Nov 2, 2009

Applying Noam Chomsky's Surface Structure and Deep Structure on some verses of the Qur'an

We have come across the Chomskian dichotomy of Surface Structure and Deep Structure while studying linguistics and in particular while dealing with ambiguous structures. Yet, rarely do students look for or talk about good illustrations of this case in the Holy Qur'an.

While reading the Holy Book, I came across several sentences which can be taken as good cases illustrative of the different meaning(s) understood from the surface and deep structures. Some of the very discursive phrases (with their semantic translations) are the following:

1) فتلقى أدمُ من ربهِ كلماتٍ فتاب عليهِ إنه هو التواب الرحيمُ" الآية 37، البقرة "

"Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful. Sūrah 2 – al Baqarah 37.

2) الآية 28، فاطر " ...إِنما يخشىَ اللهَ من عبادِهِ العلماءُ إنََّ اللهَ عزيزٌ غفورٌُ"

"Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Forgiving." Sūrah 35 – Fatir 28.

The first reading of the first sentence shows that Adam is the doer of the action and the sign of him doing the action is very clear and shown in the nominative case –dhammah- (( الضمة " ُ" on the letter "م" of the word " أدمُ "/?a:damu/. So, Adam is the doer of the verb "receive", "تلقى". And the object to/of his action of receiving is the feminine plural noun (WORDS) "كلماتٍ" and the prepositional phrase (from his Lord) " من ربهِ" is the source from which the plural noun (WORDS) "كلماتٍ " have come.

Yet, a deep reading or a profound look into the structure of the sentence reveals that Adam is not the "agent" that is doing the action in the sentence; he is rather "the patient" or the "receiver of the action". In other words, Adam is not acting in the sentence; he is rather an object to the verb receive. Besides, we can deduce two objects to the verb "receive". Thus, Adam is the first object (O1 ) and the WORDS or REVELATIONS "كلماتٍ" is the second object (O2). In addition, the doer of the action or the agent is (His Lord) "ربهِ".

Our understanding of the second phrase when reading it for the first time, is that God or Allah الله" fears from the scholars or does worry " يخشىَ" from them " العلماءُ ". So, God or Allah is concerned that scholars might jeopardize His position or otherwise doubt His existence. In other words HE is the recipient of the worry and object to the main verb (worry), " يخشىَ". And the sign of HIM being the object in this sentence is the accusative case (nasb) ( َ ) on the letter " هَ" at the end of the word Allah "َاللهَ". Whereas the agent or the doer of the action in this sentence is the Scholars " العلماءُ" and the proof of their being doer(s) is the nominative case –dhammah- (( الضمة " ُ" on the last letter "ء". Yet, by relying on our religious background and knowledge and thanks to a deep reading of the same sentence we come to realize that it is the Scholars who fear God or Allah. In other words, they are the ones who are God-fearing. And this fear and worry are mainly due to the level of knowledge they have attained, which leads them to fearing Allah.
We can clearly see that the Qur'an can serve as a source for analyzing current grammatical issues since it is well known among Muslims and even for other communities as a source of so-called verbal miracles.

Last but not least, as we may all know that Chomsky tried to generalize most of his theories of the Universal Grammar so that it can be applied to every Speaker-Hearer throughout our universe when he coined the Universal Generative Grammar or the UGG. His theories of language may turn out again to the surface of truth when we know that The Qur'an had already come as a discourse or speech for all Mankind in this universe regardless of their tongues or languages.