity, as referred to in the previous section. Thus, for Chomsky, the idea of creativity can be discerned from his contention that the language faculty (FL) is, in and of itself, a creative system of finite means which permits one (the native speaker) access to infinite use, to reiterate Humboldts analogy (see, also, Chomsky 1965: 8; 1972: 139). Elsewhere, Chomsky also writes: The most striking aspect of linguistic competence [or faculty] is what we may call the creativity of language, that is, the [native] speakers ability to produce new sentences (see Chomsky 1966a: 11). This indicates that the finite means in question are internally represented in the form of a mental device (of whatever sort), a device that enables the speaker-hearer to process his/her native language in the two contrasting modes of perception and production, as will be seen presently. For ibn Khaldun, along similar lines, the notion of creativity can also be perceived from his assertion that the ultimate conception of linguistic faculty is that it must be inscribed in the infants mind in the shape of a mental apparatus (of whatever kind, too), an apparatus which capacitates him/her to generate new structures (or expressions), as well. The reification of this inner inscription of the faculty would, no doubt, come into existence through the infants unremitting subjection to the speech of his/her ancestors (typically, the parents). In this connection, ibn Khaldun figuratively employs the nominal the loom to stand for the notion of the afore-mentioned nominal apparatus, as will be seen soon, and he also figuratively implements the verbal to weave to stand for the idea of the afore-said verbal generate, as can be clearly understood from his own writing on the same phenomenon.[9] Ibn Khaldun continues:

The acquisition of the Arabic linguistic faculty per se is verily [reified] through the infants multitudinous exposition to (lit., memorization of) the Arabs speech until [the image of] the loom, at which they wove their structures, is engraved in his mind so that he can weave at it [his own structures]. (Prolegomena: 561)[10]

This statement now brings to light the last point of comparison that is to be drawn here, so far as the internalization of language is concerned. As such, it ostensibly points to ibn Khalduns figurative employment of the afore-said nominal the loom, given its (very perceivable) inner inscription as a mental apparatus (of whatever kind), an apparatus which capacitates the native speaker to weave (or generate) novel structures (or expressions), as just mentioned (see, also, note 9). Upon first impression, therefore, the quite explicit configuration of this mental loom may well refer to ibn Khalduns implicit denomination of what may now be called, the language acquisition apparatus (LAA), an implicit denomination which may, for this reason, be quite analogous with Chomskys well established designation of the language acquisition device (LAD), notwithstanding, of course, the latters persistent implementation of the term in his recent writings (see, for example, Chomsky 2002: 85f.). What is more, since the core of linguistic faculty is, according to ibn Khaldun, naturally transmitted (or inherited) from older generations to younger generations, the incipient state of this linguistic faculty would, for obvious reasons, be a predisposition which is genetically conditioned in the shape of the LAA (the mental loom itself). In the like manner, Chomsky has always been talking about the initial state of the language faculty (FL), an initial state which would, for him, also be a predisposition that is biologically determined in the form of the LAD (the mental device itself), with this device mapping the imposed experience (cf. exposition (literally, memorization) in ibn Khalduns sense) into the attained state of the language that is being acquired. In Chomskys own words:

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that a part of the human biological endowment is a specialized language organ, the faculty of language (FL). [.] We can think of the initial state of FL as a device that maps [imposed] experience into state L attained: a language acquisition device (LAD). (Chomsky 2002: 85)

Clearly, therefore, with the indisputable analogy between the mental loom (LAA) in ibn Khalduns sense and the mental device (LAD) in Chomskys sense, the incipient or initial state of the language faculty (FL) that is represented a priori by the mental loom or device in itself would, no doubt, point to its universal determinism, regardless of any linguistically impertinent factor in this context (such as, race, gender, sexuality, and so on). In other words, the incipient or initial state in question would re-stress the logical irrelevance of the aforesaid speaker-hearers communal (or social) status, and would subsequently re-emphasize the natural disappearance of all forms of human conflict, be it society conflict or community conflict or even class conflict, as referred to earlier in this section.

4. Language externalization

As mentioned in section 2, the further essential concern of the linguist, for both ibn Khaldun and Chomsky, is to focus attention upon the purely structural properties of sentences (or, rather, linguistic expressions) contrary to de Saussures emphasis on the differential properties of signs. Externalization of language signifies, therefore, that this intricate continuum is well available at the native speakers disposal for the actual instantiation of linguistic competence (or linguistic faculty) per se. Such actual instantiation manifests itself in the form of linguistic performance in Chomskys terminology or linguistic behaviour in ibn Khalduns terminology, with this latter term being derived from ibn Khalduns own use of the verbal to behave/act, as will be seen presently. Thus, whereas linguistic competence, according to Chomsky, refers to what the speaker-listener actually knows (and this knowledge is by definition unconscious rather than conscious see above), linguistic performance would point to what the selfsame speaker-listener actually does in metabolizing (i.e. processing) the language being acquired (see, also, Chomsky 1965: 4, etc.). Given the three objective necessities of theoretic idealization discussed in the preceding section (viz. the idealization of the faculty, the speaker-listener, and the society), externalization of language would also indicate an idealized reification of this intricate continuum through the inner workings of the language acquisition device (LAD), the mental device which enables the speaker-listener in question to metabolize his/her native language in the two contrasting modes of perception and production. In Chomskys words: To study a language, then, we must attempt to disassociate a variety of factors that interact with underlying competence to determine actual performance (see Chomsky 1972: 116). It is undoubtedly this disassociated variety of factors which would refer to such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations, distractions, etc., as quoted above.

Since ibn Khaldun, on his part, subscribes to the view that the deliberate cognizance of the scientific laws (or grammatical rules) which were deduced by the linguists would exist outside the sphere of the language acquisition process, the intended distinction between linguistic faculty and linguistic behaviour would also reflect the corresponding distinction between the speaker-hearers actual cognizing (i.e. unconscious cognizance see above) and his/her actual working in metabolizing the language being acquired (i.e. Arabic, in this case). Under the banner of the three objective necessities of idealization, too (viz. the perfection of the faculty, the speaker-hearer, and the society), the afore-said externalization of language would also denote a perfect reification of this complex continuum through the inner functionings of the language acquisition apparatus (LAA), the mental loom which capacitates the speaker-hearer in question to metabolize his/her native language, and therefore to control the combination which applies speech to the exigency of the situation (Prolegomena: 454), as quoted above. Only with this dual capacitating, then, does the speaker under consideration attain (to) the goal of conveying his/[her] intention to the hearer (Prolegomena: 454), as quoted above, too. On this basis, for the designation of linguistic behaviour, ibn Khaldun appears to plainly employ the afore-mentioned verbal to behave, so as to plainly indicate the dual capacitating being talked about. This literal employment of the verbal can be evidently seen from ibn Khalduns following striking statement, even though he does not seem to explicitly implement the selfsame term linguistic behaviour in direct contradistinction to the quite explicit term linguistic faculty. In ibn Khalduns own words:

The [mere] objective of instruction to one who seeks the [empirical] acquisition of this [linguistic] faculty is that one should take upon oneself [the labour of] being exposed to (lit., memorizing) [.] the ancestors speech [.] until one reaches the status of [.] one who grew up amongst them and into whom the way they expressed their intentions was instilled. Thereupon, one behaves (i.e. acts) freely in expressing what is [latent] in ones mind in accordance with their expressions and the combination of their words. (Prolegomena: 559)[11]

Given the substantiated analogy between linguistic performance in Chomskys sense and linguistic behaviour in ibn Khalduns sense, the complex mechanism (or mechanisms) which underlie language metabolization (i.e. processing) seem to dictate to each other the intrinsic order of the three essential linguistic components (viz. syntax, semantics and phonology). According to Chomsky, this intrinsic order appears to be mentally determined by a metabolizing prerequisite which underpins the autonomy of the syntactic component, a prerequisite that is, in fact, no more than a self-evident corollary of focusing attention upon the purely structural properties of sentences (or linguistic expressions), as mentioned above. The underpinned autonomy of the syntactic component is, in turn, based on the assumption that both the semantic component and the phonological component are merely interpretive components in the grammatical representation of the language being acquired (English, in this case). Hence, Chomsky avers: The syntactic component defines [....] all information relevant to semantic interpretation [and] all information relevant to phonetic interpretation. The semantic and phonological components are purely interpretive (see Chomsky 1972: 125). In other words, Chomsky is well inclined to emphasize with tenacity the seemingly logical priority of the domain of syntax, in language metabolization, over the two interpretive domains of semantics and phonology (see, also, el-Marzouk 1998: 49). Similarly, ibn Khaldun enumerates the primary linguistic components of the Arabic langue as an empirical sample of Arabic langage what he himself calls the sciences of Arabic langage. Of prime concern, here, are two primary components: syntax, which addresses the problems of structures, in general, and elocution (literally, eloquence), which is both phonologically and semantically orientated, and thus comprises two secondary components, rhetoric and stylistics, so it now appears.[12] From analogy, ibn Khaldun is also well disposed to underline with adamance the seemingly logical ascendancy of the domain of syntax, in language metabolization, too, over any other linguistic domain, be it interpretive or semi-interpretive. Ibn Khaldun concludes:

It is, therefore, concluded that syntax is the most significant and the most prioritized [component] amongst them (i.e. the afore-said linguistic components). Through syntax, the gist(s) of semantic intentions are recognized, therewith [capacitating the speaker-hearer] to distinguish the agent from the patient, and the subject from the predicate. [.] Had it not been for syntax, the gist of semantic intention would have been unknown [.] since being incognizant of it (i.e. syntax) would amount to a disruption of (mutual) intelligibility. (Prolegomena: 545)[13]

Furthermore, with the logical supremacy that is conclusively assigned to the syntactic component in language metabolization (at least over the two interpretive components of semantics and phonology), both Chomsky and ibn Khaldun appear to countenance the apparent view that the (native) speaker-hearer is unhesitatingly capable of differentiating deviant sentences (or linguistic expressions) from their non-deviant counterparts, given the idealized or perfect reification of language via the internal operations of the LAD or LAA, as discussed above. According to Chomsky, the perceived distinction between non-deviancy and deviancy is explicable in terms of the perceivable distinction between what he calls acceptability and unacceptability that is to be viewed at the level of linguistic performance, in particular contrary to the further distinction between what he calls grammaticality and ungrammaticality, a distinction which is to be taken at the level of linguistic competence (i.e. the language faculty (FL)). In Chomskys words: The more acceptable sentences are those that are more likely to be produced, more easily understood [.]. The unacceptable sentences one would tend to avoid and replace by more acceptable variants, wherever possible, in actual discourse (see Chomsky 1965: 11, emphasis added). For ibn Khaldun, along quite similar lines, the afore-mentioned distinction between non-deviancy and deviancy seems to be accountable in terms of the analogous distinction between non-avertability and avertability (or even the strikingly more analogous distinction between gorgeability and disgorgeability in their figurative senses). As a result, the speaker-hearer, upon metabolizing his/her native language (Arabic, in this case), would be quite disposed to recognize the deviant linguistic expressions as being rather averted and disgorged, or even in some sense far less naturalized, than the non-deviant counterparts. Hence, ibn Khaldun avers:

If he (i.e. the native speaker-hearer) is exposed to [a sample of] speech that deviates from the manner in which the Arabs compose speech, he would avert from it and would disgorge it, thereby recognizing it as being alien to the Arabs speech. (Prolegomena: 562)[14]

This statement, finally, brings to light the last point of comparison that is to be made, here, so far as the externalization of language is concerned. As such, it refers to the native speaker-listeners ability to identify, wherever possible, certain pragmatic differences between semantically identical sentences (or linguistic expressions) in natural discourse, given the close affinity between semantics and pragmatics in modern linguistics (see, also, note 12). And given the plain distinction between acceptability and unacceptability on the plane of linguistic performance in Chomskys terminology, it follows that the native speaker-listener would be quite able to realize the paramount significance of the intended pragmatic differences between some exemplary sets of sentences which exhibit divergences in word-order relationships, as in (1ab) below, or between other exemplary sets of sentences that reflect divergences in paraphrase relationships, as in (2ac) below, even though either set of sentences are somehow semantically convergent, as their meanings clearly demonstrate. Notice that, for ease of exposition, the following examples are, in fact, slight adaptations from Chomskys own cited examples in English (see Chomsky 1965: 162).

(1)  a.  John came yesterday.

       b.  It was yesterday (that) John came.


(2)  a.  John liked the play.

       b.  The play pleased John.

       c.  The play appealed to John.

Given also the further plain distinction between avertability (or disgorgeability) and non-avertability (or gorgeability) on the analogous plane of linguistic behaviour in ibn Khalduns terminology, it also follows that the native speaker-hearer, on his/her part, would be well able to recognize the great importance of the deliberate pragmatic diversities amongst some typical groups of linguistic expressions which do portray heterogeneities in word-order associations, as in (3ab) below, or amongst other typical groups of linguistic expressions that do mirror heterogeneities in paraphrase associations, as in (4ac) below, despite the fact that either group of linguistic expressions are semantically homogeneous in one form or another, as their rendered meanings would evidently illustrate. Notice, here, that the following representative examples are actually full citations from ibn Khalduns own cited examples in (written) Arabic, and are therefore followed by their literal translations into English for the purposes of clarification (see Prolegomena: 551).

(3)  a.  Came to me Zaid.

       b.  Zaid came to me.


(4)  a.  Zaid is rising.

       b.  Zaid is rising.

                    c.  Zaid is verily rising.

As for the examples cited in (3ab), ibn Khaldun interprets their intended pragmatic diversities in terms of the word-order association either example embodies, an association which appears to be conditioned by the mechanisms of what is called desinence, to some medieval Arabic linguists and grammarians, or determined by the dynamics of what is termed governance, to others.[15] Thus, from the viewpoint of the native speaker, in general, the action of coming is pragmatically more important than the agent or the doer of the action in (3a) (cf. Zaid came to me.), whereas the latter (the agent) is pragmatically more important than the former (the action) in (3b) (cf. It was Zaid who came to me.). As for the examples cited in (4ac), ibn Khadoun accounts for their deliberate pragmatic diversities with reference to the paraphrase association each example incarnates, an association which seems to be marked by the magnitudes of what is known as emphasis within the Arabic linguistic theory (or any other linguistic theory, for that matter). Hence, from the standpoint of the native hearer, in particular, the absence of any emphatic marker in (4a) brings advantages to one who does not entertain the central idea (i.e. the idea of Zaid being rising), the sole presence of the emphatic marker in (4b) is induced for one who hesitates about the same idea, and the further presence of the emphatic marker in (4c) is actuated for one who disavows the selfsame idea (see, also, El-Marzouk 2004: 32). Consequently, such forms of contextual emphasis (i.e. the afore-said emphatic markers) manifest themselves as pragmatic methods of attempting to persuade the hesitant or disavowing hearer to accept the informative message which contains the central idea.

5. Conclusion

It can now be evidently seen that ibn Khalduns theorization on human language and Chomskys theorization on the same phenomenon are in considerable congruity from a variety of significant perspectives. Hence, with respect to the construct of language dichotomization discussed in section 2, Chomskys generative dichotomy of descriptive adequacy and explanatory adequacy appears to imply the corresponding intention of Lacans psychoanalytic distinction between langue and langage, thus coinciding in principle with ibn Khalduns conspicuous distinction between a language and language, given the focus upon purely structural representations. With regard to the construct of language internalization explained in section 3, both Chomsky and ibn Khaldun seem to view human language as a psychological or mental phenomenon (contrary to de Saussure), a view that brings to light the principled analogy between Chomskys idea of linguistic competence and ibn Khalduns notion of linguistic faculty, not to mention the formers use of the term faculty itself in his recent writings. This shared view also entails a comparative review of several concomitant issues, such as, the concept of idealization or perfection, the nature of linguistic knowledge behind the faculty, and the sort of mechanism(s) underlying this knowledge. With reference to the construct of language externalization considered in section 4, the last section, both Chomsky and ibn Khaldun appear to survey the nature of linguistic knowledge in terms of its (idealized) reification in actual discourse, a survey that sheds new light on the further principled analogy between Chomskys idea of  linguistic performance and ibn Khalduns notion of linguistic behaviour, not to speak of the derivation of the latter term from ibn Khalduns own use of the verbal to behave/act. This shared survey also involves a comparative account of various ancillary topics, such as, the assumption of the logical priority of syntax, the concept of deviancy or non-deviancy, and the concrete instantiation of this concept. Finally, it must be noted, once more, that the present comparative study is not to be perceived as a form of romantic association on nostalgic reminiscences of a golden past. The study is a serious attempt to demonstrate with concrete evidence that the considerable harmony between these two creative minds on human language is well utilizable as a set of worthy arguments against all kinds of religiously fanatic groups or politically rank institutions whose harmonious survival, so it appears, cannot but be contingent upon that deliberate and premeditated discrimination between such fantastic constructs as East and West.

*** *** ***


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York: Praeger.

Chomsky, Noam (1995): The Minimalist Program. Cambridge: M.I.T.

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Zeitschrift der Deutschen Margenlandischen Gesellschaft, 134 (2): 226-236.

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[1] This article was delivered at the international symposium on The Intellectual Encounter between the East and the West which was held in first week of May 2010 and sponsored by the Centre for Contemporary Middle East Studies at the University Southern Denmark, Odense. A slightly different version of this article will be published in a book which comprises the edited articles of all contributors who have dealt with this important issue from a variety of intellectual perspectives. I would like to thank Dietrich Jung who invited me to this stimulating event, thereby giving me the opportunity to express new ideas whose initial firstlings were in fact running through my mind when I was a postgraduate student at the University of Aleppo (Syria). I am also grateful to all colleagues who participated in the symposium for their invaluable remarks on some of these ideas. I mention, among them, especially Rune Andersen who was the bravest of all, it must be said, to undertake the preliminary session that was specified for this not-easily-tractable study. Finally, I should like to express my deep indebtedness to Noam Chomsky who kindly read the manuscript from start to finish and expressed his wholehearted enthusiasm for the main idea.

[2] It is worthy of mention, here, that, within his post-structural psychoanalytic method, Lacan characterizes natural language as a differential system of signifiers (rather than that of signs in de Saussures sense). Lacan is, thereby, emphasizing the logical priority and ascendancy of the signifier over the signified so as to make a further distinction between langue a language and langage language. Whereas the concrete system of langue embodies a sensible continuum with its particularity (e.g. Arabic, Danish, French, etc.), the abstract system of langage represents a perceptible continuum with its generality (i.e. the universal language which embraces the super-structure of all human languages). As a result, Lacan intends to introduce, and thence to establish, his new dichotomy langage-parole as an alternative to de Saussures (old) dichotomy langue-parole for certain psychological reasons which are beyond the scope of this paper (see Lacan 1966a: 30f.; 1966b: 197f.; el-Marzouk 2009a; 2009b). Yet, it is the gist of Lacans distinction between langue and langage which seems to approximate that of Chomskys distinction between descriptive adequacy and explanatory adequacy, respectively, with the intent of the latter distinction, in turn, approximating that of ibn Khalduns distinction between a language and language, corresponding, as will be seen presently in the text.

[3] Nonetheless, suffice it say that the two terms surface structure and deep structure can never be viewed as logical terms that were introduced within a unique innovative contribution to (modern) linguistic theory, owing to the very long history that lurks behind their concepts. They even have roots in quite ancient sources such as the Sanskrit grammarian Panini (floruit 500 or 400 B.C.), who already employed the two terms vibhakti and kaaraka which, to a certain extent, correspond conceptually with the two terms in question, respectively: whereas the term vibhakti indicates the outer morphological (or phonological) shape of a given category, the term kaaraka refers to the inner semantic (or lexical) function of the same category. It seems, therefore, that the theoretic principles underlying either such term were developed by some Arabic linguists and grammarians in the Middle Ages (see Gruntfest 1984), and were later implemented by other European linguists and philosophers within essentially similar theoretic paradigms (see, also, Chomsky 1965: 198f., n.12; el-Marzouk 2003: 8f., n.1).

[4] The original Arabic text runs as follows:

[....] . (: 554)

[5] In this context, some other technical terms, which appear to be conceptually equivalent to ibn Khalduns term faculty itself, were actually employed within the framework of medieval Arabic linguistic theory, such as, the two terms (connate) disposition and (natural) disposition by al-Zajjaji (d. 949/951), the term (innate) disposition by ibn Jinni (d. 1002), and the like. Elsewhere in A Prolegomenon to Language,   ibn Khaldun himself also refers to either of the two terms (inborn) disposition and (natural) disposition interchangeably with the term faculty (see Prolegomena: 562). Yet, it is ibn Khalduns latter term faculty which seems to have been implemented by a multitude of religious philosophers (i.e. the theologians) at the time, so as to assert the maxim that the faculty in question is a deep-rooted quality of the mind (or the psyche), as mentioned in the text (see, also, al-Bustani 1983: 862).

[6] The original Arabic text runs as follows:

. (: 554)

[7] The original Arabic text runs as follows:

[....] . (:9-454)

[8] The original Arabic text runs as follows:

[] [] . (: 562)

[9] Elsewhere in A Prolegomenon to Language,  ibn Khaldun literally uses both of the two terms combination and composition, as well, to indicate basically the same idea of the verbal generate referred to in the text, the verbal which Chomsky himself uses as an appropriate terminological rendering of Humboldts verbal erzeugen (see, also, Chomsky 1965: 9). As for the term combination, it can be evidently seen from ibn Khalduns afore-quoted statement: and controlling the combination which applies speech to the exigency of the situation (see Prolegomena: 454). As for the term composition, it can also be clearly understood from ibn Khalduns further statement: it is a linguistic faculty for the composition of speech (see Prolegomena: 562).

[10] The original Arabic text runs as follows:

[ ] . (: 561)

[11] The original Arabic text runs as follows:


[....] [....] [....] . (: 559)

[12] Notice, here, that ibn Khaldun also enumerates two further primary linguistic components: firstly, what he calls language, which addresses the choice of lexis in particular; and secondly, what he calls literature, which is concerned with the study of both poetry and prose, a matter that is irrelevant in this context. What is relevant, however, is that the primary component elocution (lit., eloquence) mentioned in the text does seem to approximate the term phonology in its modern sense, thereby approximating the term semantics as an interpretive component as well. Hence, ibn Khaldun himself defines the primary component in question as that which is: concerned with [the articulation of] words and with what they convey, that is, with the meanings they denote (Prolegomena: 550). Clearly, therefore, ibn khalduns definition of the term , as such, does resonate with the general definition of the selfsame term that was established within the framework of medieval Arabic linguistic theory as follows: the eloquent articulation which expresses what is [latent] in the mind (see al-Bustani 1983: 65).

[13] The original Arabic text runs as follows:

[ ] [....] [....] . (: 545)

[14] The original Arabic text runs as follows:

[ - ] . (: 562)

[15] It is worth mentioning, here, that Chomsky actually incorporated the concept of government only into the derivational system of the second major model of UG referred to in the text, namely, the principles-and-parameters model in the 1980s (see section 2). The essential purpose of this concept is to regulate the structural interrelation between any set of two categories which c-command each other, that is, the logical interconnection between the governor and the governee (see Chomsky 1981, 1986). Yet, the concept did, in fact, arouse much controversy amongst contemporary American and European linguists and grammarians alike due to its unnecessary complication of the derivational system of UG. For this reason, alone, Chomsky was forced to eliminate the concept altogether from the third major model of the same system, namely, the minimalist-program model in the 1990s onwards  (see Chomsky 1995; 2002). It is very interesting to see that the equivalent notion of governance was, in turn, also the subject-matter of quite astringent disputes amongst Arabic linguists and grammarians of the Middle Ages, thereby recognizing its problematic and unfathomable nature beforehand. For exactly the same reason, many of these Arabic linguists and grammarians, especially ibn Madaa (d. 1195), decided to dispense with the notion in its entirety (see, for example, al-Antaki 1991: 65f.).




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