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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A comparative study of Arabic and Japanese Ellabban, Mona A.


This thesis introduces and compares honorific systems, number, and gender of Arabic and Japanese. One of the purposes of this thesis is to introduce Japanese and Arabic from the viewpoints of each other. It is true that research has been done about each of them separately, but not much has been done about them together. Thus, the topic of my thesis might be considered new to Japanese and Arabic linguistics. Another purpose of this thesis is to be beneficial for both instructors and students of Arabic and Japanese, because it is always helpful to know about the language one is learning and/or teaching, as well as its culture. I have hypothesized that the Japanese honorific system would be confusing for Arab students because it is more complicated than the Arabic one. That is, Japanese honorific system is lexico-grammatical, while Arabic honorific system is mainly lexical. I have examined that, the Japanese honorific system is hard for Arabs due to the following reasons: having various giving and receiving verbs, honorific and humble forms for verbs, neutral and honorific ones for some nouns, honorific adjectives, various kinds of imperatives, different levels of politeness, Japanese [in-group]/[out-group] social deixis and not having a subject present in Japanese sentence most of the time. On the other hand, I have also pointed out that, there are some difficulties for Arabs when learning Japanese number and gender. They are: the ambiguity of Japanese nouns, verbs, and adjectives regarding number and gender, the use of different counters depending upon the objects to be counted, the mixing of Sino-Japanese numerals with those of Japanese origin, and the distinction between male and female speeches. I have also hypothesized that learning Arabic number and gender would be confusing for Japanese students. There are three numbers (singular, dual, and plural) and two genders (masculine and feminine) in Arabic. Number and gender are marked in Arabic nouns and verbs requiring lots of inflections, and this is not the case in Japanese. I have examined that having Arabic broken plural that is unpredictable makes Arabic number very confusing for Japanese, as well as having some exceptions to the rule of agreement in number and gender between subjects and verbs. Also, what makes it hard to learn Arabic gender, is having some nouns of tropical gender and some others of common gender and the difficulties of distinguishing between the two, results in applying wrong agreements of subject/verb and noun/adjective agreements. The Arabic honorific system, on the other hand, is not very hard for Japanese students to learn except the use of plural forms and the religious influence on the language.

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