Syntactic hurdles, codes and tips

There is a video available on Youtube with an extensive explanation of the Syntactic Coding System.

For students of Arabic, knowing the grammar rules is one thing, recognizing the concrete effects of those rules in texts or speech is another thing. Many semi-advanced or advanced students may not reach full understanding of the structure of a complex sentence when they are reading texts. When they start reading, they may just start a catenation of word senses after each other, either on paper or in their brain, hoping to reach comprehension of the whole sentence. However, in many cases they face difficulties in recognising the relationships between the constituents of a sentence. They may overlook relations between specific words or clauses because these related segments are separated from each other by other words or clauses. They may miss the object of a verb, or sometimes even the subject, they may mix up subordinate clauses, relative clauses and main clauses, etc. I call these ‘syntactic hurdles’ that complicate the understanding of the structure of a sentence.

How to overcome these syntactic hurdles: syntactic codes and tips
To help students to recognize these relations that occur within sentences, I have developed a set of grammatical codes, mainly syntactic codes, which can be added to a text to guide students through the sentences for better understanding the sentence structure, and thus better understanding the content of the sentence.

This set of syntactic codes does not provide explanations of grammatical rules, the codes just make the student aware that a specific grammatical rule applies in a specific position in a sentence. Although grammar is not explained, I have compiled a document with examples of all the different categories of syntactic hurdles. This document can be downloaded here.

Most codes consist of one letter and a number. The letter is related to a grammatical category: codes L1, L2, L… all refer to the different functions of the preposition li- or other functions of the prefix written with a lâm (L-li). R1, R2, R3 and R4 deal with relative clauses (R-relative), P1 and P2 with prepositional clauses (P-preposition), etc. Some tips will provide additional information, mostly referring to a word in an earlier position in the sentence. For example with the R-code of a relative clause, where the relative clause does not immediately follow its antecedent, that antecedent may be indicated. Or if a prepositional object is indicated with code P1, the tip may contain a reference to the verb it combines with, but from which it can be separated.

These codes are added to the texts as pop-up tips appearing in the lower bar of the browser window. If there is a tip available, a red coloured rectangle is positioned before a word.
Clicking on the rectangle will produce the tip in a pop-up at the bottom of the window.

The tip applies to the first word after the rectangle, or to a sequence of words starting after the rectangle. In some cases (for example relative clauses) the end of a sequence 'ruled' by a code is indicated with a red rectangle as well. This end code is only provided if other indications like punctuation marks are absent.

The tip P1... at the bottom of the screen just above refers to the second red rectangle in the third line of the text, before the preposition fî.

The set of codes and tips can be used at three different levels, depending on the grammatical knowledge of the user.
The user can choose:

A full list of the coding system can be downloaded here as a pdf file. A file providing examples of sentences illustrating the syntactic codes can be downloaded as a pdf file here.
The set of codes is rather extensive with 60 codes, but a limited set of 18 highly frequent codes covers 86% of all codes in the coded texts. Below is a list of the most frequent codes.

I am deeply grateful to Jan Verhaar for technically making this web-based tool available. Jan has his own web-based tool for the conjugation of verbs in Arabic.

There is a video available on Youtube with an extensive explanation of the Syntactic Coding System.