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Style in English and Arabic. Prof. Walid M. Amer. Style in English and Arabic. Style ! I have no style, I merely wait till the mud settles . Goldwin 1.1 Why Style is Important

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style in english and arabic

Style in English and Arabic

Prof. Walid M. Amer

style in english and arabic1

Style in English and Arabic

Style! I have no style, I merely wait till the mud settles. Goldwin

1.1 Why Style is Important

researchers in natural language understanding have recognized the importance of style, a subtle but significant aspect of language


le is influenced by linguistic choices on all levels: lexical, syntactic, and semantic. For example, consider the differences in meaning between the following two sentences.

  • (1-1) She is overweight.
  • (1-2) She is full-figured.
  • Both sentences have identical meanings on the surface, but in the first sentence the lexical choice overweight conveys the additional information that the author is direct and possibly being impersonal. In the second sentence, the lexical choice full-figured, as it is used here, is indirect and suggests that the author is attempting to be polite
  • Differences in style can also be more subtle, as shown in the following two sentence fragments.
    • (1-3) the black cat
    • (1-4) the cat, which is black
  • The first fragment is a common method of expressing the fact that the cat is black. The second fragment is less common. The postposing of the fact that the cat is black in a relative clause places more emphasis on the cat than its blackness.
  • when a text is written, it is written for a particular audience. The author carefully chooses the lexical items, syntactic constructions, and semantic content that is appropriate for an effective communication.
  • . One of the questions currently being studied in the field of generation is determining what to say. how to say it.
  • Style is intended to mean a mode of expression that differentiates one person from the other
  • Style is of three types:
  • the prescriptive
  • the descriptive
  • and goal-directed style
1 prescriptive style
1. Prescriptive Style
  • Prescriptive style is the familiar \correct" style that is taught in school and in books of style
  • When we were taught English, we learned rules of usage like \Do not end a sentence with a preposition"
  • 2. Descriptive Style
  • descriptive style accounts for the style that is actually used by native speakers of English

3. Goal-Directed Computational Style

  • Good writers know that they must understand their audience in order to write effectively.
  • Knowing the audience allows writers to modify their style to effectively convey the content of their labour in a form acceptable to their audience. For example, a physicist explaining quantum mechanics to a general audience would probably choose to write clearly and simply, in order to be understandable to the audience.
  • The same physicist writing a paper for a specialized conference would probably choose to write formally and somewhat obscurely, in order to appear authoritative.

Branches of Stylistic Description

1. Lexical Style

  • Lexical style can be characterized as diction, a choice between similar words. The choice could be made on the basis of appropriateness to a context. For example, John kicked the bucket would be more appropriate in a colloquial context and John passed away would be appropriate in a more formal context. More often, the choice will be made on the basis of aspects that are distinguished in one language but not the other. English distinguishes between cot and bed

2 Syntactic Style

  • Syntactic style can be characterized as the choices made in the construction of a clause or a sentence. The following examples demonstrate some of the possible variations.
  • (4-1) The lady loves the girl.
  • (4-2) The tall nice lady sincerely loves the short, homely girl.
  • (4-3) The lady, tall and nice, loves sincerely the short, homely girl.
  • (4-4) Tall and nice, the lady loves the short, homely girl sincerely.

The first example is a simple and ordinary sentence. The second example adds modifiers to the first, but still leaves us with an ordinary sentence.

  • The third and fourth sentences vary the positions of the modifiers to produce some stylistic variation by placing the modifiers in unusual positions.
  • The positioning of tall and nice in the last two examples places the emphasis on the lady, and the positioning of sincerely places the emphasis on love in the third example, and the girl in the fourth.

3 Semantic Style

  • Semantic style is difficult to characterize as little is known about it. One possible characterization is as information flow. Two components that are useful in describing the information flow are focus (or thematization) and argument structure.
stylistic asymmetries
Stylistic asymmetries
  • Style is very important issue in translation, it is the vehicle which conveys the meaning, when the style is handsome and well built, the translation will be expressive and prefect.
  • English and Arabic are divergent in style, each language has its own style which differs from the other. This mater may impose serious problems to the translators.

Some of the difference between the two styles can be summarized as in the following:

3.2.1 Arabic style tends to scatter the similar thoughts while English style tends to gather them e.g:

  • In a sentence like:

- The Government and people of Palestine.

  • In this sentence English style used the word people directly after the word Government. While Arabic translation or counterpart of this sentence is:

حكومة فلسطين وشعبها.


3.2.2 In Arabic, the heavy element comes first. By contrast, English style puts it later. In a sentence like:

  • In his speech on the state of press in the Gaza strip, the information minister declared … .
  • The Arabic counterpart of this sentence is:
  • صرح وزير الإعلام في حديث له عن أحوال الصحافة في قطاع غزة بأنه.
  • But not في حديث له عن أحوال الصحافة في قطاع غزة صرح وزير الإعلام بأنه

3.2.3 Arabic style uses the conjunction "و " or "أو" before each element of the sentence, English style on the other hand doesn’t use this conjunction except before the final element.

  • In a sentence like:
  • اشترى علي كتاباً ودفاتر وأقلام حبر وأقلام رصاص.
  • English translation of this sentence is:
  • Ali bought books, copybooks, pens and pencils.

3.2.4: The position of adverbs and adjective in English and Arabic.

  • In English the adverb comes between the auxiliary and the main verb, but in Arab it takes other positions. Consider the problem has soon ended.
  • The Arabic counter part is:
  • سرعان ما انتهت المشكلة.

One of the features of English sentence is that it develops rapidly. He who reads for Chaucer may find difficulties in understanding the language used by Dickens for example.

  • Another feature of English is that it easily accepts new vocabulary even those which are colloquial, so we sometimes find ourselves obliged to renovate our dictionaries from time to time.

Arabic, on the other hand, does not have the same rate in accepting new vocabulary. This matter may be due to the fact that Arabic has huge number of words which allows it to convey any meaning or express any situation, relaxably.

  • Despite this, flexibility is an essential feature of Arabic. It accepts any new vocabulary, especially jargons. Many words entered Arabic and are used frequently as if they are Arabic original word. [Nejeeb, 1995]

English style is characterized as:

1. The multi-use of complex sentences. English has one complex sentence with two or more simple sentences.

Ex: He visited Egypt so that he might see the pyramids and enjoy them.

2. English prefers to delay the predicate to the end of the sentence just for the purpose of evocation.

- They traveled to London; the purpose of their traveling was studying medicine.


3. The frequent use of passive even when the subject is known.

- The building was designed by a famous designer who was killed in an accident.

4. English sentence begins with a subject followed by finite verb. Since English word order is SVO while standard Arabic word order is VSO.

- Ali studies English.


5.The position of English word in the sentence identifies or shows its syntactic function, the subject comes first, then the verb followed by the complement, however in Arabic sentence, the function of the word is identified by inflections come at the end of the words “overt” "case assignment nominative, accusative and genitive".

- Sami cleaned his room, which was untidy.

6. In English three or more adjectives may describe one thing, also one verb may be described by two or more adverbs.

(a) The smart, handsome, polite student got the higher marks.

(b) He runs so quickly and urgently.


7. The frequent use of abbreviations and idioms.

- He arrived at the USA and visited the UN building.

8. Subject in English is always overt since English only accepts SVO word order.

- Sara cooks the meal.

by contrast arabic style is characterized as below
By contrast Arabic style is characterized as below:
  • The Arabic text or paragraph consists mainly of small units which are called atoms [Semis languages are called Atomic languages]. Its sentences connect together by using some simple conjunctions like wa "و"

لعب الولد الكرة واستمتع بوقته، ثم عاد لمنزله وأخذ يطالع دروسه

"The boy played football, enjoyed his time, returned home and began to revise his lessons".


Unlike English, Arabic tends to use the predicate directly after the subject. سافر علي للدراسة " Ali traveled to study"

  • Arabic style doesn't use the passive except when the subject is unknown. قُتل الرجل " The man was killed"
  • Arabic sentence usually begins with the verb followed by the subject plus the object. قرأ أحمد الدرس "Ahmed studied the lesson"

Arabic is pro-drop language, therefore the subject can be dropped and referred to syntactically as small pro, as in:

He went to school. "ذهب إلى المدرسة"